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Celebrate Winter Solstice with a cruise for a good cause

By Staff | Dec 14, 2011

The Lady Chadwick (Photo by CHRISTOPHER KOERNER)

A winter solstice occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year. Since this phenomenon only lasts for a moment in time, experience the winter solstice aboard the Lady Chadwick during Captiva Cruises’ Winter Solstice Celebration Cruise Dec. 21 to benefit the Randell Research Center’s Calusa Heritage Trail.

“It seemed like a natural fit,”said Captiva Cruises educator Richard Finkel, who also does a weekly cruise to Pine Island where passenger tour RRC and the heritage trail after lunch at historic Tarpon Lodge.

Worldwide, the interpretation of the winter solstice has varied from culture to culture. While there is no documentation or archeological evidence the Calusa Indians celebrated the solstice, they were deeply religious, worshipping a trinity of spirits that included a supreme god who created the heavens and earth.

“We also know they had elaborate rituals, including masked processions and animal impersonations,” said Bill Marquardt, director of RRC. “Changes in the seasons brought different weather conditions and availability of certain fish and shellfish, so they would surely have followed the seasons with interest, and they probably marked the winter solstice in some way, as many culture do around the world.”

The RRC established and maintains the Calusa Heritage Trail around the internationally significant Pineland archeological site, a massive shell mound encompassing more than 200 acres along the mangrove coastline of Pine Island. Pineland was a Calusa Indian town for more than 1,500 years. The enormous shell mounds still overlook Pine Island Sound. Remains of many centuries of Indian village life blanket the old pastures and groves. Remnants of an ancient Calusa canal that reached 2.5 miles across the island sweeps through the complex.

The Calusa Heritage Trail is a 3,700-foot interpretative walking path that winds among and over the mounds, wetlands and canal. The trail includes museum-quality signs and wayside benches, as well as stairways to the top of both primary shell mounds, observation platforms atop the tallest mound and a bridge and boardwalk over low-lying areas. Since its inauguration in December 2004, the Calusa Heritage Trail has hosted more than 10,000 visitors.

“The Randell Research Center is dedicated to learning and teaching the archeology, history and ecology of Southwest Florida,” said Marquardt. “When the Europeans arrived in the 1500s, Pineland was the second largest of all the Calusa towns.

“Today, it is one of the very few places where you can park your car or bicycle and tour this internationally significant site and learn about Calusa culture and their environment,” Marquardt concluded.

Additionally, passengers will enjoy a performance by Emmy award-winning and Grammy nominated flutist and composer Kat Epple. Her music has been described as celestial, yet earthly, primeval and innovative. She uses her music in her work towards environmental and humanitarian awareness. Epple has amassed a large collection of flutes from cultures around the world, which she features in her original compositions and CD albums.

Epple specializes in “Calusa Inspired” music, and created the music for many Calusa documentaries including “The Domain of the Calusa,” and the dance performance Calusa with the David Parsons Dance Company.

During the cruise, Epple’s music will be interspersed with an interpretive narrative defining the winter solstice as well as identifying and discussing planets and stars. Mysteries and features of our night skies will be pondered as you cruise under the magic of the night sky.

Being out on the water at night is an incredible experience, so join Captiva Cruises for this timeless and universal fascination of our night skies. This special Winter Solstice Cruise benefiting RRC’s Calusa Heritage Trail will be from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 21 departing from McCarthy’s Marina. Cost is $65 per person. A full service cash cocktail bar will be available, light hors d’oeuvres and wine will be complimentary.

Last year, “the most common word I heard to describe the event was ‘magical,'” noted Marquardt. “Being out on the water in a secure vessel, with the stars above, a beverage in your hand, friends around you and beautiful music to listen to what’s not too like?”

Marquardt also said since just 10 percent of the research center’s budget comes from the University of Florida, such fundraising opportunities like this one are very important to keeping the center open, host school tours, and continue public programs and events.

“The solstice cruise is a way to have a nice experience and help out a worthy cause too, one that benefits the Southwest Florida community,” stated Marquardt.

In addition, passengers aboard the Lady Chadwick will have the opportunity to win a piece of etched-glass art by renowned island glass artist Luc Century. His love of nature and the aesthetic beauty that lies within is permanently etched in his work.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to indigenous people of any area I visited. It is the simplicity of their designs that inspire me. They are so expressive and the lines are conducive to etching into my medium that is was a natural thing,Century said about creating a piece for the raffle. It will be a functional piece with several of the graphics deeply etched. A one-of-a-kind piece”

Reservations are required for this special cruise. Additional information and reservations can be obtained by calling Captiva Cruises at 472-5300.