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Enjoying paradise means staying water safe

We’ll concede, it’s not particularly pleasant to ponder.

Though nearly everyone who’s spent time at the Tween Waters Inn has strolled the beach alongside the Gulf of Mexico, there’s an excellent chance that water safety wasn’t their primary thought.

But, given some tragedies within range of the resort this summer, it’s a necessary one.

A 39-year-old man drowned about 15 yards off shore in the water off Blind Pass Beach – just 2.1 miles down Captiva Drive from TWI – in late July, only days after a 46-year-old man had died not far from the same spot after rescuing his young daughter from the water.

Another man succumbed in July at Turner Beach, just across the channel from Blind Pass.

In their aftermath, it’s high time for a refresher course on waterside threats.

Though we typically envision Gulf waves as bringing shells, seaweed and other debris onto the beach, sometimes those waves hit the beach in a way that creates a current flowing in the opposite direction.

These are rip currents.

Rip currents can be created when waves move from deep to shallow water, break near the shoreline and are influenced by the shape of the Gulf floor. Short-lived rip currents can also develop when waves interact with one another.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says about 100 people drown in rip currents annually, while lifeguards rescue another 30,000 or so swimmers from them each year.

Rip currents form at low spots near the shoreline, in breaks between sandbars or around jetties and piers, and can range from 50 to 300 feet wide. And while the size numbers may not dazzle you, the velocity rates might. Rip currents typically flow at 1 to 2 feet per second but can go as fast as 8 feet per second – about 5 miles per hour – which is faster than an Olympian can swim.

The current speed is influenced by the size of the waves, but waves only 2 feet high can still produce hazards. And, perhaps surprisingly, rip currents are strongest at low tide. Also worth noting, the shape of the ocean bottom sometimes changes during storms or when waves are particularly big – meaning it may suddenly have an ideal shape for creating unpredictable currents where there were none.

Also, many people incorrectly use the phrases “rip current” and “undertow” interchangeably.

Rip currents, however, are much more dangerous because they flow on the surface of the water, can be very strong and can extend some distance from the shore. Meanwhile, an undertow occurs when water sinks back downhill into the sea after a wave has carried it uphill onto the beach. Undertows are typically not powerful unless there’s a steep incline, but if the tide is high, the wave is large, and the beach slopes sharply downhill, the undertow could be strong enough to knock you down.

The good news, it won’t carry you far — perhaps just enough to get smacked by the next big wave.

Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon on the whole ocean. Rip currents, on the other hand, are a purely local effect. You can usually see the signs of a rip current. Often there is an area on the beach where the waves are not breaking, but instead you see sandy water or the white foam of a current headed back out to sea.

The best way to survive a rip current is to stay afloat and yell for help. Don’t panic. Continue to breathe, keep your head above water, and don’t exhaust yourself fighting the current.

You can also swim parallel to the shore to escape it. This allows more time for you to be rescued or to swim back to shore. Rip currents usually break up just beyond the line of breaking waves, but occasionally someone can be pushed hundreds of yards offshore.

The scenery is mesmerizing, yet the dangers are real.

So the advice is pertinent.

Enjoy our beautiful resort… but let’s be careful out there.

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Back to School: Giving ‘Tween visitors a best-in-class vacation

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Well… for some folks, that is.

While parents across the country scramble to occupy school-aged children for eight hours a day, the teachers who’ve been responsible for that task for the last 10 months are reveling in the silence.

Incidentally, for those who’ve never spent 10 months a year standing in a room with school-aged children for eight hours a day, it’s a job from which two months of silence are an absolute necessity.

But I won’t just ask you to take their word for it.

Full disclosure… when we’re not adventuring our way up, down and around Florida – or jetting to Vegas to anoint the next Floyd Mayweather Jr. – my wife and I are two of the passionate masochists for whom lesson plans, seating charts, and parent conferences have become a second language.

I just finished another year as a fourth-grade teacher at Cape Coral Charter School (incidentally… Go Bobcats!) but rather than jetting off to God knows where to pursue tranquility with my colleagues, I’ve decided to stay local and flex my summertime muscles with a little island-centric curriculum.

In my classroom each morning, we call them our “Did You Know?” activities, and they serve as conversation starters that help get the kids ready for whatever’s on tap that day.

In this setting, though, my aim is to toss out a few appetite-whetters for anyone who’s either on the fence trying to decide whether a trip to the ’Tween Waters Inn is for them – or anyone else who’s already pulled the trigger on a vacation and is compiling a bit more 411 before heading south.

