After many months of confinement due to the coronavirus pandemic, we can finally reconnect with friends and family — yay! One of my favorite activities when getting together with my “peeps” is taking a private boat charter out to the sandbars. Some of them are only a 25-minute boat ride away and a fantastic place to snorkel, swim or simply chill out with a favorite libation in hand.
So when I heard a friend was starting a private charter boat business, aptly named Island Vibe, I reached out to her to get the 411 on her new business venture. Captain Coleen and her wife Heather were some of the first people I met when I moved to Key West and are just amazing — hope you enjoy learning more about them, their family and Island Vibe.
Keys Voices: How long have you and your wife lived in Key West?
Coleen Fitzsimmons: I moved here from Chicago and Heather moved from New York City over 20 years ago. My family had vacationed here since I was a kid, and even then, I knew I wanted to live here. We met in 2003 when Heather owned Pearl’s, a women’s guesthouse, and I was a public information officer and biologist for a state agency.
KV: What are some of the reasons you chose to make Key West your home and raise a family here?
CF: We both wanted kids and felt this small town would be a great place to raise them. Key West has big-city diversity and small-town charm. The island is small enough that we all look out for each other and big enough to offer art, music, sports and especially a solid environmental education. The One Human Family philosophy is more than a motto; our kids get to grow up in a loving community. I love that they can spend most of their days outside instead of in front of a screen. We’re so grateful to live and raise our children in a safe and fun place.
KV: What are some of your favorite memories related to your kids in the Florida Keys?
CF: Taking our daughter Clare paddle-boarding when she was two and having a herd of manatees come so close that she could touch them. Seeing my three-year-old son Colin at his first violin recital under a banyan tree in the park. Riding in a box bike with the kids dressed up as Harry Potter zombies for the Zombie Bike Ride. Watching our daughter as a baby chick onstage with professional dancers in “Nutcracker Key West.” Seeing them swim, dive and snorkel at the coral reef. Watching them run across a sandbar on an offshore island to play on a rope swing when we’re the only people there.
KV: What inspired you to start Island Vibe Charters?
CF: I love being on the water, snorkeling, diving, water skiing or playing on a sandbar — it soothes my soul. I want to give people the opportunity to see what is the real appeal of the Keys. I want to share my deep understanding of the Keys ecosystems and love for this place — I can’t think of a more fulfilling career.
KV: What types of aquatic excursions would you recommend?
CF: Definitely a day on a private charter to the reef and a sandbar with me! We offer excursions to the reef for snorkeling, to a sandbar for playing and chilling, or a combination of both for up to six passengers. You can see tropical fish, dolphins, turtles, and all kinds of aquatic life. I’ll monitor the weather and wind direction for the day and take you to the best spots to suit your needs around the Lower Keys.
KV: Does Island Vibe have any age restrictions or special policies for persons with physical disabilities?
CF: It’s a 28-foot boat with seating in the bow and stern, and a ladder at the stern for entering and exiting the water. As long as guests can board safely, they are welcome. Parents should make their own determination about their children’s abilities.
KV: What sets Island Vibe Charters apart and makes it particularly appealing for families?
CF: I’m a mom. I know how to keep kids safe and give them a good time. The boat itself is spacious, comfortable and offers shade with a lily pad (giant float) for kids to jump and play.
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