An SPX 210 Outboard opens up a world adventure for a young family in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Born and raised in Panama City Beach, Allison Albano and her husband, Sal, are a poster couple for the water-centric Florida lifestyle. For as long as they can remember, boats have been a fundamental part of their recreation time, and they’ve worked to ensure the same for their two young kids.
“Sal and I both grew up around boats. Our parents each had boats. So we have childhood memories of boating and we wanted that for our children,” Allison describes. “It’s those memories of throwing a fishing line over the boat, being out on the water…You hold onto those forever.”
It doesn’t hurt that those memories are colored in brilliant shades of green, blue and shimmering white. Panama City Beach is a drive-to destination for visitors from all over the Southeast, and it’s easy to see why. Sugar-white sand and emerald water stretch as far as the eye can see. For nine or ten months out of the year, the temperature stays between 70 and 95 degrees, with October and November topping the glorious-boating-weather charts. And despite any MTV-style antics of years past, a recent ban on beach drinking helps keep the Spring Break craziness to a minimum. “It’s like old Florida. Clean beaches, family-friendly,” Allison says. “And the color of the water is incredible.”
When they were ready to purchase their first boat together, the Albanos didn’t have to search long before landing in a new SPX 210 Outboard. A 200-horsepower Mercury® Verado engine and Select package was an attention-grabber. “The upholstery was a showstopper,” Allison says. “That snazzy two-tone interior is like something you’d get in a car. The outboard power was definitely a factor, too, and so was the safety. We felt like the kids were sitting deep in the boat, snug and secure.”
The thrill of owning their own boat after years of relying on others’ was undeniable. “We’d been going out on friends’ boats and renting boats…” Allison explains. “The Gulf is in our backyard! You need a boat. So we decided, the kids are old enough now, swimming like little fish. It was time. You rent a pontoon, you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to get. We wanted the same quality every outing.”
“The first time we met up with friends out on their boats, we sure were excited to bring our Sea Ray instead of a pontoon that says RENTAL on the side,” she adds with a laugh.
For nine-year-old Bijou and her five-year-old brother, Luca, the SPX represents playtime at its finest. They get to connect with Sal’s two grown children and grandchildren, enjoying the perks that come with a big family. Not to mention the aunts and uncles; as one of eight siblings, Sal has many relatives who love to visit. “When they come to town, it’s an added thing we can do: get on the water instead of just on the beach,” Allison says. “And the beach is nice, but the Sea Ray gets us away from the hustle and bustle.”
The solace of their Sea Ray is beneficial in myriad ways. It was important to Allison and Sal that Bijou, who has autism, felt at peace on the boat. They could tell almost immediately that they’d found her happy place. “Bijou likes to go fast. Like, full-throttle. She loves to hold onto the light at the bow like a little hood ornament. She’s a fixture up there,” Allison says, beaming. “Where she and Luca used to slowly ease off the back of the boat when they wanted to swim, now they’re jumping off the bow. Both my kids are spreading their wings.”
Adding the Sea Ray to their lives has given them an ideal way to bond and relax together. “We don’t have a conventional family; we’re not soccer parents. We don’t have that typical structured weekend,” Allison explains. “The water is very therapeutic for Bijou. And not just her but the whole family.”
The combination of a Sea Ray and a prime location definitely has its advantages. The Albanos are able to frequent tranquil Shell Island, a quick five-minute trip by boat, where they can anchor in the bay, explore the dunes, collect the island’s namesake shells, and soak up the sight of the Gulf before jumping back on the boat in search of dinner. Uncle Ernie’s, a popular bayfront restaurant known for its sunset views, is a favorite.
Future plans for the family include traveling down the Gulf to Destin, Florida, for day trips. The SPX Outboard also gives them the flexibility to pull onto shore and camp overnight. Each July, a visit to St. Joe on the bay will be in order; the healthy scallop population guarantees some excellent dinners. “The bay scallops are so small and so good,” Allison says. “Plus they’re free! You harvest them snorkeling.”
The Albanos credit MarineMax for making their shopping experience seamless, and they look forward to staying involved with MarineMax’s thriving community of Sea Ray owners. “MarineMax was awesome throughout the process,” Allison says. “Shannon Payne, our salesperson, was my first introduction to boat shopping. He was so informative. Richard Brooks, the manager, was too. We finalized our deal in about a week, and they brought our boat from Stuart. That week MarineMax had a meet-and-greet event on Friday evening, which was a lot of fun.”
“We had other options, being in Florida, but we wanted to establish a relationship with them,” she continues. “Working in real estate and sales, I plan to keep my clients for life. I think MarineMax has the same mindset where they value the relationship. The excellent service outweighs anything else.”
And for the foreseeable future, the Albanos will continue enjoying Panama City Beach to the fullest, venturing into new activities as Bijou and Luca grow older and braver still. “It’s nice to have the option of tubing or wakeboarding, maybe even fishing,” Allison says. “We plan to keep the boat for every bit of five years, if not more. We have room to grow with it. We’re excited for the possibilities ahead.”