Ahoy Mates! Sailing with Pirate Adventures

 by Valancy

In search of adventure to entertain and delight a pair of four-year-old boys, we recently set sail with a band of pirates on the stormy seas. Okay, they were only pretend pirates. And, it wasn’t the sea, it was the Rideau Canal. But it was stormy before our trip was over, and it was an adventure that did entertain boys and girls young and old.

Pirate Adventures offers passengers a chance to immerse themselves in an imaginary pirate adventure, with a theatrical and interactive ride along the Rideau Canal aboard the vessel the Grey Ghost. My four-year-old son gets a kick out of all things pirate-related, so we thought this might be quite a treat for him to experience with his friend and little sister. The boys were very excited about the trip, and it was hard for them to wait all day until our 4 o’clock departure.

When we arrived, however, my reserved and often-shy little guy wasn’t so sure about the small crowd of about 40 passengers and the energetic pirate crew. He hid behind my legs, scowling and wanting nothing to do with the pirate costumes provided, the face painting, or the pirate name tags. The rest of our little troupe was undaunted and cheerfully donned vests, belts, and bandannas and submitted to some creative face painting. Little kids running around with painted-on beards and moustaches was an adorable sight to see. We couldn’t let our reluctant pirate off without a name-tag at least, and suggested that “Angry Andrew” would be fitting. I was dubbed “Vicious Val” - argh, beware mateys!

On board the ship we met our crew and captain, and were entertained with stories about their pirate pasts. The little pirates on board were all invited to gather at the front of the boat to listen to the stories and take part in the action, while we older, er, more seasoned pirates settled ourselves on benches. Angry Andrew stayed sitting with me, watching the performers and the passing scenery with interest, but still refusing to crack a smile. At least our two-year-old daughter, “Eagle-eye Ella”, was having a good time, fascinated with being on a boat and somewhat mystified by the theatrics of the pirate crew.

Just when I was starting to wonder whether Angry Andrew would have any fun at all on this trip, dastardly Pirate Pete arrived to save the day. After Pirate Pete shot at us with a water gun from his dinghy, the Captain announced it was time to man the cannons! Angry Andrew laughed with glee watching Pirate Pete get pelted with water from cannons fired by other kids on the boat, then eagerly rushed to have his turn on the starboard side. The captain and crew made sure that every little pirate on board had a chance to fire a cannon at Pirate Pete before he was finally vanquished, falling ever so melodramatically backward into the water. 

From that point on, even Angry Andrew thoroughly enjoyed the show and the rest of the trip. Before we returned to dock there were songs, sword-fights, and treasure found and divvied up. While it had been hot and sunny when we set out, it clouded over and we were cooled with a bit of rain before a looming thunderstorm forced our captain to cut our voyage a little short from the standard 75-minute trip. I can’t complain about missing a bit of time on the boat, however, since for our younger group, I think that the slightly shorter ride was just right.  As we disembarked and returned our costumes to the crew, everyone was smiling, and the kids were excitedly showing each other the loot that they’d chosen from the treasure chest.

While Pirate Adventures is definitely not cheap ($10 for kids 2 and under, $18 for everyone else), it is a fun special outing worth doing at least once. Kids slightly older than ours would probably enjoy the adventure the most, as they would be more able to really listen to the pirate tales and get immersed in the imaginary world. But with the mix of story-telling, jokes, action and slapstick there is definitely something to entertain would-be-pirates of any age. The crew on shore and on the ship were all friendly and full of enthusiasm. They did a great job hamming up the pirate “arrghs” and making sure all of the little pirates on board had a good time.

And us big pirates got a kick out of the experience too. Who doesn’t want to dress up like a pirate and shout “arrrrrgh!” at least once in their lifetime?

For more information, visit www.PirateAdventures.ca. The ship sails several times daily, Tuesday through Sunday, and reservations are strongly recommended.

Valancy Reynolds is an Ottawa mom of two - soon to be three - little ones. She journals about day-to-day life with her family, motherhood, and her crafting exploits on her blog, The Daily Meow .