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The Skrmetta Family Fleet

Over the years:

In the early 1920s, Pete Skrmetta had his own boat built by the Fountain Shipyard in Biloxi. The vessel was a 56-foot, diesel-powered schooner lugger he named the Pan American. The excursion business eventually became so popular that Pete extended the Pan American to a 76-foot total length, added a second deck, and increased seating to accommodate over 150-passenger capacity.

As the number of patrons increased, Captain Pete built three increasingly larger excursion boats: Pan American Clipper (1937), Gulf Clipper (1950), and Pan American II (1963). In the summer, Captain Pete’s ferry service did well, bringing thousands of visitors from Biloxi to the resort on the Island of Caprice. They also offered evening cruises with music, dancing, and gambling. Each winter, Pete pressed his excursion boats into shrimp harvesting work. Eventually, the services moved full-time to ferrying passengers to Ship Island, and even added an additional ferry service to Ship Island in Gulfport in 1963. The Skrmetta family started operating a daily Gulfport excursion service that summer after expanding its fleet with an additional vessel for the Biloxi operation, the 76-foot, 250-passenger Pan American II.

Peter later chose to move the 65-foot, 224-passenger Pan American Clipper to the old Legion Pier located next to “Marine Life” on the west side of the Gulfport Yacht Harbor as well. In 1981, Peter built another ferry, the 65-ft., 150-passenger Island Clipper, to support the increasing Gulfport passenger counts. In 1984, a new schedule was introduced with more frequent departures, resulting in a 23 percent increase in business over the previous year.

The next decade brought significant growth to the Pan Isles fleet and business.


The Fleet Today:

Over the years, many of the wooden vessels have been sold or retired, most recently retiring the last wooden boat, The Pan American Clipper. In 1990, the company purchased the largest vessel yet, the 110-foot, 374-passenger Gulf Islander. This spacious boat allowed for year-round, climate-controlled charters and is still in operation today. In 2000, Pan Isles purchased another large aluminum vessel, the 100-foot, 308-passenger Capt. Pete. 

Today, these two Ship Island vessels operate from Gulfport, providing the same ferry service to the beautiful beaches of Ship Island that began so many years ago. The island ferry service, established by Capt. Pete Skrmetta in 1926, still remains a popular attraction on the coast taking thousands of passengers each season to explore Ship Island. 

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