Pirate Logistics

by Sharmi Duncan

It's that time of year again—time to celebrate the annual Gasparilla Piratefest, when the Pirates of Tampa Bay suit up, bead up, and revel their way down Bayshore Boulevard, a tradition since 1904. I’m proud to be part of this merry bunch.

As a member of the Sailingest Krewe of Gasparilla, I always get excited at this time of year, not only at the prospect of a month full of festive events, but also by the understanding I have of what it takes to pull off a parade—the logistics of pirating.
Think about it:  one strand of silver, purple, and green beads, adorned with jewels—where does it start and where does it end? I love to think about the magic that takes place behind the scenes, planned a year or more in advance, to pull off the biggest party of the year. These are things I think about all the time because I am a Practitioner. I am the Lady of Logistics.

We understand all the moving parts and we know how to find the most efficient, cost-effective methods for moving products from point A to point B. Pirates and parades have a lot of moving parts—not only beads, but also the coordination it takes to caravan the floats into the staging area before the locals arrive. Then there’s marketing and advertising, sponsors, security, and more details than the average person probably cares to think about.

So, what does it take for one krewe to parade? Well, it starts with a team, the Events Committee, a.k.a. Operations. These are the people who make it happen. Next, if you want to parade, then you must have a vessel. A krewe must either rent one or own such an asset. Regardless of how a vessel is acquired, one must find an insurance company that covers pirates riding on and walking around a moving vehicle. Then there's the real magic—designing the float and deciding what is needed on it. This is where we separate the real pirates from the guppies.

You see, some of these mighty krewes have almost perfected this art. There are restrooms (the parade is an all-day event); there are earplugs to muffle the cannon explosions; there’s a Galley Wench to manage the bar; there’s light and dark beer (with chilled keg lines); there are safety marshals on all four points of the float to keep us out of harm’s way; there's a sound system; and there are bubbles and a waving sea monster. All these things must be in place at just the right time. There are costumes; there is lunch so we are strong before we go into battle; there are dress rehearsals; and there are new members whose eyes light up the first time the see all this come together.

And there are BEADS! Don’t forget the beads. But one must be sure they are the right beads—that is, the ones that are in compliance with regulations forbidding the use of lead-based paints. Check, check, check. We've got it all covered. Now multiply that times 130 floats, dignitaries, and marching bands, along with the hundreds of thousands of Tampa citizens who show up every year, and you have some serious logistics to contend with.

The logistics of pirating isn’t for the weak. It is more than just a party. It’s the culmination of the art and science of logistics, of getting what is needed to where it’s needed, when it needs to be there, so that on that day we will sail into port and take over the city. ARRGH!

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