Young pirates to invade Martinez Library Monday

Martinez Tribune

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Avast, ye pint-sized sea dogs! Prepare to invade the Martinez Library Monday for swashbuckling tales and crafty pirate activities.

Contra Costa County’s library manager Ruth Boyer said she will be garbed and ready to welcome young buccaneers and their parents to the special story time.

“I’ll forego the eyepatch,” she said. “I wear glasses!”

Martinez Library is getting a jump on others in celebrating “International Talk Like a Pirate Day,” a parody holiday concocted in 1995 by a pair of Oregon men during a badly-played racquetball game.

The silly occasion has grown to become an international event, during which grownups as well as children do their best imitation of pirate talk.

The Martinez Library has joined the fun during the past several years, and has made the event part of its collaboration with the Martinez Parks Department, whose employees supply the crafts while Boyer and her staff tell seafaring tales and encourage youngsters and their parents to chime in with a hearty “Arrrrr!”

Pleasant Hill Library, 1750 Oak Park Blvd., is getting into the act, too. Its Pirate Story Time will be at 11:15 a.m. Sept. 19, the actual date of International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Just like the Martinez Library, the Pleasant Hill Library will welcome children in pirate garb to hear stories and participate in their own swashbuckling activities.

The mock holiday’s founders are John Baur, who took the name “Ol’ Chumbucket,” and Mark Summers, who calls himself “Cap’n Slappy.” When one got hurt during their unfortunate game, he yelled, “Arrrr!” That led to subsequent shouts of encouragement and insults in mock-pirate accents, which they found to be so much fun, they started the holiday, picking Sept. 19 as the date.

Mark Summers ("Cap'n Slappy") and John Baur ("Ol' Chumbucket"), founders of Talk Like a Pirate Day. (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Mark Summers (“Cap’n Slappy”) and John Baur (“Ol’ Chumbucket”), founders of Talk Like a Pirate Day. (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Newspaper columnist Dave Barry wrote about the holiday in 2002, and its silliness hit a nerve in the post-9//11 era. Celebrations for youth and adults take place throughout the United States, on the South American east coast, Europe and Australia.

Incidentally, Ol’ Chumbucket said, “Me personal favorite pirate phrase is ‘Prepare to be boarded!’”

This year, founders Cap’n Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket will be in California to celebrate the day in their first appearance together since 2008. They are guests of “Talderoy Acrew” (Clay Clement) who operates his premier pirate-themed Studio City Tattoo at 11032 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.

They met eight years ago at a New Orleans, Louisiana, pirate festival, and they’ll spend the day getting inked, signing books, singing shanties and visiting the bar next door for rum refills. The festivities include music, food, book signings, live entertainment – and mermaids.

“It’s going to be festive!” Acrew said.

Acrew himself is known in the worldwide pirate community – yes, there is one – as the founder of the online “Mutiny Magazine” and the exclusive Order of the Leviathan, to which membership is nominated and voted every other year in recognition of community service and contributions to the pirate community. With this year’s induction, including the Bay Area’s pirate entertainer, Captain Jack Spareribs, only about 50 have made the cut.

Acrew’s favorite pirate saying is “Up for luck!” which he described as coming from raising the sails. “It’s an Irish folklore saying that is like ‘thumbs up!’” he said.

Like many Southern Californians, Acrew became fascinated by Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride and the movies. “It was my happy place, with my dad,” he said. But a theme park ride isn’t California’s only tie to pirates.

In fact, some famous historic pirates have made it to the San Francisco Bay Area, including past the Martinez coastline. And pirates are celebrated every Father’s Day weekend at the Northern California Pirate Festival at Vallejo’s Waterfront Park, and every Halloween at Alameda Fairgrounds at the Pirates of Emerson haunted theme park.

One of the first sea rogues to visit the Bay Area was Sir Francis Drake. England considered him a privateer, with a letter of marque that gave him permission to raid Spanish ships. King Philip of Spain considered him a pirate and was said to have placed a bounty on his head worth the modern equivalent of $6.5 million.

Drake, vice admiral of the British fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada, sailed for Queen Elizabeth I and was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. He plundered Spanish ships and settlements from St. Augustine to the California coast, landing at California’s 38th parallel June 17, 1579. He reported friendly encounters with Coast Miwoks, whose land he named “New Albion.”

The exact site of his landing was kept secret by the queen, and was lost in a 1696 fire. But Drake’s Bay at Point Reyes is recognized as his entry to “New Albion.”

Many consider California’s real pirate to be Hippolyte Bouchard, a French captain who became allied with Argentina and attacked Spanish holdings in California and elsewhere. His adventures took him to the Philippines and Hawaii; then in 1818, he began his famous raids of Spanish settlements and ships from Monterey to Mexico.

He later retired to land awarded him by Peru, and he is still considered a hero in Argentina.
Robert Louis Stevenson, who has introduced thousands of youth to piracy through such novels as “Treasure Island,” is memorialized in California with his own state park in Calistoga, site of his honeymoon in 1880.

A more modern pirate’s adventures took him from Oakland to Benicia and past Martinez as he sailed up to the Sacramento-San Joaquin rivers.

Author Jack London became a boat captain and oyster pirate while just a teenager, risking his life to steal oysters from railroad-owned beds and selling his plunder at cut prices at Oakland markets, where he was viewed as a sort of Robin Hood. For London, it beat the drudgery of cannery work, and would inspire such early works as “The Cruise of the Dazzler” and later in “Tales of the Fish Patrol,” when he switched sides and began hunting those who plied his former trade. He wrote of Port Costa adventures as well.

In “Charley’s Coup,” London wrote of an adventure that started off the coast of Benicia, then passed by Martinez until it concluded in a hail of gunfire past Antioch.

In the borrowed boat, the Mary Rebecca, London and his Fish Patrol cohorts snagged the nets of a fleet of salmon poachers. The angry fishermen chased and fired on the Mary Rebecca, until London skewered an Antioch wharf with a marlinspike bearing a note to authorities in upriver Merryweather. By the time the Mary Rebecca reached Merryweather, that town’s posse had turned out to round up the poachers.

The holiday has its own website,, complete with hints on how to spice a conversation with pirate phrases.

Children and their parents in full pirate garb are welcome at the Martinez Library 740 Court St., at 6:30 p.m. Monday to hear Boyer and her staff tell pirate tales and participate in buccaneer activities provided by the Martinez Parks Department. Those who want even more buccaneer fun may visit the Pleasant Hill Library, 1750 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill, for Pirate Story Time at 11:15 a.m. Sept. 19.

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