Boating in St. Petersburg, Florida
From Russia, with love
In 1521, Ponce de León brought his search for the Fountain of Youth to the west coast of Florida. Landing near St. Petersburg, his entourage encountered native Indians and Ponce de León was seriously wounded in a battle. He retreated to Cuba where he died with his quest unfulfilled. Other Spanish adventurers followed, but none attempted to colonize, and no one found the fountain of youth (except in Disney's Oscar-winning 1985 movie Cocoon).
The next pioneers of St. Petersburg wouldn't arrive until the 19th century. In 1881, Hamilton Disston bought a whopping four million acres. However, no one left as indelible an impression on this city as the man responsible for its name, Piotr Alexewitch Dementief.
In 1885, a visit to the area convinced Dementief, who later shortened his name to Demens, to make it his home. As a railroad official, he helped bring in the Orange Belt Railroad so that others could come enjoy the city's splendor. Rumor has it that in 1888, Demens won a contest awarding him the privilege of naming the city; he chose to name it after his birthplace in Russia.
St. Petersburg has long held a reputation as a gathering place of retirees. The city's famous green benches were the trademark for the slow-paced community. From the scenic, park-like atmosphere of the waterfront and downtown area, there's no shortage of repose. The nearly-perfect weather now draws young singles and families as well at retirees.
But major development came to St. Petersburg toward the end of the 20th century. That boom is continuing with a whole new look and feel that is attracting the younger generation.
Things to See and Do
Cruisers entering Tampa Bay are greeted by the spectacular Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The bridge's dramatic architecture- now replicated across the U.S.-spans the bay and connects Manatee County to St. Petersburg. It is the world's longest cable-stayed concrete bridge, exactly 5.5 miles in length. The bridge was formally renamed the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge in 2005 by the Florida legislature.
The Pier (727-821-6443 or www.stpetepier.com) is the inverted pyramid which resembles an airport control tower. The multi-color facade and throngs of visitors tell you this is a fun place to visit.
If you're looking to shop, grab a bite, hear some live music, or view marine life up close, The Pier has some 20 merchants, four restaurants, entertainers, and its own aquarium. Three tall circular fish tanks give visitors a close-up look; the daily feeding session at 3 p.m. adds a little action to the aquatic environment.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays (888-FAN-RAYS or www.devilrays.com) joined Major League Baseball's American League in 1998 and now call the domed (and air-conditioned) Tropicana Field home for regular season games. Never seen a devil ray? The 10,000-gallon touch tank beyond the outfield fence lets fans get a hands-on experience.
Aviation buffs may enjoy checking out the model Benoist airboat which hangs suspended from the ceiling of the St. Petersburg Museum of History (727-894-1052). The Benoist flying machine was used for the first scheduled passenger flight in 1914, carrying one passenger from St. Petersburg to Tampa. We wonder if that passenger had to take his shoes off before boarding.
Public parks line the waterfront in both directions from The Pier. Many of the downtown attractions are within walking distance from the marinas. The Looper Downtown Trolley (727-821-5166 or www.loopertrolley.com) will help you get throughout the downtown district for the price of a shave and a haircut-two bits-and the Suncoast Beach Trolley can whisk you away to St. Pete Beach.
Downtown cultural favorites include the Florida International Museum (727-341-7900) and Florida Holocaust Museum (727-820-0100). A short Looper ride carries you to the world's most comprehensive collection of Salvador Dali artwork at the Dali Museum (727-823-3767 or www.salvadordalimuseum.org). Nearby, Great Explorations: the Children's Museum (727-821-8992 or www.greatex.org) is certain to please and challenge the younger crewmembers.
Restaurants and Provisions
On The Pier, Columbia (727-822-8000) offers fourth-floor views along with traditional Spanish cuisine. At the streetside approach to The Pier, Fresco's Waterfront Bistro (727-488-4855) is a chic bistro with fine food and adult beverages served indoors or dockside, plus live music on the patio. There are a limited number of free slips available nearby for short-term use by visiting boaters. Along downtown's revitalized Central Avenue, The Garden (727-896-3800) takes a slightly more casual approach and throws in live jazz several nights a week. Dozens of other restaurants-ranging from sub shops to sushi, from Cuban to Chinese-line Central Avenue and the neighboring downtown streets.
For special occasions, or just an exquisite meal, Julian's at the Heritage (727-823-6382) makes the sophisticated dining experience something to remember. The restaurant is adjacent to the Holiday Inn Heritage, three blocks north of Central Avenue. The Renaissance Vinoy Resort (727-894-1000) has four distinctly different fine restaurants on the property. You won't need directions; just follow the waterfront north until you reach that magnificent 1920s pink building.
