“Find me that map!” yells a long-haired pirate with tattoos, black rings in his ears, and sparkly Elton John glasses. His real name is Ben Piper, and he’s a 19-year-old from Brick, but when he steps on the Sea Gypsy II, a pirate adventure boat run by Jersey Shore Pirates, he transforms into Kraken, one of the loudest pirates to sail the Metedeconk River. Kraken explains to the children onboard that a rolled-up map will look something like a burrito. That’s what they should be looking for. The kids scurry around the deck searching for the burrito-shaped map.
Jersey Shore Pirates is one of several pirate excursions that ply Jersey Shore waterways, entertaining children on one-hour cruises. The kids, typically ages 3–13, come in pirate garb or buy the boat’s eye patches and scarves to play out a pirate fantasy. (During the pandemic, people are asked to bring their own costumes.)
On this summer afternoon, the Jersey Shore Pirates boat cruises around for a little while before a bottle is spotted in the water. It contains a secret message: “1-2-3-4, I declare a pirate war!” The plot thickens.
Suddenly, we are off to find a treasure chest, in a place called Skull Lagoon. But what will we do when we find it if we don’t have the key? Kraken declares that another pirate onboard has stolen the key. He tells the kids to shout, “Give us the keys!”
The accused, Pirate Pete, takes a running leap and jumps into the water. The kids head to the water cannons at the rear of the boat and blast away at Pete to get the key. It eventually turns up on one of the kids on the boat.
We soon locate the “X” on the map, where the treasure lies. The “X” is floating in the water. The pirates pull it up, with a “Heave. Ho. Heave. Ho.” And up comes a treasure chest.
“Look how all the grown-ups woke up from their naps when they heard ‘treasure,’” says Captain Scurvy, who is at the helm.
The chest is opened, and it’s filled with trinkets: little plastic crabs and fish and lobsters and coins.
“This is the best day ever,” says Kraken. “We don’t ever find treasure. Except for seven times a day.”
A few bits of treasure are left behind on the deck as Kraken closes the chest. That sets off a scramble for the treasures. Kraken then pulls a buoy out of the water. It reads: “Beware.” Attached to the buoy is a burlap bag containing a bottle labeled “Pete’s Grog.”
“It’s a lot better when you chug it,” says Kraken. He pours everyone a cup.
“Let’s have a chugging contest!” says a boy with an eye patch and scarf around is head, a map tucked into his vest, and grog dripping from his chin. “It tastes like lemonade, but spicy!”
We return to the dock, and the kids are already telling fish stories about their adventure. “Blasting Pirate Pete,” says a boy from Sayreville. “That was my favorite part.”
Judging by the smiles and the screams, that seems to be everyone’s highlight.
Several other pirate tours are offered at the Jersey Shore. Most offer birthday-party packages and private charters. All are operating in 2020 with social-distancing guidelines. Locations and contact info:
- Jersey Shore Pirates, Pier 281 Marina, 281 Princeton Ave., Brick; 732-899-6100; [email protected]. Tickets: $25; under 3, $12. Book by phone or online. Must sign waiver. Covid rules: Limited capacity; no face painting or dress-up; masks required if within six feet of someone outside of own household.
- Black Pearl Pirates, 100 Northwest Ave., Beach Haven; 609-978-5591; [email protected]. All ages: $23. Covid rules: Limited capacity; no face painting or tattoos; masks required if unable to keep a six-foot distance from others. Children can bring their own costumes. Sunset cruises also available.
- Pirate Voyages, 232 Bay Ave., Ocean City; 609-398-7555. Call for information.
- Pirates on the Manasquan, 1600 Route 70, Brick; 732-233-7333. Closed for 2020 season.