In Florida's Tampa Bay there's more than just fancy yachts and zippy speed boats to enjoy the water from. The regon also has its very own distinctly styled e-boat. No, the e-boat isn't some crazy online adventure that you can conduct from the comfort of home -- it stands for electric boat.
Electric boats are unique to Tampa Bay. With their electric motors, they are virtually silent, and because they do not rely on fossil fuels, they are as environmentally friendly as the common sail boat.
Visitors to the Tampa Bay area can explore the bay area as well as the city's waterways on a tour, or they can take a boat out with their friends for a little unorganized exploration.
These long boats with the capacity for 10 adults look much like a run of the mill motor boat except for some primary differences -- the first of which is that there is no massive motor hanging off the back.
The boats are made in California by the Duffy Electric Boats Company, which has resulted in them often being fondly referred to as "duffies". With a solid charge over night, these boats can run for eight to 10 hours without docking. They can go for a long time, but they lack the raw power of a traditional motor boat. It is for this reason that eBoats Tampa recommends avoiding the shipping channel where a hasty escape may be needed.
If, for some reason, the charge does run out on renters, each boat comes with a power-assist feature run by pedals. This can be used to conserve the electrical charge or too pedal back to shore if it has already run out.
Another unique feature to these e-boats is the canopy over them. The canopy can be left up or taken down at the discretion of renters so that they can get as much sunshine and cool breezes as they desire.
For the pleasure of their renters, eBoats Tampa has even equipped its boats with onboard speakers and hook ups for MP3 players and iPods. However, they recommend playing the music at an acceptable level in order to not disturb other boaters.
There are generally two routes that guests can cruise to get the best bang for their buck: the River Route and the Island Route.
The River Route has guests heading up the Hillsborough River to enjoy Tampa from a new perspective. They leisurely cruise under the massive Columbus Drive bridge and past a number of beautiful waterfront homes and parks that are all lined up along the river. On the formal tour, tour guides dock at Rick's on the River, Harbour Island Restaurant and Shop, and the History Center.
The Island Route doesn't have visitors travelling up the river, it instead allows them to enjoy the various sites on Harbour Island and Davis Island. However, diligent study of the area map is a must for self-guided tourists on this route. There are a number of dangerous shipping channels and shallows in which e-boats are not allowed to go. However, this tour is located close to eBoats Tampa so if anything happens, help is not far off.
While the River and Island Routes are good for anytime, eBoats Tampa has gone the extra step and assembled suggestions for stops by the day. Each day of the week has something interesting for self-guided groups to experience.
Monday sees visitors keeping the weekend going by enjoying the wilder part of the waterfront on the islands, while Tuesday it is a more educational affair. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy museums via a water tour. This includes stopping their e-boat at the American Victory Ship, Tampa History Center, Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Glaziers Children's Museum, Henry Plant Museum and the Tampa Art Museum.
Wednesday they recommend trying to climb over the hump on hump day by taking a sunset cruise, and when the sun has finally set, watching the city light up with the beautiful Agua Luces initiative. Agua Luces is a program funded by the city to ensure that the waterfront is beautiful even in the dark by lighting the bridges and other water fixtures with a variety of different colours.
On Thursday the company encourages visitors to head to Davis Island to watch the Davis Island Regatta that has 50 sailboats heading out into the bay. After watching this, a quiet cruise up the river is recommended.
Friday is the Harbour Island Happy Hour in which renters visit all the dockside bars that Harbour Island has to offer. However, don't overdo it. The .08 legal limit for consumption applies to boats just like it does to cars.
Saturday again has renters enjoying a sunset, but this time over the bay area. Afterwards, they recommend heading to Rick's on the River for some live music and entertainment and then enjoying the Agua Luces after dark.
Sunday is, of course, the lazy friends and family brunch at any number of the wonderful waterfront cafes before a lazy afternoon drifting on the water.
How to Rent
So how do you go about renting one of these nifty little boats? Visitors to Tampa Bay can reserve boats in advance, but the company recommends arriving at least 15 minutes prior to reservation time. Visitors are free to bring their own food and drink or they can choose to stop at any one of the cafes along the water. The boats are equipped with fire extinguishers and life vests of all sizes.
At least one renter must be 25 years of age with a valid driver's license and credit card. One guest must have a working cell phone in case of emergencies. However, the company also sends renters out with a VHF radio as well in case a cell phone signal is not available. There are no pets allowed on board and fishing, swimming or diving from boats is not allowed. eBoats Tampa reserves the right to cancel reservations based on extreme weather conditions or the risk of mechanical failure.
All that being said, visitors on weekdays can rent out a boat for a maximum of four hours for $45 an hour. For four hours on the weekend, the price rises to $55 per hour. Renters who do not want the tour, but do want someone to drive them around can rent out a captain for an additional $30. The tours around the bay last for about three hours with food included and cost $50 per person.