Welcome to Part Three of my “Weather’s Better in the Bahamas” series, the purpose of which is to keep me and my readers (you) firmly ensconced in the denial of the winter season that is actually happening right now. Catch Part One here and Part Two here, by the way.
Where did I leave off? Oh yes, PIRATES.
The older boy and I were in the Bahamas for a Boy Scout High Adventure trip; these trips are always great. In our troop, you have to be at least fourteen years old and have attained the First Class rank in order to participate, and the trips are the biggest “carrots” they dangle in front of the boys. In other words, many of the boys choose to stay involved with scouting because they are motivated by the chance to go on these trips. (Bribery? Maybe a little bit.) The four high adventure trips taken by the older boy are his favorite scouting memories.
Our Bahamas trip was a crazy kind of fun. (I’m only summarizing one aspect of it in this post; otherwise I’d be writing for weeks!) We traveled down there with two crews from our troop, each having eight boys and three adults. (And might I add that I coordinated the trip, and no I DON’T recommend volunteering to coordinate an international trip for twenty-two people?) We arrived in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas and were driven to the starting point of our week, a briefing room in which the reps from the Boy Scouts reviewed important information with us before sending us off with the captains that would lead us for the week on their boats.
As luck would have it, our crew got Captain Del, a man best described upon first impression as a Salty Dog. He was a little intimidating as he growled (in his British accent) for our “Red Crew” to follow him down the dock to the boat, which would be our home for the duration of the trip. Our vessel was called Pecheur de Etoiles, Fisherman of the Stars.
Upon boarding, Captain Del (and his first mate, wife Emsy) had us all gather around in a circle on deck so he could tell us about our upcoming week. We were surprised (and amused) that he growled that he would have no “bitchin’ and complainin'”, and that he, as the Captain, was always right. The Captain’s word was LAW. We all had jobs to do each day, and it was to be a week of learning: how to sail, how to live at sea, how to work as a team…
And, oh yeah, the Pecheur is a Pirate ship.
With that declaration, our week suddenly became magical. We did learn so much of the stuff you would expect to learn while at sea for five days, but the pirate stuff was unique, way cool, and probably not available on any of the other boats down there. You see, Captain Del is a pirate expert (and an extra in two of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, as a matter of fact!) and he was eager to share what he knows with us, his new crew. (He is also–shhh, don’t tell–a softie, as we learned that week when he gradually let his real self shine through the gruff persona he put on in the beginning.)
We learned a song that would be our rallying cry that week:
“We are a pirate crew
The scourge of the seven seas
If you see us coming
You’d better let us be
Cause far and wide
You’ll hear our cry…
Of course, there was plank-walking when rules were broken. There were many reasons you’d be forced to walk the plank, but the biggest offense was whistling. As I recall, whistling invites storms in pirate lore. Therefore, anyone who whistled was immediately brought to the plank. Fortunately for us, we had a boy in our crew who whistled CONSTANTLY, so he made many trips off the plank.
The older boy once took the blame for leaving the bathroom (“the head”) light on because nobody else would own up to it. He hadn’t yet walked the plank, and it was a hot day, so…
On our last full day, Captain and Emsy announced that it was Pirate Day. We were instructed to speak like pirates all day, and to think about a pirate character we wanted to create, as there would be costumes later in the evening.
After breakfast, Captain Del and one of the dads on the trip dressed up like pirates (sort of) and snuck out the back, jumping into the little motor boat and ambushing the boys with a water balloon attack. It was great fun, and a fabulous way to start our day.
We spent part of the day off the boat in Great Guana Cay. Some of the boys spoke like pirates as instructed, and some didn’t. The older boy chose to be a mute pirate, but that’s another story.
We went through a huge box of costume elements when we returned to the Pecheur and got dressed up in character. Here are our hosts on Pirate Day:
For dinner, we enjoyed salmagundi and had to eat it with a knife, because that’s what pirates did.
After dinner, Emsy snuck below deck and changed her clothes. When she returned, she was in character as a cabin boy, and gave the kids a talk on what her job was on the ship. It was fascinating, and the boys were wide-eyed and focused on her story for the duration. (These two people obviously love what they do; watching them in action is something I’ll never forget.) After Emsy was done with her cabin boy lesson, we had an “American Idol-style” competition for all the boys. The two dads that came on the trip and I were the judges, and the boys had to take turns telling us what pirate character they created and why they should win the contest.
After the contest, we had to stage a mock court, because Captain Del found one of the ship’s teacups broken. In the end, everyone on board was “found guilty” of something and we ALL had to walk the plank. The sight and sounds of everyone, Captain included, in the water laughing and shouting was such a great way to end our trip. Only Sunny was left on board, barking her head off at all of us to come back up.
We climbed the rope ladder to get back on board, dried off, and finished our day like we always did, with “roses and thorns“, and a sing-a-long.
That last night, our Captain gave the boys a really nice talk. He summarized the week, and commended them for their teamwork. He reviewed everything that we learned (it was a lot!), and expressed how wonderful it was to make our acquaintance. Then he quietly spoke about how this week, it was as if they went to “Never Never Land”, and he warned that those at home might not even believe many of the things we did. This week was magical, pure magic, he said, and it was something that he hoped we would remember forever. I found myself teary-eyed; he was totally right. Here were eight boys aged between fourteen and sixteen, who acted in goofy ways, sang silly songs, and dressed up like pirates without worrying about what anyone else thought at the time. Their activities were things they probably “wouldn’t be caught dead” doing at home, yet this week they completely opened up and forgot about any kind of typical teenage status concerns. It really was magical, and at that moment, we could all feel the impact of being a part of something so special.
Press play. Don’t worry, there’s no picture. It was dark when I filmed it, and really, the boys would probably appreciate it this way more.
©2010 Suburban Scrawl