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Pirate groups are giving back to the community

There are over two hundred pirates working together in this city,” says William Mcrea, who many know fondly as Commodore Mayhem, a familiar face among the pirate personalities in the Ancient City.

And anyone who has taken a stroll around town on any given day can attest to the fact that there is a large pirate presence here. While they are always a fun sight to see in your recreational adventures around ye olde city, there is much more to these fun-loving scallywags than you might think. If you ask any pirate entertainer in St. Augustine, they will tell you that their main mission is to help those in need. Headlining many events such as blood drives and fundraisers for families who’ve fallen on hard times, today’s pirates are more about giving than plundering. St. Augustine’s four pirate crews consist of the St. Augustine Swashbucklers, Ancient City Privateers, Krewe of the 13, and Krewe of the Black Heart.

“The captains of these four crews have formed an accord to ensure a coordinated harmony, make sure there are no double bookings for events, work on combined events at times, and mutually support each crew’s separate events for the good of our community,” says Mcrea, who took the captain role of the St. Augustine Swashbucklers in 2009.

The oldest and largest crew in town, the Swashbucklers, were founded in 2001 and have 130 members. Mcrea has been entertaining as a pirate with them since 2007.

Having since been promoted to the rank of commodore, he currently leads tours at the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum, organizes events through the Swashbucklers, and has projects of his own in the works through his entertainment business, Mayhem Productions.

“The Swashbucklers alone raised and gave away thirty-five thousand dollars in 2017,” says Mcrea. “One common goal that all of the pirate crews work toward is giving back to our educators,” he says. “It’s a well-known fact that most teachers have to buy many of their own classroom supplies, which is something many can barely afford on their salaries. We try to help them by purchasing and giving them many of the supplies that they need. Many times we give them gift cards to use towards their supply list.”

Krewe of the 13 has also been a major force in the St. Augustine pirate community since their founding in 2015. Tammy Kelly, a member for the last two years, says “All of the St. Augustine pirate crews have their own agenda, but at the end of the day we all just want to support the people in our community.”

A 501(c)(3) registered public charity, The Krewe of the 13 supports many families who have fallen on hard times due to such events as the loss of a job or a natural disaster.

“It’s fulfilling to be able to help people through tough situations,” says Kelly. “It’s fun to get dressed up and to go out and be a pirate, but more importantly it is about helping others.”

The Krewe of the 13’s contributions provide temporary assistance until families are able to get back on their feet.

With all of the good they do for the community, being a pirate just wouldn’t be complete without a little well-intended mischief, especially when it takes them out on the open water.

The Pirate Ship Black Raven has been providing St. Augustine with the full pirate experience since their maiden voyage on May 8, 2009. They have two main cruises: The Treasure Hunt cruise, which departs daily at 2:15 p.m.and 6:15 p.m. is geared towards families with children. In this tour, a sea battle over treasure ensues with the smaller ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. All members aboard the ship are recruited to help The Black Raven win back its booty.

The Rum Runners cruise departs on Friday and Saturday at 8:15 p.m. and is for those twenty-one and older. With more of an adult theme, guests experience skits, songs, trivia, and stories performed by talented entertainers. Two of The Black Raven’s specialty cruises include an 11:15 am Saturday birthday cruise and a 4:15 p.m. Sunday cruise that focuses specifically on the Hispanic community and features Spanish-speaking pirates aboard the ship. No matter which tour you choose, The Black Raven’s fully licensed bar is always available to adults.

Through the years, The Black Raven has also given generously to many non-profit organizations in St. Johns County.  Gunnar Hedqwist, owner of The Pirate Ship Black Raven explains, “Almost every pirate will tell you that it is a dream for them to earn a living by entertaining and giving back to the community.”

In St. Augustine, the Pirates may still ‘plunder ,’ but those who need it most get the ‘booty.’