New video tells story of Ship Island Excursions

By David Elliott - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - This story actually begins in 1699 when French explorer Pierre LeMoyne D'Iberville first charted the barrier islands off what is now the Mississippi coast. Over the next 200 years, a variety of historical events happened on and around the islands.

A new documentary recounts that history, but it's really a story about a Biloxi family, the Skrmettas.

In 1926, Pete Skrmetta started running passengers out to the island on an old Biloxi Schooner. Eventually, his son Peter took over, and today Louis Skrmetta represents the third generation of Skrmettas involved in the ferrying of passengers to the island.

"We estimate we've taken a million and a half people out to the islands over the years," Louis said as he grips a 92-year-old wheel in the Pan American Clipper Wheel House.

Louis's grandfather, Pete, built the Pan American Clipper in 1937. Over the years the family has added larger and more modern vessels to the fleet, but the Pan American is the original and it hold a special place in Louis's heart.

"This boat has a soul," Skrmetta said.

The documentary uses incredible historical images and old family photographs to tell the tale of the barrier islands and the Skrmetta family's relationship with the islands.

"Hopefully my sons and my grandchildren will continue taking tourists to the islands," Skrmetta said.

Starting next spring, the video will be sold in the Ship Island Excursions gift shop at the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor.

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