Kids at Heart

There’s nothing quite like putting a three-year-old in charge of a day on the water.
  • Kid and dad jumping off an Aquila boat

    So here was the deal. The folks at MarineMax in St. Petersburg, Florida wanted to loan me their latest and greatest—an Aquila 32 Sport Power Catamaran—for a few days of cruising. But, due to scheduling difficulties, I couldn’t dig up a soul to go with me. My wife BJ, who had initially planned to take time off from work, was occupied with an unanticipated staff shortage. My neighbor Mike was occupied with local politics. And all of my colleagues were occupied with projects of their own. So, was I gonna have to go cruising all by my little ol’ self?  Then one fine morning, during breakfast, I got to thinkin’ about how, when I was a kid, I’d have no trouble skipping my morning bowl of Sugar Crisp if there was a boat ride in the offing.

  • Kid enjoying his day on a boat
    So, shoot! Apparently all the adults in my life had forsaken me. What about a boat-lovin’ kid? I dialed up Jesse Adams, a Ft. Lauderdale boat fanatic, ex-Navy vet and longtime buddy whose dad, Tommy Adams, used to build and race super-fast offshore screamers in the bad old days, right alongside Don Aronow, the famous powerboat maven. Jesse had a three-year old son, a boaty little soul he’d named Strake, after one of the subtler, performance-boosting aspects on a high-performance planing vessel. Strake Adams? What a handle!  “Hey Jesse,” I said, “how would you and Strake like to go for a boat ride? You could drive up early and we’d spend the whole day cruising around St. Pete, pretty much doing whatever Strake wants to do. He’d be The Man for a day. Whataya think?”
  • Friends cooking hot dogs on a boat

    Breakfast With An Angler

    It was beautiful, that morning. We were all seated at a picnic table on the patio of the Sea Horse Restaurant, a stone’s throw from St. Pete’s Pass-A-Grille Marina where I’d parked our Aquila overnight. There were four of us: Jesse, Strake, photographer Austin Coit and me. We’d already loaded up the boat for our jaunt with, among other things, hot dogs, mustard and buns (comprising one of Strake’s favorite entrees these days), bait (frozen shrimp, another of Strake’s favorites), PFDs, ice, drinks, a big drybag loaded with traveling supplies for toddlers (a term Strake considers altogether inappropriate), several spinning rods (fishing is yet another of Strake’s major-league enthusiasms) and an immense tackle box. Now it was eggs-and-bacon time and, more importantly, time to put the finishing touches on the plan for the day. Strake, whose stature is commensurate with his age, was standing atop his bench seat in order to get a better view. Apparently, he found the Sea Horse clientele, an assortment of locals and Midwestern tourists, quite interesting. He was dramatically shading his eyes with the palm of his hand, sort of like Horatio Nelson or Black Bart, the pirate, might have done back in the day. “Ho, ho, ho,” he sang to himself, obviously in a cheery, expectant mood. “You know,” advised our tall, bespectacled waitress, casting an accusatory look at both Jesse and his son, “I’ve seen children fall when they stand up on their seats like that.” Obviously taken aback and perhaps a little embarrassed, Jesse politely apologized and, a little grudgingly, suggested Strake adopt a more conventional approach to picnic-table seating. No sense making waves, Jesse seemed to be thinking, no sense tossing a wrench into our little adventure right off the bat. Strake took his dad’s advice, but did so a little grudgingly as well. 

    Then, as the waitress began taking our orders, writing everything down on a notepad, she aimed another accusatory look at the arrangement of Strake’s silverware. “You know,” she advised again, “that knife is awfully close to that child—he could hurt himself or others.” “It’s a butter knife,” Jesse fired back, his eyes widening. “The kid knows how to use a butter knife.” Strake’s eyes widened, too. Then he carefully watched the waitress depart in a huff after she’d snapped her notepad shut. You had to wonder what the little fellow was thinking. In a half hour or so, as the scrambled eggs came out, Strake discovered he’d forgotten to order the most genuine of all Florida beverages. “Can I please have some orange juice, ma’am?” he asked. “Oh,” the lady replied, gazing down imperiously at him over her glasses, “you’re such a sweet little boy.” The sugary nature of this possibly insincere statement was way too much to bear, at least for Strake. With his baseball cap slightly askew, he looked up at the waitress, stared straight into her eyes and announced defiantly, “I am not a sweet little boy … I’m a fisherman!” The table erupted in laughter. The lad was one of us, no doubt about it. Three adults and a three-year-old, all of us kids at heart. Strake sealed the deal when I posed a rather boring, grownup sort of question after the hilarity had died down. “Hey man, what’s the first thing you wanna do when we get back to the boat?” “Poop my pants,” he immediately yelled, with an ear-to-ear grin. Then he began laughing at his own joke.

