Law enforcement set sail for Gasparilla

- Thousands of smaller boats are expected to accompany the pirate ship of Ye Mystic Krewe on Saturday, sailing across Tampa Bay to downtown.

Along the route, law enforcement officers from multiple agencies will be on the hunt for lawbreakers.

Officer Randy Lopez with the Tampa Marine Unit said he has worked 28 Gasparilla celebrations, and each year, there is very heavy boat traffic on the water.

"Think about probably you're busy New York, Washington, DC traffic, or going through Atlanta traffic, where it's just bumper to bumper," said Lopez.

Tampa Police, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the U-S Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) will be spread out across the Bay.

Marine Unit officers will be searching for drunk and disorderly boaters.

"The focus is basically a safe day, and what we want to do is, with our maritime law enforcement partners, is ensure that," said Officer James Boogaerts with the FWC. "Designate someone that hasn't been drinking that day, that way it ensures a safe day on the water and you're able to come home safely," Boogaerts added.

Officers are advising boaters not to throw bead into the water.

"We don't want the manatees and the turtles eating them," said Commander Darren Hart with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary.

They also recommend that all boaters have enough life jackets for everyone on board and proper safety equipment, like a fire extinguisher.

With warm weather expected for Saturday and the NHL All-Star game in town, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend this year's Gasparilla.

"Have patience," said Lopez. "Know that everybody is trying to be in the same spot at the same time. There's plenty of pirates to go around. There's plenty of fun to go around."

Anyone planning to attend the Gasparilla parade on Bayshore Boulevard should give themselves plenty of time to park. Parking in most downtown garages costs $10 a vehicle.

Tampa Police will begin shutting down several roads leading onto Bayshore at 10 p.m. Friday.

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