New book helps boaters navigate Cape Coral’s waterways

Randy Kambic
 |  Special to Fort Myers News-Press

In usual times, Tom Dawson teaches the America’s Boating course and leads seminars on understanding navigation markers. He’s with the Cape Coral Sail and Power Squadron, a member group that annually checks the status of 1,000-plus navigation aids.

Instead of feeling stranded in helping boaters when the pandemic shut down their classrooms in March, he began writing and organizing materials for the release of his new book “Safe Boating in Southwest Florida, Cape Coral Edition: Your Guide to the Many Channels of Our Waterways.”

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Available in paperback and digital tablet on Amazon, the self-published, 142-page work “helps boaters who are either new to boating or our area to better understand how to navigate our waterways” so they know “which areas to explore with caution and those to avoid,” he said.

The diversity of our waters makes it a magnet for recreational boaters, yet it also underscores the importance of knowing the conditions to ensure optimum safety and enjoyment.

“The dynamic is so different here,” said Dawson, who earned the U.S. Power Squadron’s District 22 Outstanding Instructor of 2019 award and also taught boating as a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary member in the Chicago area. “In most areas, you’re in an estuary, not a smooth lake. The tidal currents and wind patterns are so different in so many areas.”

The book encompasses three sections: information on boating safety, navigation aids and rules, and reading nautical maps, charts and symbols; the history and nature of navigating Cape Coral’s 400-plus miles of canals, the city’s many boat ramps and 12 entry channels; and descriptions of 70-plus channels, starting at the W.D. Franklin Lock and Dam, down the Caloosahatchee River, up through Matlacha Pass to the top of Bokeelia, down Pine Island Sound, across San Carlos Bay and into Matanzas Pass.

One hundred-plus visuals, including charts, NOAA satellite images and photos, help readers “visualize what different areas look like and how shallow the waters are outside the marked channels.” Waterfront restaurant listings and other resources are also included.

Helpful tips abound. He writes, “Each year, we get reports of a number of boats being thrown up on the beach,” near Redfish Pass north of Captiva. Dawson offers a safe route in case of challenging conditions. There are also many sightseeing tips like what Matanzas Pass Channel affords of the shrimper fleet: “When all of the boats are in, it’s quite a sight.”

He credits his brother Ted, a boating teaching for nearly 40 years who has plied our area for a decade, for providing suggestions, and a sister-in law Jacqui, a graphic designer, for final editing and formatting it for publication.

Asked to pick his two personal favorite areas, he chose Matlacha Pass for “the foliage and wildlife” and Pine Island Sound because “there’s so much history and beauty to be found there.” 

Dawson is planning to do another boating book. He’s a regular contributor for Cape Life and Go Coastal sections of the News-Press under the pseudonym Barret Bonden. One special safety reminder? “Go out with someone who can handle the boat if you have a problem,” he said.

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