The Gasparilla Pirate Fest is back for 2022, bigger than ever. While the parade on land is epic in its own right, there’s nothing like the Pirate Invasion with the square-rigged pirate ship, Jose Gasparilla II, cruising majestically up Seddon Channel to dock at 1 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Tampa Convention Center.
The Jose Gasparilla II will be festooned with hundreds of pirates on deck and in the rigging, while a vast flotilla of about 750 private boats and yachts escort her. Following are 10 excellent boats that will not only provide viewing platforms for the Pirate Invasion, but family pleasure year round.
Argggghhhh, Matey! Come aboard!
Wild Looking — Axopar 28 Cabin
The Axopar 28 from Finland is a traffic stopper, with its plumb bow and rakish styling. Walk-around decks on each side of the pilothouse lead to seating in the bow, and the cockpit can be fitted with seating or left open for fishing. Surrounded by large windows, the pilothouse provides protection from rain or sun, with doors on each side. Twin helm seats are behind an uncluttered dashboard, with a bench seat behind and access to the aft cabin with twin bunks and toilet. More than just looking hot, twin outboards to 250 horsepower back up the 28s visual promise. Available at Nautical Ventures
Eye Catcher — Hussar 920 Explorer Max
At 32 feet, the Hussar 920 Explorer Max offers exceptional space for viewing the parade from the cockpit, with its modular seating that can be rearranged, as well as its enclosed cabin for all-weather protection. Two cockpit tables plus an inside dinette handle all the munchies for your outing, and an optional sunroof opens the pilothouse for alfresco enjoyment. For overnighting, there is a double berth in a private cabin as well as a convertible dinette, and the enclosed head includes a shower. Power is provided by a pair of 250-horsepower outboards, giving a top speed of 60 miles per hour. Available at Hussar Yachts
The Legend Returns — Bertram 28XC
From Tampa-based Bertram Yachts is the 28XC that mines new territory for this legendary yacht builder. Not only is it a 28-foot bowrider with twin consoles, it is also outboard powered. Wrap- around seating forward will be prime territory for parade watchers, while the spacious cockpit has fold-down seating, a sunpad and room for up to 12 people. Anglers and divers will love the side-opening cockpit door, while families will appreciate the mini galley with grill, plus the stand-up, enclosed head in the console with electric toilet, sink and shower. Power is from twin Mercury 300-horsepower Verado outboards. Available at Bertram Yachts
Unsinkable Molly Brown — Boston Whaler 230 Outrage
New from a distinguished builder is this 23-foot, center-console boat that combines performance (up to 54 miles per hour!) with its traditional unsinkable hull for peace of mind far offshore. The cockpit was designed by and for anglers, with ample seating forward and large lockers in the floor and under the seats. A handy workstation keeps tackle tidy and provides aft- facing seating, too. Options include an integrated T-top for sun protection (a no-brainer) plus premium navigation and fish-finding electronics. Rated with a 10-person capacity, the 230 is parade ready and, surprisingly, the console conceals a stand-up head for all-day outings. Outboards to 350 horsepower. Available at MarineMax
Pure Tradition — Chris-Craft Calypso 24
America’s boatbuilder since 1874, the Chris- Craft legend continues with the Calypso 24, a stylish bowrider. The companion seat converts to forward or aft viewing or into a sunpad, while the aft bench seat folds out of the way. A hull door allows direct access to the water, and a mini-galley with sink and slide-out Yeti cooler is behind the skipper. Forward, U-shaped seating is reached through a fold-out windshield door. The port side console includes a head and sink. Options can tailor the Calypso for families or fishermen. Single Mercury or Yamaha outboards to 400 horsepower provide plenty of go. Available at Chris-Craft
Sporty Water Toy — Cobalt R8
At just under 28 feet, this big day boat is the next generation of a larger R Series from Cobalt. It features higher sides (safer for kids), plus roomy seating areas in the bow and cockpit areas. The companion seatback reverses for all-around viewing, the rear bench seat hinges to face aft and a rumble seat unfolds from the sunpad. Twin Garmin monitors include a chartplotter to follow the parade route, and a private compartment features a head and sink for all-day boating. Standard power includes both MerCruiser and Volvo Penta sterndrives up to 430 horsepower. Available at Tom George Yachts
Just Like Tom Sawyer — Cypress Cay Pontoon
An interesting alternative to boat ownership is Freedom Boat Club, where a one-time entry fee and monthly dues give you a wide variety of choices, such as the Cypress Cay pontoon boat. This pontoon boat, with twin pontoons in a catamaran layout, is extremely stable and family friendly. In essence, it is a floating living room with several couches and lounges, a folding Bimini top for shade and easy water access for swimming. The Freedom Boat Club offers pontoons and other craft, including center consoles. The club takes care of all maintenance, storage, insurance and repairs. Available at Freedom Boat Club
Fishing War Wagon — Grady-White Canyon 376
A saltwater fishing machine, this 37-footer has a roomy interior with all the amenities for families, including a stand-up head with toilet and shower, and a double berth. Designed for anglers, the Sea-V hull slices easily through ocean swells (and boat parade wakes) easily. One feature perfect for the Gasparilla is the outdoor galley with barbecue grill, fridge and sink. Triple helm seats are shaded under the T-top, while wrap-around seating is forward. A 5-kilowatt generator is standard and can power air conditioning both in the cabin and at the helm. Outboard power options range up to triple Yamaha 425 horsepower four-strokes for up to 60 miles per hour. Available at Quality Boats of Clearwater
Champagne & Caviar — Prestige 590 S
The Prestige 590 S seems a stylish, sporty, express cruiser, but with a carefully camouflaged flybridge with sunpad. Designed by Vittorio Garroni, this is Euro styling at its best with light from banks of windows in the salon, and the flybridge position allows for an electric sunroof into the salon. Perfect for the Gasparilla is the on-deck galley that opens directly to the cockpit seating. An owner’s suite spans the accommodation deck with two more guest cabins and two full heads with showers. Power from twin Cummins diesels with easy-to-handle Zeus pod drives allow cruising at up to 23 knots. Available at Galati Yachts
Offshore Adventure — Tidewater 320CC
Built by and for anglers, the Tidewater 320CC combines craftsmanship and performance in a beefy, twin-outboard-powered center console that has everything from dual, aerated live-bait wells to oversized fish boxes. The flaring Carolina bow keeps everyone dry, while the console features a berth for sleeping as well as an electric head. A walk-through transom door makes access easy, and forward wrap-around seating provides parade viewing. The fiberglass T-top shades dual helm seats, and the tackle station has drawers and a sink. Aft, a bench seat folds flush into the transom. Twin Yamaha 300s or 350 horsepower for up to 60 miles per hour. Available at Family Boating
Chris Caswell is an award-winning writer and the former editor of several yachting magazines. He has appeared on Oprah as a boating lifestyle expert and hosted the Marine Voyager series on the Speed Channel.