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St Petersburg bound – A rocking Good Time!

St. Petersburg, Boating, Cannons MarinaWith twelve eyes focused on rapidly building thunderheads, wind and high seas, we six fervent travelers weighed whether to keep to our original plan to take hosts David and Lucile Miller’s 28-foot Scout or a caravan of cars from Longboat Key to St. Petersburg’s Vinoy Hotel for an overnight stay and performances by Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall. Decision by committee is never simple.
We preferred to go by boat, but weather-wise, the outlook was dubious. We wavered. Boat. Drive. Boat. Drive… Finally, a tiny window opened in an otherwise unruly forecast and we opted for adventure. Cars were unloaded, the Scout was packed, we let go the lines and headed toward Tampa Bay.
Once clear of Perico Island, the going was smooth as we skirted the northwest shoreline of Terra Ceia, crossed under the Sunshine Skyway approach with literally inches of headroom on a strong high tide and turned north with a stiff wind from the west. That’s when smooth turned to rough, and dry turned to wet. Really wet. We pounded our way through mounting swells, which the brawny Scout took easily in stride, and made way to the lee side of Pinellas Point where it was relatively calm and flat. From there it was an easy pitch along the shoreline past The Pier and into the Vinoy’s boat basin where we had arranged a mooring for the night.
The Dock Master greeted us at the slip, quickly secured the Scout Boat, called for a porter and made us feel welcome. It was nice to be on dry, stable land. Within minutes we were checked in, dried off, unpacked and ready to rendezvous poolside for a dip and cold adult beverages. An early, exceptional dinner and superb service in Fred’s Steakhouse allowed us to make it to Ruth Eckerd Hall right on time.
We swept through the doors just as Boz Scaggs, sporting one of the most distinctive voices in all of popular music, began his set backed by a rocking seven-piece band. Standing Os kept us out of our seats for most of the 70-minute performance as Scaggs ranged from career hits to blues to Coltrane.
Following a short break, Michael McDonald, formerly of The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, expertly backed by lead guitarist Bernie Chiaravalle, the dulcet vocals of Drea Rhenee and a killer band, cranked it up and within minutes dancing in the aisles was the order for the night.
By the time we returned to The Vinoy, all six of us were beat. We three couples said our good nights and went our separate ways.
Come morning and after a quick breakfast, we loaded the Scout for the return trip, keeping wary eyes on a massive thunderstorm that appeared ready to give us a repeat of our trip in. Capt. David Miller had other ideas. He fired up the twin Yamaha 250s, cleared the jetty, rounded the channel marker and headed south at nearly full throttle. We motored ahead of the storm in medium seas, stayed dry and made it back to Longboat Key in record time.
We all felt like we’d been on a mini vacation. We’d been out of town, had a tasty dinner, listened to fabulous music, stayed in a world-class hotel and enjoyed the company of good, close friends. What could be better?
When it comes to enjoying a boat trip, the west coast of Florida offers a wealth of options. Try something a bit different. Make some “out of the box” plans, grab your friends, have an adventure, enjoy your time on the water and stay safe.
By Guest Writer: Michael Riter