Monday, April 27, 2009

When the Sparks Fly: Fourth of July on Sanibel

Spring has sprung in New Jersey and summer is closing in fast.

We leave for Sanibel Island in a couple of days, and I am hoping the weather is as warm there as it is here.

For those of us who seek eternal summer, it comes and goes much too quickly.

One barely has time to get out the sandals before the leaves are turning colors.

My Aunt Marie used to bemoan the arrival of the Fourth of July saying summer was half way over when it arrived.

But for me, the Fourth of July is the hall mark of a summer holiday. And like other holidays, it is a special time on Sanibel.

For those who want to visit the Island at that time, there is usually a great fireworks celebration to be found. Scanning TripAdvisor forums, I found this post with some good suggestions on how to see the sparks fly on and near Sanibel:

Captiva is not having any fireworks this year. South Seas Resort decided against them.

There will a parade [on Periwinkle starting around 9:30] and fireworks on Sanibel, try for a spot on one of the causeway islands for a great view.

Ft Myers Beach will be doing them as well.

Fort Myers Beach Fireworks
Wednesday, Jul. 4, 2007
Fort Myers Beach Fishing Pier & Times Square, Ft. Myers Beach
Community Holiday Celebration
Independence Day Celebration on Sanibel

Wednesday, Jul. 4, 2007
Periwinkle Way and Sanibel Causeway, Sanibel Island
Island Fourth of July Celebration
Red, White and Boom Celebration

Wednesday, Jul. 4, 2007
Cape Coral Pkwy., Cape Coral
Independence Day Street Party

Wednesday, Jul. 4, 2007
Centennial Park, Ft. Myers
Fourth of July Celebration

Hot dog! Sanibel summer fireworks sure light up the skies.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Home Sweet Home on Sanibel Island

Owning vacation rental properties is always a bit of a challenge.

There are the initial challenges of where do you buy, what do you buy, when do you buy?

Sanibel Island made those three questions easy for us. We loved the Island on first sight. We were so enchanted we bought both a condo and a private home. We did it at the moment it was financially feasible.

The next set of questions is how to decorate, how to market, how to price the vacation rental.

But none of those questions is as difficult as is the one that arises when you have a booking in hand for multiple months that gets cancelled. This just happened with our Toucan House for December 2009 through February 2010. The booking was cancelled 3 months out from the booking date, though 8 months in advance of the available months.

In this case, the cancellation was because our renters bought something themselves on the Island. They are very nice people who have stayed in our properties before and we are happy for them. In fact, this makes the 6th couple who rented from us and ended up buying on their own. So we feel that our properties have provided such good experiences with Sanibel that our renters strike out to replicate it for themselves, creating their own sweet home for whenever they might want to visit.

But that still leaves the vacation rental owner with the question as to how to make up for those months considered "in the bank".

Well, you contact everyone who inquired of the house for that period of time in the last few months. But, quite honestly, that is usually futile.
People who are determined to come to Sanibel don't cool their heels.If one house is not available, they will persevere and find another. Missing a winter on the island is not an option for those who find that it has gotten into their blood and under their skin.

The next step is contacting everyone you know on the Island making sure that they know of your unexpected availability. That may yield some results but it's too soon to tell.

Of course you use the various rental sites where the home is advertised and make sure that you mention the home's new status.

And then you blog. Some one, some where may read your blog post and pass it on. You never know for sure where a blog post will land.

So let's see what happens with this post. Surprise me!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Another "Novel" Approach to Understanding Florida: A Great Read for Your Sanibel Vacation

In earlier posts I have mentioned books specifically about Sanibel Island or using the Island for its backdrop.

Because having a great read on vacation is de rigueur, I delight in finding just the right book when vacationing on the Island.

One such novel, based on the history of Florida, is A Land Remembered by Patrick Smith. I read this engaging publication several years ago and was so smitten with the story I bought copies for our Sanibel vacation rental properties. Each time we visit, I have to replenish the supply as renters obviously find the story so compelling they often take the book with them.

