Site  Updated:
June 12, 2013

Cruising the Sun Coast

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Page 5

At the north end of Captiva is the world-class South Seas Resort & Marina which has long been known for its long-established excellence. (Shoaling has been reported between South Seas Daybeacon 5 and Daybeacon 21.)

If you choose to use Redfish Pass, note that changes have been made to the markers: the old (and charted) #1 has been changed to a red #2 and a green #3 has been added as the channel has shifted northward. By the time you read this, things may have changed further — so keep your eyes open. Northward past Redfish Pass at the north end of Captiva is North Captiva, a beautiful but wholly private island, then Cayo Costa, an island state park and one of the most pleasant you will find to visit. Its Gulf side is endless beach with the north end protected by Johnson Shoals, a complex of sandbars that forms an anchorage favored by the locals. If you can find your way in across a five foot bar you will probably be rewarded with a stunning sunset. On the sound side of southern Cayo Costa is a deep anchorage just inside Captiva Pass. You may want to use a Bahamian anchor setup here due to strong currents. Farther north, between either end of Punta Blanca Island and Cayo Costa are two anchorages just off the ICW that are comfortable and well protected. The entire area is enormously popular with local watersports enthusiasts, especially on weekends, but it’s big enough that you can almost always find a space for yourself.

Inside, about halfway up Cayo Costa is the wonderful little island of Cabbage Key. Once the home of noted author Mary Roberts Reinhart, the site has been converted into a delightful little inn (with marina and restaurant) where a visit is almost mandatory, even if just for lunch. Although Cabbage Key Inn is accessible only by water, it’s so popular that it’s always a good idea to call ahead for reservations — even if just for lunch!

Right across the channel from Cabbage Key is Useppa, another private island and famous residence. Originally an Indian mound and the highest point in the area, it was at one time (according to popular legend, at least) the lair of Jose Gaspar, reputed to be one of the nastier pirates ever. We know for a fact it eventually became the private fishing club of Barron Collier, who developed much of the area and for whom Collier County is named. His former home is now Useppa Island Club, a private resort that isnot open to transients unless they are members. You can enjoy the beauty of the island at a distance from two good anchorages, one directly opposite Cabbage Key and the other at the northwest end of the island, but do not attempt to land anywhere on the island.

At this point you can turn eastward and make the side trip around the north end of Pine Island and into Charlotte Harbor, a broad 20-mile estuary which leads to the mouths of the Peace and Myakka Rivers. On the way, there are a couple of marinas on Jug Creek, sheltered inside Bokeelia Island. One is largely private, but Four Winds Marina is justly popular with those who can manage the approach over four-foot depths. These and the other marinas are shown on Chart 18.

Halfway to Punta Gorda (“Fat Point” in Spanish, so named because of the broad chunk of land that juts into  Charlotte Harbor), in a creek mouth south of Key Point, Burnt Store Marina and Resort is one of the largest on the Gulf and offers all the amenities of a luxury resort. Farther upstream at the mouth of the Peace River is the lovely town of Punta Gorda. After severe damage from hurricanes some years ago, it's again a lovely town to visit. Fishermen's Village Marina there has its own mall with shops and restaurants — and activities — on site. Their activities calendar is usually provided to us for inclusion on our monthly web site update (NEWS). Their promotion of events and happenings there is so well done that we’ve set up their own "spot" on our monthly web site updates.The activities are many, usually with something for every taste and every age group!

The town's Laishley Park Marina is fully operational with a ship's store, live and frozen bait plus showers, laundry and pumpout.

You can venture up the Peace River for several miles with a shallow draft and a careful pilot and see the agricultural and ranching heart of Florida, or by small boat up the Myakka River for the world-class birdwatching and fishing for which the area is famous. (Enter the canal for All American Covered Boat Storage via the South Gulf Cove Lock.-- Go to Green Marker #9, just south of the Myakka River Bridge, and see the channel markers to South Gulf Cove ahead and to port. Favor the green markers.)

Back along the Gulf ICW across Boca Grande Inlet north of Cayo Costa lies Gasparilla Island, named for the aforementioned notorious pirate Jose Gaspar, who is something of an icon in these parts. This despite his reputation as a plunderer, ladies' man and Bluebeard — or perhaps because of it. The seat of Gasparilla Island is the comfortable old resort village of Boca Grande, the gathering place for anglers who seek the area's giant tarpon and compete in its many fishing tournaments. (Continue...


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