TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Gasparilla Pirate Invasion is just nine days away, and an estimated 1,300 boats, ships and yachts of all sizes are expected to join the flotilla.

“We do anticipate a large number of vessels on the water, which means heavy traffic, and a potential for dangerous situations,” said Lt. Commander Eunice James, Chief of the Waterways Management Division with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The agency will be out in full force on Saturday, Jan. 28, working with other law enforcement agencies to keep boaters safe. James says they’ll be enforcing safety zones and looking for illegal charters.

“Your captain should be able to produce a merchant mariner credential. If your Captain can’t produce a merchant mariner credential, the Coast Guard recommends that you don’t get on the boat,” said Brian Knapp, Chief of the Investigations Division with the U.S. Coast Guard. “You wouldn’t want to get on an aircraft without a licensed airplane pilot, it’s the same thing with water.”

“We’re gonna be looking out people that are being unsafe, not adhering to the distance parameters,” James added. “Mariners are advised to stay at least 50 feet away from the vessels participating in the boat parade. Additionally, un-motorized vessels, jet skis, and vessels less than 10 feet in length are prohibited from participating.

Any charters operating illegally will be shut down and the operators could face civil penalties.

You can watch our coverage of the pirate invasion and parade online and on air. Coverage of the invasion will begin on WFLA Now at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28. The Parade of Pirates will be broadcast on News Channel 8 at 2:30 p.m.