One if by land, two if by sea, but all the lanterns in the world won’t give you warning enough of piracy.
So the neighbors kept us up until late last night. Apparently 2:30 in the morning is a great time to start full-volume celebratory whooping. It took a while for the raucous to die down, and by the time it did, 8:30 came too close for a good night’s rest. We dragged our feet this morning and didn’t make it back to First Watch like we wanted to. Instead, we donned our full garb – Stevie borrowed by spare tunic – and headed to the Embassy Suites by the convention center to meet friends of Stevie’s where we’d watch the invasion of Gasparilla from the comfort of their bay view hotel room. Our Lyft driver wasn’t able to take us all the way due to road closures, but she dropped us off on the south side of the bridge, and we walked the remaining half mile to the hotel. A quick bite to eat and a coffee at Starbucks so we didn’t begin drinking on empty stomachs later, and up we went to the 15th floor.
Apparently our hotel hosts had a stowaway from the night prior who let himself into their hotel room after the hotel staff gave him a key (!). Our hotel hosts were understandably freaked out when they awoke this morning to find someone else they only barely met last night in their bathroom. When he (re-)entered the room and joined the party, he crudely announced himself which immediately made me wonder what kind of party I’d found myself in. Fortunately, the rest of the crew were nothing like him, and the Stowaway (we gave him the nickname because he wasn’t exactly invited into our crew). I quickly found my comfort with everyone else and made several new like-minded friends. This captain now has allies on the opposing coast should he need to call upon them!
The invasion began around 1pm. We were somehow under the impression there would be multiple tall ships coming in, but it was just the one: the Gasparilla ship itself. The ship looked beautiful even from afar, and I wish I could have been aboard one of the many boats out on the water with a prime view up front. After the ship docked, we left the comfort of our hotel room to the debarkation point to watch the crew return to land. We were able to secure a good spot at the front, and the beads and swag began to flow in excess.
When the crew finished deboarding the ship, we proceeded to the parade route to witness the three or four hour-long parade. It went on and on, with pirate themed floats filled with crew throwing more beads. I caught several, though not as many as my female crew members in front. Stevie walked away with what must have been five extra pounds around her neck. Still, I managed to accidentally catch one with my ear (ow!), and another with my boot, so I’ll call those wins. It’s not about the quantity, it’s about the creative flair with which you catch them!
I took as many photos as my phone allowed before my battery died halfway through, and I (stupidly) left my battery pack back in the hotel room. I will admit, though, that I and the people I was with were better dressed than most of the crew in the parade. I don’t brag often, but the big debut of my new Ravenswood Leather coat (not my exact cut, but very similar) was a hit, and I was definitely among the more well-outfitted in the entire festival. I feel like if I was to transplant my social group to this area and we were able to form an official crew, we could really steal the show.
The entire festival is ostensibly a celebration of a fictional pirate known as Jose Gaspar, but it was pretty clear that the festival was less about the man and more about the rowdy and drunken acts of piracy. I’m glad I had a good crew, because a festival like this really is about who you spend it with. It could have easily gone either way. While I had a great time, it was readily apparent how it could have gone the other way when we finally left our crew to return to the hotel room. The drunken revelries and loud club-like music were in full force.
We’re now re-packed and ready to leave early tomorrow morning for Cape Canaveral to catch our cruise. We’ll likely already be at the port by the time I post this since the hotel wifi here is too shoddy for me to post the multitudes of photos from today’s festivities, and I’m officially down to my last 100 MB of my mobile data for the month. (Note from the future: the port WiFi wasn’t any better, so pictures will probably be limited until I’m actually home. I’ve attached most of the crew photos, but none of the parade photos yet.)
So, all in all, Tampa is a fun place. Would return again. Friendly people, interesting sights and activities, and good food and beer. Well done. And now I’m off to my next adventure.