Twenty-four years ago, Senior Captain of Captiva Cruises Bob Rando moved to Florida from Boston in search of warmer weather. Rando said he found out about the job when he was working on a boat up north.
"Somebody from here called me and asked if I was interested in moving to Florida because they were looking for a boat captain on Captiva Island. I came sight-unseen. I've never been to Captiva and didn't know anything about it. The only thing I knew about it was that it didn't snow here," Rando said.
His initial plan was to stay in Captiva for a year then move back to Boston but he found that there was no reason to leave.
Bob Rando with his wife, Jenny.
"After the first few months, I realized that this was going to be a permanent thing and I wanted to stay after that," he said.
Before coming to Captiva, Rando and his wife Jenny, who works in the office at Captiva Cruises, ran their own commuter boat service in Boston. Both have found that working at Captiva Cruises was a more positive experience compared to taking people to and from work.
"Here, people are on vacation, they're in a good mood, they see a couple dolphins and you've made their vacation," he said.
Rando said that although he works with his wife, they don't get to see each other all that much. Rando is typically always out on the water while Jenny is mostly in the office.
"When we get to ride to work together is when we get to spend the most time together. The best part about working together, although it's not that often, is when we get to ride to work together because that's when we have our best conversations," Rando said.
After Paul McCarthy's untimely passing in August, Rando and his wife have took over the business in a sense and are doing their best to continue his legacy.
"We're running the business now and there's a lot of decisions we need to make that Paul used to make. We look forward to carrying on his legacy. We've been in business for 30 years and we're going to be in business for 30 more years," Rando said.
As the senior captain for Captiva Cruises, Rando oversees that all the boats are in tip top shape and makes sure that the crew is well-trained. For the season, Rando and the crew re-introduced their historic Tarpon Lodge cruise which gives passengers a first-hand look at the historic fish houses along Pine Island Sound. Crew members will also give passengers an in-depth look of Southwest Florida's rich fishing cultures from the past to present day. After lunch at the lodge, passengers will have the chance to walk across the street to the Randell Research Center to get a glimpse of how the Calusa Indians lived.
Rando's favorite cruise of all time though, is Cabbage Key which has been offered since their inception.
"It's a trip that everyone can enjoy whether you're six or 86, you're going to have a good time on that cruise. It's something that we continue to improve whether it's the narration or working closely with the restaurant and island management," he said. "We want our passengers to have a great experience."
In the early days of Captiva Cruises, he and Paul McCarthy, would leave for the summer in a bigger boat than the Lady Chadwick to do cruises in Martha's Vineyard.
"We'd leave in June and go up there. The season there is the Fourth of July through Labor Day, so you have eight weeks which is a very short time. It took anywhere between four and 10 days to get there, it all depends on the weather conditions, the boat, the crew and morale. There's a lot of things that determine how fast you can make the trip. We'd get up there and do sightseeing trips around Martha's Vineyard which was a lot of fun. The best cruise we did was "Learn About Lobsters". We would have our own lobster traps and we had a touch tank on the boat. It was mostly geared towards kids. We'd go out, pull up lobster traps, show them how the trap works, measure the lobsters and band the lobsters, everyone had a good time," he said.
Initially, McCarthy and Rando did the trips to make up for a slow season on the island, but after a few years, they halted their trips to Martha's Vineyard after business began flourishing during the summer.
When Rando and his wife aren't at work, they still love to be out on the water. On the weekends, they take their kids out to go fishing.
"There's always something to do. If you go out on a little boat around here, you can pull up to the beach and go swimming, there's little restaurants you can pull up to. We don't do it enough. I always say my New Year's resolution is to go out on our own boat more often," Rando said.