If someone told you that there was an actual floating time machine in Sarasota, Florida, surely you’d think they were pulling your leg. Well, those looking for a weekend thrill can access that very experience down at Historic Spanish Point in Osprey. Interested patrons can schedule a tour on the Magic boat from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. any day between Tuesday and Saturday.
The Magic isn’t your run-of-the-mill boat tour. Refurbished from a sailboat in 1900, and then reconstructed in 2006, after being destroyed in the 1921 Tampa hurricane, the Magic is like stepping through a portal into a world back yonder. You are stepping into the (boat) shoes of the prehistoric native population, Yankee pioneers, and all of the trailing citizens and snowbirds that have resided along Little Sarasota Bay.
Over the summer a group of diligent volunteers completed a number of important repairs to the Magic. Seat cushions, safety features, handrails, the propeller, and various nooks and crannies of the Magic were updated, replaced, and repaired. Ensuring that the old motor boat runs smoothly, the team also changed the engine oil, filter, and exhaust hose. After some necessary repairs and maintenance, the Magic is ready to set sail.
The Magic boat tour experience wouldn’t be complete without its seaworthy volunteer captains and first mates. On my tour, captain Gordon Bloom manned the helm while his trusty first mate, John Drury, told tales of passing historical sites that the average eye would miss. In the beginning, John pointed out a seemingly mundane yet clearly out-of-place hill. He explained that it was an ancient trash dump for seashells, from food eaten by the prehistoric inhabitants of the bay. Later on the tour, John pointed to an island speckled in white spots, and then let out a sly smirk, asking us if we knew what those specks were. After a few moments of silence, he divulged that it was a rookery—a nighttime hideout for pelicans—which the seabirds use to escape ravenous raccoons.
Sprinkled throughout the mangroves, rookeries and prehistoric trash mounds are the old dormitories, chapels and packing houses that were built more than 100 years ago. Many of the original buildings along the bay of Historic Spanish Point were built by John Webb and the Webb family, whose allure and abilities brought many Northerners down to the warmth. A Yankee, Mrs. Potter Palmer, later bought the Webbs’ property in 1910, and subsequently took up residence. Hobnobbing with royalty and society leaders, Bertha Palmer was a woman of privilege and wealth but was unique for her time as a prominent female developer—a considerable feat in a male-dominated industry. Historic Spanish Point has a past filled with influential figures anchoring themselves on the gorgeous, placid bay.
My account is barely a drop in the rich history of Spanish Point. For the complete experience of the Magic’s crew’s tales, and a refreshing sea breeze, you will have to plunge in and book a tour. And if you want to volunteer as a captain or first mate of the Magic, you’re in luck. Staff at Historic Spanish Point are seeking volunteers to climb aboard.
Beyond the boat tour, the staff at Historic Spanish Point offer an array of activities throughout the year, including a summer adventure camp, a holiday bonfire with s’mores, a spooky ghost tour throughout the grounds, and art classes. For more information on what’s happening down at Historic Spanish Point, go to their website at historicspanishpoint.org or call (941) 966-5214.