With that, class… here we go.

And yes, it’ll all be on the test.

Did You Know – Captiva is a Barrier Island
Captiva is what’s known as a “barrier island.” For people unfamiliar with the concept, barrier islands are made out of sand that’s been shaped into its present form by wind and wave, and they tend to run alongside coasts as a sort of energy absorber for territories further from the sea. There are numerous barrier islands that can be found off of the coast of Florida.

Did You Know – The Islands Are a List-Worthy Destination
Captiva and southern neighbor Sanibel placed No. 3 among the most popular small-town Florida destinations on a recent list compiled by FloridaRentals.com. They’re the perfect spot to relax and enjoy Florida’s beauty and they boast more than 400 different shell species, creating a premier spot for finding rare beauties. Their geographic location and 15 miles of beaches make them ideal for shelling.

Did You Know – Captiva and Sanibel Used to be One Island
At one point, Captiva is known to have been one island with Sanibel. However, at some point around 3,000 BC, the erosion of the sand that made up a single barrier entity turned one island into two. That said, the separation between the two at Blind Pass – two miles south of the resort – is not perfect, meaning that extreme weather has been known to connect and separate them from time to time.

Did You Know – You Can Get Locally Famous by Finding a Junonia
Some seashells are rarer than others, meaning that finding them is particularly noteworthy. The Junonia is a particularly popular find because while it is not particularly uncommon, its deep-water habitat means that few spotted specimens wash up on Captiva’s shores – usually only after a strong storm or hurricane. Incidentally, it’s a species of large sea snail, named after the ancient Roman goddess Juno.

Did You Know – Captiva is Great for Canoeing and Kayaking
OK, this might already be public knowledge, but it bears repeating. Captiva is included in the Great Calusa Blueway, which has stretches that weave through the Southwest Florida coast. As a result, it is suitable for canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts with a wide range of experiences, particularly if they are interested in dolphins or manatees, which are known to make an appearance from time to time.

Thanks so much for your attention, kids. You’ll be getting a nice little note in your planner.

And if you happen to spot me at the Oasis Pool Bar when you arrive, bring the old man an apple.

Martini optional.

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It’s a dog’s life: Looking at paradise through rescued eyes

It’s a season of resurrections.

But the ones we’re talking about here have nothing to do with bunnies, bibles or baskets.

You see, my name is Jackson, and I’m a rescue dog.

Just two months ago, I was rushed to the Gulf Coast Humane Society after neighbors around the house where I was living reported that I was being abused. The wonderful people at GCHS took care of me, gave me a comfy place to sleep and even put me to work as an admin assistant at the reception desk.

I had a date as a “Pet Pal” on WINK News, and whaddya know… I was adopted the very next day.

Clearly, some pups have it and some pups don’t.

Anyway, I’ve lived with my new owners – and my new fur brother and sister, Rusty and Elsa – for the last six weeks, but I’d never strayed past our fenced-in yard or the back seat of the car on the way to the vet.

Until last weekend, that is.

As Rusty and Elsa looked on curiously (read: jealously) on Sunday morning, my owners slid me into a harness, hooked it up a to collar and told me I was going on my first “Dog’s Day Out,” Florida style.

What better to do on a Florida adventure than head to the beach, they said.

And what better beach to head to than the one at the ’Tween Waters Inn?

They sounded pretty sure of themselves. But I had no idea how right they were until we arrived.

I piled out of the car, walked a few dozen steps and instantly fell in love with everything.

The feel of the sand on my pads. The sight of pelicans plunging to grab a snack. The quick retreat of sandpipers as waves broke onto the shore.

OK, I must admit… I was a little hesitant about that wave thing.

My mom was reassuring as she guided me toward the water, but I wasn’t fully sold. And as it rolled up over my feet for the first time, the anxiety was going about 100 miles an hour.

Once I realized I wasn’t being dragged out into the deep, though, I calmed down.

And don’t tell Rusty and Elsa, but I really kinda liked it.

We walked along the shoreline for a little while before setting up camp on a couple folding beach chairs and a blanket. And while my dad and my human brother, Ryan, headed out to try some underwater pictures, I claimed one of the chairs, dipped occasionally into my travel water bowl and happily watched the world go by in my paradise home away from home.

And yeah, about that water thing.

Though Florida has admittedly had some rough times along its beaches and inland rivers in the last year or two, I’m here to tell you that the water on the day we visited had regained that sun-kissed turquoise glitter that’s been selling postcards to chilly northerners for generations.

