The Clearwater Marina-based Pirate's Ransom plies Florida's Gulf Coast as Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise.

The Pirate's Ransom stands out among all the boats moored at Florida's Clearwater Marina. Painted candy-apple red with jet-black trim--with a cartoonishly high poop deck, boldly striped sails, and a basket-like crow's nest--the triple-decker hardly even needs to fly a skull-and-crossbones flag to make its piratical presence known.

Families venturing aboard the 70-foot vessel soon err (make that aaarrr) toward the swashbuckling attitudes of crewmates with such scurvy names as Capt. Typhoon Tom, Capt. Dastardly Dan, and Adventuress Annabell. During the two playful hours of Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise, everyone snarls along.

The flamboyant ship barely clears Clearwater Harbor before paper pirate hats or skull-print bandannas top every head. Face paint converts even the peachiest cheeks and chins into scrolling mustaches, fanciful goatees, and scruffy sideburns. By the time the voyage reaches the open Gulf, a full-throttle deck party is in progress.

A sea chest full of blunderbuss-style water pistols emerges, pitting kids against parents in a soak 'em fest that gets everyone laughing. Plastic cutlasses provide props for rollicking sword fights. News that some doubloons are missing starts a frantic finders-keepers treasure hunt.

Lilting tunes, plus tambourines for everyone, inspire a limbo dance and a rhythmic promenade around a bank of musical chairs. The rowdy situation finally calms when a pantalooned pirate lass, sitting cross-legged on the breezy deck, tells tales of high-seas adventure, pirate cunning, and ghostly mystery. 

Stern-jawed Captain Memo, also known as boat owner Bill Wozencraft, grips the wooden helm and scans the watery horizon from the highest deck. He interrupts the action below only to point out breaching dolphins or to give the order to fire the brass deck cannon at some imaginary foe.

The boldly detailed 125-passenger ship offers a variety of other outings, from children's birthday parties to senior citizen groups to romantic sunset affairs featuring champagne toasts. It even caters weddings (imagine the plank-walking consequences if either party says "no") and business gatherings (popular among corporate raiders plotting hostile takeovers).

Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise is a shiver-me-timbers hoot for anyone ready and willing to act out a bit of a nautical fantasy. Work on your squinty-faced snarl and your most guttural aaarrr, and then sign on for a short stint as a bona fide buccaneer.

Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise: Clearwater Marina, Clearwater Beach, FL 33767; (727) 446-2587 or
Prices: $28 adults, $22 ages 13-17 and seniors, $18 ages 3-12 for the two-hour daytime cruises, including drinks.
Sailings: 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 7 p.m. daily, with departure times varying per weather conditions.
Reservations suggested: Call with dates in mind.

This article is from the September 2001 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.

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