Sailing the high seas, swashbuckling with a merry band of buccaneers who pillage and plunder for treasure: It resembles a scene from “Pirates of the Caribbean.” But tell Johnny Depp to stay home. You can lead the mutiny yourself aboard the Pieces of Eight pirate cruise ship.
A full-size 65-foot replica of a Spanish galleon, Pieces of Eight sets sail from Fort Myers Beach as often as four times daily — depending on demand — taking would-be buccaneers on a voyage back to the golden age of piracy. Crewed by a scurrilous cast of colorful characters, the voyage entertains with skits, skirmishes and stand-offs.
Novice swashbucklers should prepare to deal with blokes like William Bartolomeu Wick (Brandon Hiatt), known for his knife-tossing tricks. There’s Stocks McHopper (Mark Glenwood Weddle) who leads a revolt. Capt. Flaherty (Leo Fennell) is a determined leader who seems predestined to overcome the mutinous men — if his novice crew can help.
This is “not just a boat ride,” explained Matt Hanson, who owns of Pieces of Eight with his father, Darrell. “It’s a theatrical show that actually leaves the dock.”
Guaranteed fun for all ages, there is face painting, pirate tales and the salty spray from the Gulf of Mexico to enjoy as well.
Jennifer Tutino, of Naples, who recently moved from Illinois, said she thought the pirate ship would a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon with her family. But she never imagined starring in the mutiny, during which she walked the plank.
The pirates didn’t force her jump off the ship, though. Instead McHopper and Wick guarded her with weapons, as she dragged a wooden plank around by a rope illustrating the pirate tradition of walking the plank.
“I loved it,” said Tutino, “It was great … anything that gives the children a little history.”
Authenticity abounds aboard Pieces of Eight. Each crew member is immersed in character and dressed in period clothing. Gabriel Grimm (Stephen Sepulveda) dons a black-and-red bandanna and speaks with a British ruffian accent. Peg Leg Meg (Amanda Thompson) tends bar with a flamboyant attitude. And Fancy Face Phil (the boat’s captain, Phil Doller) wears a black tricorn hat. Flaherty, Wick and McHopper provide the lively pirate banter and songs.
During the 90-minute cruise, would-be sea dogs can explore the upper and lower decks or take a break inside the grand salon, where a full bar is stocked with snacks and beverages, which are a time warp: There are decidedly contemporary eats: candy bars, soft drinks and more. Pirate loot and souvenirs are sold as well.
Don’t expect this buccaneer crew to be devoid of ethics. Pirates aboard the Pieces of Eight abide by the same code of conduct that always ruled high seas.
“Pirates definitely had their own rules, own code … We try to work in some lessons and adhere to that code of conduct,” said Hanson.
To illustrate those lessons, the crew uses an oversized book, “The Golden Age of Piracy.” The colorful picture book compares pop culture pirates like Capt. Jack Sparrow to more notorious real-life pirates like Blackbeard and other pirates who sailed the west coast of Florida.
“We focus on useful instruction that gives a little bit of pirate history,” said Hanson. “It’s a mini summary of the golden age of piracy.”
Pieces of Eight has sailed from Salty Sam’s Marina, also owned by the Hansons, for the last four years. It was built to U.S. Coast Guard requirements and took 16 months to complete. The ship carries 130 passengers, and private charters are available.
The ship’s schedule is determined day to day, with as many as four cruises a day in season. There is a sunset cruise option on Tuesdays that tends to be more adult-oriented.
“Our crew is a colorful bunch,” said Hanson. “They really get into their characters.”
If you go
What: Pieces of Eight pirate cruise
Where: Salty Sam’s Marina, 2500 Main St., Fort Myers Beach
Tickets: $25, 14 and older; $20, younger than 14; fee, younger than 1 year
Contact: (239) 765-7272
Attend the Fort Myers Beach Pirate Festival
When: Oct. 7, 8, & 9, with a parade, a ship-to-shore battle, and other activities