Why do they call it that? Beer Can Island

9:26 AM, Jul 4, 2013   |    comments
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Plenty of people will take a boat to a destination this Independence Day weekend with one weird name: Beer Can Island.

Why do they call it Beer Can Island?

Flip through any chart of Tampa Bay and you won't find it. But head to the waters off Apollo Beach, and there it is!

Pine trees rise up from a low, sandy island with Downtown Tampa and St. Pete in the distance. It's Beer Can Island!

"It's called that because it's a place where people go and drink beer," explained Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

He says this popular spot for boaters to tie up and party down has a different official name. Nautical charts show it as Pine Key.

But like many other islands, beaches, coves, and parks -- this one sports a nickname inspired by aluminum.

"There are a lot of different places along coastal communities really everywhere that have, 'Beer Can Fill-in-the-Blank,'" Kite-Powell said.

If you do want to party at Beer Can Island, make sure you get there -- while it's still there.

"It kind of comes and goes in size. It gets bigger sometimes, gets smaller sometimes, depending on the summer storms that we have," Kite-Powell said.

"So, like a lot of the barrier islands and coastal islands that we have, next year it may not be here, or next year it may be twice the size."

With so many boaters going wild, soaking in the sunshine and, umm, the moonshine -- folks who boat here have to remember some simple safety steps.

"Make sure you have proper safety equipment. The time that people usually think about safety equipment is when it's too late," said Gary Mull, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

"When there's an emergency, when the boat's going down, they wish... 'I wish I had a radio so that I could radio somebody to help me out. Or I wish I had a flare,'" Mull said.

Members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteered their time as my guides on this trip to the island.

They shared another safety step: it's crucial to let somebody know where you're going and when you expect to be back. And have someone on board stay sober.

"The number one cause of death out here on the water is due to alcohol. So we stress, if you're going to use alcohol, have somebody who is a designated driver," Mull said.

"Make sure that you're going to have some measure of safety on the water. You don't want to be a fatality. You don't want to be a statistic."

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

Contact the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Tampa Bay by clicking on this link to sign up for a free Vessel Safety Check of your boat.

They'll tell you if you're missing something important and there is no penalty if they spot anything missing during that check.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Thursday on 10 News at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy Award-winning series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Follow 10 News reporter Grayson Kamm on Twitter at @graysonkamm as he travels Tampa Bay telling your stories.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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