Something About Riverside Tours
In Palmetto, Florida, there was a calmness in the air about the Regatta Point Marina (now Safe Harbor at Regatta Point) in early September 2009, and on the water was a new boat that had never been seen before. Captain Tom Hanchet and his wife Susan had just embarked on a journey that would cruise them through fourteen years in the tour business as Riverside Tours Inc.
At the time, Captain Tom competed with six other tour businesses on the Manatee River In Palmetto. It wasn't long before the others began to waver and fall by the wayside as Riverside Tours' expert crew and superior service stood out above all the others until River Skipper was the only one left standing.
Captain Tom and Susan
The Riverside Tours Experience
Their first boat was a green Trident 34, which they kept berthed at F Dock. This vessel was the original River Skipper at what was then called the Regatta Point Marina. The River Skipper served Riverside Tours faithfully, plying the Manatee River daily.
Susan went to college and became a Florida Master Naturalist stepping up their game high above the other tour boats on the river. Eventually, word of Susan's knowledge and skilled narration got out, and the crowds began to swell. The other tour boats on the river couldn't keep up, and one by one they fell by the wayside.
For four glorious years, the River Skipper proudly performed her assigned duties until she was replaced by a much larger craft, a 2006, Trident, 45, which could hold a capacity of 44 passengers. This transition happened in 2013. This larger boat was needed to accommodate the larger crowds who started booking events on the Little Mom and Pop business Tom and Susan had spawned. The larger boat was christened River Skipper II in honor of the couple's first boat.
The Original River Skipper
The River Skipper II
The Next Level
The River Skipper II was the nail that sealed the coffin for the other boats on the river, and it fit in perfectly with Tom and Susan's plans to cater to larger crowds. Eventually, Susan entered semi-retirement, and Captain Tom hired a part-time first mate to fill in for Susan. He also hired several captains to try and find a replacement so he could retire also.
None of the captains worked out for long and were summarily fired. His first mate Ann worked for Riverside Tours for around two years before Captain Jennifer showed up in September 2019.
Together they plowed their way through the COVID lockdowns and managed to keep the business afloat through the entire affair. Business fell off dramatically for about a year before it started trickling back in again. By then, Captain Ted had shown up, and he seemed to fit in just fine.
By the end of 2022, the River Skipper II was beginning to show her age. Equipment was breaking down, and more and more parts needed replacing. She had an interior makeover in January 2021, wherein Captain Tom Hired a world-class artist to paint a few murals in the back by the bar and the head. However, that was just cosmetic. What the old girl needed was a full-blown renovation.
On January 3rd, 2023, we shut down all operations to begin work on the new River Skipper II. For two and a half months, Captains Tom , Ted, and Jennifer worked their fingers to the bone, rejuvenating our tired little tour boat. Finally, on March 16th, 2023, we received our COI from the Coast Guard, giving us the green light to commence operations once more with the new and improved River Skipper II tiki boat.
Today we have brazenly taken the River Skipper II and Riverside Tours to the next level. We are the first and only tiki boat on the Manatee River, and as far as we can tell, we are the largest tiki boat in Florida. From now on, we will 'Tiki on the Manatee."
Our Professional Crew
Captain Ted is a 100-ton Master Captain with ten years of experience.
Captain Jennifer is a 100-ton Master Captain with four years of experience.