They came, we saw, they didn’t quite conquer

Time & place: Somewhere after noon today atop the Alki seawall. One of the hundreds of small children awaiting the Seafair Pirates‘ Landing said to an accompanying adult: “We’ve been here THREE HOURS!”

Said the adult: “Yeah, we’re not doing THIS again next year. We’ll just watch it on the news.”


Having watched this particular orchestration of the Seafair Pirates Landing two years in a row now (as we wrote last year, we had given up on the whole thing long ago, till we launched WSB and therefore felt dutybound to check it out) — we might do the same. Why, you ask? Click ahead for more, including more photos, and links to some other writeups already up online:

Do not get us wrong. We adore the Seafair Pirates. We know they are community-minded guys who do this out of the goodness of their hearts, and it ain’t easy to give up all that spare time, plan and execute costumes, attend events, sit under the baking sun in parades firing off your eardrum-shattering cannon, visit kids in hospitals, and so much more, etc. etc. So this is absolutely no knock on them or on anyone else involved in organizing and staging an event of this magnitude. But the event could be a real smash, with people leaving on a high note, instead of leaving feeling let down and ticked off (like this family), with just one addition.

flyby.jpgIt’s got nice touches already, such as the fly-by (left). The military is something of a partner in this event, from the vehicles parked across from Cactus (right)smallerjeeps.jpg to the barge-like vessels used for the actual landing. Speaking of which, the “sail-by” done by the first such vessel tends to leave the onlookers a bit confused. Maybe that’s all in fun, but someone has to remember, we’re talking about a whole lot of families with small children. If you’ve ever had a small child in your family, you know that patience is at a premium, for the little ones and for their parents/grandparents/whomever. So today, when the arrival projected between 11:30 and 12:30 turned out to be a few minutes after the upward end of that range, much of the family crowd was on the far edge of restless. And the advance scouts’ “sail-by” (below) didn’t help.


So that vessel came and went, ostensibly checking out conditions, before its mate with the pirates onboard followed. (Photo below courtesy of Bob Bollen; we have none actually showing pirates, since unless you were within 10 feet or so, you couldn’t see them.)


And therein lies the other half of the problem. The pirates get off their vessel and … that’s pretty much it. We believe they were greeted by some Seafair queen/princess types, whom we had seen gathering in the taped-off landing zone, but after that — they wander off somewhere — and so does the crowd, exuding a cloud of “That’s IT????”

We are well aware the Pirates are not really performers. But some sort of post-landing event — even putting them up on a stage and having them ARRRRR! at the crowd and wish everybody a happy summer and suggest coming out to see them at the next half-dozen parades (including here in WS in two weeks) — would certainly counter the “that’s IT????” feeling.

Seems the organizers made a good-faith effort at enhancing the event this year, with some pre-landing giveaways (saw lots of folks wearing cute pirate hats courtesy of the WS Kiwanis), live music, merchandise and food/info booths (below, our favorite booth, a little slice of Margaritaville).


But events like these still are embedded with raised expectations for the climactic moment — and that could be enhanced with the simple addition of SOMETHING happening once they step ashore. As this tv clip shows, it’s good fun for the people who manage to get right up to the landing zone, but this event has grown beyond that, and a gesture to the wider crowd, stretching far down the beach in both directions, would end it on a higher note.

If you disagree and think this event is fabu just the way it is, you know how to shout it out … meantime, see you next weekend at Summer Fest!


11 Replies to "They came, we saw, they didn't quite conquer"

  • Duke July 7, 2007 (7:52 pm)

    Yes, it’s pretty tame stuff that makes you wonder “Why the big deal?” I remember as a kid and a younger adult that it seemed to be more fun. Part of the problem, I think, is the disarming and torquing down on pirate behavior by the city or whatever authority oversees such stuff. The pirates used to land with much firing of pistols (cap variety – loud and smoky), and dragging of swords on the pavement. (I never understood this, except that it gave off a great metallic grinding sound, proving that the swords weren’t made out of cardboard.) Women and girls were picked up and carried off for a short distance, and later the buzz was that the pirates had hit the grog pretty well beforehand. I think the screws have been put to them pretty much in the last few years, resulting in a very safe, very dull event.

  • mrsB July 7, 2007 (8:57 pm)

    Yeah – we had to wait for awhile (the tide, perhaps?) but you know, lots of kids had a TON of fun, judging from what we saw and there was also the pole vault to while away the time. Perhaps we should be less impatient and go with the flow, after all, it’s a FREE SHOW – and mainly for the kids, and it’s a good learning experience; you can’t control the tides (or people).

  • Hainsworth July 7, 2007 (10:52 pm)

    I was there to hang out and enjoy the show today. A few observations:

    – The weather was extremely nice today, and this turns out the crowd on Alki no matter what. I’ve been to the landing in years past with dismal weather, and you had a much better chance of seeing a pirate up close then.

    – I wasn’t there, but I guess there was a recent landing (2005 or 2006?) where the craft had to search around for a long time for a suitable place to come ashore. Apparently this was confusing, and probably a lot more so than if the advance boat just scouted once beforehand. I don’t know if that’s why they used the extra craft this year, but it seems like it was pretty efficient. You could tell that there were no pirates on board the first one, anyhow.