If you're staying at one of the marinas downtown or in south St. Pete, don't miss a visit to Chattaway's (727-823-1594) for the best burger in town and the eclectic outdoor patio where well-behaved pets are welcome. You might run into your mechanic or boatyard serviceman from Salt Creek at this popular neighborhood hangout. On Salt Creek, Fish Tales (727-821-3474) has dockage for diners and a casual Florida-style menu.
To satisfy your boat's "appetite" for parts or maintenance, the Marina Point Ship's Store (727-823-2555 or www.StPeteYachtCharters.com) offers a wide range of marine services including a chandlery, repairs, fuel, snacks and beverages, and short-term dockage (space-available). A West Express (727-822-6565) is walking distance from the waterfront on First Avenue North.
On Salt Creek, Sailor's Wharf Yacht Yard (727-823-1155) is a full-service boatyard for needed maintenance or painting, repairs, and marine electronics installations and service.
Provisioning in downtown St. Petersburg has become considerably easier in recent years. Publix (727-343-5797) and other provisioning options are on the Looper route if you don't care to walk to the shopping complex on Third Street South, two blocks from Central Avenue. There's also a CVS (727-822-7115) across the street. If you want the shopping experience to take on a festive flair, the open air European-style Saturday Morning Market (727-455-4921 or www.saturdaymorningmarket.com) takes over Central Avenue every Saturday morning (weather permitting) from October through May. What could be finer than shopping for fresh produce, gourmet baked goodies, along with crafts and greenery...to the ryhthm of live music.
Use ChartKit Region 8, pages 53 and 54. Also, Maptech electronic and NOAA paper charts 11416 (1:20,000 and 1:40,000), 11415 (1: 40,000), and 114112 (1:80,000).
Navigation and Anchorages
After crossing under the Sunshine Skyway, the ICW turns 90° to the west on Tampa Bay at Q G 16ft 3M "3" (SM 105.8). This route continues to Boca Ciega Bay.
To reach St. Petersburg, continue north. Stay well offshore of the Pinellas Peninsula as there are shoals extending into the bay almost a mile to the east. The marked north-south channel will keep you away from trouble. West of Fl G 2.5s 16ft 3M "11" you'll find a secure anchorage in Big Bayou for shallow draft boats. The channel entering the anchorage is narrow but depths are usually 5 feet or more. Farther inside, the depths range from 3 to 14 feet. Watch for the charted shallow humps northwest of the marked channel.
Continuing north about one mile, you'll reach Fl (2+1) G 6s 16ft 3M "S." Due west is the Port of St. Petersburg, Bayboro Harbor, a Coast Guard station, the Salt Creek Marine District (including Sailor's Wharf), and the Harborage Marina at Bayboro (727-821-6347 or www.harboragemarina.com).
Resting behind a massive protective seawall, The Harborage Marina has more than 300 slips with floating docks, pump-out service, a swimming pool, and on-site restaurant. Fuel is available at their high-and-dry location on Salt Creek. This modern facility has endured the wrath of recent tropical storms without significant damage to the tennant's boats.
Northwest of Fl G "S" another mile you'll find the municipal marina facilities in two basins behind a rock breakwater, plus the St. Petersburg Yacht Club docks, St. Petersburg Sailing Center, and Marine Point Ships Store.
Continuing north, beyond the hard-to-miss pier structure, there is another basin just south of the Renaissance Vinoy Resort (identified on the charts as "Hotel Cupola"). The resort's marina remained closed in the fall of 2006 due to extensive damage from storms in 2005. The basin is an excellent anchorage except in strong east winds.
Visiting cruisers and local boaters alike can use the Eckerd College Search and Rescue Team (727-864-8288 or VHF 16) for any maritime emergencies in Tampa Bay and up to 10 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. This free service in operated by Eckerd College using professionally-trained volunteers and many of the students have been recognized for their live-saving actions on the water in recent years.
Shoreside and Emergency Services
St. Pete-Clearwater Intl. Airport 727-453-7800
Greyhound Bus Lines 727-898-14196
Police, Fire, Ambulance:
Yellow Cab 727-327-3600
Independent Taxi 727-327-3444
Eckerd College Search and Rescue 727-864-8288
Sea Tow 800-4SEATOW or VHF 16
TowBoatU.S 800-391-4869 or VHF 16