Yo ho, yo ho! Tips for Boating Safely this Gasparilla

Yo ho, yo ho! Tips for Boating Safely this Gasparilla

As the New Year winds down, all around the bay pirate flags are making their annual debut and Tampa Bay residents are gearing up for 2013’s Gasparilla Parade. This historic event is inspired by legendary Jose Gaspar, who was nicknamed “Gasparilla”. Gaspar is said to have mercilessly captured hundreds of ships in the 1700 and 1800’s. As the so-called “last of the buccaneers”, he eventually planned to leave his life of piracy. While dividing up his treasure among the crew, he mistook a US Navy pirate hunting ship for a British Merchant ship and decided to take over one last ship before his retirement. A battle began and it appeared the Navy would take over Gaspar’s ship. He tied a heavy chain to himself and jumped over board to avoid being hung for piracy.
For over 100 years Tampa has celebrated the memory of the fearless pirate with a parade known to host over half a million people each year. Before the parade begins, the Jose Gaspar (the world’s only fully rigged pirate ship) will set sail at the south end of the Hillsborough Bay. Each year a multitude of boats set out to defeat the Jose Gaspar, then “see the error of their ways” and join forces. The flotilla then makes its way up the Hillsborough River into downtown Tampa.
I have been a part of this pirate invasion countless times and know the difficulty that many face on this day weaving between boats and attempting to boat safely amidst the bead throwing, cannons, and chaos. Here are a few tips to stay safe on the water, and what to do if you run into any mishaps with fellow pirates on the water:


  • The owner/operator of the vessel should not drink alcohol.
  • Keep a safe distance between your boat and others.
  • Have fenders and a boat pole at the ready.
  • Have another person act as a lookout while maneuvering.
  • Keep an idle speed through the channel; remember that you are responsible for the wake your boat throws.

If you are involved in a collision on the water:

  • Take photos and video of the incident.
  • Contact one of the many law enforcement personnel present.
  • Obtain the information of all parties on the vessels and any other witnesses.
  • If the other boat’s operator is not cooperative in exchanging information, try to get their boat’s registration number.
  • Preserve any and all evidence even if it seems unimportant at the time.
  • Report the incident promptly to your own insurance company.

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