■ BY SUE ERWIN
Capt. Marian Schneider embarked on a journey 27 years ago and started Grande Tours, an ecotourism business just off island on Placida Road.
Inspired by her father’s example and the lessons she learned from him, Schneider built a business with a foundation firmly rooted in the love and respect of the environment, and a desire to share it with others and an urgency to preserve it for future generations.
She recalls her father saying, “if you teach people to love something, they’ll take care of it.”
Her book “There’s a Captain in You” tells the story of her business, Grande Tours, that she started when she was 46.
“I could never have imagined the course my life would take when I returned to my roots – the island of Boca Grande,” she said. “I had a boat and a dream to make my living on the water. I shared my passion for the water, wildlife conservation, historic preservation and ecotourism with thousands of people over 27 years.”
Schneider will be holding a book-signing event at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, February 13 at Gasparilla Outfitters, 431 Park Avenue in Boca Grande.
In the book, Schneider talks about growing up in Boca Grande in the 1940s and 1950s, and how there were only 350 residents here along with a few dozen “old-money” winter residents.
She got her first boat before she got a bicycle.
“Unless you were sick, you didn’t leave the island,” she said. “So that’s where I grew up – on the water.”
Fundamental to the success of her business was her partnership with the community of Boca Grande, and appreciation of what it had given her throughout her life.
Schneider was the first and only member of the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association. She created the first educational ecotourism business in Charlotte County and organized cleanups in the waters and on the island of Charlotte Harbor.
At the height of her business she owned 150 kayaks and five power vessels.
“Grande Tours was the vehicle I used to empower people to learn about nature while having a good time,” Schneider said. “As I close this chapter of my life, my wish it for the spirit of Grande Tours to live on in those it has touched. I will hold the memories we shared in my heart forever.”
Capt. Marian and Grande Tours retired in the early 2010s. She spends her time between the Englewood area and North Georgia.
“There’s a Captain in You” is also available at amazon.com.