by Marlene Smith-Graham
I hadn’t been on the Double Sunshine tour boat out of Tin City in quite some time, but on a recent summer midday, I challenged potentially threatening skies (which never produced) to get a fresh perspective on the often taken for granted waterway of Naples Bay. Keep in mind, that I see this bay just about every day, either while crossing the Gordon River bridge hurriedly to some destination (but not too hurriedly in order to avoid a conversation with the local law); driving along it briefly on 10th Street South; or by peering at it from the Naples City Dock. But today I wanted to “see it” see it. To savor it. To concentrate on it with new eyes.
Incidentally, despite what I just wrote in the preceding paragraph, as you cross the bridge leading to and from Olde Naples on the East Tamiami Trail (often termed by locals as the East Trail), you are actually seeing the Gordon River on either side. But looking further south, beyond the shops and restaurants of Tin City and Kelly’s Fish House and the Naples Sailing and Yacht Club, the waters subtly open up into Naples Bay.
As my mother and I (Hey it’s good to do something with your mother once in a while) settled into our seats atop the double decker, 55 ft. boat, along with a group from Sheffield, England – whom ironically I had first met about a block up the street when they asked in amazement if indeed the parking they had “scored” was free – and a couple from Michigan, and a smattering of folks from elsewhere, we were warned by the captain that four horn blasts would signal our departure.
And with that we were on our way.
Within minutes we were all wrenching our necks side-to-side appreciating the neighborhoods bordering our travels – to the left, that would be the east side: Golden Shores, Oyster Bay, Royal Harbor, and the boating and golf course community of Windstar on Naples Bay; and to the west, the pricier line-up of Olde Naples, Aqualane Shores and Port Royal – while listening to Capt. Dan’s narrative over the PA system. His stories related to the past and present, and his voice did not betray the thrill of “knowingly” aweing the visitors on board with home prices (though with our upwardly moving market, he probably needed to be updated a bit); and his “rain” of names of previous and former owners of many of the homes we were passing, a “Who’s Who” of the movers and shakers of industry, banking, retail, politics and entertainment. The names continued even after the captain turned off the loudspeaker as we entered a cove -- a courtesy to the neighbors -- and First Mate Dave took over in firm non-amplification.
Let’s see. There was the ex-wife of a New Jersey governor; a majority shareholder in Hershey’s; the Estonian ambassador to China; members of the Mars candy family; the Collier family (for whom our county is named); the family that invented Play-Doh; Drano principals; the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See (the governing body of the Catholic Church) under George W. Bush, and on and on.
Back out in the pass, we were bounded to the south by the “mangroved” northern edge of Keewaydin, a boat-only accessible island (with both inter-coastal straight ahead had we not made the turn, and to its west exquisite beaches). This is a place with no roads, no bridges, no shops, and for the most part no utilities; a haven of preserves and homes that operate mostly via generators, with cisterns to catch rain water. This is the island where Vice President Joe Biden’s brother recently purchased a hideaway.
Since the day was beautiful, we continued into the Gulf of Mexico, passing by the exquisite home and guest home of Pittsburgh’s Donahue family of Federated Investors (a financial firm founded in 1955 that manages some 360 billion in assets), said to be the highest taxable home in Naples. Even with our low taxes, it is estimated that taxes on this property run in the $400,000 per year range.
Now floating in the Gulf, engines shut down, we just looked around -- in the direction of Texas; back at the Naples shoreline; to the north toward the Naples Pier and the condos of Moorings and Park Shore; and to the south at Keewaydin’s beachfront while listening to obligatory Jimmy Buffett.
Time up, we reversed ourselves and barely into the pass came the call: “Dolphins surfacing to the right 30 feet of the Double Sunshine…” Dolphins it seems are never boring.
Back in “slip,” the folks from the UK couldn’t help but verbalize their feelings about Naples and the waters we had just experienced. And so in the end, I did indeed get to “see it” see it, savor it and concentrate on it in the best way possible, through the “new” eyes of others …
Editor’s Note: Marlene Graham is the author of the book “Headfirst Into America” about her family’s year-long travels through 50 states, and a longtime journalist and noted travel writer. She is also the owner of Tropics Real Estate on 5th Ave. in Naples and has appeared on HGTV’s House Hunters show. As space permits, she will be bringing us future articles relating to both real estate and local travel and tourism. If you have suggestions for future articles or questions, you may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org