Though St. Thomas has a rich pirate heritage, you'd hardly know it from wandering around the island. The only acknowledgement of this colorful period in the island's history used to be just two towers in downtown Charlotte Amalie, named for the most famous pirates of the Caribbean – Bluebeard and Blackbeard.
But now there's a place for pirate-lovers of all ages to shiver their timbers with a yo-ho-ho (and a bottle of rum, if you're over 21). "Release Your Inner Pirate" is the slogan of the Treasure Seeker, the bright red pirate ship which is conspicuously docked right on the busy downtown Charlotte Amalie waterfront. The ship offers two-hour pirate themed tours around the harbor, during which families participate in an array of pirate-themed activities.
Owner Ray Hixon, his wife Betsy and son Tripp ran a similar business in St. Petersburg, Florida for many years, but decided they wanted to relocate to the U.S. Virgin Islands and try their luck here. So since late 2011 the trio has been plying the waters around St. Thomas, much to the delight of visitors.
"The pirate business is big business," says Hixon, Sr.
Treasure Seeker's captain, Ray Hixon — Photo courtesy of Karen ElowittThe 78-foot ship is big, too – big enough for 149 people in fact. It is a former car ferry that Hixon converted then imported all the way from Washington Island, Wisconsin, where it used to crash through ice floes on the way to and from its destination.
Now, instead of car berths, the ship consists of a lower deck with dance floor and bar; a middle deck with a pilot house and gift shop; and an open top deck with bar and an area for live music. Those who melt in the summer heat will be thrilled to know that the first two decks are air-conditioned.
Activities include face painting, tattooing, water gun battles, treasure hunts, storytelling and limbo dancing. If your kids really want an authentic pirate experience, they can even walk the plank or take a turn swabbing the deck. And if you want to relax a little while your kids are "aargh"-ing it up, well, there are two full bars onboard.
The Treasure Seeker operates most days. Contact Ray at 727-902-9646 for more information.