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Your Summer 3-D Experience: Skip Amusement Parks and Movies and Rent a Boat Instead!

Boat Rental at Cannons MarinaMy family recently rented a condo out on Lido Beach.  Gulf-front view = gorgeous, right?  You gotta love lounging on the beach, floating in the Gulf, collecting shells and making sand castles.  What more can you ask for when “beaching it” in Florida? Well, I thought we had it all until we rented a boat from Cannons and we found out HOW MUCH WE WERE MISSING!  When we got out on the water, our Florida beach experience was absolutely enhanced a thousand times.  It was like we put on 3-D glasses and dolphins were jumping, tarpon were rolling – the wonders of the ocean were literally, right in our faces.  If you’re vacationing on Anna Maria or Longboat, or even if you’re a Sarasota or Bradenton resident, renting a boat will absolutely take your beach experience or your Florida lifestyle to the next level.
Our boat rental experience turned out amazing, but at first I was a little worried about the hassles of a boat for hire and finding our way about.  I mean, how do you know where to go in these vast waters, where are the shallow areas you want to avoid and which side of the markers are you to be on anyway?  There seemed to be a lot of questions, but once we got to Cannons’ ship’s store, my fears were settled. The crew at Cannons was friendly, full of information and there to answer our questions and make sure our journey is a safe one. Here’s our story of renting a boat…and all the pleasures we found!
We arrived at Cannons Marina on Longboat Key and our whole gang piled into the ship’s store.  We had six people who were going on the boat – myself, my husband, Sam, my two-year-old daughter, Olive, my sister-in-law, Sarah, and her two daughters Molly and Lucy.  We met up with Benny and Zach from the Cannons’ crew who filled us in on everything we needed to know about renting a boat.  Zach asks us if we need any ice and then he headed out to prepare our boat and life-jackets.
The ship’s store is filled with all sorts of boat goodies.  Need a bird guide? Get one here. Forgot to pack soft drinks and water for the trip? No prob. How ’bout some bait and tackle? The ship’s store has got you covered. Olive loved trying on the store’s various hats and sunglasses and I, in a last-minute fervor, try to slather on sunscreen to protect her precious face.
My husband gets the lowdown from Benny. He gives us very helpful information and directions like how to get in and out of the marina, how to stay in the channel and how to avoid running the boat aground (which we definitely don’t want to do!).  Benny gives us a nice laminated, waterproof map of the waters, and tells us about areas where we might find wildlife. It was only 10am but my tummy was already rumbling, so I was interested in where we should eat. Benny endorsed my idea of going to the Rod ‘N’ Reel pier. He said it was an easy spot to get in and out of and a safe place to tie up the boat without having other boats bang into you (and in my opinion, they have the tastiest fried Grouper sandwich around!)   Before we left the Ship’s Store, my husband finds a pair of polarized sunglasses he likes and I pick out a booney-style hat for him for extra sun protection.
Zach meets us at the boat and gives the girls their life-jackets. He reminds us that those under six years of age always need to have it on when the boat is underway. We all pile on board and this boat was spotless!  I mean, this doesn’t look like a rental boat. This boat was in tip-top shape. We rented the 20′ Grady-White which holds up to 8 people. This boat was built for comfortable riding.  The girls all wanted to sit up front. So we all took our spots and depart the marina, going idle speed through the canal, out to Sarasota Bay.
Olive asks, “Where are we going?” and I tell her, “Egmont.”  She says, “Oh, we’re going to an egg hunt?”  Uh-oh.  I tell her that we’re going to a beautiful island. The Easter Bunny won’t be there, but we may get to see some other wildlife.  And that we did!  After we go through the New Pass bridge, we kick it into high gear when we get into the Gulf off the coast of Anna Maria. The boat runs like a champ. We have our first major wildlife sighting, Tarpon. A huge school of these beautiful, very large, fish are rolling right in front of us. We’re in awe.
Aunt Sarah on Boat Rental with OliveBetween the North end of Anna Maria and Egmont Key, the water is so clear, we are experiencing incredible sea life that you can’t see from land. We spot a Sea Turtle who takes a breath and dives back under. We see crabs floating by.  We see Sting Rays gracefully gliding along the bottom. We see dolphins putting on a show. The girls think this is better than Sea World – and it is.  This is better than any 3-D ride you can ever imagine. We slowly boat around Egmont Key and enjoy her beauty – we see an eagle nest, ospreys, the lighthouse and remnants of the old fort. The island is an elegant beauty that you can only see by boat.
We have worked up an appetite and head to the Rod ‘N’ Reel pier for our Grouper Sandwiches. As we devour our panko-fried fish, we notice that the clouds seem to be building up in the north and there could be a potential storm coming. So we all finish our lunch quick, hop back in the boat and start making our way back to Cannons before the storm hits.  We get a call on our cell phone from Benny at Cannons who warns us that the storm is coming and we should head back.  The Cannons’ crew is looking out for us!  They’re right, the storm is approaching. The sky turns black behind us and my husband enjoys the thrill of trying to outrun the storm.  The motion of the boat lulls Olive to sleep on her Aunt Sarah’s lap. As we make our final turn back into Cannons, we get one final hurrah and see two manatees floating beside us, just off the Sister Keys.  We pull the boat back into Cannons Marina and the rain starts pouring down. Phew! Our 3-D ride is over, but it was exhilarating up until the very last second. We experienced the Florida that you don’t get to see sitting on the beach.