“Welcome to St. Jetersburg," jokes Captain Larry as he idles his boat in front of the megamansion of Yankees superstar Derek Jeter.
His passengers chuckle and stand up for a closer look, snapping photos of Tampa's biggest and most famous residence.
"People ask me all the time, why would he build that big a house?" he says. "My answer is: one, because he can; and two, because he can drive his Maserati from the living room to the kitchen."
Jeter's place is the main attraction of Captain Larry's boat tour of Davis Islands. Last week, it popped up as a Groupon deal, putting Tampa in the company of Miami, Los Angeles and other tourist spots with famous-home tours.
"The house was awesome. It was really unbelievable," said Casandra Cox, a Jeter fan from Lake Wales, who took the tour with her mother visiting from Arkansas. "We thought about jumping overboard and swimming over to it."
About 250 people (for a total of 1,000 seats) bought the half-priced tours, which also point out the homes of Lightning hockey player Vincent Lecavalier and Buccaneers executives Joel and Bryan Glazer. Many of them are Yankees fans, said Captain Larry, a former New Yorker whose real name is Laurence Salkin.
"We have a lot for people who come down from the North for spring training," he said. "They say, 'Let's see Jeter's house. Let's see Jeter's house.'?"
Captain Larry has seen Jeter twice outside his house, once with his girlfriend, Minka Kelly (he thinks), and another time a few weeks ago when the Yankees were in town playing the Rays. Jeter was lying on a chaise longue and lifted his head a few times to see the gawkers.
"I keep a respectful distance. It's the man's home," he said. "I don't bring people up to the sea wall."
The water offers an unobstructed view of the seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom house, which covers three lots. The Yankees shortstop paid $7.7 million for the Bahama Circle address and millions more for the home's design and construction.
For locals on Davis Islands, the boat tours are just another reminder of Jeter's celebrity . People swarmed the area during construction, prompting speculation that the drive-by rubbernecking would lead to more crime.
Over time, those concerns have subsided, said Harold Moore, a 33-year resident and coordinator of the neighborhood watch program. If anything, the English Manor-style house has brought the affluent community even more prestige.
"I think some of the additional vehicle traffic highlights our business district," Moore said.
"We have some very good restaurants, and people might find places they wouldn't have known about otherwise."
Captain Larry started the downtown boat tours three years ago after moving to Tampa from New York. He had seen the twin towers fall on Sept. 11, 2001, and decided life was too short. After 15 years of thinking about it, he swapped his three-piece suit for a pair of shorts, grew out his blond hair and got a captain's license
His tours get a boost every time Jeter and his house hit the news. In February, Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner blamed the team's disappointing finish last year to players concentrating on building mansions, not playing. Several weeks ago, a WTVT-Ch. 13 news report about the Jeter boat tour was re-aired during a rain delay at Yankee Stadium.
Mel and Marsha Fader of Sun City Center took the tour last week on their 54th wedding anniversary. They aren't big Yankees fans but were curious about the house.
"We came looking for it once but we couldn't find it," she said. "It's amazing."
Former City Council member and Davis Islands resident Linda Saul-Sena isn't keen on big houses on small lots but applauded Captain Larry for offering people a different perspective of the city.
"Our town looks great from the water," she said.
And the Jeter house?
It would provide a good buffer should a hurricane strike, she said, recalling a conversation she had with one of his neighbors across the street.
"It was beautifully built," she said. "It will be there for a long time."