On the deck of the Never Never Land III — so called "because we never want to be on land" — Capt. Larry Salkin offered a nautical tour Friday along the Hillsborough River.
"I was trained by an Italian captain," he told his 30 passengers. "Which means if anything goes wrong, I'm the first to jump overboard."
The 45-minute guided boat tour aboard the Tampa Water Taxi was one of two water tours organized by the Tampa Downtown Partnership on Friday. About 60 people spent $10 each, rode along the river and learned about Tampa's history.
On Friday, Salkin first piloted Never Never Land III alongside the pirate ship Jose Gasparilla, which participates in the annual Gasparilla invasion.
"You know this is a pirate town, right?" Salkin said.
Salkin told passengers how the mythical pirate Jose Gaspar plundered and how that ultimately led to the first celebration in Tampa more than 100 years ago.
The captain then floated his 33-foot vessel past the Tampa Convention Center, in which its profile, he pointed out, resembles a Mississippi riverboat.
Salkin steered past expensive Davis Islands and Harbour Island homes. He explained that D.P. Davis developed Davis Islands, and later disappeared from a trans-Atlantic ocean liner.
The captain showed off the homes of Joel and Bryan Glazer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Though it was too windy to ride past Derek Jeter's house, he talked about the New York Yankee shortstop's 30,875-square-foot home on Davis Islands, which has seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms.
Salkin wrapped up the tour at the former Tampa Bay Hotel, which opened in 1891. The building now is leased by the University of Tampa.
Salkin called the opulent former hotel "the diamond of Tampa."
Tampa Heights resident Margaret Torres was drawn to the boat tour because she isn't a Tampa native and she wanted to learn something about the city's history.
"Oh my God," she said of the water tour. "This is better than being anywhere else."
Jean Freshler of St. Petersburg said the tour was unbelievably good.
"This is awesome," she said. "I never knew Tampa had so much."
The downtown partnership has offered free, twice-monthly walking tours for four years. The tours run from October through May, and the boat ride was the last of this season's partnership tours.
Other tours this season included, among others, a Black History Month walk, the Riverwalk and a Pets and Peds Dog Walk/Channel District Tour.