SHINY AND NEW: FLOAT YOUR BOAT
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. TampaBoatShow.com.
ON TWO WHEELS: WITHLACOOCHEE TRAIL
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. railstotrailsonline.com.
FULL OF AIR: PFDs on SUPs
It seems everybody has a paddleboard these days. But a friend recently asked if you need a PFD (personal flotation device) when paddling a standup paddleboard. There has been much discussion in recent years regarding Florida's most popular paddle craft. Should a standup paddleboard be treated like a surfboard, no PFD required? Or is the SUP more like a kayak or canoe, a mode of transportation, and therefore subject to applicable U.S. Coast Guard regulations? For the record, standup paddleboards are classified by the Coast Guard as a vessel. The only exception would be if the paddleboards were used in a swimming, surfing or bathing area. As a result, basic boating safety equipment requirements apply, which means one Coast Guard-approved life jacket "on board" for each passenger on the SUP. In Florida waters, any child under 6 would have to wear a life jacket while the vessel is under way.
PEEP IT: FLORIDA'S FISH-EATING HAWK
One of the great perks of living along the waterfront is Pandion haliaetus. This specialized fish-eating hawk, known commonly as the osprey, is found worldwide except at poles. Fast flying with dark backs and wings, white bellies, a dark eye stripe and yellow eyes, females are larger than males. These birds fly high over water and hover to spot fish before plunging feet-first to catch their prey with talons. You'll see their large nests in tall trees or man-made structures near open water. Their numbers dropped in the mid-20th century as the result of widespread pesticide use, but the species started a comeback in 1972 after DDT was banned in the United States. The osprey's diet primarily consists of different species of fish, including mullet and spotted trout.