Louis Skrmetta's family has sailed a passenger boat to Ship Island since 1926. Back then Captain Pete Skrmetta navigated the vessel. "I think he would be very pleased," his grandson Louis Skrmetta said. "My grandfather was quite an entrepreneur. He did this as a part-time job."
Today, Louis Skrmetta is the family's entrepreneur. Ship Island Excursions is his full-time job.
Skrmetta has come up with a plan to build a new ticket office and boarding area in the Gulfport harbor. He said it would look a lot like turn of the century Gulfport, "like the old Gulfport train station. We wanted to get that kind of a feel with the architecture."
The new building would be across the street from the trailer that's been the ferry boat's home the last 20 years. It would eat up a portion of the land that customers use for parking. According to Skrmetta, "It's the highest and best use of that property."
The Skrmettas have access to a $496,000 federal grant that will help them pay for the new facility. They need the city's permission to build on this land. And they could use $100,000 in city matching funds. If the city can't come up with the money, Skrmetta said the family will.
"I'm looking at 10 years, 20 years down the line," he said. "When this grant opportunity came up, we approached the city, and they felt it was a reasonable plan. And they backed us up. And so far, so good."
If the Skrmettas get the go ahead, the Gulf Islander will pull up to a new boarding complex either late next year, or in 2005.