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Giant jet boat's debut makes waves

The Bay Rocket, Tampa's newest waterfront attraction, is one of just five vessels of its kind in the United States.

  • By Brian Hartz
  • | 4:19 p.m. November 18, 2022
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Yacht Starship's Bay Rocket debuted on Nov. 18 in downtown Tampa. (Courtesy photo)
Yacht Starship's Bay Rocket debuted on Nov. 18 in downtown Tampa. (Courtesy photo)
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Tampa’s Yacht Starship, a company that operates dinner-cruise boats in Tampa and Clearwater, as well as a water-taxi service in downtown Tampa, has added a new vessel to its fleet — and you won’t be dining and dancing on this one.

The Bay Rocket, a massive jet boat, set sail on its maiden voyage on Friday. Powered by MTU diesel engines that produce a whopping 2,800 horsepower and capable of carrying 102 passengers, the Bay Rocket might be one of the fastest boats to ever kick up a wake on Tampa Bay.

Also, it’s one of just five vessels of its kind in the United States and the only one to operate in Florida. The others are based in Boston, Chicago, New York and San Diego. Yacht Starship, says President and CEO Troy Manthey, acquired the boat from a company in San Francisco and had it transported via cargo ship through the Panama Canal, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico to Tampa.

On Friday, Manthey pulled double-duty as captain of the Bay Rocket and emcee of a ribbon-cutting ceremony held prior to leaving the dock. He talked up the boat’s ability to execute 180-degree spins, bow dips and sharp turns, but he said even he doesn’t know the vessel’s top speed.

“Everyone asks how fast it is,” he says. “I just say, ‘It’s fast.’ We can fill a swimming pool in less than 10 seconds with our jets. The next question is, ‘Will I get wet?’ Well, that’s a function of the elements and the skill of the captain. Today, I’m your captain. Our goal is to provide a spray, not a soaking — unless you mouth off to the captain, then who knows, a tidal wave might come over the bow.”

Manthey, reading from prepared remarks, or, more likely, jokes, says he took some of Yacht Starship’s 220 employees for a ride two days “and they got soaked. I just don’t know how that happened. Unfortunately, one of them was my wife. I had to sleep in the guest bedroom that night.”

Bay Rocket’s crew, however, will hand out ponchos to anyone who doesn’t want to get wet.

Bay Rocket departs from the Tampa Convention Center at 333 S. Franklin St., and each cruise lasts 45-55 minutes. Tickets are $34.95 for adults and $29.95 for kids ages 5 through 12. The boat can accommodate groups of 15 people or more as long as they call ahead to 813-223-7999. 

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