From the helm of the Miss Daisy II, a 40-foot pontoon boat, Capt. Ray Kelly sees what others don’t in Pasco County: a hidden paradise.
“When you drive down (U.S.) 19, you don’t even know the Gulf of Mexico is there,” said Kelly, 66, owner of Miss Daisy Boat Tours. “You wouldn’t believe where you live.”
Kelly, who served in the Navy for four years, has been a licensed captain for 15 years and has owned his boat tour business for 14 years.
The Miss Daisy II docks at the Gill Dawg Marina in Port Richey. Between tours, Kelly maintains the boat and books trips on it for 10 to 42 passengers.
The boat travels during two-hour tours along the Cotee River and around Durney Key, to parts of Pasco rich in wildlife and history.
“We chase the dolphins around, look for the manatees. Sometimes we can sneak up on the snook,” Kelly said. “The water out there is crystal clear.”
On the boat, he passes Pasco’s stilt houses and tells their stories. He points out the homes once owned by Johnny Cash, Charlie Chaplin, Esther Williams and other celebrities.
“I give (patrons) a good ride,” Captain Kelly says. “You really haven’t seen New Port Richey until you’ve seen it by water.”