She carried eight guns, and was well stocked with food and ammunition.
With Gaspar were about forty men, all decided on a piratical career.
These included a number of well-educated and trained naval graduates,
as well as rough and ready enlisted men.
The first land sighted was the Florida east coast. Skirting the
shore, the ship followed the long line of the keys stretching from
Biscayne Bay to Key West. Then rounding the westernmost Marquosas,
the ship proceeded northward past Cape Sablo, Ponce de Leon Bay, Ten
Thousand Islands, Cape Romano, and Caxambas to the entrance of
Protecting this harbor were four small islands, Cayo Costa,
Captive, Sanibel, and Gasparilla. Probably because of the similarity of
the name of the last island, which appeared as early as 1774 on a map by
Bernard Romans, to that of his own, Gaspar changed his name to the
more romantic, Gasparilla, and also renamed the Florida Blanca, the
Gasparilla. Others of the expedition likewise changed their names,
desiring to hide their identity completely.
After a reconnoitering cruise of the region, Gasparilla Island was
chosen as headquarters. In a short ceremony dedicating the islands to
piracy, Gasparilla gave each man the choice of staying with him, or of
being put ashore on the mainland, and allowed to go his way. Every man
swore allegiance to Gasparilla as their leader. His friend, Roderigo
Lopez, was made first lieutenant.