Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Life of a Pirate Princess

When our friend Peter Wiles of Mid-Lakes Navigation (the company that built our boat) heard we we cruising down toward Fort Myers, he said, "You MUST stop at Useppa Island."
Welcome to Useppa!  Part of the charm is the
architecturalcohesiveness: white cottages with tin roofs.

Useppa is a tiny island close to better-known Sanibel and Captiva. It's loaded with history and charm.  We hadn't included Useppa on our itinerary because it's privately owned--you can't just randomly stop in. But a friend of Peter's, Ginny Amsler, kindly made it possible for us to dock.

What was it like? Excerpt from Captain's Letter Home:

Craig Ligibel (center, w/camera) and his pirate crew
document the Dragonfly's visit
Hi, Mom and Dad, we’ve spent a day and a half at Useppa Island, which Conde Nast calls one of the 25 best private island getaways in the world.  The people here have been incredibly friendly and outgoing and have given us much time and attention, which we have appreciated. 

It’s an interesting place: Unbelievable botanicals, lovely homes, and historical oddities. This little island is where the Izaak Walton conservation society was founded. It’s also where the Cuban infiltrators were trained for the Bay of Pigs invasion. (Apparently they have a reunion every year). This is also apparently the very best place in the world for tarpon fishing.

On Friday morning, island residents Jay and Ginny Taylor gave us a tour of the island by electric golf cart.  In the afternoon, Paul and Shane Swigert took us on a private tour of the island's excellent little historical museum. When we leave Saturday morning, we have been promised/threatened with a multi-boat “send-off.” Love,  Bill

According to Useppa lore, the island is named for a Spanish princess, Joseffa de Mayorga.  The story goes that a pirate, Jose Gaspar, captured her, and fell in love with her. When she rebuffed his advances, he made her a prisoner on the tiny island.  Who knows if the story is true.  But we certainly felt like royalty during our brief visit! i

 Check Facebook for even more photos of our stay on Useppa, including our lunchtime row to Cabbage Key for a "cheeseburger in paradise"  


  1. Wow, what a cool place to visit!

  2. I visited Useppa Island in the early 70’s with my parents. At the time, the island was uninhabited, and my father was being invited to invest in the re-construction of the island as a private resort. I remember being shown the guest book, filled with signatures and comments from presidents, dignitaries, actors and wealthy families. I was only 10 at the time, and had jokingly been told that technically I was not allowed to be there, since in its heyday no one under 14 was allowed (and it’s still that way). While the adults talked business, I explored the remaining buildings and part of the island. It seemed as if everyone had abandoned Useppa suddenly, and after some research recently, I came to the conclusion it may have been due to an approaching hurricane. In one of the dining rooms, the decorations for a Valentine’s party were still hanging. Envelopes marked “His” and Hers” contained valentine’s card cut in half. I imagined it was for a fun mixer game for the guests. The hotel mailroom still had letters in slots labeled by room or cottage, and I found matchbooks and room key fobs. In a separate out-building was a kitchen, with a dirt floor, cookbooks strewn in piles, and even a rat trap with the skeleton of it’s unfortunate captive. A row of employee/servant cottages was burnt to the ground. After seeing unusual mounds of shell rock, I now realize they were made by Indians who had inhabited the island long ago. I wonder if they were burial mounds. I recently browsed around the internet after a friend mentioned South Seas Plantation, which made me remember my special adventure long ago. I dawns on me that very few people probably saw the resort in that condition, much less through the eyes of a child. I also wonder what the future would have held for my father if he had invested in it’s re-creation (he never did).