I had the most powerful sniffer in the vicinity and all I was picking up was the scent of suntan lotion – not a dead fish in sight – and dad and Ryan told me the scenery was so clear beneath the surface that you could snap a clear photo with a second-tier Samsung phone nestled clumsily in a Ziploc freezer bag.

So, imagine with an enterprising Michigander or Ohioan could do with some real deep sea equipment.

Take it from this rescued corgi-labrador mix, you owe it to yourself – and your furry traveling pals (after all, ’Tween Waters is dog-friendly, and about 15 percent of rooms are amenable to pets) – to find out.

Happy frolicking… peace, love and rescue!

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Don’t be a fool… make ‘Tween Waters your April dream destination

Yep, sometimes we get stowaways in the AC vents… #FloridaProblems

Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Year’s.

The holiday season brings so much trial and tumult, it’s hard to imagine ever getting through.

But just as quickly as it comes, it goes.

And all of a sudden, here we are in April… no foolin’.

So as you sit and ponder the idea that the whole crazy cycle will begin again in only six short months, perhaps the best defense is to plan a fantastical respite in a faraway land.

Like, for example, the Tween Waters Inn in lovely Captiva, Florida.

Adventures in Birdland

Of course, as you look out your window at the remnants of a winter gone bone-chillingly wrong, we have to confess something about the subtropical paradise we locals call home.

It’s not always so delightful outside in April.

Oh sure, the average high temperature is 84 degrees, there are typically 10 hours of sunshine and the UV index usually hovers around 11 – but, according to the fine folks at Weather Atlas (www.weather-us.com), you can probably count on about four “rainfall days” during the month, too.

And if your Gulf Coast escape happens to coincide with one of those days, it helps to have a Plan B that involves something beyond taking out a second mortgage to party with a cartoon rodent in Orlando.

Thus, we present the happiest place on Earth… Southwest Florida style.

After time spent at the Oasis pool or beachside watching feeding pelicans, scurrying sandpipers and frolicking dolphins, you can greet the intermittent dreary day with a trip to the Tween Waters Marina to rent a bicycle, stretch your legs and embark on a fairy tale journey – no pixie dust required.

We all scream for ice cream

Just follow these steps:

1. Don’t fall down a rabbit hole… simply stop by The Mad Hatter Restaurant, at 6467 Sanibel Captiva Road, for a spectacular view.

2. Channel your inner Aladdin and search for Iago among the parrots and macaws creating a hubbub outside Jerry’s Foods.

3. Need a Frozen treat? We cannot tell a lie… the ice cream is simply delicious. Stop by Pinocchio’s and have them scoop you up a Dirty Sand Dollar or Sanibel Krunch – their two signature flavors.

A fairy tale ending

4. Stop by the Captiva Memorial Library and grab a few books to read when you’re back to poolside and getting yourself lost in a myth, legend or fable.

5, Channel your inner Pongo and Perdita from 101 Dalmatians and slurp up some delicious pasta primavera at the Crow’s Nest Bar & Grille.

6. And lastly, drift off like Sleeping Beauty after a trip to The Spa at Tween Waters for a massage.

Do all those things by the time you re-embark for parts chillier and less lush, and it’ll be a homebound happy ending… and, what’s more, it’ll surely have you ready for battle come next October.

Happy holidays!

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All Aboard… Kiting Your Way Across the Gulf

Congratulations, you’re here.

You’ve reached Southwest Florida’s premier resort. You’ve unpacked warm-weather gear from a wind-chilled suitcase. And you may have even run your toes through Captiva’s silky soft, Gulf-kissed sand.

So now what?

While a week spent charging poolside drinks and posting sunset selfies would surely make you the envy of family and friends back in Minnesota, Michigan or Mississauga, the humid, tropical air and rolling waves might simultaneously spark your interest in something a tad less sedentary, too.

And what, I ask, could possibly sound less sedentary than kiteboarding?

Of course, before you get started you’ve got to lay down some definition boundary lines.

Though it’s frequently lumped in with other seaside endeavors like wakeboarding, surfing, paragliding and sailing – kiteboarding harnesses the power of the wind with a large, controllable kite that’s propelled across the water. It’s less expensive and more convenient than other alternatives and unique in that it harvests the wind energy from a much larger atmosphere volume.

It’ll take a giant leap toward the mainstream when it’s included on the roster of events for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, and likely in for an uptick on the 1.5 million worldwide participants.

Many blogs and websites prominently list Southwest Florida among the country’s best kiteboarding sites, and a quick Google search returns several local businesses that provide rentals, lessons and additional information.

