Make us your home page
Instagram

Luxury floating resort to open off Clearwater

To reach the floating resort, guests must travel by shuttle boat or by helicopter from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

Photo provided by the city of Clearwater

To reach the floating resort, guests must travel by shuttle boat or by helicopter from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

CLEARWATER — The palatial Fisherman's Paradise resort boasts something for the angler with everything: a helipad, a marina, a two-floor gym, a health spa, a sports bar, a 900-bottle wine cellar, even a movie theater.

Did we mention it's a boat?

The five-story "floating palace," moored 15 miles off the Clearwater coast, is a barge that has been transformed into a $25 million luxury mothership for deep-sea anglers and divers. Pulled by a tugboat, it will loop between the Gulf of Mexico, Panama and Belize.

After six years of construction, it will open to guests Sept. 9 and will stay here for six months. A helicopter ride, a charter fishing tour of the Middle Grounds and a night's suite will cost $599, with a $100 yearly membership.

At 385 feet long, the barge is longer than a football field and most multimillion-dollar "super­yachts." At 5,000 tons, it weighs more than all the gold in Fort Knox.

To check in, guests must dock their boats in the barge's marina, travel via shuttle boat, or fly from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport aboard a Sikorsky S-76, a soundproofed helicopter that operations director Christopher Longrie calls "the Bentley of the skies."

While aboard, anglers can charter one of eight powerboats or catamarans for fishing or diving. Catches will be cleaned by the crew, then served for dinner, packed in fish boxes with a saltwater ice-maker, or preserved with a flash freezer.

Landlubbers can relax at the sauna, salon, massage room, sun deck, restaurant, pool bar or 1,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, watching an octopus, Popo, that the crew found in the marina. Mahogany-trimmed halls are adorned with sculptures of dolphins, marlin and crabs.

The barge runs on three 180-kilowatt diesel generators, 380,000-gallon fuel tanks and two desalinators that produce 6 gallons of fresh water a minute. Trash and sewage run through an onboard waste treatment plant, incinerator or trash compactor.

Yet for all its size, the barge only sleeps 36. VIP suites have king beds and are decked in Italian marble.

Six years ago, Gary Boesch, the retired founder of insurance giant AmeriLife, and Longrie, a computer and electrical engineer, bought an old transatlantic pipeline barge and tugged it to the Dominican Republic. Cheap labor gutted the barge and built five steel decks into its shell.

It was anchored off Clearwater in late 2009, and local craftsmen began work on flooring, masonry and finishing touches. Clearwater harbormaster Bill Morris said residents of beachfront condo towers began calling to report the mysterious glow of lights on the horizon.

Rumors of the lavish barge swirled on online boating forums. When in international waters, some speculated, the Paradise would become a floating den of iniquity with a brothel and casino.

But Longrie says the barge won't have anything so illicit. It will follow fishing laws, won't house prostitutes and will keep gambling to a few upper-deck slot machines. "Believe me," he said. "I've heard it all."

The barge is built to withstand hurricane-force winds and is on contract with a tug company that, with 24 hours notice, could pull it from the path of a storm.

Yet the barge remains at the mercy of the seas. In December, amid strong winds, it broke from its mooring 15 miles west of Clearwater Pass and drifted within a mile of Indian Rocks Beach. Crews tugged it to a Port of Tampa shipyard for repairs and a bigger anchor.

Emily Woodberry of Melbourne was recently boating with her all-women's spearfishing group, the Lady GaDivers, when charter boat captain T.J. Shea brought them by the barge as a surprise.

"I was drooling. The inside, those rooms are like a five-star hotel's," Woodberry said. "A couple of the girls that toured it that day said, 'I don't care how much it costs, I want a weekend on this boat.'

"If I had $600 a night, I'd be on the boat. But I'm more of a $70 charter girl myself."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or dharwell@sptimes.com.

Luxury floating resort to open off Clearwater 08/15/11 [Last modified: Monday, August 15, 2011 11:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks

    Business

    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday

    Business

    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes

    Transportation

    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.