A brand new, custom designed catamaran has joined the fleet of Island Girl Charters. The boat has been named Island Girl 1. It is a U.S. Coast Guard registered and inspected vessel. It is a custom built, fiberglass, 45-foot Corinthian Catamaran with a girthy 14-foot beam.
Island Girl 1 is equipped with state of the art, fuel efficient engines producing up to 500 hp to smoothly transport her 49 passengers with luggage to their island destinations. Island Girl 1 was designed to run safely and comfortably in all types of weather. It has a forward deck so passengers can enjoy the sea breeze on sunny days while the main passenger area can be enclosed for a dry ride on foul weather days. It not only runs as a part of the daily fleet, it is also available for private group charters as well as sight seeing excursions.
"Pineland Marina has been around since about the 1940's," Manager Jeff Wilson said. "VRE is a corporation out of St. Louis and they purchased the marina and Island Girl Charters in March of 2011. I've been here since December of 2010. They've made a significant capital investment in this property. When we started we were trying to being people back because people had just stopped coming to Pineland Marina. Now, if you come out on any given weekend in season or out of season, we're as busy as Winn-Dixie."
Pineland Marina’s new Island Girl 1, a 45-foot Corinthian Catamaran.
The first thing VRE had to "repair" was several compliance issues costing about $500,000. After that, attention turned to the property - refurbishing the launching pads and courtesy docks, and the purchase of a new fork truck.
"They did a lot of renovation," Wilson said. "They rebuilt the interior of this building adding new restrooms and a shower for the public. The Ship's Store is all brand new, the Island Girl counter and the manager's office. They replaced the old underground fuel system with a new system.
"One thing I do want to mention is we are very proud and grateful that we have won 'Best of Pine Island' two years in a row," Wilson added. "Considering it's just three years ago we started to turn this place around, we were very happy to be the winning marina again this year. It just confirms we are headed in the right direction.
"The huge advantage we have is our location," Wilson said. "If you're a boater, you find out real quick there's no idle time. From our ramp to open water and some of the greatest fishing in the world is just minutes away. We're only 15 to 20 minutes from Boca Grande Pass, 10 minutes from Cabbage Key and maybe 20 minutes from North Captiva.
"As kayak paddling becomes more and more popular and Pineland Marina is right on the Calusa Blueway, we decided to add a state-of-the-art kayak launch," Wilson continued. "This adds something else for our customers and many, many people take advantage of it. It is even handicap accessible."
In January 2013, VRE purchased Island Girl Charters. Island Girl Charters is a water taxi service to North Captiva Island, Barnacle Phil's Restaurant and North Captiva Island Club. It also offers daily trips to Cabbage Key, made famous by Jimmy Buffet's "Cheeseburger in Paradise," and provides service to and from Boca Grande, Captiva and Useppa Island. The fleet consists of six vessels including Island Girl 1. There are two USCG certified 30+ foot boats, a 19-passenger Crusader and a 16-passenger Morgan. It also has three vessels that are used for private charters, water taxi service for six passengers or less, fishing charters and sightseeing trips. There are nature trips, dolphin watching, shelling, manatee and birding trips.
"On the one year anniversary of signing the papers to purchase Island Girl Charters they put in an order for Island Girl 1," Wilson said. "They signed the papers with Corinthian Catamarans out of Tarpon Springs for the 45-foot boat. Although it hasn't been scheduled yet, we will have a christening ceremony soon. The boat will soon have her final inspection and we will get signed off to put her in service.
"For us it's all about customer service," Wilson said. "If you treat people the way you would want to be treated, you can build your customers. Marina's International is the management company here and that's their belief. Word of mouth can either make you or it can break you. If you stand behind your product or service word will get out. People talk to each other about their experiences. Just treat people fairly and they will come back."