Florida Panhandle Boating: Sportfishing To River Cruising, Stomping Grounds Ep. 2

In the second episode of our Stomping Grounds documentary video series exploring boating culture across America, host Ryan McVinney and his crew visit Florida’s Panhandle region to unwrap the diversity of boat life in the area. From a sunset cruise near the pulsating urban areas off the Emerald Coast, to discovering quieter lands in the less populated wetland regions of the Forgotten Coast, viewers can tune in to learn about these unique marine ecosystems and different boating communities.

A True Sportfishing Yacht – Brian Kelley’s Offshore Battlewagon The “Brittney Marie”

The first stop in this installment has McVinney and crew visiting Florida’s Emerald Coast, a region in the Panhandle where country music star Brian Kelley AKA “Beach Cowboy” (or BK for short) hangs his hat. Florida is the “Fishing Capital of the World”, so it’s no surprise that Kelley’s boat of choice is a custom-built 56-foot Sunny Briggs Sportfisherman yacht – a rare find in today’s boat market.

Brian Kelley And Ryan McVinney on the Brittney Marie Sportfishing Yacht

Above: Brian Kelley (left) and Ryan McVinney (right) in stand in front of the helm of Kelley’s 56-foot Sunny Briggs Sporfisherman yacht while underway during filming of Stomping Grounds Episode 2 in the Emerald Coast. Photo by Scott Sanders/DeepSea Visuals for Boat Trader.

Kelley enthusiastically takes viewers on a scenic cruise around his Emerald Coast stomping grounds to find out more about how his own boating lifestyle has influenced his personal life, family and of course, his music. Kelley is simply ‘hooked’ on fishing, so it was the natural choice to buy a sportfishing yacht that allows him to combine fishing with a laidback yachting lifestyle. Sportfish boats are designed specifically for fishing offshore and these seaworthy vessels enable the captain and serious anglers alike to vigorously pursue and target large game fish, such as tuna and marlin, while passengers aboard ride in comfort and style.

BK makes up half of the award winning duo Florida Georgia Line (FGL), a band well known to millions of country music fans around the globe. Kelley uses the Brittney Marie as a floating tour bus of sorts, creating music on the ocean where he finds so much of his inspiration. Working from the sundeck by the water truly sets the laid-back tone for his solo album, Sunshine State of Mind. BK dials into his beach-cowboy-persona, inspiring vocals on the album that feature his hallmark twangy riffs and catchy  golden tones.

BK and his wife Brittney’s boating lifestyle epitomizes what boating means to so many Floridian’s: fishing, cruising and creating unique memories with friends and family. Kelley reveals his sentimental side and discloses that he named his sportfish after his beloved wife, “Brittney Marie” – a story he sang about specifically in his song Boat Names. Kelley is also running a Boat Names Contest inviting fans to submit the story behind their vessel’s name for a chance to be featured on his Instagram (Boat Trader will re-share the winning stories as well).

Brian Kelley and Ryan McVinney Fist Bump On Boat

Above: Kelley and McVinney share a fist bump onboard the “Brittney Marie” sportfishing yacht. Photo by Scott Sanders/DeepSea Visuals for Boat Trader.

McVinney and Kelley also discuss how BK shopped for his dream boat on Boat Trader, before finally landing on the listing from Galati Yacht Sales represented by yacht broker Artie Davenport in Destin, Florida. This boat buying process partly inspired the song Highway On The Water, a tune that opens with the phrase “Boat Trader…found a boat.”

For more info and to hear his latest solo music check out Brian Kelley’s new solo album.

Like Kelley’s Sportfishing Yacht? Check out the Custom Saltwater Sportfishing Yachts for sale on Boat Trader now.

Or, view all Sportfish Boats for sale on Boat Trader today.

Boating The Saint Marks River And Apalachee Bay

Ryan McVinney and his crew continue their journey towards the inland rivers and the waterways that feed into the Gulf of Mexico in the Big Bend Region of the panhandle, finally landing in Apalachee Bay via the Saint Marks River. This area is characterized by its sprawling marshlands and abundant wildlife, and is often referred to as the “Forgotten Coast” of Florida.

The team hops aboard a 2007 Hurricane FunDeck 196 OB deck boat and head’s towards the Saint Marks Lighthouse, the second-oldest light station in Florida that is located on the east side of the mouth of the St. Marks River where it drains into Apalachee Bay. The FunDeck 196 is a great boat for rivers and lakes and inshore cruising on calm days, with a spacious deck for entertaining and a Bimini for shade. However, mother nature has other plans in store and the group is engulfed in a nasty thunderstorm at sea, forcing them to turn back and head North towards land, where they instead investigate the natural wildlife habitats along the banks of the river.

