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Jose Gasparilla: What goes on behind the scenes before the big invasion

Preparing the ship for the big invasion is about a three-month process.
Posted at 3:57 PM, Jan 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-20 16:34:54-05

TAMPA, Fla. -- There are actually two crews that can be found aboard the Jose Gasparilla, the Ye Mystic Krewe -- also known as the pirates -- and the shipyard crew are making sure everything is sailing smoothly.

Preparing the ship for the big invasion is about a three-month process, according to Arthur Savage with the Ye Mystic Krewe.

“We got quite a big job of cleaning her up, getting her painted, stringing flags, lights, making sure all the conditions are good,” said Savage.

Savage said maintenance and decorations are only half the battle, the pirates on board during the invasion also have to go through annual training.

“All the life safety things, like man over board rings, life jackets, fire extinguishers,” said Savage.

Fred Jenrette, with Gulf Marine Repair, has been captaining the ship preparations since 2003. He can tell you there are exactly 19 nets, 350 feet of lights and about 300 flags.

“I’ve been logging each location, I made a map, so I know where every flag goes. I know where every sail goes, I know where every light goes,” said Jenrette.

Every year, you never know what new challenge may pop up with the 66-year-old vessel but so far, they’ve always risen to the occasion to make sure it sets sail.

“This year is probably the quickest we ever did it with the time frame, but everything worked out perfectly, thank God,” said Jenrette.

From the deck to the mast, he said attention to detail is a must. He understands this is more than a ship, it’s an experience.

“I like to see the looks on the people’s faces when I watch them look at the boat, they look like big kids out there, ‘look at that boat,’” said Jenrette.