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Walk the plank to fun

Fun sets sail on Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise, a two-hour treat packed with games and sights.

Published August 25, 2006

Here, the breezes are balmy, the views, breathtaking and the entertainment is rated "Arrrr!" for family fun.

It's Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise, a two-hour journey along Clearwater Beach and out into the Gulf of Mexico - weather permitting.

Be warned: On this cruise, you will encounter playful pirates, water gun fights, and grandmothers doing the Chicken Dance.

It's the type of multigenerational entertainment that brings people like John Showalter, 32, back again, year after year.

On a recent sunset cruise, Showalter was with his parents, his wife and their children, all from Pennsylvania. They wore paper pirate hats while crew members with names like Jolly James, Midnight Morgan and Bildgewater Bill painted scars and black mustaches on their faces.

"I used to come on these pirate cruises with my parents when I was between 5 and 13, and I loved it," Showalter said. "It's something I wanted my children to be able to enjoy."

Captain Memo's began almost 30 years ago, when Pam and Bill Wozencraft sailed to Florida from California in a 30-foot sailboat via the Panama Canal.

They arrived with $50 in their pockets, only to find a job offer had fallen through. So, they painted their sailboat black, dyed the sails brown and launched the commercial operation.

The Pirate's Ransom is their third pirate ship. It was built in 1993 to resemble an old Spanish galleon. The 70-foot-long vessel has three decks and carries up to 125 passengers.

Upon boarding, guests have their picture taken with the captain, then head to the inside of the ship for some complimentary soft drinks, beer, or wine. Sunset cruises include free champagne. There is a cash bar for those who prefer mixed drinks.

Honeymooners like Jesse and Laura LaFreniere of Minnesota sat atop the poop deck and watched for dolphins.

They spotted a few, just as the sun was setting.

That prompted Captain Gangplank Gary to offer a nonrefundable, cash-only, swim-with-the-dolphins special.

No one jumped.

During the cruise, the pirates entertained wide-eyed children with pranks, treasure hunts, dancing and pirate stories.

Chris Dagnall, of Wirral, England, was selected to play Peg Leg Pete - the part entails wearing pantaloons and being squirted by a bunch of pint-sized pirates.

"It was my first acting job," he said afterward. "It's good fun, very enjoyable."

[Last modified August 25, 2006, 06:51:02]

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