- Words by Jeff Hiltz photos by Cindy Hiltz

When I was 19 years old, thirty some odd years ago, I was camping with my girlfriend when another camper who had had too much to drink, came over and caused an altercatio­n where I received a sucker punch, which cut and blinded me in my left eye. I have worn an eye patch ever since, and that started my career as a pirate!

Throughout the years everyone always called me “Patch” or “the Pirate”. Once I got the off-road bug, everyone who called me “the Pirate” also called my Jeep “The Pirate Ship”. It is a nicely built 2003 TJ running a locked Scout

d44 front with 5:13s, RCV shafts, rear XJ d44 also locked with AlloyUSA shafts, Rock Krawler X-Factor long arms with coilovers, and a d300/231 doubler on 37” tires for a crawl ratio of 155:1.

In 2007 I started a Facebook group creating one of the first Jeep and Off-Road groups. It was just a group for my YouTube channel named Pirate Jeep Production­s, where I invited people to share wheeling pics, videos, and funnies.

Fast-forward to 2014, when a few members of the group suggested we start an off-road club. Pirate Jeep Production­s didn’t seem like a good name for a club, so we ran a few names around and I came up with the Pirate Off-Road Nation. We all got a kick out of it when we realized

the acronym was P.O.R.N.

Soon members said that we needed decals, so my wife Cindy (girlfriend at the time) suggested we invest in a plotter to make our own decals. When members started asking for shirts, we discovered that we could get a heat press, and cut heat pressed vinyl in our plotter - then hoodies, then hats, and the Nation took off.

Before long, Cindy had to leave her job as a paralegal to queen the Pirate Off-Road Nation. I always say that it was meant to be. I had left work a few years previous to care for my 83-year-old mother who became bedridden due to MS. Not having the heart to move her into a nursing home, I left work to provide her with full time care. Times were tight.

We decided that we should offer a nice membership card with membership purchase, and that I should work on getting offroad shops and off-road related businesses to become sponsors. They would offer our members discounts in exchange for promotion and advertisin­g in our Facebook group.

Here we are celebratin­g our 4th “Armada”, with over 3600 paid members around the globe, chapters in every province across Canada and several in the States. We look forward to our Australian friends starting our newest chapter ‘down under’ this fall! All from a very small rural town called Springhill, Nova Scotia. As someone once said “Nova Scotia Owned, Internatio­nally Loved.”

As Captain of the Pirate OffRoad Nation I am very proud to promote our Nation as a safe and responsibl­e off-road organizati­on. We promote the Tread Lightly principles; anyone who thinks that they can drink alcohol or do illicit drugs on the trail WILL be forced to walk the plank, as we have zero tolerance toward any illegal behaviour. That includes staying out of our waterways and promoting our sport in a positive light.

The proudest moment of my off-road career occurred when I received a call from Environmen­t Canada and the Department of Natural Resources. They had been following our open-to-the-public Facebook group and told me that the Pirate Off-Road Nation and its members are pioneers in the sport, promoting safe and responsibl­e off-roading in Canada!

That, my friends is a brief history of the Pirate Off-Road Nation. When I’m not at the helm of the Nation, you can find me walking the waterfront of Halifax, where I also work as a Pirate re-enactor with the Pirates of Halifax (Pirates for Hire). We are hired for festivals, corporate events, parties and we just finished up touring all the last summer with Rendezvous ‘17, the Tall Ships Festival, which brought us from port to port throughout the Maritimes, including Charlottet­own, Miramichi, Digby, St. John, and Sydney in Cape Breton.

It’s a pirate’s life for me! #peacelovea­ndpiracy #pirateoffr­oadnation

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