would be the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), the placid
channel just inside the Gulf of Mexico that runs north
and south past a picture show of barrier islands, colorful
tropical vegetation and wildlife on display. This is
the channel that takes you past the sheltered barrier
island paradise of Sanibel, Captiva, Pine Island, Cayo
Costa, Gasparilla, Useppa Islands and a hundred others,
some just spits of sand and mangroves.
Charter customers discover that paradise doesn't cost
as much as they thought. For example, at Southwest Florida
Yachts, a 36-foot Grand Banks trawler may be chartered
for five days around $3,000, including the captain.
For four people, that works out to only about $150 a
day plus fuel, meals and marina fees, if any.
many, the deck view in any direction is worth it. Look
down into the water and you may see a dolphin surfing
your bow wake or even a manatee waving goodbye with
a swirl of its huge tail. Look up, late on a clear night,
and be uplifted by the canopy of very bright stars and
is bird country indeed, with 278 species of resident
and migratory birds including roseate spoonbills, herons,
ibis, storks, hawks and kites, kingfishers, even parrots.
You may see a magnificent frigatebird soaring high on
warm air currents, an osprey on a
plunging dive and brown pelicans cruising the edge of
a drop-off in search of bait.
is history here, too. Gasparilla Island was named for
Jose Gaspar, the Spanish pirate and one of the area's
early settlers. Gaspar and his band strategically stationed
themselves just off the channel where they could easily
approach passing ships and relieve them of their cargoes.
Useppa Island takes its name from Gaspar's significant
other, Joseffa. This island, accessible only by boat
and formerly open only to members, recently opened an
elegant bed-and-breakfast, The Collier Inn, with 11
pass between Cayo Costa and Gasparilla Islands is the
famous Boca Grande Pass and if it seems a little busy,
note that this is mecca for saltwater anglers who fish
the pass in the spring and summer for 100- to150-pound
tarpon, the silver king.
Charter Your Own Luxury Yacht - Cayo Costa
no development (unless you count the rustic camping
cabins,) Cayo Costa is particularly inviting to "get away from it all"
boaters. Always a tropical paradise, the island is also now state
park and offers excellent rustic camping, shelling,
beachcombing, nature observation and sunsets. The southern
tip of the island is just right for anchoring up for
for restaurant food? Pull in to Cabbage Key and enjoy
the plate that inspired Jimmy Buffett's, "Cheeseburger
in Paradise." On Captiva Island, 'Tween Waters
Inn has rooms, dining, shopping, entertainment, tennis,
pool, guides and boat rentals.
north of Cabbage Key is Charlotte Harbor, home to famous
Burnt Store Marina. This is a good place to check on
the weather and local navigational issues. Southwest
Florida Yachts keeps its fleet of charter sailing vessels
at Burnt Store Marina.
describes the weather in southwest Florida, balmy with
just the right amount of cooling breeze to encourage
power cruising in the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Except in rare cases, you'll be well below the freeze
line. By the way, the water of the Gulf of Mexico has
been described as a natural air conditioner because
air temperatures are tempered by the temperature of
the water, warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Resist
the urge to call friends to ask them what the weather
is like back home.
(Source: Southwest Florida Yachts)