Over the Years
Ship Island Excursions
Written by: Gulf Coast Gal
Ship Island Excursions has had a deep connection to Ship Island over the years. (If you missed the earlier blog, you can catch up here!)
For a significant amount of time in the 20th century, the Skrmetta family were the driving force in everything that happened for Ship Island. They provided labor, equipment, infrastructure, and financing to build and maintain several structures on the Island, including bathhouses, docks, and beach pavilions. They were also the main providers of food service, security, trash collection, maintenance.
After Hurricanes and storms created havoc on the docks and buildings, the Skrmetta family often also financed the restoration efforts themselves. When Fort Massachusetts was on the brink of collapse due to rising water, Peter Skrmetta contracted and paid over $4,000 (at the time) to ensure the fort continued standing. Likewise, following Hurricane Camille’s devastation in 1969, Peter mortgaged everything he owned to replace all the island facilities that were lost in the storm that included: a 400ft boat dock, power plant, and snack bar.
Maintaining these services were instrumental to ensuring Ship Island’s continued popularity.
The 1960’s brought big change to Ship Island Excursions.
Early in 1963, Capt. Pete Sr. built the Pan American II. This vessel was 76ft long and was able to ferry up to 250 passengers. This was the third boat Peter Martin Skrmetta had built over the years with the first two in 1937 and 1950 respectively.
Unfortunately, later that year, Capt. Peter Sr. passed away. He left two vessels and the business to his sons, Peter Matthew and Jimmie.
The brothers thought it best to split the business. Jimmie would continue with the Biloxi operation and Peter would operate a new service in Gulfport. The Gulfport operation would be next to the new Marine Life pavilion in the Gulfport Yacht Harbor.
By 1973, both businesses were in operation year round!
In the early 80’s, Peter Matthew Skrmetta (Peter Sr.’s son) built another passenger ferry, the Island Clipper. The Island Clipper is 65ft long and can hold up to 150 passengers. The main driver for the additional ferry being built was the increase Gulfport passenger counts. Peter ended up purchasing the Biloxi ferry operation from his brother, Jimmie, in 1986.
As business grew into the 90’s, Pan Isles purchased the Gulf Islander. This was their largest vessel yet boasting 110ft long and a passenger count of up to 374. Another great feature of the Gulf Islander is it’s AC which helps passengers cool down after a hot day at Ship Island.
Along with the 2000’s came another purchase for Pan Isles, the 100ft, 308 passenger, Capt. Pete.
With the addition of these vessels, the Ship Island Excursions fleet has ferried over 1.2 MILLION passengers from the Gulfport Harbor to the one of the best spots in Coastal Mississippi, Ship Island.
Over the years, they have also extended their service to provide other cruise offerings including a Sunset Cocktail Cruise, Dolphin Watching Cruises and Private Charters.
Visit our website to see all of Ship Island Excursions’ current offerings and what trip you and your family might like best!
Check back to the blog for more stories, tips and tricks and updates!