And I don't blame them. There is nothing more frustrating than reading half a great book on vacation that does not belong to you! And Sanibel is a wonderful place to lose yourself in a wonderful read. It's hard to let go.

In this best-selling novel, the author tells the story of three generations of the MacIveys, a cattle raising Florida family who battle the hardships of the frontier to rise from a dirt-poor Cracker life to the wealth and standing of real estate tycoons.

The story opens in 1858, when Tobias MacIvey arrives in the Florida wilderness to start a new life with his wife and infant son, and ends two generations later with Solomon MacIvey, who realizes that the land has been exploited far beyond human need.

The sweeping story that emerges is a rich, rugged Florida history featuring a memorable cast of crusty, indomitable Crackers battling wild animals, rustlers, Confederate deserters, mosquitoes, starvation, hurricanes, and freezes to carve a kingdom out of a swamp. But their most formidable adversary turns out to be greed, including finally their own. Love and tenderness are here too: the hopes and passions of each new generation, friendships with the persecuted blacks and Indians, and respect for the land and its wildlife.

A Land Remembered was winner of the Florida Historical Society Tebeau Prize as the Most Outstanding Florida Historical Novel.
Buy the book. Take it to the beach. Read it at the pool. Take it home again. It's a terrific story and helps to put Sanibel in a whole new context.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Re-defining "Danger" on Sanibel

With the recent shark bite in the shallows of the Gulf of Mexico off Sanibel Island comes the usual media blitz about the dangers lurking in the waters.

But let's put this recent nip in perspective.

In the period between 1882 and 2007, there were a documented 5 unprovoked shark attacks in the WHOLE of Lee County (the county where Sanibel Island is located). And regarding attacks leading to mortal wounds, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, 4,406 people drowned in America during 1998. That's about 550 times as many deaths as caused by sharks in an average year.

OK, sharks exist, and once in a great while, one takes a human sample (and more often than not the shark is just looking to see what species the human is before attacking: thankfully most of them are none too keen on the way we taste).

Five bites in all of Lee County in 125 years is hardly worth panicking over. But if you are the panicking type, here are some suggestions for making your Gulf visits as safe as possible:
1. Always swim in a group. Sharks most often attack lone individuals.
2. Don't wander too far from shore. Doing so isolates you and places you away from assistance.
3. Avoid the water at night, dawn, or dusk. Many sharks are most active at these times and are better able to find you than you are to see them.
4. Don't enter the water if bleeding. Sharks can smell and taste blood, and trace it back to its source.
5. Don't wear shiny jewelry which does attract sharks.

But the reality is that it is unlikely that you will ever sight a shark on Sanibel much less be approached by one. And if you are approached, stay cool. Erratic movements will just make the shark curious as to whether you are edible. So be calm in your movements.

All that said, the risk of a shark bite is infinitely smaller than other "dangers" on this beautiful, tropical island. And these can be easily avoided.

Sunburn, heat exhaustion, and sunstroke are much more prevalent than are sharks. So, wear sunscreens, hats, foot protection, sunglasses and extra clothing. Rent an umbrella or sit in the shade as much as possible. Drink plenty of water. Any time you visit the beach, bag up and bring all these items and a first-aid kit down to the beach with you. A day at the beach - or an entire family vacation - can be easily ruined for each and all by bad sunburns, headaches, sunlight sensitivities, heat exhaustion or worse.

Equally prevalent is the lightning storm that can generally be spotted well in advance. Florida is the lightning capital of the USA, but not the world, the international title held by Africa. Lightning storms ares
a serious risk for those at the beach. When you see the skies darkening, leave the beach and head home. Why take the risk to see if it will blow by as it often does?

The joys of a Sanibel Island vacation outnumber 1000 to 1 the dangers. And the dangers are largely preventable. So shouldn't you be thinking of making plans to visit paradise now?