Ideally, your journey should begin with a trainer kite, which allows you to get familiar with the all-important “wind window” while practicing turns. Pulling left on the kite’s power bar — about 2 1/2 feet long, functioning like a set of handlebars – moves the kite left and pulling right moves it right, with the most dramatic movements coming in the window’s center.

Once you’re up and running with the real thing, you’re attached to the kite with a harness and connected to the board via foot bindings. Stand with your back to the wind and envision the horizon as the top half of a clock, making sure to always keep the kite between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The kite’s most powerful aerial position is 12 p.m.

Pulling the bar closer or letting it move away also impacts power, with the midway position providing the most. If you panic or suddenly feel out of control, let go of the bar and the kite will lose power.

Just getting comfortable with the feeling of being pulled by the wind is a hugely important step, as is the process of moving the bar from side to side to get a feel for the kite’s movement.

Start by sitting in the water with the board and allow the kite to move into a power position. The pull of the kite will pull you up out of the water, and, while leaning back, presto… you’re kiteboarding.

A few final bullet points:

Hold on tight.

Get up every time you fall down.

Make sure to get a good smartphone shot for the frigid folks up north.

P.S. — When the shadow of your kite swoops along the water past your unsuspecting 10-year-old son, who, mistaking it for a shark, shrieks loud enough to wake a nearby sunbather… you’ve arrived.

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RESOLVE to maximize your 2019 at ‘Tween Waters Inn

This just in… it’s a New Year.

And as your official outdoor adventurer of 2019, I’m making it my duty to peel you away from the lemmings who’ve greeted the arrival of another January 1 with another cadre of ineffectual resolutions.

You know the type. They vow to eliminate any trace of carbs from their diets and solemnly swear to spend every non-sleeping, non-working moment on the treadmills at the nearest Planet Fitness.

But by Valentine’s Day, they’ll already be pining for atonement.

Here at the Tween Waters Inn, though, we approach our resolutions a little differently.

Rather than making promises we know we’ll never keep, we’re approaching the newly christened 12 months with only one objective – to answer yes to the question, “Shouldn’t every day be this good?”

Toward that end, we’re taking the day’s buzzword – RESOLVE – and mapping out a 2019 agenda.

Commit yourself to this plan, one letter at a time, and we promise a calendar-full of contented smiles.

R – Relax and unwind in the Spa at Tween Waters
Licensed professionals and massage therapists create a magical day that will transport you to your bliss – individual or couple, in-spa or in-room, even the bride-to-be and her entourage. Delightful options include traditional, creative, even romantic massage therapies. Healthful, fragrant body treatments. Deep-cleaning and laugh-line-cleansing facials. Beautiful, pampering manicures and pedicures.

E – Exercise in any number of ways
Active enthusiasts find a lot to love about the resort, too. Pick up a tennis racket and volley away on private courts. Pedal a bike along the peaceful shore or breathtaking Captiva Drive, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and a private beachfront. Step, jog and lift in the guest fitness center. Or walk the beach, peaceful sunup to majestic sundown.

S – Soak up the sun at a Gulf-side beach
While the rooms at the resort are comfortable and cozy, most visitors come to ‘Tween Waters for the miles of pristine beaches on its Gulf of Mexico side. Captiva and its sister island, Sanibel, are known to have some of the best shelling beaches in the world. You’ll see many guests bent in the “Captiva Crouch,” searching for the perfect specimens for hours on end.

O – Open up a tab at the Oasis Pool Bar
Hungry? Thirsty? Wet? Then hop out of the pool and seat yourself to a tasty lunch at the Oasis Pool Bar. Here you’ll find just about everything under the sun (or under the umbrellas) – grilled sandwiches and fresh salads, ice-cold beers and fruity blends, even frozen treats for the kids. They’re all served with a splash of warm, friendly smiles at no extra charge.

L – Lay down a few bucks at the Captiva Crab Races
It’s a resort tradition that spans almost 25 years – so on your marks, get set and make sure you go to the hilarious, one-of-a-kind Captiva Crab Races at Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille, hosted by the one and only Commissioner Tim. It’s a laugh riot you don’t want to miss – plus half of the proceeds are donated to United Way.

V – Visit The Marina for ways to ride the waves
With the Gulf of Mexico to the west and Pine Island Sound to the east, adventure is calling at The Marina at ‘Tween Waters. Resort guests enjoy deep sea or near shore fishing. Island hopping and stopping. Breathtaking sightseeing. Eco-adventures among mangrove keys and nature’s beauty. Even up-and-away adventures over the islands. With boat rentals, expert guides, a variety of water sports.

