EX­PLORER

Find ad­ven­ture aboard Pieces of Eight

Gulf & Main - - Contents - Arrr!! Cruis­ing with Flor­ida’s Pi­rates

It’s like liv­ing out your own real-life Pi­rates of the Caribbean fan­tasy, ex­cept you don’t even have to leave South­west Flor­ida to set sail on an un­for­get­table jour­ney of his­tory, sus­pense and ad­ven­ture. Since 1999, Salty Sam’s Wa­ter­front Ad­ven­tures has of­fered its fa­mous Pi­rate Cruise, set­ting sail from Salty Sam’s Ma­rina on Fort My­ers Beach. These days, the Pi­rate Cruise is hosted on board a ship aptly named Pieces of Eight, a ref­er­ence to Span­ish cur­rency that was once highly sought af­ter (and for good rea­son!).

“Pi­rates plun­dered many Span­ish galleons in search of pieces of eight,” ex­plains David Kas­tan of Salty Sam’s. “Just a hand­ful would have been worth a small for­tune to any pi­rate!”

When you step on board Pieces of Eight, you’ll find more than trea­sure. You’ll ex­pe­ri­ence a world where pi­rates make the rules, and if you break them, you’ll walk the plank!

Built in 2005, Pieces of Eight is a replica Span­ish galleon, mea­sur­ing 65 feet long and 25 feet wide, weigh­ing 79 tons, and pow­ered by twin diesel en­gines. The ship is big enough to fit 100 hearty pi­rates.

Dur­ing each 90-minute cruise, pas­sen­gers can in­ter­act with the pi­rate crew, ex­plore the up­per and lower decks of the ship and par­take of snacks and bev­er­ages. The fam­ily cruise of­fers face paint­ing, dancing, limbo and pi­rate games.

Each cruise is also a les­son about South­west Flor­ida’s rich his­tory

When you step on board Pieces of Eight, you’ll find more than trea­sure. You’ll ex­pe­ri­ence a world where pi­rates make the rules, and if you break them, you’ll walk the plank!

and strong con­nec­tion to pi­rates, the ban­dits of the sea. “Two of the most fa­mous pi­rates in South­west Flor­ida were Henri Cae­sar, known as, ‘Black Cae­sar,’ and Jose Gas­par, known as ‘Gas­par­illa,’” says Kas­tan, adding that Cap­tiva Is­land is so named be­cause Gas­par is said to have held fe­male cap­tives for ran­som there.

“South­west Flor­ida was a stag­ing area for Span­ish ships, filled with un­told quan­ti­ties of gold, jew­els, ex­otic woods, spices and to­bacco,” ex­plains Kas­tan. “They were ul­ti­mately bound for Spain. The sto­ries of wealth be­ing plun­dered from the Amer­i­cas and Caribbean at­tracted the in­ter­est of brig­ands, with dreams of their own wealth.”

That love of trea­sure is re­flected in the nick­names of the

Pieces of Eight pi­rates, such as “Pick­pocket Pete,” who to­gether with his ship­mates cre­ates an at­mos­phere of fun, ex­cite­ment and in­clu­sion aboard the pi­rate ship, mak­ing sure pi­rates of all ages en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Prices for the 90-minute cruises are $29.95 for adults and $24.95 for kids. Salty Sam’s also of­fers adults-only cruises and pri­vate char­ters aboard Pieces of Eight. When it comes to pay­ing your way, mod­ern payments are pre­ferred. “We ac­cept cash or credit, but not your chil­dren!” says Kas­tan. Nick Ciletti is a con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia. He spent three years in South­west Flor­ida and now lives in Phoenix, Ari­zona.

Face paint, hats and trea­sure chests are all part of the fun on Salty Sam’s Pi­rate Cruises aboard Pieces of Eight (be­low), a 65-foot Span­ish galleon replica.

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