Monday, March 02, 2009

Captiva Cruise to Useppa Island

We try to go on a Captiva Cruise at least once a year to either Cabbage Key or Useppa Island. And we usually do this when we have company. So of course with company here, we went on a cruise last Friday. We had taken him on a cruise to Cabbage Key last year so we took him to Useppa this year. (Or should I say he took us--thanks Bob!)

The trip was packed. There was a large group of Red Hatters along also. We were lucky enough to be the first ones on the boat so we got the choice of seats on the upper level. Unfortunately coming back we couldn't sit up top because it was filled but it wasn't so bad really--it got really cold and windy up there and a lot of people came back down where it was warm.
The trip leaves from South Seas Plantation--excuse me South Seas Island Resort (they changed their name). This is a VERY gated community on Captiva island and the only way you can get in there is if you are staying there, live there, or are going on a Captiva Cruise. If you are on the cruise, you go through the security gate and immediately pull into a parking lot. Then a trolley picks you up and takes you to the boat. Hurricane Charley pretty much wiped out South Seas and the boat was anchored at McCarthy's Marina on Captiva for several years following the hurricane. The following picture is of Land's End at South Seas. These buildings are pretty much all new since Charley. On Sanibel and Captiva, we often refer to pre and post Charley.
It's always interesting what you see out on Pine Island Sound. Many of the islands including Useppa and Cabbage Key do not allow cars. In fact some of the smaller island don't even have electricity or city water. They use generators and dig their own wells. This barge kind of gives you an idea of how they move stuff around. This was probably coming back from North Captiva.
Pine Island Sound is only about 4 feet deep in most places. They have dug a channel for the bigger boats like the Lady Chadwick. When you get on the boat, they always give the mandatory safety speech about where to find life jackets but then tell you that if the boat sinks, just go to the upper deck and have a Bloody Mary (they have yummy ones!!!) until help comes. There were lots and lots of boats on the Sound Friday including some beautiful sailboats under full sail.
Until 1926, Captiva was one big long island. Then a hurricane came through and created Redfish Pass so now there is Captiva and North Captiva. On Friday the 13th, 2004 when Hurricane Charley roared through it cut another pass which is called Charley's Pass. We joked about it now being Captiva, North Captiva and North North Captiva. Charley's Pass is beginning to fill back in now but it is still dangerous for boats to go too close because of all the trees that were blown out into the sound.
North Captiva is quite unique. The only way you can reach it is by boat or by small plane. I know of one lady who lives there and works on Sanibel. She takes her boat to McCarthy's Marina every morning, gets in her car that is parked there then drives to work. Then in the evening she repeats the process. Not sure I would want to do that is lousy weather! There is a tiny little grass landing strip for small airplanes. Apparently this is one of the most dangerous airports to land at because you come in and take off right over the water and there isn't a whole lot of room for error. In the picture below you can see one plane parked on the beach and another one just starting to take off.
The first stop the Lady Chadwick makes is at Cabbage Key. Those who are going there get off the boat while those going to Useppa stay on. Cabbage Key is a unique little island. It was owned by the author Mary Roberts Rinehart. The main house is now a restaurant and there are several cottages which you can rent. Fishermen used to come to the restaurant and hang a few dollars behind the bar which they could use if they didn't have any money when they returned. Today, people still put their names on a dollar bill and hang it on the walls. There are thousands of dollars hanging there. Any money that falls on the floor goes to charity. Cabbage Key took a hit from Charley. It is amazing though--there is a little greenhouse there that never lost one pane of glass.
The rest of us traveled on across the sound to Useppa. Useppa is a private island and unless you own a home there or are staying at the Baron Collier Inn, Captiva Cruises is the only way to get on the island. We had a very nice lunch in the hotel then went to their excellent little museum. The museum covers the Calusa Indians which used to inhabit this area and the Bay of Pigs invasion. Useppa is where they trained for the invasion.
We had about 2 1/2 hours on the island and then got back on the boat for our trip home. It was a very relaxing trip and we were greeted by our feathered friends when we arrived back at the dock.