E – Eat a great meal at the Old Captiva House
Experience Captiva’s most outstanding dining – named No. 1 on TripAdvisor – for delicious fresh seafood and sushi. And as renovation and enhancement of the landmark Old Captiva House restaurant continues, guests are invited to enjoy the same taste in a new location at the Canoe & Kayak Club overlooking Roosevelt Channel on the resort’s eastern shores with seating indoors or outdoors.

Have a great 2019 everyone!

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The tween takes over at the ‘Tween Waters Inn

It’s not easy being 10.

You can’t drive a car. You can’t stay up super late.

Sheesh… if you’re in my family, your parents won’t even let you have a phone.

But it’s not all bad either.

Because if you happen to have a dad who’s an adventure writer for the ‘Tween Waters Inn, he might just say yes when you say, “Hey, can I do your blog this month about kids on summer vacation?”

Boom!

For introduction’s sake, my name is Ryan. I’m about to start fifth grade and I love this place.

If you’ve never been to the ‘Tween Waters Inn during the best two months of the year – also known as the time when you’re not in school – you really need to go. The weather is tremendous, there’s water on both sides of the resort and there are a ton of cool things to do on the property, too.

And there’s not a homework-starved teacher within 50 miles.

Anyway, we arrived for a week’s stay in the Palmetto building, which enabled us to bring along our 12-year-old pup, Rusty. I was in charge of activities, so I made sure everyone packed gym clothes, pool clothes and tennis clothes, and bum-around clothes for anything else I decided to come up with.

With me in charge, that meant a little bit of everything.

I set the alarm clock in the room for 6:30 a.m. each day and made sure the folks were on the tennis courts – the resort has two – by 7. Mom and I teamed up to play against Dad for the first little while each day, before she took a water break and let me try to take the old guy down one on one while she worked the camera.

Take a look at the video here.

We dropped swim gear on beach chairs as we walked from the courts past the pool and headed to the gym, where I mandated 30 minutes of work in a room full of treadmills, ellipticals and recumbent bikes.

A jaunt back to our room for quick showers preceded a return to the pool, where Mom and I went back and forth between playing with dive toys and swimming laps while Dad relaxed and recharged – he played tennis two against one, after all – with multiple 15-minute turns in the hot tub and multiple smoothies and other frozen delights from Tween’s Beans Coffee Shop.

By the way… if you go, tell them Ryan told you to ask for Kettia.

She’s the best.

Meanwhile, the more I swam, the more I pondered what else to put them through… or in this case, on.

And being a water guy, to me that meant a kayak.

So Dad and I headed down to the beach alongside the marina, where resort partners from Adventure Sea Kayak and SUP run guided tours each day at 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. We chose the late-morning trip and each grabbed a solo kayak to head out with super-chill Aleks – a soon-to-be senior at nearby FGCU who led the tour – along with four other people who paired up in two other kayaks.

Aleks paddled us out on the resort’s east side, across Roosevelt Channel and through a mangrove-canopied water trail through Buck Key. He was in the midst of a discussion about the nearby water fowl – cormorants, ospreys and ibises, etc. – when Dad spotted a fin about 10 yards in front of my kayak. My first thought was “dolphin,” but when the fin zig-zagged at the surface toward me, Aleks corrected me.

It was a shark.

Yes… I said SHARK.

In fact, it turned out to be a pair of mid-sized bonnethead sharks, smallish members of the hammerhead family who max out at 4 1/2 feet, make their homes in coastal waters, bays and estuaries and feed mainly on crabs and other crustaceans. At that moment, though, based on my racing heart and sweating palms, it might as well have been a great white.

Take a look at a quick video here.

We managed to survive the shark encounter and later swung by a huge property adjacent to the resort, where the owner of the Doc Ford’s restaurant chain lives. A gated-off waterway alongside his property is home to a small family of manatees, and Aleks let us paddle right up to the No Trespassing sign as the majestic sea cows swam back and forth between our boats as we snapped pictures.

I’m a hungry guy, so the thought of our family’s past trips to Doc Ford’s made me start thinking of food, and the many outstanding meals available right on property at the Crow’s Nest Bar and Grille. There was no way I was going to spend a week at the resort without testing out the Mac-n-Cheese Salsa Dip appetizer, which blends melted cheddar cheese with salsa, elbow macaroni and tortilla chips.

Tell Jasmine that Ryan said hello, and she might just hook you up with an extra plateful of pasta primavera.

