To say that Florida is a breeding ground for colorful characters would be an understatement. If we are lucky we stumble upon a few that leave an indelible mark on our world with their colorful personas and passion for who they are, where they live and what they do. One such person is Captain Kathe Tupin-Fannon.
You can find her any day of the week on her charter boat out in the “Kitchen”, the body of water that is northern Sarasota Bay to most everyone else, with her trusty first mate that just happens to be a cocker spaniel. Born and raised in Cortez, her stories of playing down on the docks and in the net camps as a child are funny and whimsical, and you can sense the deep love she has of her roots. “We couldn’t pay a bill on time, but damn! We ate good!” As an activist, she knows all too well what challenges face our ecosystem and the fishing industry. “I love doing this because I love to show people things they’ve never seen before, something they would never ever see anywhere else that is up close and personal, and hopefully they will want to help preserve it.” The knowledge she imparts is not your scripted scientific narrative, but one of local, generational knowledge that can only come from a fourth-generation commercial fisher(wo)man, who is married to commercial fishermen. Her daughter Katie just so happens to also be a licensed charter Captain, making her the fifth generation to make her living from the sea.
This is not your run-of-the-mill tourist-trap kind of boat ride. In addition to sightseeing, Kathe can customize your experience when conditions are favorable, for instance if the water is clear enough she can take you snorkeling on sunken boats that “no one knows are there” or take you deep into the grass flats and hop in, collecting up an amazing variety of local critters with a handmade “Cortez Critter-gitter”. She will catch starfish, conchs, a stunning variety of juvenile fish along with the crabs and seahorses that are all plentiful in these waters for a unique hands-on Eco-experience. Dolphins, manatees and even some rays and sharks are spotted with good regularity, and unlike the grass flat offerings that are always bountiful, when it comes to the larger sea life, she is careful to add the honest disclaimer “These are wild critters, so I can’t guarantee we will see them, but I can guarantee you’ll have a great time.”
Capt. Kathe’s Charters has been going strong for 15 years, departing from the docks of Star Fish Company located at 12306 46th Ave West in Cortez. For a mere $30 per person (kids under 3 are free!) you can be in the knowledgeable hands of the dead-honest and funny Capt. Kathe, and her fabulous storytelling about the history of these waters, Cortez and the wildlife that is so abundant there. Her trips are super kid friendly, in fact she says her first mate Skipper “is a water-loving sea dog who is fearless around crabs and children, in fact, he loves both equally.”
You can get more information by visiting her website at www.captkathe.com. or just give her a call at 941-812-3241 I can guarantee you’ll have a great time too!
photos from Captain Kathie webiste