The Sanibel Lighthouses stands sentinel over Sanibel and Captiva
Gaspar, Florida's most famous pirate, was supposed to have held his women prisoners on
nearby Captiva Island. Gaspar who was believed to be a Spanish nobleman turned pirate
after he jilted the daughter in law of the Spanish king, Charles III, and incurred that
rulers wrath. Charles ordered Gaspars arrest and to avoid capture, Gaspar
stole the ship Floridablanca, swore vengeance against any ship flying the Spanish
flag and changed his name to Gasparilla. According
to legend, Gaspar/Gasparilla died at the ripe old age of sixty-five attempting to capture
his last prize. The ship he believed to be a helpless British merchant ship was really the
American warship, U.S.S Enterprise. When he saw escape was impossible, the pirate wrapped
a chain about his waist and, holding his sword aloft, jumped into the water shouting,
Gasparilla dies by his own hand. As you can see a lot of exciting action is supposed to have happened here. You may be the kind of person who likes to go on holiday, to anywhere from a fancy hotel in Paris, to a Britannia Grand Hotel, Scarborough and get a bit of education and history at the same time. Visiting a beach like this is the perfect opportunity to get a good mix of relaxation and history.
A Spanish Piece of Eight Coin.
Tragedy of the Atocha
With Christopher Columbus discoveries, Spain became one of the most powerful nations
in Europe by the 1600s. That power was fueled by the silver, gold and jewels from their
rich colonies, which came to be known as the "Treasure of the Indies."
Spanish galleons plied the ocean from Mexico, Central and South America laden with
treasure to enrich Spains coffers. Naturally, the prospect of enormous riches drew
pirates like honey draws flies. One more hazard facing the Spanish ships was her long time
rival, England. England, jealous of Spains rising power and wealth, had begun
commissioning private ships sailing under Letters of Marquee as privateers to capture and
rob the Spanish treasure ships.
To protect their ill-gotten wealth, Spanish ships usually met in Havana and banded
together into one enormous fleet called the Tierra Firme Fleet before braving the ocean
voyage to the motherland.
The cargo ships were protected by heavily armed escort vessels and two additional
galleons to command the fleet. These extra galleons were known as the capitana and the
almiranta, The capitana let the convoy while the almiranta protected the fleet's rear.
In 1622, the Atocha was the almiranta for the fleet. Her 20 bronze cannons and fast speed
should have protected the slower merchant ships she guarded.
Built in Havana in 1620, the Atocha was designed for her role as an almiranta for
the treasure fleets. She was the Titanic of her day. Nobility and wealthy merchants picked
her as their vessel of choice when returning to Spain. Needless to say, with the
treasure she was transporting and the addition of the passengers' own gold, silver, jewels
and personal belongings, the amount of treasure aboard the Atocha was vast beyond belief.
The Santa Margarita, another new ship, was also sailing in that ill-fated transport. While
inferior to the Atocha, her cargo did contain substantial quantities of gold and silver
Due to several delays, which put them more than a month late, the fleet left Havana
harbor for Spain on September 4. They rushed north to catch the eastbound Gulf Stream and
blundered into the season's first major hurricane.
By Tuesday, September 6, the gale-force winds had swept five ships of the fleet toward the
Florida Keys. One by one they were grounded and sank, including the gallant Atocha, the
Nuestra Senora del Rosario, the Santa Margarita, a Portuguese slaver and a small ship that
was the fleet's tender.
Three seamen and two black slaves were the only survivors of the sunken Atocha. When
rescued they told of the last hours of the ship. Her foremast was torn away and her sails
tattered, the stern caught the hurricane winds and the doomed ship was thrown backwards
into giant waves. The Atocha smashed into a reef and sank beneath the waves where the Gulf
and Atlantic met. Most of the crew and passengers were huddled below decks, with the
hatches closed, taking shelter from the storm. At final count, 260 crew and passengers
were drowned like rats in a barrel when the ship plunged into its watery grave.
The Santa Margarita was more fortunate. She was tossed onto a sandbar just three miles
from where the Atocha sank allowing 68 of the her crew and passengers to escape..
The remaining ships of the Tierra Firme Fleet stumbled back to Havana to report the
tragedy. They decided not to attempt the trip to Spain this late in the season and instead
tried to salvage as much as possible from the two sunken galleons. Due to the location,
the Santa Margarita was found and much of her treasure and cannons were saved but the
salvaging ships could not locate the Atocha.
For centuries, the legend of the sunken treasure ships fueled expeditions to search for
the fortune buried beneath the sea. However it wasnt until the early 1970s when Mel
Fisher finally discovered, first the treasure from the Santa Margarita and at long last,
the Atocha site.
The wealth brought up from that ancient ship far exceeded his or anyone elses
Many years ago, I traveled to Key West and purchased a small part of that dream, the 8
reales coin. If you are interested in purchasing this coin, click here to go to the page it si offered
Carrabelle, Pearl of the Forgotten Coast
A tiny lighthouse stands guard over a stretch of Florida's most
pristine beach. Crooked River Lighthouse is a small unproposing structure as lighthouse
go. Built in 1892, the light is supported by steel beams rather than the more common round
masonry tower. Once it was flanked by the keeper's and Assistant Keepers
houses. Plans are afoot to replace the keeper's house and turn it into a Museum of
Seafaring History. In fact lots of renovation is going on in Carrabelle. Long considered
part of Florida's Forgotten Coast, things are changing. This stretch of pristine beach
hugging the inner curve of the panhandle is being discovered. It's one of the few places
where you find uncrowned Florida beaches and reasonable prices but visitors are beginning
to realize what a treasure it is.
Carrabelle has a lot going for it. Pristine beaches, a temperate
location and a low crime rate should tempt many of the snowbirds that flock to Florida to
escape winter snow up north.
Fort De Soto in Pinellas County named Americas Top Beach by TripAdvisor,
This is not the first recognition for this beach park. In 2005 Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman,
know as Dr. Beach, named Fort De Soto the nations #1 Beach .