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A Nautic Star 28 SX is taken for a ride on Boca Ciega Bay, 9/25/15, by left, Stephen B. Wacker, and Captin Chris Miles, right, of Thunder Marine, St. Petersburg. The boat will be featured at the upcoming Tampa Boat Show on Oct. 2-4, Tampa Convention Center by Thunder Marine, St. Petersburg. SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES

Tampa Boat Show not just for big spenders

TAMPA — They say there is no boat that does it all, but Steve Wacker thinks that is about to change. "This is really like an SUV on the water," he said of the new 28 XS from Nautic Star. "This is going to be a real marriage saver." If Wacker sold cars instead of boats, he'd tell you that this vehicle has the functi …


Terry Tomalin, Times Outdoors/Fitness Editor

Terry Tomalin

Terry Tomalin moved to Florida in the spring of 1980 for the sun and surf. After graduating from the University of South Florida in 1983, Tomalin backpacked through Europe, returning a few months later to work for a small Central Florida newspaper, where his stories on the Ku Klux Klan resulted in the resignation of a local sheriff.

Tomalin joined the Times as a police reporter in 1986, but left 18 months later to backpack through New Zealand and Australia. He returned a year later and transferred to the sports department to cover the great outdoors.

During the past 20 years, Tomalin has lived with witch doctors in the Amazon, explored sunken Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico, sailed to Cuba, canoed to the Bahamas and swam around Key West. Tomalin loves to fish, surf, paddle and enjoy all Florida has to offer.

A fellow of the prestigious Explorer's Club in New York City, Tomalin holds a master's degree in Florida studies and is involved in many community organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America.

Phone: (727) 893-8808


Twitter: @WaterTribe

  1. Take It Outside Planner: Tampa Boat Show, biking the Withlacoochee Trail and osprey spotting



    Tis the season to go boating. Check out the 2016s this weekend at the Tampa Boat Show at the Tampa Convention Center. With hundreds of boats on land and in the water, you'll find everything from flats skiffs and tow boats to sportfishermen and mega yachts. Sign up for a boating workshop where you can hone your docking skills, or head over to Fred's Shed and learn how to fix an outboard motor. New this year is Try It Cove, where attendees can get out on a standup paddleboard. Visit from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. $12 adults, 15 and younger free. 333 S Franklin St., Tampa.


    This 12-foot-wide paved path runs 46 miles from the Owensboro Junction Trailhead north of Dade City through Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties to the Withlacoochee River just south of Dunnellon. Hit it early on a weekday and you might not see another rider for hours. Until now, Florida's longest paved trail was one of the best-kept secrets on the North Suncoast. The locals have long known and loved this bike path, and for a city slicker from St. Petersburg, it is a dream come true. Ride, ride, ride ... leave your worries behind. The trail is ideal for triathletes and competitive cyclists looking for a long, hard training ride. For families, especially those looking for a "nature" ride, the Withlacoochee State Trail is a must-see, as well. The old railroad was one of the first corridors of its kind to be purchased by the Florida Rails to Trails Program and converted for recreational use. This trail is generally flat, but a handful of hills keep it interesting. Also, be sure to leave time for some great side trips, such as hiking the Croom Tract of Withlacoochee State Forest, paddling the Withlacoochee River Canoe Trail or checking out the history at nearby Fort Cooper State Park.

    Boat buyers can browse among hundreds of boats on land and in the water at the Tampa Convention Center this weekend.
  2. Tampa Boat Show not just for big spenders



    They say there is no boat that does it all, but Steve Wacker thinks that is about to change.

    "This is really like an SUV on the water," he said of the new 28 XS from Nautic Star. "This is going to be a real marriage saver."

    If Wacker sold cars instead of boats, he'd tell you that this vehicle has the functionality of a pickup truck, but the comfort of a luxury sedan.

    "This is a true crossover craft," said Wacker, of Thunder Marine. "We think it will turn a few heads when it makes its debut at this year's Tampa Boat Show."

