It only took two weeks on the picturesque shores of Tahiti and Moorea to send Craig Stewart into a tailspin. He and wife Evelyn fell in love with the South Pacific’s crystalline waters and beachy breezes, so much so that the prospect of remaining in their native Oklahoma turned gloomy. Six years after the Stewarts’ Pacific vacation, they stumbled upon Sanibel Island. With a love for the waters still coursing through their veins, they uprooted and moved there, making it home base for Adventures in Paradise. In 1986, they started out with one boat—Miss Paradise—and one tour, the sunset dolphin cruise. Today, the Stewart family maintains a much larger operation. Their tour topics range from fishing and shelling to dolphin watching to historical sightseeing on a trolley.
Pirates cheer as cannons fire smoke across the sea. Yet while the pirates are actors and the cannons are just miniaturized toys, the ship they sail upon is anything but pretend—it's a 65-foot steel-hulled vessel designed by a naval architect to look like a Spanish galleon.
Named for the prized Spanish currency of yore, Pieces of Eight Pirate Cruise evokes the golden age of buccaneering as it sets sail from Salty Sam’s Marina. The ship is helmed by a merry band of pirates—such as Pick Pocket Pete, Peg Leg Meg, and Fancy Face Phil—that bookends lessons on pirate history with sing-along chanteys and skits. The 90-minute family-friendly cruise also includes map-reading trivia, face painting, yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum. During the ride, passengers are welcome to explore the upper and lower decks or step inside the grand salon for ice cream, pretzels, and other treats.
In addition to its all-ages cruises, Pieces of Eight hosts an adults-only cruise on Friday nights, which includes cocktails and its own revue. It also charters private cruises to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions.
What services does your business offer and what makes your business stand out from the competition?
Join second generation Sailboat Master Captain Gary Barton on his private yacht, who has sailed from as far as New England to Tortola B.V.I.
What is the experience customers can expect?
Embark on the all in one perfect sail on the
beautiful Gulf of Mexico for up to five hours with a maximum of six passengers. We will seek out the playful Dolphin (almost every cruise) and have a champagne toast to compliment our fabulous sunsets here in paradise.
What was the inspiration to start or run this business?
After sailing many years with family and friends I have decided to share this wonderful experience with as many people as I can. Some of you may become sailors yourself. That would be very gratifying for me.
What do you love most about your job?
My favorite part of sailing charters would have to be hoisting the sails and turning off the engine. And of course meeting adventurous ocean loving folks like you.
With a stable of two schooners, Appledore IV and Appledore V, which split their time between Fort Myers, Florida, and Bay City and Mackinaw City, Michigan, BaySail's captains ferry passengers about the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico during leisurely and educational tours. The sea vessels depart from Bay City to wind along the Saginaw River and into open water, letting passengers soak up summer sun or, in the autumn, traveling upriver for spectacular views of changing leaves and scarecrows playing hooky on the riverbanks. Come winter, the Appledore V makes its way to Florida, where it seeks out the dolphin populations of San Carlos Bay. All of BaySail's excursions are interactive seafaring affairs in which passengers are encouraged to help to crew the watercraft, learn about fish brought into onboard tanks, and force seagulls to walk the plank.
Salty Sam's Waterfront Adventures anchors the boating scene in Southwest Florida with award-winning marina services and a friendly team of boating experts. Here, customers can rent USCG-equipped boats for up to a week at a time while exploring the mangrove estuaries and shorelines along the Great Calusa Blueway.
In addition to boat and kayak rentals, Salty Sam's also provides charters for fishing and sightseeing excursions, as well as state-of-the-art storage facilities so boats don't have to find their own apartments. A colorful gift shop also stocks an array of souvenirs and boating accessories, and two on-site restaurants ensure customers don't have to go far to capsize their hunger.
With more than 31,000 nautical miles of sailing under his boat shoes, Captain David Richardson is more than capable of navigating his sailboat, Sundance, on the leisure cruises for which he has become known. The half-day charters he leads out of Bonita Bill's Waterfront Café take in the many moods of the Gulf of Mexico, from its tranquil disposition in the sun to the turbulent waters it experiences when it realizes it'll never be a full-grown ocean. The Sundance itself boasts comfy accommodations, from cushy seats to an on-board bathroom, and many passengers bring their own food on board to eat while ogling jumping dolphins.