Useppa Boat Services Residents, Guests—and Employees
Feb 27, 2018 07:24AM
The Useppa Club Launch runs daily on a precise schedule. Useppa Island is about a mile long and half a mile wide. Photo by Nick Adams Photography.
Gallery: Ferry Nice Way to Get to Work: March-April 2018 [5 Images] Click any image to expand.
The island is accessible only by boat or seaplane—and has golf carts instead of automobiles. The ferry runs daily on a precise schedule, leaving five times a day from Bokeelia and docking at the Useppa Island Club Marina, and returning to Bokeelia five times a day.
The first ferry leaves Bokeelia at 7:30 a.m. and the last one leaves at 5 p.m. Passengers include club members and guests, and also people who are employed on the island. And although many members and guests use their own boats, there are many who rely solely on the ferry service.
One can imagine there are many tasks to perform each day to keep the island operational, necessitating many staff members. The island has 116 private homes and lodging is offered at the Collier Inn, a century-old building that once served as entrepreneur and landowner Barron G. Collier’s primary residence. Several dining options are available, including the upscale Barron Collier Dining Room, the causal Courtyard Dining Room, and the marina-front Tarpon Bar.
The club hosts activities such as croquet and tennis, fishing and kayaking. There is even a museum: The Barbara L. Sumwalt Museum maps out Useppa’s history from the Ice Age to the present, and serves as a base for the island’s archaeological explorations.
“Additionally, we have a large service department that includes our landscaping, golf cart repair, housekeeping and general home care departments. And we offer on-island rental accommodations to members and their guests,” says Rogan White, Useppa Island Club membership and real estate sales manager.
In total, there are more than 50 employees. “The majority commute to Useppa Island every morning and evening on our Club Launch, except for a few who live on the island, due to late-night shifts,” White explains.
Michelle Sedlar, assistant guest services manager, lives in St. James City on Pine Island and commutes to work via the ferry. She enjoys watching sunrises and sunsets on her way back and forth, and seeing wildlife and marine life, including manatees and diving dolphins. “In the mornings, I enjoy my devotionals, and in the evenings, I enjoy the ‘quick ride back,’ ” she says.
Around the nation, it’s not that uncommon to commute by ferry. The Staten Island Ferry provides free service between St. George Terminal on Staten Island and Manhattan’s South Ferry Terminal. More than 75,000 Puget Sound residents commute to work or school on the Washington State Ferry. And the “Alaska Marine Highway System covers 3,500 miles of coastline,” according to its website, dot.state.ak.us/amhs.
However, those vessels are designed to carry great numbers of people. The ferry from Bokeelia to Useppa and back provides a “more intimate experience.” Many employees spend the time chatting among themselves about current events taking place on and off Useppa. Dolphin watching is also a popular and regular occurrence.
“At times, we fill the 32-passenger capacity of our large Corinthian catamaran-style boat,” resulting in a rather large wake that bottle-nose dolphins love to play in, notes White. “There is typically plenty of time for interested parties to snap a few photos to send to less-fortunate acquaintances who may be stuck working a ‘regular’ job on the mainland,” he quips.
Many of the employees who ride the ferry live on Pine Island and in nearby Cape Coral and Fort Myers. Others have a longer drive, from Punta Gorda, North Fort Myers and Lehigh. “And there’s no being five to 10 minutes late … because you’ll miss your boat ride!” explains White.
In addition to the employees who ride the ferry, four full-time U.S. Coast Guard master captains make up the club’s marina team. They assist all vessels arriving at Useppa’s docks by helping with lines, fenders, shore power and other miscellaneous needs of yachtsmen and yachtswomen. And, White adds, “Our marina staff also enjoy riding the ferry, even though it’s part of their job.”
IF YOU GO
Useppa Island Club239-283-1061, useppa.com
Bocilla Island Club Marina8115 Main St.
Meet Master Capt. Dane Gutto of St. James City, Pine Island
How long have you been a captain of the ferry?I’ve been lucky enough to be a Useppa Island Club ferry captain for six years, although it seems like just yesterday I started.
What do you do between rides?Between rides, we (the captains) monitor the marina docks and all vessels within it. We keep busy with helping Useppa members and their guests dock their boats as they arrive. When there aren’t people to help, we maintain our fleet of vessels and the marina itself. There’s no shortage of busy work on Useppa Island.
What do you love about being a boat captain?I, along with the other captains, all love to be on the water. But the greatest reward comes from providing our members and their guest with the quality of service they deserve—while maintaining a safe and memorable boating experience.
Useppa Club Launch Schedule
Hours from Bocilla Marina7:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m.
Hours from Useppa Island9 a.m., 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
Ferry fee and marina parking info
- $20 per person, each way. Reservations required 24 hours in advance.
- Guests must check in at Bocilla Marina before parking their vehicles, to acquire a parking pass for a nominal fee.
- Note: Private runs are available for Useppa members, homeowners and their guests.
- 36-foot Corinthian catamaran, 32-passenger capacity
- 25-foot Parker Pilothouse, six-passenger capacity
- 24-foot C-Hawk Pilothouse, six-passenger capacity
Written by Ann Marie O’Phelan, a Southwest Florida resident and regular contributor to TOTI Media.