    And getting prospective buyers to stop and take a second look is what boat shows are all about.

    The Tampa event will feature dozens of next year's models, including the new Nautic Star.

    "Being a father with two young daughters and still having a hard-core fishing habit, it was hard finding a boat that did not lean too much one way or the other," Wacker said. "But this boat has plenty of forward seating, a sun pad for cruising but when the boys are ready to hit it, the 600 horsepower and 200 gallon fuel tank lets me hit the Middle Grounds and still be home for dinner."

    Not sure you want to buy a boat this weekend? ...

    A Nautic Star 28 SX is taken for a ride on Boca Ciega Bay, 9/25/15, by left, Stephen B. Wacker, and Captin Chris Miles, right, of Thunder Marine, St. Petersburg. The boat will be featured at the upcoming Tampa Boat Show on Oct. 2-4, Tampa Convention Center by Thunder Marine, St. Petersburg. SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES

  3. Take It Outside Planner: Power boats (w/video), Tampa Bay Watch photo exhibit, tips for paddling Suwannee



    Some call it NASCAR on water, except with offshore power boat racing, the course can change with every lap. If you feel the need for speed, head out to Clearwater Beach this weekend for the Super Boat National Championship & Seafood Festival. Dozens of the world's fastest catamarans and mono-hulls will race deck to deck less than 100 yards off Pier 60. The bigger boats can hit speeds of close to 200 mph during race conditions, but get there early and watch as the boats test their equipment in the practice laps. It's free to watch from a perch on the sand, though you can get a closer look if you buy a ticket for $5 to $20. The action starts at noon Friday when you can see the boats up close in Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater, and at 6 p.m. the Tampa Bay Times Super Boat Parade goes down Cleveland Street with drivers and crews holding a meet and greet after. Saturday, the boats will do test runs offshore in the afternoon, and there will be a celebration at Pier 60 with fireworks after sunset. The big race takes place Sunday on the liquid track with heats at noon and 2 p.m. with the start and finish at the Hilton Clearwater Beach, 400 Mandalay Ave.

    Darry Jackson, Terry Tomalin and George Stovall navigate a particularly tricky section of the Suwannee River.
  4. Super Boats bring skill and speed to Clearwater Beach



    Johnny Tomlinson likes to let it hang loose.

    "The trick is to run just off the water," said one of the most successful powerboat racers in the world. "You want to be free, but in control."

    That fine line flying at 150 miles or more, barely skimming the surface, but not flipping — is what separates the winners from the losers in powerboat racing.

    The great ones, and the mild-mannered Tomlinson can be counted among the legends of the sport, flirt with danger, and at times even death, but always bring it back. For there's an adage when it comes to powerboat racing that it doesn't matter how fast you go if you don't finish the race.

    "I've gone over before and had my share of close calls," said Tomlinson, throttleman for the CMS Offshore Racing Team. "But the trick is to take it to the limit, but still be there at the end."

    The adrenalin rush, a byproduct of all extreme sports, is why Tomlinson and other powerboat racers risk their lives week after week. It's also the reason why thousands of fans will line up on Clearwater Beach this weekend for the Super Boat National Championships.

    "Clearwater is such a great venue for offshore racing and our teams really like coming here," said Rodrick Cox, spokesman for the Key West-based Super Boat International. "We are expecting a lot of big boats again this year and it should be a great race on Sunday."...

    CMS Motorsports will be one of the dozens of teams racing at this weekend’s Clearwater Super Boat National Championships.
  5. Take It Outside Planner: Get a boat, cruise the beach by bike and take fishing lessons from an old pro



    Tampa Bay is one of the best places to boat in the nation. Run the bay or head offshore — you'll never run out of options. Before you start working on a float plan, though, you'll need a boat. But don't waste time you could be spending on the water by driving from dealership to dealership. Head over to the Florida State Fairgrounds and the Tampa Bay Boat Show Friday through Sunday. You'll find hundreds of models, from center-console fishing craft to tricked-out tow boats, all under one roof. Free.


