BELFAST — Pirate takeovers may seem like a thing of the past, but Saturday, Aug. 21, Belfast Mayor Eric Sanders faced a parley with a ragtag group of little loot-lovers and their friend, Capt. Jack “Lash” Lanigan.

The event took place at Heritage Park, and was organized by Lisa Gant, who owns The Back and Forth, a wooden lobster boat that offers 30-minute rides around Belfast Bay. The boat tour company occasionally offers pirate-themed rides for kids, and Gant worked with other local organizations to bring the family event to life. The Game Loft,  an organization that offers free meals, support and fun to local youth and teens,  helped with the activities.

Lisa Gant and Alex Pelling of The Back and Forth rock their pirate regalia Aug. 21. Photo by Cali Warren

Game Loft Program Director Allison Harrell said she heard Gant and her husband, Alex Pelling, were planning a pirate-themed event, and gave older Game Loft members volunteering hours for their help, adding that the fun was “a perfect marriage of town organizations.” In addition, Waterfall Arts donated materials for a treasure map-making station.

Little pirates enjoy a treasure map-making station. Photo by Cali Warren

Artistically inclined volunteers did face painting and temporary tattoos, while others set up a foam sword fighting game. Adult pirates either worked for The Back and Forth or were volunteering on behalf of it. Lanigan is no stranger to getting decked out in pirate gear, either — he pilots The Back and Forth‘s pirate rides.

All the games offered were part of “pirate training,” in which kids played with foam swords, walked the plank and enjoyed a game of cornhole designed to look like a treasure map. This is the first year Belfast has experienced a pirate takeover, but Lanigan said he had done it in other Maine towns. “I always give the town back, though,” the pirate said, “because of the hassle of town administration.”

Pirates divvy up the loot after a successful negotiation Aug. 21. Photo by Cali Warren

The takeover started when Lanigan sailed his boat, Milady, to the shore of Belfast Bay. He was joined by Capt. Raczor MacHume, whose boat, Theodore Marceau, is named after his grandson. Lanigan — who calls himself the “pirate of the Penobscot” — met on the breakwater with Sanders, who brandished a sword while sporting a top hat and velvet coat. Lanigan demanded bounty from the merchant of Belfast and needed help from little potential pirates to complete his scheme. Volunteers from The Game Loft and The Back and Forth sailed in on the lobster boat, decked out in pirate gear.

The mayor returned at high noon for a final face-off, in which he and Lanigan agreed to exchange all Sanders’ “loot” for the city of Belfast. The gold bags of bounty filled with coins, shiny gems and toy compasses were distributed to all the newly appointed pirates in return for their hard work at training. While the kids had plenty of bounty to enjoy, The Back and Forth offered a special prize to the best-dressed adult — a free 30-minute jaunt around the bay. That went to volunteer Robin Garry of Searsport, whose pirate ensemble included multicolored hair braids, a pink bandana and an embroidered vest.

Robin Garry of Searsport, winner of the best-dressed pirate prize. Photo by Cali Warren

Dozens of kids showed up to take part in the games and parley with the mayor, and most children said their favorite part of being a pirate was the sword fighting. Charli Smith, 5, of Hancock, was a very organized swashbuckler, recruiting kids and adults to her team. Reuben Waite, 7, and his brother Declan, 5, traveled to Belfast from Corinth along with their 6-year-old cousin, Jed.

Reuben’s favorite part of piracy was “fighting,” while Jed could not pick a favorite — he just loved “doing the stuff that pirates do.” Declan appreciated the simple things in a pirate’s life, saying he likes to “get cool things, like water.” Emma Stewart, 6, of Newport, picked up her toy compass to demonstrate that she enjoyed the adventure.

“Arrrgh!” Reuben Waite, 7, does his pirate impression in Belfast Aug. 21. Photo by Cali Warren

While this may have been the first pirate takeover of Belfast, both Gant and Harrell see it becoming a tradition. Gant enjoyed seeing all the children run around, make friends and have fun with one another, saying that “after a year of being inside, it’s great to see the kids having outdoor fun.” Harrell said the event was “really successful,” and since donations for The Game Loft were encouraged, the nonprofit organization was able to get some “bounty” of its own.

Capt. Jack “Lash” Lanigan, left, poses with fellow pirate Capt. Raczor MacHume Aug. 21 before they attempted to take over Belfast. Photo by Cali Warren

filed under: