“THE BOAT FLOATS”
A New Ship for the
Anna Maria Privateers
The Anna Maria Privateers have a new Ship. After 25 years of being towed to parades and charity functions on the West Coast of Florida the old ship was getting rather shabby. The membership decided last June they needed a new float. Their old ship had to be retired.
Mitch Stewart, Pres. and Jim Hungerford one of the earliest members of the Privateers told the membership that a new float was needed, had to accommodate all the members and be motorized, not towed like the old ship. The biggest obstacle of designing and building it proved not a problem. Jim Hungerford asked Alan Fowler of Fowler Marine Inc. in Palmetto, whom he has worked for the past 15 years for help. Fowler Marine Inc. normally designs and builds the mechanical propulsion systems for boats. They build just about anything out of fiberglass you can think of and Alan Fowler agreed to help. Some drawings were made using a school bus chassis and showed them to the membership. From there they started talking money, a fundraiser committee was formed, and plans formalized.
On September 9, 2000 the Privateer Krewe kicked off their first fundraiser for “Float the Boat” at the Palmetto Fair Grounds. From “Mullet Smokes” done every few weeks October through December, and other benefits, the Privateers Raised over $30,000.00.
On September 23, a contingent of Privateers led by Bruce “Mate” Witton, Sec. of the Privateers, Jim Hungerford, and Alan Fowler went to Tampa looking for school buses. They found the one they liked at Shumate Truck Sales, it was a 1984 Blue Bird Diesel 44 passenger retired Hillsborough Co. school bus. A deal was made for $3,500.00 and by weeks end the bus was delivered to Fowler Marine in Palmetto.
That’s when the fun began; cutting, disassembling, and discarding school bus parts.
The Privateers formed a work party and removed all the seats and windows. Fowler Marine officially started work Nov. 1 when the top and the back were cut off. The drivers compartment on the new float is forward of the front wheels, this allows a deck over the driver for the Krewe to stand and throw beads from. To do this a small truck cab was gotten at the junk yard and welded on in front of the diesel engine and front axle. All the steering mechanism, air brakes, instrumentation, and controls had to be moved 14 ft. from were they were on the bus. Once the mechanical changes were done the decks and outer skin were installed. In hope of having the new ship last as long as the old ship, all the materials used to build it were picked for low maintenance and longevity. Fiberglass molds were used to give the outer skin the texture of old wood grain. The gel coat finish is the same used on boats and should not need anything but washing for many years. The decks are galvanize square tubing covered with Pressure Treated lumber to make them last. The aft cabin, used for changing clothes and traveling to parades, is part of the original bus cut off and welded on, lower to the ground. It is air conditioned and has a separate head (toilet) with a 50 gal. holding tank. Privateer work crews spent several weekends installing and staining the finishing trim.
On January 27, a little over three months after starting, forty two pirates and their guests boarded the ship to make it’s maiden voyage to the “Gasparilla Invasions Parade” in Tampa the day before Super Bowl Sunday. Members of other Krewes boarded the ship and all had a good time. The ship returned to Palmetto for some finishing touches, a working Crow’s Nest that carries a Privateer to as high as 24’ above the road (has to be lowered for low bridges and lights) and additional cannons on the sides.
The new Privateers ship (Float) to be named “THE MYSTIC LADY” in honor of the Inland waterway where she comes from is over 50’ long, 10’ wide and 12’ tall (with the Crow’s Nest down), can carry a crew of over 50 people on her decks with eight main cannons (4 per side) and 4 rail cannons. She will be used for many a parade and charity benefits in the Tampa Bay area.
The old Float was sold to a new Krewe formed in Tampa this year “The Mosquito Coast Pirates”. They picked it up March 10, 2001. They plan to refit her with new paint and rigging. We hope to see her again at the many parades and functions in the Tampa Bay Area.
The Anna Maria Privateers wish to thank all the people who donated, bought Mullet at our Mullet Smokes and attended our fund raisers. We expressly want to thank Pat Geyer of Duffy’s Tavern, the manager of The Island Publix for allowing us to use their parking lot for our Smokes, and Jan Holman of the “SEA HAG” Nautical Antique and Gift Shop in Cortez for her donation of the ship wheel and use of the “MER-MAID” under our Bowsprit and all who worked behind the scenes to support us.
Photos to the right were taken during the construction of the ship. The last photo shows the crewe and guests staged at its inaugural event the Gasparilla Parade 2001.