Pedal-powered pontoon promotes fitness

A group of visitors shows appreciation. Left is co-owner Deborah Passero and center rear is her husband Michael.

Fast becoming a fixture on the Marco River is a human-powered craft with a big blue paddle wheel aft for propulsion.

Up to 10 "cyclists" can enjoy a good workout aboard the Paradise Cycle Boat, while another eight passengers can go along for the ride (or switch out).

As the Paradise Cycle Boat brochure goes, it can be a bike cruise, a sightseeing cruise, a sunset cruise, or a party cruise.

As part of a collaboration with the YMCA of South Collier (Marco Island) the Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 8:30-9:45 a.m., cycle fitness class can be a really solid workout that complements the Y's mission statement of healthy living. Cost is $25 per person.

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Capt. Michael Passero can increase resistance by hydraulically raising or lowing the big blue wheel.

A portion of ticket sales is donated to the Y's Safety Around Water program for swim lessons.

Michigan event planner Dana Wagner enjoyed a recent Y outing after seeing publicity on Facebook.

"It's great for any age or ability," Dana said. "You can get on and off the bikes if you want to. We did some upper body workouts, squats and dancing to great music. It's a unique way to experience Florida's waterways."

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Krista Shoults and daughter Maddi were on the same Y workout cruise, and apart from the workout aspect, they enjoyed seeing some dolphins en route.

"It was cool being out on the water," said Maddi. She and her mom are Pickaway County, OH YMCA members. They planned to go take a look at the Marco Y before heading back home.

The boat heads out in the direction of Pier 81 during a recent excursion.

Captain Michael Passero said the month-old business he runs with wife Deborah is starting to flourish, largely because of word-of-mouth as well as social media exposure.

He said from a workout point of view, the boat's paddle wheel can be hydraulically adjusted to provide more resistance for pedalers. The higher in the water, the easier the pedaling, he explained.

The boat has a dolphin-sighting bell, Bluetooth connectivity and charging stations. An arched red/white/blue canopy provides sun protection, and a long counter with five cycle stations on either side contains coolers for bring-along drinks and snacks.

A full-sized head is discreetly located at the stern, and all safety requirements are met. The boat also has a motor if needed.

The Passeros offer discounts to local teachers and school staff, firefighters, EMS, police and military personnel.

A big blue paddlewheel aft turns the cyclists' efforts into boat propulsion.

The boat docks at Rose Marina, 951 Bald Eagle Drive, A dock, slip 17.Call 239-300-8176, or visit for full details.

Public cruises run regularly throughout the day and vary in price from $40 for a 1.5-hour cruise to $45 for two hours. Alternatively, the entire boat can be rented for $550 for 1.5 hours (up to 18 people) and $650 for two hours.

Choices are 10-11:30 a.m. family fun (ages 5+); ages 12+ 12-2 p.m. eco tour; 2:30 until 4 p.m. captain's choice, and 4:15 until 6:15 p.m. sunset cruise.

Full boat rentals, said Deborah, are perfect for families and their friends, corporate outings, team-building sessions and special occasions.

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For more on the Y's wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit or call 394-YMCA (9622). Follow on Twitter at ymcamarco; on Facebook @marcoymca, and Instagram at ymcamarco.