- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2006

So you’ve seen both “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, read “Treasure Island” and “Peter Pan,” and now, fascinated by the freedom and adventure of some 17th- and 18th-century counterculture heroes, you want to hunt for treasure, sail a ship and wear an eye patch. Simply put, you want to be a pirate for a day.

First off, you’re not alone. Second, there are places that will cater to your wishes. Take the Annapolis-based Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake, run by pirate Capts. Ruby and Crabby, aka Emily Tomasini and her husband, Michael Tomasini.

Capts. Crabby and Ruby invite 30-plus children and adults to board the Sea Gypsy — a vessel outfitted like a pirate ship with water cannons — several times a day for a 75-minute pirate adventure for a fee.

Before departing, children — and the occasional adult — can get face-painted and learn some pirate-sailor vernacular: “Ahoy,” “mate,” and the ubiquitous “aaaaargh.” On-loan vests and sashes are available for dress-up, and each child receives a name tag with his or her name and pirate moniker, such as Eagle Eye Eric and Lookout Luke.

Once aboard, the captain (on a recent morning it was Capt. Crabby) talks about the soon-to-start quest for a treasure chest as he navigates a narrow passage into the Severn River, where actual pirates once sailed. The children, along with a crew member (the Tomasinis employee 15 young pirates), then proceed to search for the chest by using a treasure map. Along the way, a message in a bottle arrives, giving the crew and minipirates more clues about the location of the treasure.

But not so quick. Turns out another shady character — Pirate Pete — has laid claim to the treasure chest and has a key to it. So the Sea Gypsy makes a sharp starboard turn to find Pirate Pete. He is found in a little rowboat and puts up a good fight, but he has to lay down “arms” against the Sea Gypsy’s little attackers and their mighty water cannons.

The Sea Gypsy and its pirates now have the key for the buried treasure chest. Note: Historians say this scenario is inaccurate, because pirates never buried their treasure — they always spent everything as quickly as they could. However, that wouldn’t work as well for the story line for Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake.

The rest of the journey is about retrieving the treasure chest, which has been sunk to the bottom of the river; sharing the goods (plastic gold coins and such); and celebrating with grog, which back in the day was a drink of rum diluted with water. For today’s small pirates, it’s a sweet red soda.

Over the years — the Tomasinis started hosting pirate adventures four years ago, and many weeks during their April-through-October season are 100 percent booked — the story line has been tweaked, and each trip is unique as the paid pirate crew puts its own twist on things, Ms. Tomasini says. The children also have a say in what happens.

“The kids get really excited. The crew is really into it. They play off each other, and it’s just great to see,” Ms. Tomasini says. “I think I have done about 2,000 cruises over the years, and I still get totally swept up in the kids’ fascination with pirates and in their own hunt for treasure. … Each trip is unique.”


• Walking the plank. Pirates had other ways of killing enemies. They preferred capturing treasure without any bloodshed, though, and intimidation often was enough.

• Buried treasure. Pirates spent the treasure as quickly as possible, preferably on drinking and women. They didn’t want to bring money back onboard because that could lead to gambling, which could lead to fighting.


• Eye patch, peg leg. Pirates and common sailors alike worked under extremely harsh conditions, and there were many crippled sailors in every port town around the globe.

• Parrots and other exotic animals. Pirates and other seafarers often brought back parrots, monkeys and other exotic animals to show the rest of the world they had traveledto exotic lands.

• Jolly Roger. Pirates flew the skull-and-crossbones flag. One meaning, “surrender or die,” is widely known, but it had another meaning, too. It showed the irreverent nature of pirates. After all, they lived under the sign of King Death.

Source: Marcus Rediker, professor of history, University of Pittsburgh; author of “Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age,” among other books.

Location: Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake, 311 Third St., Annapolis.

Directions: From the Beltway, take U.S. Route 50 east toward Annapolis. Take Exit 24, Rowe Boulevard, and bear right at the bottom of the ramp. At the fourth traffic light, turn right onto Church Circle and follow the circle around to exit onto Duke of Gloucester Street. After less than a mile, make a right onto Compromise Street. Stay straight as Compromise Street turns into Sixth Street. Make a left onto Severn Avenue. Make another quick left onto Third Street. The Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake “headquarters” is on the right.

Hours: Pirate cruises take place at 9:30 and 11 a.m. and 12:30, 2, 3:30 and 5 p.m. daily through Oct. 29.

Parking: Free parking.

Admission: $17 per person age 3 and older; $8.50 for children younger than 3.


• The 75-minute cruises are recommended for children age 3 and older. Make reservations a week or two ahead of time and arrive 30 minutes before sailing time to register and transform into a pirate. For those who wish, there are free face-painting and dress-up opportunities before departing on the Sea Gypsy.

• The pirate headquarters has light snacks, including ice cream, and various pirate toys and paraphernalia. It also is where birthday parties are held. For more substantial fare, several restaurants and cafes are in the area.

Information: 410/263-0002 or www.chesapeake pirates.com.

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