Advertisement
  1. News

New cruise boat plies Hernando Beach Channel

Rosa and Randall Rossi launch touring cruises for up to 18 passengers through the Hernando Beach Channel aboard the renovated Island Rose out of Hernando Beach Marina. Wildlife and sunset sightings, plus dining, are featured. BETH N. GRAY | Special to the Times
Rosa and Randall Rossi launch touring cruises for up to 18 passengers through the Hernando Beach Channel aboard the renovated Island Rose out of Hernando Beach Marina. Wildlife and sunset sightings, plus dining, are featured. BETH N. GRAY | Special to the Times
Published Jun. 7, 2018

HERNANDO BEACH — Rosa Rossi says she and her husband, Randall Rossi, have owned more boats than she's owned pairs of shoes. And the couple is sharing their most recent boat purchase with others.

The Rossis launched Island Rose, a 45-foot commercial passenger vessel, carrying their first paying guests on a 2-1/2-hour Gulfside cruise out of Hernando Beach Marina in March. The voyage was five years in the making.

The couple grew up on the Weeki Wachee River and owned a raft of boats through the years until they readied for a slower style of semi-retirement. Pondering a business, their daughter, Marina Rose, then 5, suggested: "Let's take people out on a boat and show them a good time."

The result is what the family calls the "Marina Rose Experience," a cruise with up to 18 guests through the clear waters of the Hernando Beach channel. The 4-mile stretch of water skirts spoil islands.

"Ospreys are always sitting on a marker or two, pelicans are just hanging out, dolphins jumping or just swimming most of the time," Randall Rossi, 59, said recently. And below the water, "our channel on a nice day is an aquarium," he added.

Excursions include meals catered by a local restaurant, The Cove, plus beverages and snacks. Options include an indoor, climate-controlled cruise ship environ or open windows and an open-air back deck. Reservations are required.

Regarding the passengers, Randall Rossi said, "They mainly just want to eat and hang out."

"And they leave hugging each other like good friends," said Rosa Rossi, 55.

Sunset dinner cruises run Wednesday through Sunday. Champagne brunch cruises are Saturday and Sunday. Luncheon cruises are Wednesday through Friday, $45 to $60 per person. Monday and Tuesday are reserved for private groups and special event cruises.

Hernando Beach sailor Chuck Riedel captains the vessel. He has been licensed as a captain for 15 years and previously ran a charter boat on Lake Michigan out of Chicago. The retiree, 73, more recently captained river boats at nearby Weeki Wachee State Park.

With the Island Rose licensed for a crew of three, Randall Rossi works as first mate and is training to become a captain. Rosa Rossi is serving mate, primarily ensuring passenger comfort and pleasure.

Rosa Rossi searched a year for just the right vessel, and found the Florida-built mock riverboat made in 2000 on Lake Dora. It once cruised Alaskan waters and was floating unused and un-maintained for several years

"When it arrived here, it was so really, really ugly that people at the next marina ridiculed us," Randall Rossi said.

More than a dozen friends helped with the renovation, installing new flooring, carpeting, white interior paneling with nautical trim and a 16-speaker stereo system. They remodeled the bathroom, built a bar and added a hot- and cold-food serving station.

"It has drawn attention to bring people down here," said Hernando Beach Marina staffer Christine Melfi. The boat's passengers have given local businesses a boost, she said.

Most passengers so far are clubs and retiree groups, business owners staging events for their employees and individuals celebrating special occasions.

"This is a great thing to do if you don't have a boat, (or for) other folks who don't have what it takes to maintain a boat," Randall Rossi said. "Even if folks rent a boat, they don't know where to go around the shoals and rocks."

As daughter Marina Rose, now 10, envisioned, the Rossis are providing a good-time, worry-free water experience close to home.

Contact Beth Gray at graybethn@earthlink.net.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Gabriel Tillman faces charges of grand theft for the fire extinguisher, as well as petit theft and criminal mischief ($200 or less). [Polk County Sheriff's Office]
    Video shows Gabriel Tillman push, punch, hip check and ultimately use a fire extinguisher to try to smash his way through a locked door.
  2. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., hits in the batting cage during a meeting with minor league baseball players and officials at FunCity Turf, Sunday in Burlington, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) [CHARLIE NEIBERGALL  |  AP]
    The Democratic presidential candidate is aggressively opposing a Major League Baseball plan to cut 42 minor league baseball teams.
  3. Shane Sheil, 16, only wanted three things for Christmas, an Xbox 360, a skateboard and a family.  After a story about Shane ran in the St. Petersburg Times, the community responded, and two of his three wishes have already been fulfilled.  Someone donated an Xbox 360 to him, and a local skateboard shop offered to let him come in and pick out anything he wanted.  He now spends his days playing games like Need for Speed Carbon with friends, and said he hopes he can go get the skateboard up soon.  (MELISSA LYTTLE | Times) [LYTTLE, MELISSA  |  St. Petersburg Times]
    The generosity of more than 100 people Shane Sheil, a 16-year-old in Pinellas County’s foster care system, never met changed his life.
  4. Shane Sheil, 16, rides his bike to and from school every day.  He prides himself on his speed as well as being self-sufficient.   (MELISSA LYTTLE | Times) [LYTTLE, MELISSA  |  St. Petersburg Times]
    “I wish someone would actually be there for me, you know? I’m outgoing. I can bring joy. I just want to be adopted.”
  5. From the left: Christyana Richardson, 10, Terrence Simpson, 11, Sherina Akins, 33, Tharon Simpson, 12, Isaiah Shine, 11 months-old and Bronchea King, 5, near their home in North Miami. [MATIAS J. OCNER MOCNER | Miami Herald]
    Sherina Akins, a single mother of three, adopted a cousin’s two children who were about to be placed in foster care.
  6. Elias Alan-Arturo Flor, 19, of Wahneta was charged with battery and committing a lewd act in front of a child 16 or younger after turning himself into authorities. [Winter Haven Police Department]
    Elias Alan-Arturo Flor was arrested after turning himself in at the police station.
  7. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
    The suspect and the victim did not know each other prior to the shooting.
  8. Former FBI Director James Comey talks with "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace, Sunday morning, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) [KEVIN WOLF  |  AP]
    The report did not find evidence for the most sensational of President Donald Trump’s claims, including that he had been wiretapped and illegally spied on.
  9. Trapped flower vendors are pulled out from a collapsed wall following an earthquake that struck Padada, Davao del Sur province, southern Philippines on Sunday. A strong quake jolted the southern Philippines on Sunday, causing a three-story building to collapse and prompting people to rush out of shopping malls, houses and other buildings in panic, officials said. (AP Photo/John Angelo Jomao-as) [JOHN ANGELO JOMAO-AS  |  AP]
    A child was killed when a wall of her house tumbled down as the ground shook and hit her in the head, officials said.
  10. This image made from undated video provided by Zola shows a scene of its advertisement. Under pressure from a conservative advocacy group, The Hallmark Channel has pulled the ads for wedding-planning website Zola that featured same-sex couples, including two brides kissing. The family-friendly network, which is in the midst of its heavily watched holiday programming, removed the ads because the controversy was a distraction, a spokesperson said in an interview on Saturday. (Zola via AP) [AP]
    The ad featured two brides kissing at the altar.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement