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Waters offer cool diversions

By MICHELLE JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000


PORT RICHEY -- With the hot and humid days of summer just around the corner, many people are looking for ideas on how to cool off. The waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the estuaries and rivers along the Pasco County coastline can provide a pleasant and satisfying respite.

In addition to swimming, several boating options are offered including air-boat rides, a casino ship, pontoon boats, water scooters, charter fishing boats and even kayaking.

The SunCruz Casino gambling ship is anchored 12 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico with shuttle boat services four times a day. The shuttle departs from Bay View Avenue in Port Richey at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., with an approximate ride time of 40 minutes.

The shuttle costs $5, which includes a service fee and federal tax. Once on board, gambling, food and drinks are extra. No children are allowed, and patrons must be 18 to gamble and 21 to drink.

"It (the casino) is air-conditioned, but people can sit outside on the bow and watch the sunset," said Bryan Gilchrist, director of marketing for SunCruz Casino. "It's fun."

For those who are not inclined to gamble, there is Dugan's Boat Rental at Hudson Beach. Don Stump rents Wave Runners, kayaks and pontoon boats.

Stump opens at 8:30 a.m. and closes when the last boat comes in, usually at 5 p.m., he said.

He rents the pontoon boats by the half day or for eight hours.

"Most people like to take the boat to Anclote Island where there is a sandbar to picnic on," he said.

Prices vary, and gas and oil are extra. Stump also requires a $100 deposit on the pontoons.

His Wave Runners hold two people and rent by the hour, as do the kayaks.

Greg Stein gives air boat rides to his customers.

His company, called West Coast Air Boat Charter, is also in Hudson.

Rides go south along the coastline and return through the estuaries and backwater trails, and Stein is able to take two to six people. Charter boats are also available to take anglers out into the gulf to try their luck or to fish the flats. The Captain Morgan is a 36-foot sport fishing boat located behind Catches restaurant in the Port Richey Marina, and deep sea fishing trips are available for a half day, whole day or overnight. The boat carries as many as six passengers, and cost is $400 for a half day, $600 for a full day and $1,000 overnight. Tackle, bait and fishing license are included. Mike Clendening, of Sunup Fishing, has a 24-foot flat boat that he uses to fish inshore and on the flats.

Clendening, a retired Navy officer, likes to put together small parties in a number of boats. He is licensed for one to four people per boat. Cost is $250 for five hours and $350 for eight. Bait, tackle and license are included.

The Miss Virginia deep-sea fishing vessel will take as many as 50 passengers on the 58-foot boat. Cost is $35 and includes bait and tackle. Reservations are recommended for the trip that leaves from the Port Richey bridge daily.

-- Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (813) 226-3459. Her e-mail address is jones@sptimes.com

How to reach them

Dugan's Boat Rental (727) 868-0954; SunCruz Casino (727) 848-3423; West Coast Air Boat Charter (727) 389-0228; Captain Morgan (727) 846-8656; Sunup Fishing (727) 376-1315; Miss Virginia (727) 862-5516.

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