In 1976, because South Sea’s legitimate fishing guides were overbooked, Tarpon Bays newest captain arrived at the T-dock and inflicted his maiden charter on guests of this resort - guest who, like yourselves, deserve the best, not some bumbling pretender who, secretly, wants to write novels, not fish.
My first trip did not go well.
I left Tarpon Bay at sunrise, which gave me enough time to run aground and lose a shoe near near Chino Island, before meeting my clients at 7a.m. They were eager to battle snook. Instead, they wrestled with their good manners when, for the first and only time in my life, I was stung by a catfish. The pain caused my eyes to water like a weeping child. Worse, the poison deadened my right arm, and it is a pathetic “captain” who prevails upon clients to pull anchor. After that, things got back to normal. I ran aground again.
An omen? Nope. Rather than moving to a mountainous state, I stuck it out and chartered for another thirteen years -- but South Seas Island Resort had the good sense not to invite me back for awhile. Now, four decades later, it is an honor, and just plain fun, to return as a member of the Doc Ford’s restaurant family -- and we are family, top to bottom, joined in the same quirky, excellence-driven way as the characters who populate my novels.
But virtue of being here, you are a member, too. My partners, Marty and Brenda Harrity, and Mark Marinello, would agree, and here’s why: Captiva has a gift for attracting people of kindred sensibilities. Some are famous, most are not, and it doesn’t matter. You are here. The island has chosen you. Why argue?
My mystic-debunking protagonist, Doc Ford, would try, but even he wouldn’t deny the transcendent power of this place. Here is how Ford described it:
South Seas Island Resort, at the northern tip of Captiva Island, is one of Florida’s historic treasures. Almost five hundred acres of tropical theater that, over the years, has provided luxuriant solitude to luminaries from around the world.
Cold, hard fact. Walk to the bay: Teddy Roosevelt lived on a houseboat there, where Thomas Edison fished for Tarpon, and Charles Lindbergh landed his first seaplane. Stroll to the beach: Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Edna St. Vincent Malay, Thornton Wilder and James Jones all ruminated over books in the same bright space you now enjoy -- like Katherine Hepburn and Clark Gable before you.
Here is where my zen-hipster character, Tomlinson, would interrupt to remind us that any asset bigger than a bikini is just extra baggage, and the islands are indifferent to fame. In Tomlinson’s words:
Captiva is a breathing vessel grounded by sea currents, anchored to stars, an island of small secrets, moonrise to sunset, where sand adsorbs footprints in an astronomy of dreams, and one beach bum soul, eternal.
If getting stung by a catfish was a bad omen, your Doc Ford brethren and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
-- Randy Wayne White