The dish alone is worth a flight from Minnesota, Montana or Malaysia, but you really can’t leave the Crow’s Nest without experiencing the sheer goofiness of Sunburned Willie’s Crab Races. It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never seen it, but try to imagine a roomful of screaming adults and children cheering for hermit crabs as they crawl from the center to the outside of a circular table.

Each child in the audience can name and bet on a crab for just $2, and the adults can pair up to back a crab for the same $2 entry fee. The field runs through two preliminary heats before a championship race, and the money is collected and paid out to the “owners” of the top five finishers. Family races are set to go at 6 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, with adults-only races the same nights at 9 p.m.

Take a look at a championship race video here.

Trust me, by the time you’ve done the tennis courts, the gym, the pool, the kayaks, the restaurant and the crab races, you’re going to be pretty tired. But if your parents learn anything about Southwest Florida before they head down here, it’ll probably have something to do with our sunsets.

Simply put, there’s not a place outside of Key West itself that does them any better.

Conveniently enough, the Gulf of Mexico is just a few dozen steps from the front door of the Crow’s Nest. And when the family crab race wraps up around 8 p.m., it leaves just enough time to stroll across Captiva Drive and onto the sand for a prime view of the glowing orb descending into the horizon.

The tandem cabana chairs are a great place to take a look, though some hearty souls head right down to the water’s edge as they try to use nature’s majesty to augment the perfect selfie. Just remember to keep an eye out for wannabe ballerinas pirouetting across the sand as you work the flash button.

Take a look at my last video here

And remember to remind your friends at school that your summer was way cooler than theirs.

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Turning a long day into a solstice celebration

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

But it’s got nothing to do with Santa, Rudolph or stuffed stockings.

Rather, for those lucky enough to spend time in Southwest Florida, it’s an annual sun-drenched celebration known as the summer solstice.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac defines the solstice as the mid-June instant in the Northern Hemisphere when the sun reaches its highest and northernmost points, conveniently making the calendar day on which it occurs the one with the most sunlight time out of all 365 days in a given year.

Here in Captiva on June 21, that meant a cool 13 hours, 48 minutes and 21 seconds.

And for your favorite Tween Waters Inn adventurer, it meant a corresponding agenda stretching from 6:36 a.m. clear through to 8:24 p.m.

Of course, given the complement of activities available via the resort and its island partners, the prospect of finding enough solstice things to do was far less daunting than the specter of finding the energy necessary to actually do them all from early in the morning to the middle of the evening.

Oh well, it’s a sweaty job… but someone’s got to do it.

Seizing the island’s pre-dawn serenity, I began the gauntlet with a stand-up paddleboard jaunt across the gulf – which simultaneously allowed unique perspective to a Thursday sunrise and discovery that while they’re not quite kayaks, the water-skimming crafts are bigger than surfboards and remain stable enough to stay afloat under the haphazard captaincy of a bleary-eyed New York-born 49-year-old.

Kneeling and paddling were a relative cinch, and, though my wobbly transition to standing won’t earn me a spot on anyone’s SUP fantasy team, the idea that I did so without becoming a shark’s breakfast was a huge moral victory. So long as you keep your feet spaced and your weight distributed, the rest, for a newbie, is pretty much academic. Simply put, staying steady equals staying dry.

(More info on rental rates, which go from $30 for an hour to $150 for five to seven days, is here)

Upon successfully surviving the gulf, the scene shifted to the resort’s east side where paddle gave way to oar for a two-hour mangrove kayak tour led by Adventure Sea Kayak and SUP. The trek takes participants across Roosevelt Channel and onto a water trail cutting through Buck Key, and it provides a chance to interact with manatees, dolphins, herons, egrets, anhinga, cormorants, ospreys and otters.

I shared a solstice trip with five TWI guests from four states and emerged with a primary takeaway:

Trying to get a perfect shot of a majestically surfacing manatee is practically impossible for a middle-aged guy wedged into a kayak and armed with only an obsolete cell phone to document the interaction, and the graceful sea cows seem to know exactly when to appear while you’re still fumbling through your access code, and precisely when to submerge just as you’ve lined up the perfect shot.

It was frustrating enough to make a guy crave seafood.

And fortunately, the Oasis Pool Bar was there to indulge.

It only took a few dozen steps to get from beached kayak to pool-side table, where a perfectly charbroiled gulf grouper sandwich ($14) provided a taste of revenge and a nicely chilled three-rum punch ($12.50) dulled the burgeoning soreness erupting from kayak and paddleboard taxed joints.

