It was on the streets of Nashville, where Jeff Rhoades and Tony Mendina took a spin on a “pedal pub” with their wives, that the seed of Kraken Cycleboats was planted.
They loved the idea of a moving bar on wheels, powered by the very drinkers who’d bellied up to it, but wanted to make it feel more Florida than the land-bound, multiperson cycle they rode on vacation.
What they eventually ended up with stands out, even in a state that tops the nation in boat registrations and a Tampa Bay region with more than 120,000 vessels.
Kraken’s three 32-foot boats, which depart the Tampa Convention Center marina in downtown Tampa, and the Gulfport Municipal Marina, just east of St. Pete, feature a covered center bar, surrounded by 10 bicycle seats and pedal stations where the drinkers provide the propeller power for a two-hour tour of local waterways.
Don’t worry, Kraken might be named for an angry sea monster, but the pedaling is leisurely, with minimal effort needed to keep the boat cruising at 5 to 7 mph, no matter your fitness level. The operators say they’ve had groups on board celebrating milestone birthdays ranging from 21 to 70.
Tampa was ranked 5th on Livability.com’s list of 10 Best Beer Cities in the U.S.
Meanwhile, the coolers and cupholders built into the bar mean a fresh, cold drink never has to be more than arm's reach away.
Kraken Cycleboats are BYOB, but they provide everything else you’ll need, including plenty of ice, 22-ounce souvenir cups for everyone on board and a buffet of streaming music playlists ranging from country jams to Bob Marley - or they’ll let you hook up your own phone to the sound system if you prefer to play DJ. You can also bring food on board.
You’ll get a captain to steer the boat, and a first mate to help out with anything else that comes up. And if you really don’t want to pedal, or prefer to take turns, there’s bench seat with room for another five people.
Trips departing from Tampa Convention center go north up the Hillsborough River, providing views of the downtown skyline, Tampa Riverwalk and bridges before making a halfway stop at either Water Works Park near Ulele or Rick’s On the River for a bathroom break (and a fresh drink and a snack if needed.)
The experience out of Gulfport is a bit more nature-ey, Kraken’s operators said, heading out into the open water of Boca Ciega Bay, and making a halfway stop at the casino pier, near Salty’s Gulfport Bar and Manatees on the Bay.
You can book seats on Kraken Cycleboats individually (it’s $35 per person during the week, or $39 Friday through Sunday) or book an entire boat for groups of up to 15 at their website, krakencycleboats.com, or by calling (813) 603-3117. They also offer discounts for first responders, military, students and teachers.
Contact Christopher Spata at [email protected]. Follow @spatatimes.