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Vandals target Clearwater krewe's Gasparilla floats

Jeff DiPolito of Clearwater’s Ye Mystic Krewe of the Santa Margarita scans damage left behind when someone ransacked the Gasparilla krewe’s two floats and stole five cannons.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Jeff DiPolito of Clearwater’s Ye Mystic Krewe of the Santa Margarita scans damage left behind when someone ransacked the Gasparilla krewe’s two floats and stole five cannons.

LARGO — Yo-ho, yo-ho, it's a pirate's life for some bay-area vandals.

These brigands weren't looking for liquor or gold, but they plundered the main deck of the ship and made off with the krewe's artillery.

Members of Clearwater's Ye Mystic Krewe of the Santa Margarita found Sunday morning that their two Gasparilla floats had been ransacked and five cast-iron cannons were stolen.

"We make the joke that we've been raped and pillaged," said Jeff DiPolito, one of the founders of the Santa Margarita krewe.

Anyone with information leading to the return of the cannons could qualify for some treasure of their own: a $600 reward the krewe is offering.

When they aren't swashbuckling at Gasparilla or local fund-raisers, the krewe keeps its two floats, one a replica of a Spanish galleon and the other a small shanty, at a storage yard off 126th Avenue N. The facility has no surveillance system, but krewe members check on the floats regularly, DiPolito said.

On Sunday morning a krewe member discovered that five black powder cannons kept inside the galleon were gone. Each cannon weighs about 25 to 30 pounds and is fully functional. DiPolito said the cannons could be dangerous.

"It could be a lethal weapon," he said. "If you overpack it with black powder, it could explode like a grenade and cause serious harm to whoever's shooting it."

Decorations, including a talking skull and several plaques, were ripped from the walls of the galleon and shanty. The galleon's bathroom door was torn from its hinges, and two of the shanty's windows were shattered. Destroyed trophies and fake bones littered the ground outside the floats. Largo police spokesman Mike Loux estimated the cost of the damage to be $2,000.

It's easy to make jokes about the Gasparilla pirates themselves getting plundered, but to some in the group, it isn't funny.

"How do you get to a point where you're so disrespectful, completely destroying somebody's property is fun for you?" said Kate Daley, a member of the krewe's board.

A neighbor told DiPolito he saw two teenagers climbing over the fence Saturday night.

"It looks like it was a party spot for some kids," Loux said.

The vandals did not steal the more valuable equipment in the float, and some of the krewe's beer cans were scattered around the float but weren't opened.

"It was like getting punched in the gut," DiPolito said. "We were off doing community service and supporting charities while this was going on."

Most of the damage should be easy to repair because the krewe built the float from scratch, DiPolito said. The real struggle, he said, will be finding replacements for the missing cannons. Four of the five were the last of a limited supply.

The supplier? A pirate re-enactor named Troll.

Katie Park can be reached at (727) 445-4154 or kpark@sptimes.com.

Vandals target Clearwater krewe's Gasparilla floats 08/29/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 12:31am]
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