Home Taxi service Water taxi service sets sail to connect Vilano Beach and St. Augustine

Water taxi service sets sail to connect Vilano Beach and St. Augustine

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A new sea shuttle service carrying passengers from Vilano Beach to downtown St. Augustine hopes to succeed where similar ventures have failed in the past.

Two local companies – Adventure Boat Tours and Red Boat Tours – have teamed up to offer regular daily water crossings. The service officially started on Saturday.

The St. Augustine Sea Shuttle kicked off its first trip Wednesday night.

The service runs from the Vilano Beach public pier to the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, which several years ago created a designated loading area on the south side of the pier for purposes like this, said the St. Augustine City Manager John Regan.

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Regan said a river shuttle is in line with the city’s overall goals of increasing mobility by providing people with alternatives to cars to get around.

Regan said there had been past attempts to set up a water taxi service, but none lasted.

“Now with the increase in population density with the addition of new hotels in Vilano, this is the best chance I’ve seen for success and I’ve been here since 1998,” Regan said.

Adventure Boat Tours and Red Boat Tours boats leave a dock in Vilano Beach to take passengers to downtown St. Augustine after a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the start of water taxi service between Vilano Beach and the city ​​on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

For starters, Jimmy Hill, operator of Adventure Boat Tours, said it would offer trips approximately every 90 minutes, with the first shuttle at 10:45 a.m. and the last at 7:50 p.m. They plan to extend these hours in the summer so visitors can enjoy a later dinner.

Captain Tony Palesotti owns Red Boat Tours.

Rather than calling it a “water taxi”, indicating a more on-demand service, the service’s operators market it as a “scenic shuttle” or, as Hill puts it, “a means of transport with an added experience”.

Captains will provide commentary and talk about points of interest, such as dolphin pods or the fort, during the approximately 15-minute ride, which is why Hill thinks they can justify the $15 each-way price. . (Residents of Vilano will benefit from a reduced rate.)

Acknowledging the shuttles’ previous failures, Hill said, “We had to get creative. … We took a while to figure out what would make it sustainable.”

For example, both shipping lines plan to continue offering their regular daily tours, longer outings and cruises.

“The shuttle is a relay between tours, and that’s why continuing to operate them gives us a better chance of success. [financially]“, Hill said.

Each boat can accommodate between 30 and 35 people and is covered to protect against most elements.

“Probably lightning or a big storm could keep us out,” Hill said.

For details and schedules, visit StAugustineWaterShuttle.com.

Regan said the city would like the boat shuttle concept to continue.

“It’s in our long-term interest to see them succeed.”