PUNTA GORDA — Seafarers looking for a nice place to rest at anchor along the coastal Southeastern United States will be hailed to this small town at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor through an advertisement that several groups worked to publish on a website for cruising sailors.
The Punta Gorda Boaters Alliance joined forces with Team Punta Gorda’s maritime committee and the Charlotte County Visitors and Convention Bureau to purchase the advertisement. Having started Oct. 1, the advertisement will run for one year on the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net (cruisers
It promotes Punta Gorda and upper Charlotte Harbor with the slogan “Southwest Florida’s Award Winning Boater’s Paradise.” The advertisement links visitors to a website created by the boaters alliance earlier this year to welcome visiting boaters.
The site includes a chart of Charlotte Harbor that shows the location of a dozen boating destinations, including Burnt Store Marina, Punta Gorda Isles Yacht Club, Laishley Park Municipal Marina and Fishermen’s Village.
The county bureau contributed about $900 of the $1,400 cost. The alliance and Team Punta Gorda raised the rest through donations or fees.
Fishermen’s Village already advertises itself on similar websites, pointed out Patti Allen, village general manager. However, the alliance’s advertisement is important because it demonstrates this community is unified in making its pitch, she added.
“I guess, the more lines you put in the water, the more fish you’re going to catch,” she said. “We all need to be talking that same tune. The more we can promote the waterfront as a destination the better.”
The idea surfaced after talks by Claiborne Young, author of cruising guides and the publisher of the Salty Southeast site. Young told Team Punta Gorda that once the city dredged its boat basin and installed dinghy docks, the key would be to advertise the facilities, recalled Art Armstrong, maritime committee chairman.
“They heard Claiborne say, ‘Let’s get the word out,’” he said. “I kicked in a check and 300 people behind me kicked in.”
A city contractor last month dredged the basin. By the end of this year, the city plans to install a half-dozen floating docks to serve as dinghy docks.
Also, the YMCA is to present a proposal to the City Council this month to convert the city’s Bayfront Center into a cruising sailors facility with bathrooms and showers.
The alliance has yet to establish a way to calculate whether the advertisement is attracting visitors. However, the project has already boosted spirits, said Sarah Buck, president of the alliance. The alliance’s website includes information on those events, she pointed out.
“Just seeing the increased excitement on the harbor and the things going on makes it worthwhile,” she said.
Most sailors who idle up to the marina at Fishermen’s Village say they heard about Punta Gorda by word of mouth, according to harbormaster Jim Branch.
However, advertising is important because Punta Gorda is located 20 miles from the Intracoastal Waterway. Boaters need a reason to come here, and this city has become “quite a little attraction,” he added.
Lorah Steiner, director of the tourism bureau, pointed out the county has for years been advertising itself as “Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands.”
“(That’s) a good brand,” she said. “But I think Punta Gorda has its own distinct product. So we think it’s important going forward to help Punta Gorda promote its own identity.”