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Ahoy matey! Join the pirate party
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Ahoy matey! Join the pirate party

  • Updated

Aarrrggghh! Thar be pirates on Lake Michigan this summer.

But these swashbucklers won't be pillaging or plundering. They'll offer a plum good time and plenty of fun and adventure during Mercury Chicago's Skyline Cruiseline's "Wacky Pirate Cruise."

The specialty-themed cruise, now in its second year, features a 60-minute ride on Chicago's Lake Michigan filled with games, an engaging skit and some humorous pirate talk, lore and even some history thrown in. (It also sails a small stretch of the Chicago River on its way to the lake).

Top that off with a view of the impressive Windy City skyline.

"Holly Agra (owner of Mercury Chicago's Skyline Cruiseline) does a great job at creating these specialty cruises," said Jason Garvett, a cruiseline captain.

Garvett, who manned the boat on a recent Friday "Wacky Pirate Cruise," wrote the script for the Lake Michigan pirate adventure starring likeable Buccaneer Bob.

Owner Agra is always looking for new and interesting cruises to add to the summer schedule of sailings. Among other themed cruises presented by Mercury are canine, ghost and architecture offerings.

"Last year's 'Wacky Pirate Cruise' was 90 minutes," Garvett said, adding they thought it best to shorten it to 60 minutes to keep young childrens' attention.

Throughout the cruise, families will not only engage in banter with Buccaneer Bob and first mate Jeremy Williams but they'll learn a bit about Chicago's architecture and other sites such as popular Navy Pier.

"We want the kids to have a good time but we also want them to walk away having learned something from it," said Garvett, adding the educational component is also key.

About a half-hour prior to the cruise, Buccaneer Bob leads dockside games allowing children to get into the swashbuckling spirit.

Once onboard the boat, kids recite the Wacky Pirate Oath, receive a bandana, are encouraged to take part in a pirate parade, learn to tie a knot and even get a certificate of survival after the adventurous sailing.

Garvett said the skit performed on the boat has a written script but the actors are free to be spontaneous.

Mike Rigolo, who portrays Buccaneer Bob, has a theater background and will often improvise, Garvett said.

"I tell the guys to have fun with it," said Garvett, also an actor and director.

On the recent cruise, Buccaneer Bob told the crowd he'd have them speaking like "old salts" in no time and also taught a bit of boating terminology and safety in sailing.

"We like to add in a bit about boating so it has another educational component to it," Garvett said.

The cruises usually draw about 100 people and are held at 10:30 a.m. Fridays and 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Saturdays, through Aug. 21.

In addition to the cruise, a new feature has been added this year. O'Brien's Riverwalk Cafe on the Chicago River has partnered with Mercury to offer a Lil' Pirate Menu. Children can eat half-price when accompanied by an adult who pays for a full-price meal. For information on the restaurant's special menu, call (312) 346-3131.

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