A relaxing mid-afternoon bike ride seemed the perfect follow-up to a casual midday lunch, and the quest for mild exertion amid world-class visuals began at the marina, where a full complement of non-geared bikes is available for rental by resort guests. Rates start at $15 for the first two-and-a-half hours and $5 per hour thereafter, an outlay which provides instant access to a fleet of ready-to-roll machines.

A leisurely pedal took me past fishermen on the Blind Pass bridge, alongside white egrets strolling the fence line at the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge and face to face with a gopher tortoise happily munching grass while cars whizzed past just feet away. The refuge’s parking lot was a pit stop prior to a tail-winded return trip and the jaunt was capped by a visit to the beach across Captiva Drive from the resort.

It had already been everything a sun-worshipping blog jockey could want.

But after paddleboards, kayaks and bicycles… something was still conspicuous by its absence.

Speed.

Feeling the need for a buried speedometer, I headed straight down Captiva Drive, took a quick left onto Andy Rosse Drive and sidled up to the desk at YOLO Watersports, where a fleet of WaveRunners — Yamaha’s proprietary label for the crotch rockets capable of up to 50 mph alongside dolphins, tarpon and whatever else that may sidle up — is available for rental in 30- and 60-minute increments.

Rentals run from $90 for the half-hour to $120 for a full (per machine, not per person) and as many as three people can pile on, provided the combined weight doesn’t exceed 450 pounds and the driver is at least 16. The ride area spans a mile-and-a-half along the coast and up to two miles offshore, and that’s aside from guided tours which take riders up to and around Cayo Costa before returning to home turf.

For the record, my late-arriving 10-year-old son likened my driving to “an old grandmother.”

Still, I prefer to think of it not as slow, but deliberate.

Anyway, the sound and feel of sea breezes reignited the collective appetite and sent our little crew – now augmented by the aforementioned son and my perpetually patient wife – back to our favorite resort dinner haunt, The Crow’s Nest Bar and Grille.

We dug into a pair of garden burgers and a serving of pasta primavera and dropped a couple bucks on the Captiva Crab Races while intermittently glancing out the window to make sure we’d not miss the marathon day’s final act, a sunset stroll on the beach with our resort newbie Dalmatian, Elsa.

The sluggishness of our crustacean ensured an on-time departure, and we kicked off our sandals at 8:19 p.m. – precisely five minutes before the glowing orb disappeared and began the stretch of 183 progressively sun-shortened days until winter formally arrives in the form of a 10-hour, 28-minute, 33-second solstice encore on Dec. 21.

It’s a little sad to realize it’ll be six months until days start lengthening again.

So long as the paddleboard doesn’t require chains and snow tires, though… I think I’ll manage.

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Sun-drenched and stoked on the Captiva shoreline

The Banzai Pipeline at Oahu. The massive swells off the coast near San Francisco. The sandy point breaks along Puerto Escondido in southern Mexico.

They’re among the world’s premier spots for surf enthusiasts.

But in case you hadn’t noticed, the island of Captiva isn’t included.

Compared to the jetties, piers, coves, points and turbulent ocean storms combining to create water-logged Valhallas for modern-day Beach Boys aficionados, the sands in the vicinity of the Tween Waters Inn are typically much mellower and free of topographical wave catalysts.

In fact, waves over a recent five-day stretch rarely exceeded “flat” or “1-2 foot” status, according to www.SwellInfo.com, and even when they did it was only to a waist-high 2-3 feet until winds settled back into their typical 5-10 miles per hour range.

Still, for those looking to indulge an inner Laird Hamilton on a smaller scale, there are options.

Toward that end, allow me to introduce “skimboarding.”

For those uninitiated, it’s a sport in which a “skimboard” – similar to a surfboard but smaller and without fins – glides across the water to meet an incoming wave and ride it back to shore.

It originated in Southern California, when Laguna Beach lifeguards wanted to surf local shore breaks that were too fast and shallow for surfboards.

And all that’s necessary for the TWI version, too, is a board and a beach.

That’s where the resort’s partners at Yolo Watersports – just moments away at 11534 Andy Rosse Lane – come in. Yolo offers rental boards in a variety of sizes, accommodating up to 175 pounds, but the general rule is that the ideal skimboard roughly stretches up to mid-chest height on its rider.

Rates are $12 for the first 24 hours and $5 for each subsequent day.

Larger boards are faster but will not maneuver as rapidly. Meanwhile, smaller boards tend to be more agile but slower. Thickness plays a crucial role, too, because thicker boards will glide better but won’t turn as well because they lack responsiveness.