16 comments:

The Farmer Files said...

Man....can't wait until my kids grow up so that when I visit FL I can go and do stuff other than in Orlando. LOL!

ღ Alice ღ said...

That was a very informed Blog,thanks :) I hope this Hurricane season is not too bad this year for Sanibel or Flroida. Also I have never seen a moving truck on a boat or whatever its called like that ever..very interesting :)

Jeanne said...

That was an awesome blog once again....you and Toots are outdoing yourselves these days!

I'm on the countdown...will there be a crawl before you head North first part of May....

busybee2 said...

Excellent blog today - loved the story and photos. Your Sanibel bar crawl group are really some ace reporters in disguise!

Tootie said...

I loved this post! The photos were great too.

Shama-Lama Mama said...

Oh that looks great! We had a blast when you took us there, too. Hi Uncle Bob!

gail said...

I love that you and Tootie are doing things I've wondered about but wasn't sure I'd enjoy -- I have a whole list of new adventures for my next trips down!

ChrisC and JonJ said...

That is one thing we have never done,even after 40 years of going to Sanible/Captiva.We always say we're going to do it,but we never get around to it.Thanks for taking us there with you.

Gayle said...

I love that little greenhouse (wish it were mine!). I can't believe it survived. Just amazing. Looks like a nice relaxing way to spend the day.

Gayle said...

"Shower with a friend" is so completely appropriate...I have awarded you with a Friends badge (but I don't really want to shower with you! :) You can pick it up at my blog and you don't even have to play along! :)

Wrath said...

Hey, its sam on my dads account.

I love those cruises, they're so much fun, especially to useppa

Snowbird said...

Sam, good to hear from you. Next time you visit, maybe we can go back to Useppa again. I'm glad you enjoyed that trip.

Tink *~*~* said...

Thanks for the trip to Useppa. I haven't been out there yet. I think the next time I have guests, I'll book a Captiva Cruise to check it out!

Tink *~*~*
NOW PLAYING at My Mobile Adventures *~*~* :
Frog metamorphosis at Disney

North Captiva said...

That truck was indeed coming from North Captiva... where I live. I always loved that little greenhouse on Cabbage Key. It made it through Hurricane Charley without even breaking a window.

Anonymous said...

I visited Useppa Island in the early 70’s with my parents. At the time, the island was uninhabited, and my father was being invited to invest in the re-construction of the island as a private resort. I remember being shown the guest book, filled with signatures and comments from presidents, dignitaries, actors and wealthy families. I was only 10 at the time, and had jokingly been told that technically I was not allowed to be there, since in its heyday no one under 14 was allowed (and it’s still that way). While the adults talked business, I explored the remaining buildings and part of the island. It seemed as if everyone had abandoned Useppa suddenly, and after some research recently, I came to the conclusion it may have been due to an approaching hurricane. In one of the dining rooms, the decorations for a Valentine’s party were still hanging. Envelopes marked “His” and Hers” contained valentine’s card cut in half. I imagined it was for a fun mixer game for the guests. The hotel mailroom still had letters in slots labeled by room or cottage, and I found matchbooks and room key fobs. In a separate out-building was a kitchen, with a dirt floor, cookbooks strewn in piles, and even a rat trap with the skeleton of it’s unfortunate captive. A row of employee/servant cottages was burnt to the ground. After seeing unusual mounds of shell rock, I now realize they were made by Indians who had inhabited the island long ago. I wonder if they were burial mounds. I recently browsed around the internet after a friend mentioned South Seas Plantation, which made me remember my special adventure long ago. I dawns on me that very few people probably saw the resort in that condition, much less through the eyes of a child. I also wonder what the future would have held for my father if he had invested in it’s re-creation (he never did). I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience!

Snowbird said...

Anonymous--thanks for your memories of Useppa. Very interesting. Too bad you dad didn't invest back then. It probably would have made him a rich man :)