Real pirates don't cry . . . unless they're in need of a nap.
Yet the sandman has little chance against Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake, a 75-minute high-action-on-the-low-seas journey. The mini-buccaneers (ages 3 to 10, ideally) are so engaged from start to finish, there's no time for tiny eyes to leak.
"We want them to feel like they went on an adventure," said Emily "Ruby" Tomasini, who owns the operation with her husband, Michael "Crabby" Tomasini, "and to walk away thinking they're a pirate."
For the rare child who doesn't already think he's a pirate, the company provides the necessary props: scofflaw name (Angry Alex, Insane Ishmael), gold hoop earring, Vegas-style vest, painted body art of a mustache (curly, straight or mean), scar, skull and crossbones, etc.
On Saturday, on the second of six trips that day, Vince "Rudder" Thompson was the fearless leader, braving 13 rambunctious kids and a few stage parents. Rudder called a group huddle to explain their mission: There was a treasure out there in the Severn River, and come heck or high water, they were going to find it.
Aboard the 34-foot Sea Gypsy IV, a kid-proofed Maine lobster boat, the children were assigned a number of tasks: Locate the treasure map, find the X, track down the keys to the chest. Uh-oh, Pirate Pete had stolen them. What to do? "Start shooting him," suggested Windmaker Will, hopping around the deck. "Start throwing fireballs."
Water-shooting cannons would have to suffice. Manning the water guns, the kids sprayed the hapless pirate and his associate until they fell out of their dinghy and relinquished the keys.
When the treasure was found and hauled up, Rudder instructed the kids to defy the Golden Rule of Parenting: Don't share. Grab the goods and stuff your pockets. The treasure chest was brimming with gold coins, colorful plastic fish and sparkly toy gems. Those with larger hands reaped greater bounty, but some of the smaller children double-dipped.
On the return trip to shore, Rudder announced one last activity: Pretend to be asleep, then surprise Ruby when she came forward. However, as any parent knows, a child's lowered head can activate tear ducts. "Mommy," whispered Creepy Cody, 5.
Yet Cody didn't have time to cry. In seconds, he was jumping up and yelling "Arrr!" like a true pirate.
-- Andrea Sachs