“Latitude with An Attitude.” Doesn’t that describe Port Aransas perfectly? It’s also the theme for the fourth annual “Wings Over Port Aransas” weekend-long party hosted by the Parrot Heads of Port Aransas.
The PHOPA is one of 200-plus clubs in the international Parrot Heads In Paradise, Inc. “Parrot Heads” are fans of the singer/songwriter/author Jimmy Buffett whose music and books celebrate the beach bum – err, life of tropical island leisure.
You’ve probably spotted PHOPA members around town: grown men and women in Hawaiian shirts or coconut–shell bras, board shorts or grass skirts, funny hats, sunglasses and flip flops with a Landshark beer or margarita in hand. You may have seen them tossing beads from a Port Aransas Mardi Gras pirate ship float or caroling on a flamingo-festooned vessel in the holiday Lighted Boat Parade.
These high-spirited folks in their bright colored beachwear look like just a bunch of non-stop party animals with nothing more on their minds than holding down a lounge chair. Don’t get the wrong idea. All that merrymaking is “party with a purpose.” Around the world, Parrot Head clubs hold numerous fundraisers that benefit a multitude of charities such as cancer or Alzheimer’s research, environmental causes or the March of Dimes.
The PHoPA is no exception. One of the club’s charities is the Animal Rehabilitation Keep, otherwise known as the ARK, which rescues and rehabilitates sick and injured sea animals and shorebirds. The PHoPA also donates to the Helping Hands Food Pantry.
The weekend-long party will start with a Friday evening sunset cruise followed by a beach bonfire and cookout. Weather permitting, on Saturday at 10 a.m. ARK director Tony Amos will release one or more rehabilitated turtles ready to be returned back into the ocean. Saturday afternoon entertainment includes a pub crawl in the aforementioned land-based pirate ships and features a shopping poker run. Shoppers with a Wings 2013 badge who visit participating merchants like Gratitude, Fish on the Line, Fish Tales and Cypress Tree will receive a special discount and a poker chip. The chip can be redeemed at the Wings headquarters for a playing card. The top three winning poker hands earn prizes. Jerry Diaz and Hannah’s Reef will provide the live music for the Saturday night dance and banquet. At the Saturday night party, guests will have a chance to buy raffle tickets and can bid on a variety of unique items in the silent auction. Drinks are available at evening events for a donation or Wings guests may bring their own beverage.
The weekend ends with a continental brunch on Sunday.
The $55 “Wings Over Port A: Latitude with an Attitude” registration fee includes an event t-shirt, personalized name tag and admission to all the events. Add an additional $15 to attend the Friday sunset cruise which is limited to the first 90 who sign up. Checks should be made out to PHOPA and mailed to Parrot Heads of Port Aransas, P. O. Box 914, Port Aransas, Texas, 78373.
The “Winds Over Port Aransas” fundraisers wouldn’t be half the success they are if not for the sponsors that help put on the party. At this writing, 50 generous sponsors are participating, one of which is the Island Queen II bay cruiser boat, the site of the Friday evening sunset cruise.
Owner Billy Gaskins says that having the Island Queen is ”like owning an antique.” There’s not a computer chip on it; it’s completely mechanical.
The vessel began life as a nine-car ferry boat running cars between Port Aransas and Aransas Pass. When the ferry service got larger 20-car boats, the older smaller boats went up for auction. Billy’s father got word about the auction from his friend Melvin Littleton, then the supervisor of ferry operations. The Gaskins bought two vessels. One is no longer in service but the other became the Island Queen II.
With 2,000 square feet of deck space the 33-foot-wide boat is definitely big enough to live on but Gaskins converted it for fishing trips and parties by closing off the ends and adding the upper deck, rail and seating. The vessel is Coast-Guard certified. It’s inspected every year and every other year is “hauled out,” taken out of the water for an inspection. Sometimes ultrasound is used to test the thickness of the metal. A program of making repairs indicated by the inspections helps to keep the boat ship-shape. The captain knows all the hot spots where fish are likely to be found. The crew which usually consists of three members but can be as large as four or five assists anglers with bating hooks and netting the catch and are ready with fishing tips and instructions so even novices can have a successful outing.
If fishing sounds like too much work, passengers can simply relax and enjoy the cruise. The Island Queen II is available for private charters, is licensed for up to 99 passengers and catering is available.
The Island Queen II departs from Woody’s Sports Center three times daily. Children 12 & under are half price! For reservations or more information, call (361) 749-6969.
Yours truly is also contributing to “Wings Over Port Aransas.” I’m auctioning off a character from my latest fiction work-in-progress. “Naked Came the Shark,” is a contemporary thriller about murder and mayhem in the Texas Coastal Bend. The highest bidder at the “Wings Over Port Aransas” silent auction will get to give his or her name to a character in the book which is slated for a December, 2013 release. So when you come to party at the “Latitude with an Attitude,” be sure to stop by the silent auction and place your bid to be a character. (Only bids placed at the Wings 2013 will be eligible.) I’ll see you there.