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Something new for Gasparilla — your own private boat captain

People dance and cheer on the water while part of  the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion flotilla.  [Photo Luis Santana | Times 2014]
People dance and cheer on the water while part of the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion flotilla. [Photo Luis Santana | Times 2014]
Published Jan. 22, 2018

TAMPA — The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates may be this city's most festive event, but law enforcement maintains its zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving, whether on land or on water.

So if you plan on consuming alcohol at the parade, get home via public transportation or a ride-sharing company. And if you're on the water, consider taking advantage of a new service — hiring a private captain.

Through its mobile app and website, a Missouri-based company called Anchor Rides will match local boat owners with local captains.

The cost is $50 an hour, typically for a minimum of four hours.

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Anchor Rides is new to this area, said Joe Wessell, the training and development coordinator for Pepin Distributing Company, which wholesales beer and liquor in the Tampa Bay area. "It is a cool concept. When we heard about it, we said let's jump on."

Pepin will cover the captain's first hour of pay for the first 50 boaters who use Anchor Ride on Gasparilla.

Boat owners who visit the website can choose from their area's available captains based on a short synopsis of their overall experience.

Prospective captain candidates also can apply on the website. Applicants are vetted by the company and the United States Coast Guard.

"What makes Gasparilla so unique and highlights this community is the Gasparilla flotilla," Maj. Roger Young of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission said at a Monday news conference detailing safety measures for the event this year.

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But he warned that officers from the entire maritime community will be "out in force making sure it is a safe day on the water."

Overall, expect around 2,000 law enforcement officers to be patrolling the streets and water on Saturday when downtown Tampa hosts both the Gasparilla Parade and the National Hockey League's All-Star Skills Competition, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said at the news conference.

"Adult beverages are fine but do it in moderation" Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "You don't often hear an old Irish guy saying that."

Contact Paul Guzzo at Follow @PGuzzoTimes.