TAMPA — A water taxi service launched five years ago to ferry locals and tourists along the Hillsborough River has new downtown moorings, a move necessitated by continued expansion of the Tampa Riverwalk.
Tampa Water Taxi vessels, formerly docked behind the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk hotel, just south of the Kennedy Boulevard bridge, have a new nearby home port in Seddon Channel.
“We moved to Harbour Island and have space just below the Westin hotel,” said Laurence Salkin, owner/operator of the business he founded in September 2008. “And we’re gonna keep doing our thing.”
Salkin said he began seeking new accommodations on June 18 when the Sheraton operators were told the hotel’s dock would be removed July 15 to allow extension of the Riverwalk.
“We knew it was coming eventually, but it was on again, off again so many times we were kinda numb to it,” said Salkin. The man better known as Capt. Larry said he supports the project.
“Did I want to move? No, who wants to move? But progress is necessary,” he said. “The city needs to finish the Riverwalk. If Riverwalk is a good thing for city, I’m on board.”
Most business comes through locals familiar with his taxi service and water tours. “So where we’re physically located is not that critical, since we pick up at every dock, wherever there’s a safe place to pick up anybody,” he said.
Other changes include expansion of the fleet with the addition of the 30-passenger Never Land IV, and the pending arrival of a fourth vessel, a 50-foot yacht. Salkin said he added dolphin tours, and manages to find the sometimes elusive mammals 90 percent of the time.
“I know where the dolphins are and I get them to come to the boat,” he said, citing a pod of seven females and eight calves living near Harbour Island/Davis Islands, cruising the river each morning and evening.
“Two weeks ago, a mother brought her newborn calf over to the boat to show me. It was barely 3 feet long, 12 inches around and could not have been more than 5 days old,” he said. “I was shocked. It was tiny.”