  • Kid fishing on shore with a boat on the background

    Standing Under The Palms

    Strake’s plan for the day seemed altogether reasonable. We’d go back to the marina, gas up and run (at full speed wherever possible) out to Egmont Key, a lovely, palm-shady island accessible from mainland Florida by boat only. Then, we’d zoom around Egmont, find a likely spot, ease the Aquila up on one of the long sandy beaches, get off the boat, wander around and, if there was time, check out the remains of old Fort Dade or the lighthouse farther north. Then finally, before heading back to Pass-A-Grille (again, at full speed wherever possible) we’d back away, anchor off and in-dulge in a little fishing (with Strake’s prized frozen shrimp), a little swimming and a little hot dogging via the Kenyon electric grill in the Aquila’s port console. “Well, Strake,” I said as the two of us surveyed an inviting stretch of white sand beyond the bow. “Are you ready to beachify?” The little guy had had a great, hair-flying-in-the-wind ride out to the island—he’d obviously loved it. Then we’d done a spirited circumnavigation. And now, with both throttles at dead idle and the Mercs trimmed up, we were easing into the plan’s next phase. But hey, King Neptune had other ideas. Not long after I’d nosed the Aquila ashore and we’d all disembarked, a wild-and-crazy guy in a big express cruiser rumbled past, pulling a giant wake. And the oomph of the wake promptly elbowed the Aquila’s stern slightly sideways, leaving her almost broadside to a lowly, yet powerful incoming swell. This was not good, of course. And we collectively reacted with the speed of a seasoned infantry platoon under attack. Per his father’s instructions, Strake stood his ground, under some palm trees, in his signature-red sunglasses, with his arms folded across his chest, silently, stoically keeping tabs. The rest of us descended upon the Aquila’s port quarter and began pushing. “Hey look,” said Jesse after a couple of minutes. “There’s a guy out there waving at us.” I stepped back to look. Indeed, just a short distance offshore, there was a guy waving from the helm of a Grady-White runabout. About the time I spotted him, he yelled, “Need a little help? I just saw what happened.” Some jam-packed minutes ensued. Jesse swiftly converted all the mooring lines on board into a long towline and swam it out to the Grady. In the meantime, Austin kept pushing while I climbed aboard. Then, as the Grady brought us perpendicular to the beach, I lowered the Mercs, cranked ‘em and backed free. As I did this, I shot a glance in Strake’s direction—he was still standing there under the palms, all by himself, quietly, calmly watching, with his arms still folded. “Man oh man,” I remember thinking, “most other three-year-olds would be freaking out right about now, yowling at the top of their lungs. But nope, not the Strakeman. He’s one calm, cool, collected customer.”

    The run back to the marina was much like the run we’d enjoyed en route to the island that morning, except for one thing. While we zoomed along, maintaining a top hop of 32 knots per Strake’s wishes, I noticed that he’d fallen asleep, despite the fact that he was kneeling backwards on his half of the helm seat so he could watch our wake—all green, white and blue—swooping into the red, tropical sunset. It was early evening when we finally arrived at Pass-A-Grille. Jesse packed up his pickup truck—he and his son had a long drive back to Ft. Lauderdale ahead of them. And the last thing he carried ashore was Strake, sound asleep again, over his shoulder like a military duffel bag. As we shook hands and said so long, Strake perked up. “I don’t wanna go home,” he said. “I wanna stay here with Capt. Bill and the boat.” Certainly, it took us a while to get Strake to see why staying wasn’t an option. But that was cool. After all, he’d bailed me out of a big-time jam and, in doing so, had helped confirm something I’d only half suspected. Yup, a boat-lovin’ kid had indeed jumped at the chance to customize and enjoy his own cruise. And now the results were in. Not only had he had a ball, but I did too.
  • group of people wearing life jackets standing on boat

    Intro To Boating

    At one point or another, everyone who loves boating had to get on the water for the first time. Whether you were first introduced to boating as a child and grew up learning the ropes, or boating was a lifestyle you adopted later in life, we all had to start somewhere. That is why MarineMax offers this class perfect for those who are learning the ropes. 
  • kid sitting in boat wearing life jacket

    Kids In Boating

    A love of boating is often something that instilled at a young age. Afternoons out on the water with friends and family are among the best memories many recall when thinking back to their childhoods on the water. So if there is a future boater in your life, why not get them in on the action now so they can have confidence on the water every time the get on board.
  • group of women on a boat with onedriving and a man watching

    Women on Water

    MarineMax’s exclusive Women on Water (WOW) courses are designed for women to get behind the helm and enjoy the boating lifestyle. These classes are offered at many of our locations throughout the country, and are taught by U.S. Coast Guard licensed captains who have been certified by MarineMax to conduct the lessons.


  • Make The Most Of Your Time On The Water

    Boating doesn't end once summer is over! Enjoy your time out on the water or with your fellow boating enthusiasts. Join us at one of the many events happening all year long including Cruises, boat shows, and Getaways!®