Of course, if you’re as new to the activity as I was… it won’t matter.

You will fall down. A lot.

Why? Because just like riding a bicycle, learning how to balance on a skimboard is best done while the board is in motion, not standing still, which means each tumble gets you a step closer to mastery.

And unlike riding a bicycle, clumsily falling onto sopping wet sand is far more amenable to the head, knees and backside than plummeting onto a concrete sidewalk or a pockmarked roadway.

The basics from there are, well… pretty basic… depending on the experience you seek.

The best setting for skimming across sand is a flat beach, while beaches with more pronounced slopes are better for wave skimming. Also vital to the endeavor is a dedicated pre-skim stretching session to avoid the embarrassment of pulled muscles along with the requisite bumps and bruises.

A bit of 49-year-old advice, friends… don’t sleep on the pre-skim stretching.

Anyway, practice by leaning over and lowering the board six inches from the ground. From there, push the board across moistened sand – parallel to the shoreline – and rise up as you chase it and ultimately run onto its surface one foot at a time, subsequently bending your knees to complete the slide.

The more you try the move, the better you’ll get (trust me!), until you can do it in one step with full alacrity. Or at least something resembling alacrity. Let’s call it a step past sluggishness.

Upon mastering the sand skim, turn your sights to the water and run through the same basic steps, making sure to choose a wave that you can get to and then skim without compromising balance. Shift your weight to the inside or outside of the board depending on which direction you intend to turn, and once you skim up the wave’s front, turn away from it and ride it confidently back to the shore.

When you arrive, accept the affections of your adoring crowd.

And, now that you’re officially Hang-10 certified, there’s only one move left to perfect…

Board drop.

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Coolly cruising Captiva in a little “Scoot Coupe”

I had all the posters on my wall.

The lemon-yellow Indy 500 racer coolly piloted by Rick Mears. The tri-colored Pontiac that helped Richard Petty annually rule Daytona. The black-and-gold Trans Am every pre-teen boy was sure would make him as cool as Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit.

Even the navy blue Harley-Davidson Softail my brother raced around the streets of our hometown.

OK, that last one was more a snapshot than a poster.

And I concede to still-lingering trauma from a harrowing 100 mph stint as a passenger after ol’ Mitch snatched me from college for an impromptu 21st birthday weekend in Niagara Falls.

Some years have surely passed since No. 21, but the vibe for cool means of transport remains.

Especially when it comes to cool places.

So when it came to a recent return to Captiva, the mandate was clear.

That meant another 20-minute stroll from the Tween Waters Inn to Yolo Watersports on Andy Rosse Lane, where there’s been a new addition to a burgeoning roster of ways to experience the island.

This one’s called the “Scoot Coupe,” which translates to a three-wheeled, open-air scooter car powered by a 49 cubic-centimeter gasoline engine. Said engine carries the two-seater at a super-efficient 80 miles per gallon and allows it to top out at an impressive 35 miles per hour.

It’s the perfect ride for an afternoon in Captiva’s “downtown” area, which for a brave passenger – my 10-year-old son, Ryan – and I meant a spin from lunchtime quesadillas at RC Otter’s to book perusing on the shelves at Captiva Memorial Library to vanilla bean Frappuccinos at Starbucks down Captiva Drive.

The geared-down speed limit on the island’s north end prevented us from burying the speedometer needle in the red, but the sun on our backs and the breeze past our heads were no less exhilarating as we wrapped up our voyage with a visit to the sandy shores at Alison Hagerup Beach Park.

The promise that the coupe would be sleek, elegant, practical and fun was nothing if not spot-on, and the experience as a whole provided the exact same kick-start for Ryan’s wannabe driving fantasies as the aforementioned Chaparral, Grand Prix and others did for his old man way back when.

If you plan to give it a try, remember it’s a two-seat vehicle and is made for only two passengers – meaning not two adults and a baby and not two adults and a dog, only two heartbeats per machine. Renters and drivers must be at least 18 years old (sorry, Ry…), passengers must be at least 6 and the maximum combined payload (passengers and gear) cannot exceed 415 pounds.

A valid driver’s license and credit card are required as well, and prices range from $129 for a four-hour rental to $179 for an eight-hour stretch.

A 24-hour rental goes for $199 and an additional day can be tacked on for $89. More information is available at 239-472-9656, 239-472-1296, 239-472-1162 or via info@yolowatersports.com.

I’ll certainly be back for a return trip before too long.

And who knows, maybe I’ll even give Mitch a ride to the next birthday bash.

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