Ready About! Let’s Tack.
If there is one word, one idea, one life-altering action, that we can chock up to Covid and the global pandemic, it must be CHANGE. People changed jobs, they changed careers, they changed where they lived, some bought campers and hit the road while others bought boats and simply sailed away. Change, we all were looking for change and that includes Steve and Kelly Edwards, co-owners of SailTime Southwest Florida.
For Kelly, a retired nurse and for Steve, a retired Lieutenant firefighter, the whole idea of selling their home in Chicago, IL and moving their family to Punta Gorda, FL to open a SailTime franchise was very much a spur-of-the-moment decision.
The Edwards family had been members of SailTime Chicago for a number of years and really enjoyed it. So much so, they started thinking about buying a sailboat to put in the fleet. But where they really wanted to sail was the Gulf Coast – more specially Southwest Florida – where they had relatives, and where the family spent a lot of time. “There was only one problem,” says Kelly. “SailTime didn’t have a base in Southwest Florida.”
Not having a base in Southwest Florida did not derail their idea of buying a boat; it only made the adventure that more exciting. In September 2021, Kelly and the kids packed up and headed south from Chicago to their new home of Punta Gorda, FL. By October, the deal was done, and SailTime Southwest Florida was open for business.
A Family Affair
The Edwards’ crew has also taken part in the family business. Alyssa (19) is a college student and helps around the office and runs the franchise’s social media pages. Zachary (17) works at the dry storage at Burnt Store Marina. He along with Brooklyn (15) help with detailing and cleaning of the fleet. The youngest Logan (7) is the manager in training, chatting everyone up and always in-the-know at the marina.
Another major asset to the SailTime Southwest Florida team is their Operations Manager, retired US Coast Guardsman, Nick Hunter. He oversees the base’s day-to-day management, ensuring that the fleet is well-maintained and ready to sail at any time.
Punta Gorda Base + Fleet
On the picturesque Southwest coast of Florida, lies Punta Gorda, a delightful city surrounded by old-style tin-roof residences lining the brick streets, fringed with grand royal palm trees. The city boasts a newly rejuvenated historic downtown and waterfront area with a stunning harborwalk that meanders through the town’s charming neighborhoods and inviting restaurants. Interestingly, the name Punta Gorda originates from its location- a ‘fat point’ peninsula that extends into the second-largest saltwater estuary in Florida, Charlotte Harbor.
SailTime Southwest Florida operates from Burnt Store Marina (a Safe Harbor Marina), which is a modern marina facility with offerings such as boat slips and dry storage. The marina and its vessels faced severe damage and destruction in September 2022, when Hurricane Ian hit and passed through Punta Gorda. Unfortunately, this left the SailTime fleet with no boats.
Fast forward to today, and the fleet has regrouped and now offers six new models with their seventh boat (Beneteau Oceanis 38.1 arriving summer 2023) The fleet includes the Beneteau Oceanis 30.1, two Oceanis 34.1, a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 41 DS, and two Excess 11 Catamarans.
Explore the Area
There are many incredible destinations available for sailors in the nearby vicinity. With an abundance of barrier islands such as Cabbage Key, Boca Grande, Little Gasparilla, and Pelican Bay, there is plenty to discover and explore in the area. SailTime Southwest Florida encourages its members to take advantage of these nearby destinations and discover the charm of the local towns, restaurants, and shops. With an array of anchorages available, sailors can easily plan overnight trips and explore the beauty of the coastline.
SailTime Southwest Florida is easy to get to, being less than an hour from Punta Gorda (30 minutes) and Fort Myers’ (40 minutes) Airports. “Our members come from all over,” says Kelly. “We have members who drive from Georgia, others who fly in from the Midwest, and still others who are more local to the area” says Kelly.
Kelly highlights that SailTime provides an excellent alternative to traditional chartering by providing guaranteed 3 to 7 sail times per month, depending on the level of membership chosen. This means that members can sail multiple times throughout the year and experience regular getaways that are refreshingly different from the typical charter experience. With SailTime Southwest Florida, adventure and fun on the open water are always accessible, making sailing a lifestyle rather than just a holiday.
Sign Me Up
SailTime Southwest Florida offers three flexible membership options – annual, winter, and summer – making sailing accessible year-round. One of the unique benefits of SailTime’s membership is the ability to book seven sail times and enjoy an uninterrupted experience equivalent to being on the sailboat for 3.5 days, which encourages members to fully immerse themselves in the experience.
Rendezvous, Rallies + More
While the SailTime Southwest Florida base is just picking up momentum, they have organized a number of open houses, floatillas, and socials this past year. These events are great for members and owners to mingle, exchange sailing tips and experiences and more.
Recently, SailTime Southwest Florida hosted a Big Floatilla consisting of 40-50 people, spread across 5 boats, that sailed together on Charlotte Harbor. This event provided an opportunity for members to bond and share their passion for sailing, with many members hitting it off really well. It is not uncommon for SailTime Southwest Florida members to share sail times and learn from each other, as one of the community’s defining features is an eagerness to learn and collaborate.
As an American Sailing Association (ASA) affiliated school, SailTime Southwest Florida provides excellent sail training education, equipping their students with the necessary confidence and skills needed to safely navigate a sailboat. They offer ASA 101, 103, 104, 105, 114.
As SailTime Southwest Florida continues to grow, their plans include adding more monohulls and catamarans, expanding the fleet plus providing more opportunities for new and current members. They promote a culture of adventure and discovery, encouraging sailors to get out on the open water and explore all the area has to offer.