Close this search box.

Log in

Top Stories

Captiva Cruises, a boat business that shuttles diners and sightseers from Captiva Island to Cabbage Key, is returning to action after the Sanibel Causeway reopened to tourists in addition to residents and construction contractors.

The comeback hasn’t been without challenges, said Bob Rando, who co-owns the business with his wife, Jenny Rando, and with Brad and Leslie Junghans. It operates out of McCarthy’s Marina at 11401 Andy Rosse Lane on Captiva and also from the Pink Elephant Dock on Boca Grande.

Captiva Cruises will hold a ceremonial, back-to-business ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. Thursday on Captiva with the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce.

The Lady Chadwick, the company’s largest of four boats, remains grounded and in disrepair, after being moved to Fort Myers Beach for maintenance before Hurricane Ian hit the area Sept. 28. The other three boats were moved east to Alva on the Caloosahatchee River before the storm and were undamaged, Rando said. The decisions to move the Santiva and Playtime, which are 45-foot, 49-passenger catamarans, as well as the 40-foot, 24-passenger sailboat The Adventure, likely saved the company from being put out of commission from the storm.

“We had a bad feeling about this storm, long before it hit us,” Rando said. “On the Monday before the storm, we moved our boats out to Alva. We have a dock up in Alva. We took them past the first set of locks.”  Captiva Cruises

The Lady Chadwick, however, couldn’t make the trip.

“She was pretty taken apart mechanically, so she couldn’t go out to Alva,” Rando said. “She was on blocks. My biggest fear was that she would float away. And she did. She went about 400 feet to the front of the shipyard. The boat is salvageable. It can be repaired. We’ll get it repaired and back out on the water, but it will take some time.”

During Ian’s initial aftermath, Captiva Cruises got up and running but not for tourists. 

“We concentrated our efforts on helping our staff and our crew, getting their properties cleared,” Rando said. “We tried to get everybody in a place that they were comfortable. After that, we started heading out to Captiva, bringing a group of South Seas [Island Resort] employees with us. On our property, we cleared the vegetation debris first. Then we started working on our docks.

We started shuttling a restoration company out to South Seas for about two months. We bring about 98 people a day out there. Then, the job scope changed from recovery to restoration.”

When that happened, it further impacted Captiva Cruises. By then, access to Sanibel and Captiva had improved, and the workers traveling there were electricians, plumbers and construction contractors, who all needed to bring heavy equipment and tools with them.  Captiva Cruises

“Those guys all want their own trucks with their tools,” Rando said. “So that ended.”

Captiva Cruises has 25 employees, 14 of them full-time, and none of them were let go, Rando said. All of them had to take on other duties besides just the boating side of the business, such as working on the docks.

“They are so valuable to us,” Rando said. “We didn’t want to have to lay them off. We told our employees, we’re going to keep them paid and keep their benefits. We committed to them, and they committed to us.

“Our docks needed to be worked on. We needed to pay somebody to fix the dock. Why not pay our own people? They were happy to do it. They’re great workers. A talented group of people. They’re great boat captains. But they’re also great at everything.”

Captiva Cruises rides cost $45 for adults and $30 for children for a round trip from Captiva to Cabbage Key.

“We’re not anywhere near normal,” Rando said. “But we’re trying to get there. We’re trying to run some cruises and get people out on the water. We’re running a limited number of trips each week, but we’re running more trips per day and more days per week.”

Copyright 2024 Gulfshore Life Media, LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.

Don't Miss

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Please note that article corrections should be submitted for grammar or syntax issues.

If you have other concerns about the content of this article, please submit a news tip.