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Cape Coral Cruise Club celebrates 60 years

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Nov 16, 2023

Members of the Cape Coral Cruise Club enjoying one of their many excursions. PROVIDED

Sixty years of creating lifelong memories and friends was recently celebrated for a club that gathers to make the most of the Sunshine State by boat.

In 1963, the Cape Coral Cruise Club was founded by nine couples, who over the years have embarked on numerous voyages along Florida’s coastline and rivers, the Florida Keys, as well as distant shores, such as a three-week voyage to Abacos, Bahamas.

To celebrate this huge milestone, the Cape Coral Cruise Club had a special picnic with a steel drum player in October and one of its members is planning a cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean ship.

Laurie Carlson said she joined the Cape Coral Cruise Club with her husband in 2012 after first learning about the club in 2008.

“We are longtime residents of Cape Coral and boaters ourselves,” she said. “I was so surprised not more people knew about it that I kind of took up the mission of spreading the word. It is kind of a way to encourage people to use their boats more.”

An aerial photo of the local group’s “Hidden Island” gathering spot. PROVIDED

In 1975, the club leased “Chino Island,” which became a hub for gatherings, relaxation and oceanic exploration for members and their families.

A little more than 10 years later, in 1987, the club purchased “Hidden Island,” and later constructed a pavilion and state-of-the-art dockage facilities with electric and water for 16 boats in the heart of the Caloosahatchee River. The club members have monthly picnics on their island, except for the humid months of July and August.

“It is a beautiful old Florida feel with big mossy oaks and private dockage,” Carlson said. “We own a waterfront lot with a pontoon boat that we dock there. It never rains on Cruise Club picnics. The weather is almost always beautiful up there,” she said.

Thankfully, Hurricane Ian did not cause much damage to their island, as they lost only a few tree branches.

“The pandemic hurt us more than the hurricane. Marinas were closed for a long time and a lot of people were hesitant to go to functions,” Carlson said.

The voyages are a great way to explore on planned trips with other boating enthusiasts.

Carlson said the boating is beautiful, especially being out in nature and witnessing it firsthand. She said one time there was a migration of stingrays – several hundred of them.

“We cut our engines and glided through them. It was just beautiful,” she said.

In addition to their monthly picnics at the island, they also do a long cruise once a year and gather once a month for lunch at a waterfront restaurant.

She said the beautiful thing about their club is members can become honorary members.

“Some of our ladies whose husbands pass away, they can stay in the club and become honorary members. They can come to the island by car. We shuttle people back and forth with the pontoon boat. It’s a beautiful club. A great organization. We have a lot of fun,” Carlson said.

The membership includes 34 to 36 families who have a diverse fleet of 25-foot vessels to 65-foot cruisers. The club can accommodate a maximum of 50 boats with the requirement of having full night accommodation with sleeping quarters, a galley and a bathroom.

Carlson said not all of the members currently have boats, as they lost them in the hurricane, or some have aged out of boating and have remained in the club.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Ian took the Carlson’s new dream boat, a 43-foot yacht, in its wake and carried it poolside at the condos near Pinchers leaving them shopping for another boat.

“We saved for that boat for five years. Because of the pandemic it took us two years to find the right boat. We bought it on Aug. 28, and it was our lifelong dream. We pulled it into a marina at Pinchers on Sept. 1 and we were supposed to go on our first trip on Sept. 29,” Carlson said.

The silver lining, they were able to climb up a ladder into their boat, as it was not submerged, and salvage their belongings.

For those who would like to learn more about the club, or join, call Terry Carlson at 239-770-6955, visit www.capecoralcruiseclub.com, or www.Facebook.com/ CapeCoralCruiseClub/.

“We are eager for more members. We have plenty of room for several new members,” she said. “Last year we had five new members join. We are always transitioning. People age out of boating, new members come in and bring fresh new perspectives.”