CrossBay ferry won't run during Gasparilla
ST. PETERSBURG — The Cross-Bay Ferry won’t run during Saturday’s annual Gasparilla Invasion and Parade of the Pirates, when tens of thousands flock to the biggest event in Tampa Bay.
Gasparilla isn’t the first time that the ferry has been blocked from Tampa. The ferry also couldn’t sail into downtown Tampa during the weekend festivities leading up to the Jan. 9 national college football championship at Raymond James Stadium, either.
That was because there was nowhere in Tampa for the ferry to dock.
That’s also the problem for Gasparilla. But the Coast Guard also sent out a directive warning vessels that are not part of Gasparilla’s annual boating activities to stay away, officials said.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman tried to work out an arrangement with Tampa for the ferry to dock during Gasparilla, but the Coast Guard’s directive put an end to those discussions with Tampa officials, said the mayor’s spokesman Ben Kirby.
In any event, Kirby said the mayor knew going into the pilot project, which ends in April, that the ferry would likely not be able to run during Gasparilla.
The ferry has been one of Kriseman’s most-touted accomplishments during his administration. The pilot project has been a frequent mention in his public speeches, including the recent state of the city address.
Kriseman, who is running for re-election, recently won “Project of the Year” from the Tampa Bay Institute of Transportation Engineers for his support for the ferry.
In November, the ferry’s first month in operation, it sold 4,700 tickets. That jumped by 15 percent to 5,400 tickets sold in December, officials said. The ferry operator, HMS Ferries Inc., said it recovered 46 percent of its operating costs in November, which ferry boosters greeted as a success.
The 98-foot catamaran can carry up to 149 passengers and calls St. Petersburg’s Vinoy Basin its home port. It takes 50 minutes for the ferry to reach the docks outside the Tampa Convention Center, which is where the Gasparilla brunch is held before the “pirates” conduct their annual invasion of Tampa.
In other ferry news, HMS has recommended that the weekday commuter fare be slashed in half: from $10 each way to $5 for the month of February. Additionally, the operator recommends that a 20-pass package be reduced from $100 to $50 making each way fall to $2.50 next month, according to a Jan. 18 memo to the city.
Contact Charlie Frago at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.