Swashbuckling from Annapolis to Old Town


Have you ever wondered what the life of a good pirate was like, or have you seen Pirates of the Caribbean a few too many times?  Perhaps you are simply looking for something different to do with your children. Why not consider an adventure on the high seas less than an hour away in lovely Annapolis Harbor or venture to the dock behind the Torpedo Factory at the end of Alexandrias own Cameron Street for a pirate adventure geared for small children? 

The Annapolis pirate adventure on the 38-foot Sea Gypsy targets children ages 3-9. The children are enthralled from the moment they walk up the wooden ramp to the sandbox area to have their faces painted, get tattooed and select a vest, bandanas and/or beads to wear on the water-outing.  The Sea Gypsy is staffed by enthusiastic young adults attired in the latest shabby chic swashbuckling wear. Families are greeted by the pirate-actors, and told about their adventure while the childrens faces are being painted. Kids are given pirate adventure names such as Harpoon Heather, Hurricane Henry, Barnacle Ben, Brave Bonnie and Sea Dog Sam.

After children and parents tromp up the Sea Gypsys gangway, they are fired up. They clamor aboard, where they are greeted by a sea shanty work songs sung on ships and the children receive a safety lesson about boats while they await cast-off.  Sturdy wooden railings and a wire mesh fence protect the little swashbucklers from going overboard on the treasure hunt. Full of excitement, the new pirates prepare to leave. But first.

Just when the Sea Gypsy is about to cast off, the captain announces that the children must first find the treasure map on board their pirate ship, because one of the Sea Gypsys crew lost it. As soon as the little treasure seekers find and decipher the hidden map, the pirate vessel heads off to hunt for treasure in the waters of Annapolis.

Once the treasure is found and the crew divides the spoils, the journey ends with a lively game of deck-limbo and a round of fruit punch pirate grog to quench the thirst of the weary treasure hunters. The young buccaneers disembark and reluctantly strip off their swashbuckling garb as some meander into the Chesapeake Pirate Adventure building while other parents gently steer their children directly to their vehicles.

One six-year-old, upon leaving the ship after the pirate adventure, said, It was a blast. I loved it shooting off the water cannons to defend the ship the best. I want to go back. 

His three-year-old brother said that he liked finding the treasure chest the best, but added that he cannot tell you where the treasure is. You have to find it yourself with the map.  Their mother exclaimed that it was good family fun, but her son and his three year old friend were very concerned and perhaps even afraid of the pirates.

The Pirate Adventures building offers a birthday party area and a well-stocked gift shop with everything from postcards, drinks, pirate kitsch, eye patches, and t-shirts on the lower end of the price range to games, treasure chests and more elaborate pirate gifts which cost as much as $85. The Chesapeake Pirate Adventure is a good family outing and a nice way to see Annapolis from the water.

Closer to home, Alexandrias Admiral Tilp is transformed into a pirate cruise on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and noon each day from May through August. Not nearly as intense as the Annapolis Sea Gypsy pirate cruise The Admiral Tilps pirate cruise is perfect for families with smaller children. The ship leaves on its 45-minute cruise from the docks behind the Torpedo Factory in Old Town. Young pirates receive a pirate goody bag and a cardboard pirate hat from the swashbuckling captain. The pirate captain makes the Potomac journey fun for little ones by telling pirate jokes and showing the children how to tie fancy knots with the string in their loot bags. He also gives fun, little-known facts about Alexandria.

Eight-year-old Stephen Alexander of Alexandria said that he enjoyed his pirate trip on the Admiral Tilp. He especially liked learning about the knots and the Alexandria historical information. The sophisticated eight-year-old said that he thought the pirate part might be better for younger kids. 

Regardless of which high seas or river pirate adventure your family selects, the happy faces of those disembarking in Annapolis and Alexandria suggest that their time on the water was good family fun.