Ahoy, my hearties and all you landlubbers: you may have heard it carried on the wind from the Barbary Coast to the Waitemata and Manukau harbours that September is the month to look lively and hoist the sails for an international pirate-themed spot of merry-making!
Buccaneers and corsairs, cabin boys and girls, and privateers around the world this month celebrate International Talk Like A Pirate Day, which began in Oregon in 1995 when John Baur and Mark Summers, were havin' fun talkin' like pirates and declared a new national event: Talk Like A Pirate Day, to be marked annually on September 19.
For seven long and sometimes lonely years, Baur (Ol' Chumbucket) and Summers (Cap'n Slappy) were marooned with just a loyal shipmate or two joining their party. In 2002, internationally syndicated humourist Dave Barry wrote about their shenanigans and, like a cannon-shot echoing round the world, the event went global.
It's now celebratin' its first decade as an international occasion, so all hands on deck and get talkin' like a pirate. But, I hear you cry, September 19 is a Wednesday and this is the weekend. That's no need to abandon hope, though. Auckland has two harbours, meaning there's always nautical and piratical fun to be had, no matter what day of the week. Here are our top 10 suggestions:
1. Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum: You can celebrate all things piratical here on Sunday, September 23, with activities like balloon sword fights, searching for wandering pirates, creating your own pirate ship or hat and digging for treasure. But be warned, there's a plank for walkin' so you better be on your best pirate behaviour! Events from 10am-4pm and pieces of eight (a gold coin donation) are appreciated.
2. Sail the seven seas: Or the Waitemata, at least. If you like to ride the ocean waves, there'll be special sailings (Sunday, September 23) aboard the heritage vessel Ted Ashby, a ketch-rigged deck scow that once plied the waters north of Auckland and is now berthed at the maritime museum. Bookings are essential and it'll cost $12 for adults and $6 for children. The Ted Ashby sets sail at 10.30am, midday and 2pm. There are other chances to get out on the harbour, too. You could take a Fullers Ferry to one of Auckland's own treasure islands - Rangitoto or Waiheke, perhaps - or hop onboard a 360-degree Discovery Cruises boat and sail off to Coromandel or Tiritiri Matangi. Tiritiri, being a bird and wildlife sanctuary, might be particularly interesting, because pirates love their parrots.
3. Workshop on the wharf: There's much for pirates young and old to do at the Wynyard Quarter, including weekly free "Workshops on the Wharf" craft and activities for 4 to 12-year-olds. September brings three which are well suited to pirates: Tomorrow's is about sustainable coastlines; Sunday, 23 is pirate day itself and Sunday, 29 is a make 'n' play cork boat workshop. These take place rain or shine every Sunday from 11am-2pm. Just head to the Karanga Kiosk to find out where as locations vary from week to week.
4. Beachcombin': Beach weather must surely be approachin' so head to the beach for a spot of treasure-hunting/beachcombing. As you wander along, search for finds tossed up from the sea: rare shells, intriguing looking pieces of driftwood, seaweed, maybe even pieces of eight. While at the beach, you could think about how different it may have looked in the Golden Age of Pirates (the 1650s to the 1730s), build a sandcastle or two or grab a copy of Andrew Crowe's Nature Flip Guides: Seashells and see if you can find any of the 100 most common seashells listed. You could imagine you're marooned and think about what you could find to eat.
5. What lies beneath: Lookin' at the ocean waves may make you wonder what lurks in Davy Jones' locker. Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World (to be re-launched on Saturday, September 29 as Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium) is the place to head to. It's open now, but new attractions are on their way including the world's largest penguin colony display, the world's biggest species of stingray, New Zealand's largest collection of sharks swimming around a shipwreck and some of Kelly Tarlton's own finds from his years exploring shipwrecks - perfect for your pirate theme.
There's also the only display of spiny sea dragons and - blow me down - a new jellyfish display.
6. Things that bite: Crocodiles and pirates have gone hand-in-hand since J.M. Barrie wrote his celebrated children's story, Peter Pan, in 1904. If you want to get to know a pirate foe from way back, head to Mangere's Butterfly Creek which is the only place in New Zealand where you can see giant saltwater crocodiles. Not only that, there are now baby crocs - encounters are held daily at 11.30am and 2.30pm. You'll soon feel right at home as you wander through the Pirates Below Aquarium, watching the antics of dozens of species of tropical fish. Then head into the butterfly house, home to 750 different species, and feel the balmy air like a day's sailing in the Caribbean.
7. Play a round: You'll feel quite at home if you pop next door to the Original Adventure Golf Company's Treasure Island.
Based around a pirate theme, it's a game of mini golf like no other as players make their way over pirate ships, past cascading waterfalls, through haunted treasure caves and - shiver me timbers - around shark-infested waters! Along the way, there's plenty of information about some of the most notorious pirates in history: Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, Calico Jack and Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts.
8. A pot of gold?: Seein' you're down south, press on to Rainbow's End where special pirate celebrations are planned for Saturday, September 22. Pirate characters will roam the adventure park, there'll be face-painting and competitions for the best pirate lingo. Of course, you're encouraged to don your pirate clobber. The park also has its own pirate ship ride and on the log flume, pirates try to steal gold from pixies. Saturday also marks the start of night rides at the park.
Now, I hear you say, Auckland weather is notoriously fickle so what happens if it rains and storm-tossed sea and wild winds make it safer to stay at home? Many of the activities above are undercover but if you can't go out, don't despair because there's no need to get cabin fever.
9. Pirate flicks: Pirates have been a Hollywood favourite since, well, a very long time ago, so head to the local video store and hire yourself some pirate movies. The animated Pirates: Band of Misfits is just out, while the mini-series adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, with Eddie Izzard as Long John Silver, is also a recent release. The Pirates of the Caribbean series with Johnny Depp is always entertaining and then there's older favourites like Peter Pan, Hook or some of an older vintage such as Captain Blood, with the original swashbuckling screen star, Errol Flynn, The Black Swan or The Crimson Pirate.
10. Pirate tales: Like movies, there are so many pirate books you'll never go short of a tale or two. Treasure Island is the most famous of all, (probably better suited to the older kids) and now, nearly 130 years after it first appeared in 1883, British writer Andrew Motion has written a sequel called Silver, which was released this year. If you've got young 'uns to amuse, some of the late Margaret Mahy's most-loved books were about pirates - The Great Piratical Rumbustification and The Man Whose Mother Was A Pirate, to name just two - while favourites in our house currently include The Fierce Little Woman And The Wicked Pirate by Joy Cowley; Louis' Pirate Feast by Simon Mitchell and Ben Wood; and Peter Bently and Jim Field's Cats Ahoy! There's no shortage, either, of non-fiction books; send a chill up your spine readin' about real-life pirate antics.