Many things distinguish pirates from typical brigands, highwaymen, or common thieves, but the main one–and the biggest–is their ship. Tampa’s Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla is no exception, as they have been invading the city by ship since 1911, just seven years after their first parade in 1904.
Between 1911 and 1936, Ye Mystic Krewe used a variety of borrowed ships to invade the city. Beginning in 1937, the Krewe acquired their own vessel and rechristened her the Jose Gasparilla. That ship served the Krewe until she was declared unseaworthy in 1951.
With that news, plans were made and implemented to construct a purpose-built ship for Gasparilla. The Jose Gasparilla II made her debut during the 1954 invasion–a fitting way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Gasparilla.
Ye Mystic Krewe has been using the Jose Gasparilla II ever since. The flat-bottomed ship, which for all appearances looks to be a fully rigged pirate ship, is actually a steel barge without any means of self-propulsion. Today, five tug boats, U.S. Coast Guard vessels, police, sheriff, and fire boats, plus a huge flotilla of pleasure craft, accompany the Jose Gasparilla II and Ye Mystic Krewe on their annual invasion of Tampa.