    – The pirates scared me as a kid, with dragging swords, yelling, and cannon blasts (as Duke said above). I think that this intentional scaring of kids is a fine tradition that ought to be passed on. But just like the high ticket prices and strict drinking enforcement at the hydroplane races, much of the original fun has been sucked out of Seafair on the pretense of making it more “family friendly.”

    Pole vaulting is moderately interesting, and I watched it for a while. But I think the real point of these events is to carry on the fun, hokey traditions that were started in the early 50’s, with no apologies. So, there doesn’t have to be pole vaulting entertainment or constant music blasting for it to be a success. Just give us the pirates coming ashore, dragging their swords, maybe even drunk. Ask around town and you’ll get some funny stories of young ladies being “had” by the pirates for real in the past — as in, taken aboard the Moby Duck and kidnapped for a few minutes.

    This is cool stuff. This is old Seattle, pre-sports teams and pre-money. The tame pirate show is a bit of a disappointment to wait for, but that’s what we get when everything’s got to be family friendly.

  • IHF July 7, 2007 (11:18 pm)

    We were there, and did have a grand time. In part because we didn’t focus on the landing this year — my daughter found the bouncers, and wasn’t willing to leave. While the crowd rushed the ships, she stayed bouncing and got the pirate-ship-shaped one all to herself.

    After the rush cleared out, we walked up near the Moby Duck to try and greet the new Captain Kidd. My daughter got a sudden case of shy, so we retreated to other, less threatening pirates and she managed to snag a Seafair Pirates coin and program. Between the swag and the number of guests in pirate costumes (including canine guests), she was thrilled.

    I can’t help but think that your notes are good ones, though. And friends who hit the milk carton races at Greenlake came away with more Pirate-themed swag than we did, which seems backwards.

    I know that some of the Pirates have had some very basic stage combat training — maybe a staged fight or two could liven things up a bit?

  • deliboy July 7, 2007 (11:52 pm)

    By complete chance, I was waiting for the Water Taxi at the fishing pier when the Pirates showed up and camped out there to plan their attack route. It was a pretty fun surprise, even if they do seem a lot tamer than even twenty-something I remember from my youth. I know one of the pirates through work, as a matter of fact; he blames all the clamping down on “traditional pirate values” on imported Californians and local media with nothing better to do.

  • Christy July 8, 2007 (7:50 am)

    Great writeup. It captured my experience exactly. If you’re interested, I posted some photos I took of the event here:

  • Tish July 8, 2007 (10:21 am)

    Random tidbit: I produced a short film that shot several scenes in Captain Ron Lafitte’s house. While I won’t give away where he lives, I’ll tell you this much — he has an honest-to-god pirate house complete with hidden treasure, secret entrances, and Johnny Depp. It was, in truth, quite delightful :)

  • Luckie July 8, 2007 (10:31 am)

    I witnessed the pirate landing only once before, 11 years ago, with a friend and his kids and a few hundred others. What a great show! Rowdy pirates stormed off the boat, playfully hassled the kids for a while, and then stood for photos and chatted with the adults. We awwww-ed over the cute kids in the pirate contest and played on the beach. No vendors, just pirates.
    Yesterday, with my own kids and a few thousand others, it was a much different scene. We were on the beach, not far from the landing spot, but never saw a pirate–they ran off the boat and were absorbed immediately into the tightly packed crowd. They didn’t have room to swashbuckle even if they had wanted to. I signed up the kids for the costume contest, but by the time the pirates got there (12:45) they had completely lost interest and were pleading to go swimming instead. (We couldn’t get near the stage anyway.) Once we abandoned the pirate-themed portion of the day, however, we had a great time on the beach, playing in the surf, watching pole vaulters, and eating Pepperdock burgers.My advice? If you go, don’t base your visit on the “event”, because you won’t be able to experience that unless you’re standing within 30 feet of the pirates’ landing. It’s more of a street fair atmosphere now, so you’ll need time to meander and work your way through the crowds. If you plan to buy food or pee, prepare to wait in a long line.

  • Steve E. July 8, 2007 (11:27 am)

    Yeah, Seattle is a wonderful place to live environment-wise, but leaves a little to be desired on the public art side. See: the sculpture park, the small town cutesy art pigs and most of the Seafair celebration which features loud machines as a highlight…on the brighter side, at least the new SAM has the space it deserves.

  • Discussion of the Pirate Landing… « The Instant Hausfrau July 10, 2007 (12:41 pm)

    […] 8 Jul 2007 Discussion of the Pirate Landing… Posted by instanthausfrau under West Seattle  WSB has some good thoughts on the SeafairPirate Landing, and why it was a disappointment to some. Perhaps you want to weigh in?   […]

  • Seafair Pirates Landing 2008. « The Instant Hausfrau July 5, 2008 (7:01 pm)

    […] once they landed, with a little encouragement she had some great interaction time. For those of you wondering what to do at the pirate landing, pirate interaction is where it’s […]

Sorry, comment time is over.