The Gasparilla Pirate Fest is a mainstay of Tampa’s social calendar. Held each year in late January (some years early February) since 1904, the Gasparilla pirate ship invasion and parades bring between $20M – $40M of booty into the city’s coffers, according to a 2007 study. This year’s festival and pirate invasion on January 26 saw over 300,000 spectators according to official estimates.
Most people experience Gasparilla from the parade routes, watching the fabulous floats and gathering the sparkling booty. Parade watchers, however, may miss the invading fleet of thousands of boats, lead by the pirate ship Jose Gaspar, as they storm Tampa’s waterfront and take possession of the Key to the City. As the armada crosses Tampa Bay enroute to the channel along Davis and Harbor Islands, it is out of easy viewing range for most spectators. This year the crew (“krewe”) of Olde World Sailing Line boarded the Lionheart to lend firepower to the Jose Gaspar and fleet. Land bound crowds see only the final 20% or so of the spectacular convoy from the sea to city-center. I hope you enjoy these photos of our up close and personal encounter with the floating hoards. Check out the additional photos with on Olde World Sailing’s Facebook and Pinterest pages. Also see the Gasparilla section on the Gallery on this website. More to come . . .