Literary Pirate: Former Seafair Pirate, "Hurricane" Robb Zerr, recently published a book called "Memoirs of a Buccaneer: 30 Years Before the Mast". Four pirates pictured L-R at Shipwreck Tavern are Ballard's "Sloe Gin", Robb Zerr, "Waterrat" Bobby Smyth (a former Seafair Pirate) & Ballard's "Rogue's Pierre".
Seattle Seafair Pirates reunite at a "Memoirs of a Buccaneer" book signing
Seattle Seafair Pirate fans may recall the edgier era of those saber-rattling, masked men. Robb Zerr, was the pirate, "Hurricane", from 1982-1990. He just wrote a book, "Memoirs of a Buccaneer: 30 Years Before the Mast", a 432-page self-published paperback, and Kindle. He recounts bouts of hooliganism, Caribbean travels, drinking, romancing the "wenches", and, well, more drinking.
He signed his book (now available on Amazon and at www.memoirsofabuccaneer.com) at the Shipwreck Tavern this past week and pirate "colleagues" from all over Seattle appeared, all in costume for the festive reunion.
Zerr, the Renton-born professional writer lived in Seattle for 15 years and is now on Hutchison Island in Florida, a bit closer to the Caribbean Islands like a "good" pirate. He does corporate writing and other work with his company, Communicreations. He also writes a daily blog of musings called RobZerrvations.com.
Zerr heads an entertaining troupe coined "Pyrates of the Coast", 10 to 20 musicians, actors, actresses, and other creative folks who entertain as pirates in the U.S. and Caribbean. Some members are former Seafair Pirates, including "Waterrat", Bobby Smyth, now 86. Most live in Florida and the Seattle area. They entertain on cruise ships, at casinos, resorts and schools.
"My life of piracy started when I was in a band with my two brothers and we met up with a pirate at a performance," said Zerr. "He asked us to join. I think we were asked because they didn't have a pirate band. We'd go up on stage in a pub and sing while the other pirates would mingle and customers would buy drinks.
"We were told to always be an asset to the group, never badmouth the public, even if you were drunk. I have been told it is a very difficult group to get into, but a very easy group to get out of.
"I was 24, wet behind the years. It opened up an entire world to me that I had never seen before. I had no idea. Back then it was the wild times. I think we could do things they can't do now. We could of course drink in public. Onboard the (pirate ship) Moby Duck we had at least one garbage can if not two filled with beer, and we would have tankards to carry, to fill up onboard, and we could keep drinking during the parades.
"We'd host women in the party room back at the hotel. Free drinks. Typically if we were in pirate costume we wouldn't get in trouble because we had a couple of police captains and lieutenants in the group.
"Pirates fire blanks with shot guns. In one instance there was a real bullet that luckily just fired into the Duck. Once we were driving the Duck into Green Lake, which you can't do. The police tried to stop us, but Mayor Charles Royer was on board chatting it up with Miss Washington, and insisted the lake was part of international waters. So the officer didn't stop us.
"We were a bunch of kids. It was like watching Peter Pan and we were the Lost Boys. We were a family, a tight organization that watch each others' backs.
"I miss the Seafair Pirates who have died. Morie Lohre was a great guy. (He was "Captain Kidd" from 1995-1996 and passed away in 2002.) There was Weaver Dial, a West Seattle icon, and tremendous folk artist. He was a pirate for about 50 years. (He was Captain Kidd in 1962 and Davy Jones in 1989.) Had two children, Yankee and Dixie. I think about him every day. He would never be out of costume. Even when he went swimming he had one of those 1800's striped swimming outfits. He was an original. I wish more people could have known him. They're not going to make another one of him, ever. He taught me a lot about being a pirate.
"I would never have a boat. I borrow everyone else's boat. I think they call that piracy. I know quite a few people with tall ships I get to go on. I am good friends with the captain of the 74-foot gaff rigged topsail schooner WOLF based in Key West. In the book I explain how we (his 'Pyrate' troupe) ran aground in Port Royal, Jamaica. Their coast guard recused the school kids on board while we had to pay a local guy $100 in advance to tow the boat. That's piracy.
"Port Royal was really the richest port in the entire world outside of Boston until an earthquake leveled it. Every great pirate, Captain Morgan, Blackbeard, and the two famous female pirates, Anne Bonney and Mary Read went to Port Royal. About two-thirds of the island sank in 1692 and 4,000 died. The shore is a very reverent place for the local Jamaicans as so many died.
"As Pyrates we try not to say 'argh' and 'matey' all the time. We are more real. Pirates didn't talk that way. They talked like anyone else did during the time period they lived in. Also, they were multi-national. You'd have crews of Frenchmen with English, Dutch, and freed slaves. We do play it as much hysterical as historical. People would be pretty bored if it was all just a history lesson."
Belfast-born Bobby Smyth came by the Shipwreck Tavern. He was a Seafair Pirate 1965 to 1988. He and Zerr were joined there by Ballard Pyrate members Rogues Pierre and his "wench", Sloe Gin.
"I'm in the book quite a lot," said Smyth. "I was married, but quite flirtatious. The women liked a pirate in uniform."
"And out of their uniform, too," quipped Sloe Gin.