Once a year, scores of Marina del Rey boaters unpack their bandannas, grab their “grog” mugs, look for their corsets (if they have one) — load up the cooler and make their way to Two Harbors, Catalina Island to take part in Buccaneer Day.
Last weekend the Island was crawling with wenches and swashbucklers from all local ports — dancing to music, competing in costume contests and saying “arrrrr” every chance they got.
Buccaneer Day has been going on for 17 years. It started as a simple excuse for locals to dress up and have some fun, but it has now grown to become a major event, by most anyone’s standards.
The sleepy little car-less town that has only one store and a bar becomes a busy, bustling party that begins around noon on Saturday and continues through the night into the morning hours, powered by the strength of the theme itself.
“We definitely had a record crowd this year,” said Two Harbors event coordinator Becky Mucha. “It was our biggest one yet.”
The event has been growing in popularity through the years, but in the past two or three it has become an even more celebrated occasion.
Two contributing elements to the growing crowds might well be the combination of Marina del Rey’s shuttle operation now providing service to the Two Harbors area and possibly the romanticizing of pirate Cap’n Jack Sparrow et al. in the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean films.
And of course, as the years pass, more and more people (pirates) return with friends and family.
“I think it’s so popular because of just where we are,” said Mucha of the rise in attendance. “To go off to an island — a deserted little town — and have a pirate party is really different.”
“It started in Avalon,” she continued. “But it just got too wild for them over there, so they moved it to Two Harbors, where there’s only a limited amount of damage that can happen.”
But why is the pirate image so embraced? According to most written history on the topic, pirates were horrible, ruthless outcasts capable of the most heinous actions.
They would often rob the weak, and murdering was a matter of course, but today their irreverent renegade spirit is what gets remembered with fondness.
“I’ve only missed it once in all the years,” said Marina del Rey resident and longtime Buccaneer Day attendee Carl Dahlin. “It takes a long time to recuperate from it, but pirates have to do that.”
Today in Marina del Rey, the Jolly Roger flies from the masts of hundreds of boats, film character Jack Sparrow is a lovable, bumbling anti-hero and thousands of partygoers dress in pirate attire, some in full regalia, to celebrate the days when lawless men traveled the oceans speaking a peculiar dialect and searching for confrontation.
Pirates were everything most of us are not and therein, in all likelihood, lies the appeal. They were fearless outdoorsmen in search of riches in places where danger was not the aberration but the expectation and for the 21st century cubicle dweller, this is an enjoyable fantasy.