Boat captains for hire for Gasparilla… but are they really captains?

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The idea is to increase safety on the water with a sort of designated driver or captain.

A company called Anchor Pier-to-Pier Boat Charters now offers captains for hire on its web page in the Tampa Bay area.

An armada of vessels is expected to accompany the Jose Gaspara during the annual invasion. For those who wish to partake in Gasparilla guzzling on their boats, Anchor could be a safe alternative.

“It’s a really safe and affordable service and this is a great way to augment your experience,” said Anchor CEO Zach Hatraf.

According to Mr. Hatraf, each captain is vetted. Each member of the crew on his website is either a captain or qualified to be one.

“Go on the website, click a captain that you like, make sure that their description fits what you need. Click the book button and you can tell us when you need them there, where you need them,” explained Mr. Hatraf.

But a few pictures on the website raised questions.

One involved a photo of a Capt. Nathan S.

It depicts a man in a captain’s uniform and three other men.

The man dressed in the uniform is not Capt. Nathan S. He is Captain Tom McElroy, who works in Chicago.

“I was kind of shocked,” Capt. McElroy said of the picture. “Not what I expected to wake up to this morning.”

When asked about the picture, Mr. Hatraf picked out Nathan.

Later in a text he wrote,”We just launched this site a week ago to be on time for Gasparilla. It’s a brand new line of business for us and we are working really hard to build trust within the site.”

We also raised questions about another photo on the Anchor website.

Another picture of a captain on the company’s web page is a picture from a stock photo website.

“Just to be safe, I inactivated [this captain in question.] Image passed our initial screening but we will check into validity,” wrote Mr. Hatraf in a text.

We also learned that according to the Coast Guard, Captain Nathan S, is not a captain.

“Yeah we know that,” said Mr. Hatraf. “Yes in order to drive somebody else’s boat, to be a skipper for hire, it doesn’t require a captain’s license.”

Anchor has the Coast Guard’s stamp of approval.

Mr. Zatraf envisions an online Anchor Academy to make it easier for people to become licensed captains.

He hopes to turn this service into a kind of Uber.

Tom McElroy points out on the water, a captain must know everything about the vessel.

He wonders if a captain for hire on your boat is equipped to be that go-to person, on a vessel he’s never even seen before.

You can learn more about this company at

If you think something should be investigated, call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.

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