This year Gypsies Palace decided that it would be fun to spend a month cruising Tampa Bay. Most Loopers and boaters stick with the normal route of going north and south on the Intracoastal Waterway. Cruising Tampa Bay requires an extra 27 miles to go all the way to Tampa and most cruisers find this out of the way. We planned on doing a whole “tour” cruising Tampa Bay from Apollo Beach and finally ending up at St. Pete Beach.
However, in order to get there we had our very first engine problem in over a year and a half. When we went to leave Ft. Myers Steve could not get the throttle to work on the port side. We were unable to leave and he spent several days troubleshooting. We managed to limp at idle speed into Sarasota where we discovered that it was not a Cummins issue, but a Twin Disc Transmission issue. I will say Twin Disc went out of their way to get us help. The repairman showed up on a Saturday at 5:30 in the morning! It turned out that it was a wire that was disconnected. Easy fix, but of course, the bill was time and a half plus travel!
Our first stop cruising Tampa Bay was Apollo Beach. The reason we chose this is that we have a sister boat called Fish E Business docked there and they had a dock for us behind their house. They had also completed the Great Loop in their 48 Endeavour and we wanted to hear about their journey. I took a picture of both our Endeavours at their dock. They also hosted a Looper Gathering with over 55 people in attendance that had either completed the Loop or were planning it.
Things to do in Downtown Tampa
It was an easy hop to Tampa from there to Marjorie Park Marina, a city owned facility on Davis Island. We stayed there and used our dinghy to explore downtown Tampa, which is thriving. We were constantly entertained by the boats that passed us – a Pirate Ship Tour Boat, water taxis and sculling/ rowing crews from the local university. Plus, we had an awesome view of the city at night. They light up their bridges with different colors.
Downtown Tampa has a 2.4-mile Riverwalk that is really interesting and people take full advantage of it. We ate at Sparkman Wharf, a new district of restaurants that are made from containers on ships. It reminded me of permanent food trucks. At the other end there is an entire building of food court type businesses called Armature Works. It has been drawing the locals. Our favorite is a restaurant called Ulele, named after a Florida Indian Princess. They have their own brewery and make their own ice cream. We had both! We also took the free trolley to Ybor City, the Cuban district. Naturally, we ate at the Columbia Restaurant, which is the original in Florida. The food was awesome!
Parrothead Fun at Music on the Bay
Our main goal for cruising Tampa Bay was to bring Gypsies Palace to Music on the Bay. This is a 4-day Trop Rock Event takes place at Whiskey Joe’s on the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Tampa. We had been 6 years ago and thought it might be possible to anchor in the small bay by the restaurant. Luckily, we have a shallow draft that allowed us to get back in there. We bought a 4-day music pass and enjoyed band after band. Music on the Bay has been the #1 Trop Rock Event in the country for at least 5 years. Perfect for us Parrotheads! What was unexpected was that a big Cold Front coincided with the event with temperatures in the 40’s at night! We had to run our generator to keep warm, but the beach had numerous fire pits to generate warmth. That was a new definition of Trop Rock Chillin’! We had so much fun that we are certain to come back next year.
St. Pete – Food and Culture
Our final stop cruising Tampa Bay was St. Petersburg at the Harborage Marina. Boaters love St. Pete for its walkability to restaurants and things to do. While we were there, I went to the Dali Museum with girlfriends. I highly recommend this attraction. I learned so much from the docent that gave the tour. We sampled several restaurants and got to go to Mazzaros, probably the best Italian market that I have ever been to. We savored Italian foods for days!
The month went by quickly and we finally ended up at another Looper friend’s dock in St. Pete Beach. Now that is quite a fun beach community, too. We really feel that the Gulf Coast has so much to offer to boaters. We have really enjoyed our time Cruising Tampa Bay and hope that you might try it, too.
Capt. Steve / Yacht Broker sells a Power Cat
Oh, and during all of this, Steve sold a boat! We met a great couple that loved our Endeavour, but finding one is near impossible since there are only 10 and no one wants to sell. We found a 55 Malcom Tennant with a great layout that was just finishing the Loop. It was the closest we could get to ours! So, it was not all play and no work!!