What: Party with the Captain
Where: Aboard the Treasure Seeker, off the St. Pete Pier
Must-Do? Says Who? Ray the Pirate; plunder 'n booty
Casualties: Free admission, thanks to Ray; $3 per beer; a price on our heads in Hispaniola
The biweekly "Party with the Captain" events aboard the Treasure Seeker are not booze cruises. Calling them that would precipitate all manner of bureaucratic debacles and international outcry; court-martials would be threatened, and planks would be walked.
No, "Party with the Captain" is merely a nighttime cruise.
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum is more than a catchy tune, after all. Ray and Tripp, the father-son duo who own the ship and man the wheel on all excursions, bring the pirate's creed to life.
The ship itself is a gaudy 65-foot, three-level affair, fire-engine red with a solid band of yellow paint to accentuate the midsection. The lower lounge has diner-style booths and DJ facilities, while the upper galley has a full bar complete with argyle swivel stools and a collapsible beer-pong table. The upper deck, which is not yet open to the public, features impressive artillery (multiple cannons with which to terrorize merchant vessels) and the obligatory Jolly Roger. Throughout the boat, expressive skeletons abound.
We've never seen the daytime family-oriented cruises on which children get pirate mustaches and pirate tattoos and cardboard pirate hats. We've only been privy to the more adult forms of make-believe that take place between 8 and 10 p.m. on the first and third Saturday of every month. Impromptu buccaneers who are of age and willing to pay $10 still receive tats and hats — but there is also rum involved, a great deal of it, and for those brave enough, a 4-foot beer bong.
Brian was brave enough, not that he had much choice in the matter; within five minutes of boarding the Treasure Seeker, Brian was surrounded by a cohort of Ole Miss college buddies, led by the indomitable Stewart (or, as he insisted we call him, "Stu-Bear") who persuaded Bri-Man (Stu-Bear chose the nickname) to funnel three beers into himself in under a minute.
Of course we were only scratching the surface of the Dionysian possibilities the Treasure Seeker presents to those with the proper sea legs. On a rare 3 a.m. cruise, a fellow passenger approached us with a friendly leer and launched into an addled explanation of his brain's current psychedelic landscape. He was the proud consumer of several mind-excoriating substances, including acid, ecstasy and magic mushrooms. "I can believe two of the three," Brian said under his breath as the fellow stumbled off to buttonhole Ray, to whom he referred over the course of the night as "Captain Jack Sparrow" while clutching at a rigging to maintain verticality.
"Dreams come true" is a mantra we trust on that ship more so than we're inclined to at, say, Chuck E. Cheese's or (God knows) Disney World. The boat has hosted bachelor & bachelorette parties, Gasparilla pre-games, family reunions and once a druid wedding performed by a leprechaun with a dog as the ringbearer. No matter how strange the dream, the Treasure Seeker can make it happen.
When our friend Lyndsay half-jokingly expressed a desire to pilot the ship, Ray demonstrated the navigation system, the marine radio and the wheel. While others partied below, playing beer pong and flip-cup and watching Stu-Bear cavort à la Chris Farley in perilously tight red-striped pirate pants, Lyndsay steered us around the bay and, eventually, into port.
"So are there still pirates?" Lyndsay asked Ray as he docked the ship.
"Oh, sure there are," Ray said seriously. "A lot of people think they've all been rounded up, but there are still plenty of pirates around."
"So what do they do?"
"Same as they've always done — plunder helpless vessels, outrun the authorities, live free."