Over & Under The Sunshine Skyway Bridge

My land and sea route

My land and sea route

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is an impressive piece of architectural engineering spanning the mouth of Tampa Bay.  This Thanksgiving I had a wonderful opportunity to do something unique. I left Cream Puff, drove over the bridge and returned back to Cream Puff by coming under the bridge. How on earth did I do that, you may ask. Let me explain…

Joel Potter is the “Amel Guy” for the USA (Cream Puff is an Amel). Amel, based in France, recently designed and built a 55 foot Amel. This brand spanking new yacht was put on a freighter and delivered to the USA in time for this year’s Annapolis boat show. Annapolis is the holy grail of boat shows for sailors. The boat was then sailed to Ft. Lauderdale where Joel’s Amel brokerage business is based. Joel is the person who brokered our Amel purchase. In addition to all things Amel, Joel has become a friend. I asked Joel if he needed an extra deck hand for the sail to Ft Lauderdale. Unfortunately, he had a full boat but said Amel was thinking about presenting this magnificent boat at the St. Petersburg boat show. He asked if I would be the on-board navigator. My answer, oh let me think about it for a second. Hell ya!

Knowing I was going to do this around thanksgiving, Cindy took the opportunity to spend time with dear friends and check on the house. I sold my car a little while ago and I think we have a new home for our old classic 1973 VW Bug. We are now down to one car. I needed to rent a car to get from St. Petersburg to Ft. Lauderdale for the trip. I’m cheap. Some may call me worse things. When it comes to a rental car, the ONLY thing that matters to me is the price. I hunted and searched using the Google machine. Eureka! I found a deal, $9 at Alamo. Yep, you read that correctly, I found a one-way rental for $9 and unlimited mileage. This included the tax. At this point of my adventure, I’m not sure what thrilled me more. A chance to sail a new Amel or the $9 rental car.

Going over the Skyway Bridge

Going over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

On Black Friday, while others were being trampled by mobs at Wal-Mart, I set out to Ft. Lauderdale in my clown car (Fiat 500). Hey! What do you expect for $9? My route took me over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, south to Naples and across Alligator Alley. I didn’t see any alligators. This is probably a good thing as they could have easily eaten my itty bitty clown car. I dropped off my car at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport and Joel picked up myself and Capt’n Bob. He took us to the marina where I was treated to my first peek at Renaissance. If you really want the technical stuff on this boat here is a link. Since this is not a boat reviewing blog, I am not even going to try. But, I will say; holy crap, wow, and the ever popular: Oh My God!



On Saturday, Joel, Vela, Capt’n Bob and I departed Ft Lauderdale. At this point, I have to interject something here. I was the navigator. As part of my responsibilities, I set up the way-points for the trip and planed the route to be at the worse places at the best times. It did cross my mind to set up everything for a trip to Cuba. There I could hijack the boat, give it a coat of paint and disappear over the horizon never to be found again. I just couldn’t figure out how to get Cindy to Cuba ~ cheaply. Oh well, maybe next time.

A well fed crew is a happy crew. This crew was euphoric. Vela cranked out one fabulous meal after another. BBQ’d New Zealand lamb with zucchini and couscous was our departure meal. Seriously! The meals Vela prepared for us were absolutely five star. Even in some rough and bumpy sea conditions, the magnificent food just kept coming. Vela rocks!

Capt'n "I can sleep anywhere" Bob

Capt’n “I can sleep anywhere” Bob

It’s a small world. I asked Capt’n Bob how he got into sailing. Keep in mind, this is the first time we’ve met and we have no common denominator except for Joel. He has since retired from his career and now does what he loves to do best. He sails. He started his own business as a delivery Captain and has thousands of miles of sailing under him. He told me about his career back when he had a real job. It turned out he was behind the scenes at one of Cindy’s largest customers. He was indirectly responsible for Cindy being awarded a large contract that she kept for years.  How about that? Two guys casually chatting while sailing the Florida Straits, find out we have two degrees of separation.

Hey Capt'n Bob, I think we might be heeling over a little!

Hey Capt’n Bob, I think we might be heeling over a little!

Joel is my source and guru of all things Amel. I took advantage of our time together to try to tap into Joel’s brain a little bit. This is a person who has spent a lifetime on oceans and sailing Amel yachts. He had no idea how antagonistically inquisitive I am. Why this? What’s that? How does this work? When do we do this? Opps! Was that expensive? Who do we call to fix it?

Mark piloting Renaissance into Tampa Bay

Mark piloting Renaissance into Tampa Bay

On Monday morning, we passed under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. I was handed up a cup of freshly made cappuccino, complete with froth! Vela really does rock. We headed into St. Petersburg and my journey ended. I completed my loop.

Safely through the Skyway Bridge

Safely through the Sunshine Skyway Bridge


Vela and Joel Potter at the St. Pete Boat Show

Vela and Joel Potter at the St. Pete Boat Show

I volunteered to make this trip. Joel thinks I did him a big favor. Let’s make sure he keeps thinking that. Don’t ever tell Joel I would have paid him for the opportunity. Shhh. Let’s keep that quiet just in case there’s ever a next time.

Oh! By the way, if you want to buy one of these, Joel can help you out. Have your wallet out and click here.

Categories: Side Trips

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