Any sea dog worth their salt would understand kids love to be a pirate for a day, even sail their own ship?

An all-ages public sailing and the popular "Kiddies Pirate Sail" launched the Bay of Islands-based square tops schooner R Tucker Thompson's visit to Whangārei on Saturday.

Young pirates were able to help set the sails, take the helm, put on harnesses to climb the rigging and go out on to the bowsprit under crew guidance.

The annual Pirate Sail, a fundraiser for the R Tucker Thompson's at-risk youth sail training programmes, is a great occasion for families to dress up and growl like pirates on a real tall ship.

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Other treats during the ship's two day visit included two-hour sailings available for individuals, schools and community groups of 20 or more people.