On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley turned ashore, sliding its eye directly over South Seas. Meanwhile, 150-mph winds flattened palms and gouged homes. In its wake, a 1/4-mile inlet, named Charley's Cut, severed North Captiva in two.
The village of Captiva appears intact. But the reincarnation of South Seas has been rockier. Its new owners (LXR) poured $140 million into rebuilding. Today, there's barely whisper to the island's wind-blown past, but the wetlands will take time to recover.
At Home at South Seas
Perched at the end of the road on Captiva, the 330-acre South Seas Island Resort lures guests with natural beauty. A nature preserve covers more than half the property that's tucked between 2.5 miles of beach and the fish-rich bay of Pine Island Sound.
Arriving here on a Saturday, our car packed with groceries for the week, we knew we'd rely on other transportation―walking, sailing, motorboating, or riding the resort's blue trolleys into the village. We opted to stay in the Marina Villas. These two-bedroom units, with full kitchens, face the harbor and sailing school where we watched the yachts come and go. Other lodging choices include beachfront condos or villas, cottages, or even large guest rooms near the pool complex.
Although we planned plenty of downtime at the beach and the pools, we filled our days with activity. Options included golfing on the resort's new emerald-hued executive course, parasailing above the Gulf, kayaking, tennis, and Steve and Doris Colgate's Offshore Sailing School.
The resort offers plenty to fill a week, but we couldn't resist the sailing school. You see, just a few years ago, I married a man with a sailboat. While I grew up on the water, I generally use a paddle or a motor to get around. This is the best place I've found to learn how to harness the wind. The Offshore Sailing School maintains its headquarters nearby in Fort Myers and runs its largest selection of classes out of Yacht Harbor at South Seas.
I signed up for Learn to Sail and spent five days tackling an entirely new language where port and starboard replace good old left and right. The magic started the first afternoon, when my instructor turned off the motor. I took the tiller and listened as the wind and the waves pushed our swift Colgate 26. The boat responded to my hand like a well-trained horse.
Each day I gained confidence. One day, my instructor made sure I could handle a solo man-overboard drill. Another time, I took the helm and sailed "close to the wind" (tight sails with no luffing) while the craft heeled onto its edge. As the boom splashed deep into the water and the spray hit my face, I found a thrill better than any theme park ride.
My husband's days were much calmer. Enrolled in the Bareboat Cruising Preparation course, he wanted a certification to charter a big sailboat for a future Caribbean vacation. His group set off in a lovely 44-foot Hunter, with a gorgeous mahogany cabin, a kitchen, and four staterooms. By the end of the week, he felt he could handle a boat that could actually cross the ocean. If we sail around the world (a big if), I can be a capable first mate now.