Sunday, July 31, 2011

Art is the Heart of Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island has earned and deserves its reputation as a nature island. The topography alone supports that claim. With Ding Darling Preserve the core of the Island, the restrictions on building and limitations to building density and enormity strongly entrenched, the island retains a unique natural character.

But with all the nature in Southwest Florida from the Everglades to the Keys and then up the west coast (called the nature coast among insiders) there is one facet to Sanibel that differentiates it from all other vacation destinations.

That facet is art.

Art, like nature, abounds on Sanibel.

Other areas of Florida can boast of their restaurants, fine dining and diversity of shopping, and Sanibel could be a contender in those areas as well. But there is no where else in the state where fundamental nature and artistic culture live so harmoniously and conspicuously together.

Just in art galleries and art venues alone, for a 12 mile long barrier island, Sanibel's artistic treasures are easily discovered and enjoyed, in person and on line:

There's the BIG Arts galleries and shows, several diverse and engaging ones now going on through August 31:

And there's the Hirdie-Girdie Art Gallery, a Sanibel artists collective with some colorful and dynamic pieces---as well as a great deal of whimsy---- for your viewing:

If you fancy mermaids, stop by or browse the work at The Tower Gallery where at least one artist has elegantly captured these sirens of the sea:

Don't mistake the Sanibel Art & Frame Company for just your ordinary frame shop. Yes, you can buy frames but the gallery of artists there may delight your eyes with their focus on nature, topicality and wildlife:

Sanybel's Finest has fine art and some delightful crafts on view for you:

And the Watson Macrae Gallery features paintings, glass and sculpture among their offerings for the art connoisseur:

Many shows are now taking place in all the galleries, and many more are coming. Stay tuned to this blog for further announcements!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Algiers River Boat: An enticing historical note on Sanibel

While some vacationers spend time on Algiers beach on Sanibel Island, most don't know how the beach came by its name. It has nothing to do with the country, but with a boat that once almost became Sanibel Island's first mansion.

It all began in 1925 in a Cincinnati shipyard, where a workhorse boat was built to haul automobiles across the Mississippi. For 25 years, the Algiers had been a car ferry until a wealthy Boston couple with a fondness for quirky fixer-uppers bought it at an auction in 1958.

Lathrop and wife, Helen, Brown brought the 155-foot Algiers to the then-unbridged island in 1959, where they’d bought 25 acres after vacationing there. But they were no ordinary vacationers, as Helen was a shipping heiress and he was a New York congressman and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s college roommate and best man.

But before the Browns moved the Algiers to her new home, they gave the rather plain boat a glamorous makeover.

The Browns retrofitted the boat’s exterior with antebellum trimmings: a huge paddlewheel, feathered smokestacks and vintage gingerbread.

Inside, a pleasure palace was created with Italian terrazzo tiles, French marble countertops and sinks inlaid with gold seahorses, and gold-plated dolphin faucets spitting softened water into bathroom sinks. There was an elevator to whisk people to the top deck, and a restaurant-equipped kitchen boasting a microwave.

To get the Algiers to its destination, the Browns had it pulled by tugboat to Sanibel. Along the way, according to a 1978 article in the Island Reporter, Helen insisted that the workmen play poker “as befitted a proper Mississippi riverboat.”

Then they hired crews to cut a channel through the island’s interior, which they filled in behind themselves as they went.

Turns out the Browns had borrowed the volunteer department’s pump truck to help move water in the canal, but someone had parked it in high grass. It caught fire and burned to a crisp. To make amends, the Browns bought the department a brand-new one.

There was just one remaining detail before they moved in, Werner says. “They owned a house in Fort Lauderdale, and Helen wanted (Lathrop) to sell it first. So she sent him over there to sell the place,” he says, “and as the story goes, Lathrop traverses the Tamiami Trail and took care of it. Then he went to a pizzeria for dinner, came back with indigestion and died the next day.

Broken-hearted, Helen returned to Boston, never to return to Sanibel and never to sleep in her "dream boat".

Eventually, Helen Brown put it up for sale for $550,000 and in 1979, when the newly incorporated city of Sanibel was looking to acquire more beachfront land, it was suggested they consider the Brown property. The deal closed in 1981. By then, the boat was dangerously dilapidated.

Though there was talk of using it as city hall or leasing it for a restaurant, it was beyond repair. So, after everything salvageable had been stripped and auctioned the city had the Algiers demolished in 1982.

The one building left standing was the servant’s quarters, which were converted into the restrooms at Sanibel’s Gulfside City Park — also known as Algiers Beach.

From the boat itself, just three scraps remain: the captain’s wheel, the anchor and the bell, which are now on display at the Sanibel Historical Museum.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Where and How to find News on Sanibel Island

Those of us who live and/or work on Sanibel may find the best news sources are the people we are in contact with daily. News travels fast on a small barrier island. A comment made in the morning, can well "travel" through dozens of sets of ears and mouths by the end of day. That's the way of Island living. Things are personal and up close, expedient and entertaining.

But for visitors without the daily contact and person to person news sharing, the best channels for staying in touch with Island happenings is the internet where even hard copy news finds a home.

