Almost Six decades ago, there were few organized social, recreational or cultural opportunities that existed for Naples residents. Then, in 1961, a group of avid boaters banded together to provide social activities and boating fellowship and the Naples Cruise Club was founded.
The organization, with 43 original members (as counted by family units) and dues of $5 at the time of incorporation, gained steady popularity and by 1973, had a membership of 203, the all-time high.
In 1964, through “leasing with an option to buy,” the Club acquired four acres of land with 636 ft. of water frontage on Little Marco Island. A building near the Cove Inn was donated to the Club. The members dismantled it, which was part of the donor’s agreement, loaded it onto barges and their own boats, and transported it to the island, where they rebuilt it as the “Chickee.” The Chickee was doubled in size, and the docks were expanded in 1968. In 1975, the old wooden sea wall was replaced with the present-day structure at a cost of $7,000.
The Club purchased property on Key Island to provide direct access to the Gulf for its members. To facilitate this purchase, the Club sold the northern 136 ft. of Little Marco Island. Incidentally, the yearly payments from this sale matched the amounts due on the Key Island property, providing all the necessary funds for the purchase.
Both properties became debt-free in 1988. The mortgage was burned by the original signer, Past Commodore Bill Drumheller, at a special ceremony held on Little Marco Island.
Club members have made all property improvements and maintenance, with the exception of major repairs such as roof and dock replacements. This includes the restrooms and storage building completed in 1977, septic system, food serving and picnic chickees, barbecue grills and concrete decking.
In recent years, additional storage building (or facilities) were built and docks were expanded or revised At Key Island and LMI. Lights, spotlights and ceiling fans, which operate from a generator donated by the Cole family, were installed.
In the early days, the Club’s monthly dinner meetings were held in Naples restaurants, when 119 consecutive meetings were held at the Golden Gate Inn. Only once has a meeting been canceled — in 1971, due to flooded roads. Presently, meetings are held at the many country clubs in the Naples area.
The Club, like all organizations, has seen many changes: the By-Laws have been revised several times; the island pot-lucks are no longer a bi-monthly affair; dock changes were necessary to provide for the larger boats; the 1984 “grandfather” clause on the docks expired and we are obligated to pay for the submerged land in the dock areas; the Club’s logo was updated; the Salt Spray newsletter was introduced in 1991 and keeps the members informed of all activities and events.
While new types of island events have been introduced, activities still include the traditional holiday celebrations throughout the year, as well as the Past Commodores’ Shrimp Party and “overnighters.” Today’s boating activities include luncheon and dinner cruises as well as long and short overnight trips. Destinations are usually reachable by land as well as sea, so members without boats may still participate. From time to time, ocean cruises via commercial liners and bus “Land Cruises” to special destinations are also sponsored by the Club.
Our thanks and sincere appreciation go to the early members, who not only worked hard, but planned so well to make the Naples Cruise Club the warm and fun-filled fellowship it is today. They provided us a wonderful legacy for future generations to enjoy for many years!
Past Commodores Liam & Maria Varian