Boca Grande will soon have a new excursion boat visitor, the “Miss Elissa,” courtesy of the Punta Gorda-based King Fisher Fleet.
“Miss Elissa,” commissioned by King Fisher Fleet and built by Scarano Boatbuilding of Albany, N.Y., will be launched this week. She will hit the Hudson River and begin her trek down to Florida for the Christmas season.
Currently, Boca Grande is served by the King Fisher Fleet’s “Charlotte Lady” or the “Helen M.” The King Fisher line offers regularly scheduled excursions from Punta Gorda’s Fishermen’s Village. That seasonal service will resume Nov. 25. The line also offers charter excursions from Boca Grande.
“Our plan is for the “Miss Elissa” to run all of our ticketed cruises to Boca Grande and the other islands starting around February,” said Elissa Allen, general manager of King Fisher Fleet.
The new trips will cut the Punta Gorda/Boca Grande trip from about 2.5 hours to 1.5 hours, which will make the voyage far more interesting. “Miss Elissa” carries 125 passengers, and will drop guests at Boca Grande Marina.
The “Miss Elissa”, which has a traditional design but sits on two hulls, will go into actual service with canal cruises in Punta Gorda in early December.
Scarano Boatbuilding is a national leader in Coast Guard-approved historic replica vessels. Their commissions include the “Dutch Apple” dayliner on the Hudson, the “Charles F. Mercer” canalboat on the C&O National Historic Park near Washington, and the “Ballyhoo” media billboard boat in Miami. Scarano also built a replica Salem East Indiaman sailboat for the Salem National Historic Site in Massachusetts.
Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Gary Cross said that the various cruises that visit Boca Grande are a great boost to merchants.
“Those people are definitely coming over to shop,” said Cross. The visitors not only support retail and restaurants on the island, but often rent a golf cart.
The King Fisher Fleet boats are not the only excursion boats to visit Boca Grande. The catamarans of Captiva Cruises, leaving from Sanibel, resumed service to Boca Grande this week. During high season, they traditionally take two weekly trips to the island, typically about 15 passengers, most on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The cruise visits from Sanibel and other places are an introduction to the island and important to the tourism program.
“Not everyone knows about us,” said Cross. Recently, he had a call from someone who had visited Boca Grande on a Captiva Cruise and wanted to come back.
“They are going to stay for a week,” said Cross.
Sanibel’s Captiva Cruises recently finished the restoration of their steamboat-style “Lady Chadwick,” which was damaged during Hurricane Ian. The “Lady Chadwick” does not call on Boca Grande, as it is more suited to inland cruises.