On these lazy, hazy summer days it has not been uncommon to drive along the Potomac River and notice a large, oddly shaped red vessel with water spewing from it. It’s not a fire boat; what it is, mateys, is a pirate ship, the Boomerang. It’s come to our shores to pillage and plunder among children and parents, locals, tourists, and willing after-dark revelers. Launched Memorial Day weekend, it takes paying customers on a hunt for supposedly stolen treasure. As they navigate the river from the Georgetown waterfront to Hains Point, a water cannon battle against scallywags ensues, interspersed with dancing, face-painting, and a general atmosphere of swashbuckling derring-do. At least that’s the promise from the boat company and, so far, representatives say, business has been brisk.
Who knew there was a hunger for pirates in this of all cities? A walk by the boat over the weekend, tied up at Washington Harbour dock, showed a long line of passengers waiting to board.
Among the recent passengers was Zachary Hooper, who took the cruise on a weekend morning with his son and several other families. “We figured it was a fun and different way to spend a balmy Sunday morning,” he says. The crew were in character and costumes, and their dialogue was pure Pirates of the Caribbean—“definitely cheesy, but the kids loved it.” He also says it was “efficient and well-organized” and that he “felt the kids were safe.”
The Boomerang pirate ship is the brainchild of husband and wife Nikki and Dave DuBois, a schoolteacher and financial planner, respectively, who were “looking to improve” DC’s entertainment options. In 2006 they began their first entertainment venture, a party bus business, which grew quickly from one to five buses. Last year they launched a party yacht, followed this year by the pirate cruise.
On their website, penned in their best pirate-ese, they explain what happened next. “Longing for even more adventure, the Boomerang creators decided it was time for them to become the saltiest dogs on the river. Piracy, looting, and plundering crossed their minds. . . . Alas, the Boomerang Pirate Ship was born.” It was built on the Chesapeake Bay just for their purposes. It is 54 feet long and carries 84 passengers and six crew members.
According to sales and marketing director Lea Biciocchi, the Boomerang is the only pirate-themed ship that traffics the Potomac River. There are similar but unrelated cruises in Annapolis and Baltimore Harbor. Entertaining children has been fun, she says. “Everything we hoped for and more. We have tapped into a new industry.” The hourlong family cruises run during the daytime and cost $20 per person; the adult cruises (21 and older) cost $20 up to as much as $40 per person, and last for two hours. They are trimmed of some of the kid-friendly antics but still very keyed to the “yo ho ho” mode. Alcoholic beverages and snacks can be purchased on all cruises. The Boomerang sails every day except Monday.
Hooper says the program for his family’s cruise was to hunt down a rogue pirate. They found him on another, smaller vessel, and a make-believe battle ensued. “It took a couple of water fights to defeat him. The kids seemed to enjoy learning pirate lingo and feeling like they were part of the game,” he says. Hooper says he plans to book a charter with another group of families.