Ryan McVinney Driving A Boat Stomping Grounds 2

Above: Stomping Grounds host and director Ryan McVinney at the helm of a Hurricane Boat as the crew navigates the Saint Marks River in the Big Bend Region of Florida’s Panhandle. Photo by Kelley Chase.

Interested in a deck boat like the one McVinney was on? View Hurricane FunDeck boats for sale on Boat Trader now.

Stories From The Ocean Bed: Meet Archaeologist Shawn Joy

Back at the docks, the gang got a chance to meet with Shawn Joy, a renowned underwater archaeologist who had just finished an offshore dive. His research focuses specifically on geoarchaeology and submerged “pre-contact” or Paleo-American sites off of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Joy regales the crew with some tales from his sea missions: on one occasion a tumultuous storm nearly threw Shawn off the bow, and on another the steering wheel at his helm station literally broke into two!

Shawn Joy Underwater Archaeologist

Above: Underwater Archaeologist Shawn Joy stands on a pontoon boat over an underwater archaeological site below the surface. Photo courtesy of Shawn Joy and his research team.

An Inside Look At Underwater Archaeology: Navigation And Positioning At Sea

Florida’s forgotten coast is a mecca for marine archaeologists on a mission to unearth trails of archaeological records which date back as far as the Ice Age. Joy is responsible for extracting and conserving historical artifacts that reveal more about Paleo-American times. He is currently modeling coastally-adapted Paleo-Indian sites on the Atlantic continental shelf and the Gulf of Mexico. Effectively mapping, interpreting acoustic data and retaining tight navigational and positional control are essential during every phase of these investigations. Shawn relies on Garmin GPS and a chartplotter systems for general boat navigation during these field excursions as well as highly specialized equipment. The team’s fieldwork has yielded positive results during development of an optimized Human-Altered Lithic Detection (HALD) method for mapping submerged Stone Age sites.

For underwater archaeologists such as Joy, mapping and navigating these coordinates are key to finding sites in the oceans or waterways. On land, such sites often have clear directions and you can orient yourself using landmarks. However, offshore there are no landmarks and conditions beneath the sea change constantly. Sea grasses grow and diminish, and sand deposits flow and wane. Visibility can range from greater than fifteen meters to less than one meter which can make Joy’s job challenging. GPS coordinates for the proposed site location can have a high degree of inaccuracy—which can stretch to as far as thirty meters away. The team uses remote sensing and acoustic mapping. Acoustic mapping uses acoustic emissions passively received on an array of ultrasonic sensors to search for and map objects on the seafloor, such as shipwrecks. Their experimental work employs what is called chirp sub-bottom systems on known submerged archaeological sites.

Underwater Archaeologist Shawn Joy Recovering Artifacts From The Sea Bed in The Gulf Of Mexico.

Above: Underwater Archaeologist Shawn Joy and a colleague recovering artifacts from the seabed beneath the Gulf of Mexico. Photo courtesy of Shawn Joy and his research team.

Pilothouse MotorSailer Boat: 1988 “Winga Queen” 32

Shawn Joy’s pilothouse-style motorsailer, named “The Song Of Ruth”, is a 1988 Swedish-built, 32-foot Winga Queen sailboat, designed for all-weather sailing comfort. Pilothouse boats are popular in areas where the boating season may extend into the cooler months, and in Joy’s case he needs the boat to be functional all year round in storms or in fair weather out on the Gulf. The helm station is completely enclosed providing total protection from the elements when needed.

This model of Winga Queen 32 boats feature a fully-enclosed galley in a spacious salon, which is well suited to Joy’s extended periods on the boat during archaeological missions. The forward stateroom has a v-berth bed and a full head, plus she also has an aft cabin with two twin berths accessible from the main cockpit. The interior has quality, crafted teak flooring, cabinets and accents throughout.

Interested in a boat like Shawn Joy’s? View motorsailer boats for sale on Boat Trader now.

Boating Homelands: What’s Your Stomping Grounds?

Do you have a boating community and favorite locale in your hometown that you would like to share? Get in touch with Boat Trader for the opportunity to shine a spotlight on what is unique about boating in your neck of the woods. Contact media@boattrader.com for more information.

Subscribe to Boat Trader’s YouTube channel to watch every episode.

Written by: Emma Coady

Emma Coady is a freelance writer and marine journalist who creates content for many household names in the boating industry, including YachtWorld, Boat Trader and boats.com. She also writes for several boat builders as well as charter and rental companies and regularly contributes to Greenline Hybrid yachts, TJB Super Yachts and Superyachts Monaco. Emma is the founder of Cloud Copy and enjoys traveling around Europe, spending as much of her spare time as possible in or on the water.

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