Patrick Trautfield

Rachel Paolucci’s dream is to be a pirate. Well, maybe not a pirate per se, but the psychology junior is quite the Johnny Depp and “Pirates of the Caribbean” fan.

Even the oh-so-reliable source that is facebook is a testament to this. Her profile picture: dressed up in Depp-worthy garb, complete with thick black eyeliner, for a spur of the moment “Pirates”-inspired passion fruit rum drinking game. Her activities: pirating. Her classes: AG 324, Origins of Rum, HUM 221, Pillaging and Plundering.

“Wouldn’t it be cool to sail down the Pacific – and ultimately go to the Caribbean – on a pirate ship? Forget sailboats and yachts!” Paolucci chuckled. “Wine? No, no – rum!”

But all jokes aside, Paolucci was ecstatic when she found out that the Lady Washington – i.e. the Interceptor, “the fastest ship in the Caribbean,” (behind the Black Pearl, that is) from the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie – and the Hawaiian Chieftain, two 18th century vessel replications, were scheduled to dock in Morro Bay for the weekend.

Sponsored by Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, a Washington-based group seeking to preserve the Pacific Northwest’s maritime history, the ships sailed into port Thursday, staying until today. Their presence was an effort to educate local residents about sailing in the 1700s, giving the general public touring opportunities and local schoolchildren alternative history lessons.

On Saturday’s beautiful, clear day, Paolucci and many other Central Coast dwellers made the trek out to Morro Bay to catch a glimpse of the ships, take a free dockside tour or pay $60 to travel out to sea for a three-hour battle reenactment.

The crew, dressed in semi-traditional apparel (including Converse and modern-day sandals), provided the mainly young family- and elderly-infused crowd with detailed tours of the whimsical ships.

Some even joyfully sung the “Pirates” theme song: “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.”

The group, which has been coming to Morro Bay on its tour for the past eight or so years, travels the West Coast, from Canada to Mexico, docking either by cities’ invitations or by default in bad weather.

Though fitted for 28 people to live onboard, the Lady Washington plays host to a constantly changing crew membership of about 15.

In addition, each year, between 75 and 100 two-week volunteers, ranging in age from 18 to 92, try their hands at swabbing the decks, navigating the high seas and educating youngsters on maritime history.

“You get cut up, scrapped, bruised, but it’s worth it,” Lady Washington engineer Nick Williams said. “It’s so much fun.”

With this many people in such tight quarters, becoming a closely knit family is inevitable, said nine-year veteran “Evil” Ryan, a man who considers the ocean his permanent residence and worked with Depp in “Pirates.”

“The crew grows into a family and if you’re not pulling your weight, the family lets you know,” he said. “We’re always looking for new people to come and play.”

The Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain will be heading up to San Francisco next.

For more information regarding Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, including volunteer information and scheduled ports of call, go to

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