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Washington Voices

Encounter with a Pearl beyond price

‘Blimey! Thar she be!” I shouted after spotting an exact replica of ye old pirate ship, complete with skulls and lanterns and masts and sails, off Oahu’s North Shore last August.

’Tis true, I’d been shiverin’ in me timbers ever since Cap’n Jack Sparrow wobbled across the screen in the blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, keepin’ me eyes peeled for anythin’ pirate ’n pickin’ up a bit o’ pirate lingo, legend ’n lore. Me ’usband, Blackheart Bill, hasn’t a clue what ta do with his wicked wench, Salacious Sal, ’cept, o’course, ta put up with ’er skullduggery ’n rapscallion ways.

Still, we were at crossbones as to why this authentic-looking ship was moored on Oahu’s North Shore and why we were being pushed away like scurvy dogs when we tried to get up close and personal.

“Step back,” the man bellowed. People were congregating as more and more spotted the awesome ship with its massive dark masts swaying in the trade winds against a perfect tropical backdrop of azure sky and creamy clouds. Our puny camera couldn’t compete with those boasting telescopic lenses that Blackbeard would’ve paid half his booty to own.

“Aarrr!” I said in frustration as the camera struggled to keep up with my constant panning and repeated shutter clicks. “We’ll be lucky if we get any decent shots.”

“Let ol’ Blackheart give it a go,” my husband said, snatching the silver camera from my hand.

“Think it’s a dinner cruise?”

And with that lingering question, my mind’s eye zoomed beyond the skeletal figurehead hanging from the ship’s bow and went straight to wiping away a swig of rum with me sleeve while a dastardly fight broke out with swords and boots and swashbucklers and shouts of, “Castin’ ye off to Davy Jones’s locker I am!”

Now that’s a dinner cruise.

But, alas, the ship had a ways to go before that maiden voyage. On deck, a white linen sheet shielded a building project. Cluttering the dock were shipping boxes that I assumed contained pirate props and costumes.

Inside the restricted area, separated by a yellow rope and a mean lookin’ scallywag if there ever was one, a worker pulled long, thick cables from inside a white van. Sweat dripped from his forehead. He was struggling; the cable was winning. On the door of the van I spied a logo …

“Oh…my…god…” I pulled on ol’ Blackheart’s, I mean, my husband’s sleeve.

“What!” he said, a tad irritated.

“That’s Buena Vista Studios,” I whispered not wanting hysteria to break out on the balmy seas.


Sometimes ol’ Blackheart’s as dumb as a buckle.

“Black Pearl? Pirates of the Caribbean? Disney?” Still nothing. “That’s no dinner cruise, you nimrod. They’re filming a movie!” And while I was thinkin’, innocently o’course, “Johnny Depp,” that no-good bilge rat was thinkin’, perversely o’course, “Keira Knightley.”

A couple of days later, while skimming across Kapiolani Park on Segways, we confirmed our chance discovery was, indeed, the Black Pearl. The guide was pointing out specific “Hawaii 5-0” filming locations and since he was on the subject, I had to ask.

“Oh, the Black Pearl,” he said. “They’ve been filming here for a couple of weeks.”

I flung me pirate ’usband the evil wench eye but ol’ Blackheart one-upped me. “See,” the old salt said with a cocky grin that needed a good wipe, “I told you they were filming.”

For 10 days we romped in the sand and surf on Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach, keeping a watchful eye on the horizon in case the Pearl and her pirates parlayed a bit o’ shore leave but, alas, ’twas not to be. Still, we got ta see the Pearl in all ’er glory, ’n that, me buckos, ’tis worth a booty of doubloons.

So, ’ere’s to the Pearl ’n ’er crew … drink up me hearties, yo-ho!

Voices correspondent Sandra Babcock can be reached by email at

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