Your best source depends on what you need, and if you are looking for emerging issues and important info, you will probably want to "favorite" the Island website. Here you can find such pressing issues as beach updates, road construction or wild life concerns. Of course, that makes the Island sound much bigger and busier than it is and we need to advise you that Sanibel is only 12 miles long, that there are essentially two roads that run the length and that not much changes on our beaches from year to year. Sanibel is a tranquil place so if you are a news hound, you might get very bored seeking excitement in our daily status reports. But here's the link to the city site for your future reference:

If you seek a chattier, more detailed news outlet with more frequent updates, you might want to note the community on line resource that combines stories from several sources. At this site, you will find interesting news about Sanibel and Captiva authors, local businesses and upcoming events. You will be touched by the sense of community you will find in this resource, and how people on Island are always ready, willing and able to help each other and work toward a better experience for residents and visitors alike. The site is updated regularly. You can find it at this URL:

The largest and most traditionally journalistic news outlet is the News Press headquartered in Fort Myers. With a circulation of nearly 100,000 it touches on both the good and not so good in the overall area. It also features some professional photography making the page images more compelling.

The News-Press is a daily broadsheet newspaper located in Fort Myers, Florida serving primarily Lee County, as well as parts of adjoining counties.

The paper publishes several editions of its "Local & State" (metro) section for suburban communities, including Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, North Fort Myers, and South Fort Myers. Further, special sections are published on the paper's Web site, including "Education", "Environment", and "Growth/Development".

The News-Press is owned by the Virginia-based Gannett Company, who has owned it since 1971. Its online presence can be found here:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fitness Brought to New Heights on Captiva

Any one who has ever visited Sanibel knows that many residents as well as vacationers take health and fitness seriously. The trails that thread the Island are filled with runners, bikers, walkers and skate boarders. And the mangroves and estuaries are often the scene for canoeists and kayakers.

But in September, there will be a new game in town. Not necessarily Sanibel town, but on neighboring barrier island, Captiva!

For those who do keep fit and want to compete they will have delightful opportunity to do so.

A few weeks ago, Southwest Florida Events Inc., announced that it will conduct the inaugural Captiva Triathlon on Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18 on the grounds of South Seas Island Resort. The island's first-ever triathlon, which is being billed as "a family, fun and fitness weekend," will be centered around a children’s race on Saturday morning and an adult race on Sunday morning.

Angie Ferguson, a well known Elite Level 2 level triathlon coach and 15-time Ironman participant, is one of the three race directors for the event.

“I can’t imagine a more beautiful venue for this event," said Ferguson. "The run around the South Seas golf course is worth the price of admission by itself. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a prettier run course.”

According to event promoters, there will be two children’s races:

• 6 to 9-year-olds will complete a 100-yard swim, 1.5-mile bike and a half-mile run

• 10 to 13-year-old racers face a 200-yard swim, 3-mile bike and 1 mile run

The swimming course will take place in waist-deep water with the course lined with adults and lifeguards. The biking course will be closed to all traffic. The running course will be along the golf course overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

“If kids are looking for a project for the summer, we have a great one — preparing for the triathlon,” explained Ken Gooderham, another one of the race directors.

The adult race is a sprint length which is quarter-mile swim, 10-mile bike and a 3.1-mile run. Registration is limited to 500 participants.

The charity to benefit from the event will be announced soon but the biggest benefit will go to those who do the race. Having time on the Island is a prize in and of itself!

Monday, July 4, 2011

"Saving" Your Sanibel Holiday: Best ways to share those treasured Pix

Though most people who come to Sanibel want to stay longer if not forever, the majority of visitors must go home. Jobs, school, family obligations await. So we must be content with bringing home memories and reliving our vacation through photos and tales.

The most effective way to stretch the trip is to have great photos that you can look at and share with friends and relatives, not as fortunate in having been able to get here in person.

There are dozens of ways to save and share, from hard copies in photo albums to digital images on line. Having had the misfortune in the past to have lost photo albums or had them come apart, we are sticking to digital images.

Of course you can save them to your hard drive and email them to select folks in your net works, but this gesture, while generous, may not be fully appreciated. If nothing else, assuming the filters on your recipient's email folders allow them to come through, the pictures will take up too much space in email form...both your memory and their memory.

So, here you are with fantastic images just waiting to be shared. Your options are numerous. There are several easy to use photo save/swap/share options. Most come with an annual rate, and even when offered "for free" have limitations on how much storage is allowed, so you need to read the fine print.

A good comparison of the benefits and downfalls of the major (a dozen in all) picture sharing sites is offered here:

Again, almost all of these come at cost, though a pretty nominal one in all instances. One way that we have found to be very effective, and does not cost a penny, is to use the photo album capacity of Facebook.

Although you need a (free) Facebook account to use the site, you don't need to be on Facebook to see the photos. Facebook provides a link you can send to those who do not have an account and they will be able to click it and view your photos. If you do have an account, then the share function is even simpler.
We have found photo sharing on Facebook quite simple. The uploads, no matter what size resolution you used in taking the photo, are quick, and the resolutions very clear.

Unlike sites like, which we also use, Facebook does not appear to offer the bells and whistles of creating frames, or music or even album covers, but if you are looking for an easy way to share at no cost this could be the best method for you.

If you have any favorites, we would love to learn of what you use and why. No matter the method, your memories of Sanibel Island will never fade when you have a brilliant photograph at your fingertips!!