Contrary to the popular myth, not all Friday the 13th
s are unlucky.
It was on a Friday the 13th in 1984 that Vic and
Barb Hansen sealed the deal on Southwest Florida
Yachts, a chartering company, and its sister division,
the Florida Sailing and
Both Vic and Barb are transplants from the
Midwest. Before moving to Florida, Vic had been
working for American Airlines in
and delivering yachts for their owners in his spare
time. In 1981, he was offered a job managing the
charter fleet for Southwest Florida Yachts.
'Tween Waters Docks
At the same time, Barb was working in sales management for SC
Johnson out of
with Florida as her territory. On one of her trips
south, she met Vic and they started dating. Their
relationship grew and then one day Vic called Barb in
Racine and told her he had an opportunity to buy
Southwest Florida Yachts. He suggest she move down to
Florida and they’d buy the company and get married.
And so they did, taking over SWFY on that fateful
Friday the 13th and getting married the
same year. They will celebrate their 20th
“berth-day” of owning Southwest Florida Yachts next
There’s a saying that applies to the Hansens: If you do what
you love to do, you will never have to work again.
South Seas Plantation
Today, their thriving operation consists of a charter fleet
of 10 yachts: six
Grand Banks trawlers (from 32 to 42 feet) and two Krogen trawlers (36 and 42 feet
long), as well as a Jefferson 42 and a Bayliner 3988.
They also charter a fleet of sailing vessels out of
Burnt Store Marina, in nearby Punta Gorda.
The company’s other division, the Florida Sailing and
Cruising School, offers 25 courses for beginner,
intermediate and advanced mariners. This is an unusual
academy in which students live aboard a vessel while
they take courses in handling and maintenance.
“Real-world, real-time, hands-on learning” is how the
Hansens describe their operation.
Powerboat instruction ranges from three to six days, with
classes limited to four pupils per vessel. The
ultimate offering is the eight-day offshore powerboat
course, which includes a cruise to a place such as
The courses range from around $900 to about $2,600 for the
For folks in the market to buy a new boat or who feel the
need to improve their skills to do more extensive
cruising, I would highly recommend this school.
Navigating an offshore vessel is very complex and
learning from professionals in a disciplined
atmosphere definitely give you a leg up.
Mark Conway, our associate publisher, and I flew down to
North Fort Meyers [sic] last April to take a five-day
cruise aboard SWFY’s 42-foot Grand Banks trawler
Maretta Rose. Having both just come off a heavy
travel schedule, Mark and I were ready for a few
take-it-easy days. The beauty of chartering is that
you make your own schedule.
The locale couldn’t have been better: The near-shore
of Mexico and inland waters off southwest Florida were
ranked the No. 1 cruising area in the
by Cruising World magazine.
Barb Hansen and her capable staff suggest an itinerary, which
was based on restaurants and hitting some of my
favorite spots. They set us up with provisions and
charts, along with giving us a thorough walk-through
and systems check and explaining unfamiliar
electronics. The briefing took a few hours. We brought
along only minimal provisioning, as we planned to eat
out much of the time.
Days 1 and 2 were spent at two different locations on
Captiva Island: South Seas Plantation, a large resort
at the end of the isle, and ‘Tween Waters, a smaller,
more intimate spot on a stretch of sand between the
bay and the gulf. This is a great place to rent a
kayak, go fishing, or just kick back and lounge around
the pool or beach.
On Day 3, we hit Boca Grande, one of the last vestiges of old
Florida. This is an upscale resort with the Gasparilla Inn as its
centerpiece. You can rent a golf cart at the marina
and tour the place in a couple of hours. If you can,
stop by the Pink Elephant for drinks.
Useppa Island, the stopover for Day 4, is a special
place. It’s beautiful and tranquil here, away from the
crowds on the mainland. The Collier Inn, a century-old
mansion houses a wonderful restaurant where breakfast
and dinner are served.
The next day, we motored back to headquarters in North Fort
Meyers [sic], a well-marked, casual cruise that took
us about five hours.
The trip was a low-stress run – a couple of hours of cruising
per day, possibly anchoring out for lunch, and tying
up at the dock well before cocktails and dinner. These
are beautiful cruising grounds, all in protected
waters with well marked channels and friendly people.
The marinas and resorts are all magnificent. There’s
plenty to do – or not to do, whatever your pleasure.
That’s the beauty of chartering your own boat.
We found SWFY’s vessels to be in excellent mechanical
condition. Should a problem arise, a quick call on the
radio to home base, and a mechanic could be out to you
in a hiccup.
By the way, I’ve discussed places that happen to have
full-service marinas. Should you choose to drop a
hook, there are an abundance of quiet anchorages.
In general, the coast of a week’s charter would be equal to a
nice hotel on a per-person basis.
Chartering is the perfect way out of a bad winter – and we
all know that winter in the
Midwest can be a less-than-pleasant affair. Next time, we’ll bring
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