    School may be back in session but summer is not officially over until next week. So why not bring the fall in with a little style? Floridians know there's no better way to get to the beach than on a fat-tired bike. The term "beach cruiser" applies to any balloon-tired bicycle, and while they may be associated with sand, you can ride them on any surface, including concrete, asphalt, grass, gravel, even hard-packed dirt. The style of bike, which got a boost from the cult classic Pee-wee's Big Adventure, has a retro look that will give anybody, regardless of age, a shot of old-school cool. The design dates back to the 1930s when industry heavyweight Schwinn came out with a durable, pedal-powered bicycle that resembled the popular motorbikes of the day. The diehards loved their cruisers, and in 1985 that passion came to the big screen, when Pee-wee traveled cross country in search of his stolen bike, Big Red. If you feel a need for speed, these bikes are not for you. With beach cruisers, the key word is comfort. An ideal entry-level bike, the beach cruiser's wide handlebars, thickly padded saddle and upright riding posture make it ideal for a laid-back day at the beach....

    NP_331091_CLIF_CRUISERS_1 TUESDAY (11/23/2010) CLEARWATER A pair of Giant Simple single beach cruisers (green and orange) and a Giant Suede seven-speed beach cruiser and comfort bicycle (maroon) are available at Outspokin bicycle shop in Clearwater. [Douglas R. Clifford, Times]
  6. Hey, boat buyers, make a list and check it twice


    Like many first-time boat buyers, I spent months — make that years — researching different makes and models. I settled on a 17-foot center console, with a new, fuel-efficient engine that was supposed to represent the latest in technology.

    Everything went well at first, until I got caught by a later-summer squall as I was heading home from Anclote Key and nearly took a wave over the transom. Back at the ramp, my fishing buddy, a little shaken by the experience, channeled Chief Brody from the movie Jaws and offered this advice, "I think you need a bigger boat."

    In retrospect, I realize now that I had made a rookie mistake. The boat looked good on the showroom floor, but it really didn't suit my needs. I had tried to save a couple of bucks but in the end I wound up buying a larger boat and took a beating on my initial investment.

    So if you head over to the Tampa Bay Boat Show at the Florida State Fairgrounds this weekend, make sure you bring a pad and paper. But before you go, you've got a little homework.

    A good strategy is for any first-time boat buyer is a slight variation on the pros-cons list. On one side of the paper, write "need" and the other "don't need." For example, one "need" might be fuel economy and a "don't need" could be speed....

    We test drove Shearwater's new 25-foot LTZ Bay Boat at GT Marine, a new boat dealership in Clearwater. (Jim Damaske | Times)
  7. Take it Outside planner: Explore the Myakka River (w/video), Florida Sportsman Expo, lionfish hunt



    One of Florida's great wild and scenic rivers, the Myakka flows through 58 miles of wet prairies, pinelands and hardwood hammocks south of Sarasota. During the summer months, the river often overflows its banks allowing intrepid paddlers to explore areas usually too difficult to reach. You can also explore Upper and Lower Myakka lakes by canoe or kayak. For an easy day trip, start at the Myakka Outpost Concession on the shores of the Upper Lake and paddle down to the bridge, about 3 miles. You'll see plenty of alligators along the way, but don't worry, they keep to themselves. The current is usually light to moderate, so the return trip is an easy paddle. Bring your kayak or canoe, or rent one at the concession.

    For a more adventurous excursion, call Kris Fehlberg at Biotica Eco Tours. The former biologist specializes in small groups and out-of-the-way places. Go to

    If you're looking for a more leisurely tour, take a trip on one of the world's largest airboats, the Myakka Maiden or the Gator Gal, both of which offer scenic cruises on Upper Myakka Lake. Like human-powered canoes, the slow-moving, air-powered watercraft can travel into shallow areas for optimum wildlife viewing. The tour schedule varies during the winter and summer months. ...

    The lionfish species is a big problem on local reefs. Divers are encouraged to spear them because they have no natural predators.