The 2022 Cape Cod Pirate Festival

Ho! Gather ‘round ye’ and I’ll tell ye a tale. Chris Schultz, his mother called ‘em when he was knee-high to a parrot. That’s the man who had an idea to batten down the hatches and bring pirate life to Cape Cod. After working for a better part of 20 years as a performer, manager, developer, agent, and director of the Florida Renaissance Festival, he began motivating businesses to run their work virtually when COVID started taking its toll. Chris started a specialized event planning company,  New Latitude Event Solutions, that focused on virtual events for small non-profits and small businesses, noting that many small businesses didn’t have the tools or resources to get the job done. “I kind of jumped in to help out,” he says. As in-person events began to return, friends and family began to encourage him to go back to his roots. “So I decided to launch the Cape Pirate Festival last year with about two months to plan it.” He goes on to say “It was a frenzy. And it was a ton of fun!” To say it was a great success is an understatement. About 2000 people attended the event by the end of the first week, and Chris knew that this was the beginning of an amazing thing. It seems that he was right!

Tickets to the event will shiver your timbers with Swashbuckling Adventures offering family-friendly fun with interactive fairy tale shows, storytelling, and original music calling to our inner Vikings, Celtics, sea-battled pirates, and wenches. Respectively. Each day of the 4-day event has a unique theme inviting guests to get into character and play along for an increasingly immersive experience. Whether you’re a sea-legged old salt or young-blooded landlubber, you are invited to dress and talk like a pirate, be an ambassador representing your own otherworldly realm, or enjoy a 4 Day Season Pass and get exclusive access to after-hours scallywaggin’, VIP booty, and bragging rights. Contests and prizes will be awarded for the best costumes, photos, and more!  Don’t have a costume? Avast ye! You can look in ye duffle come up with your own, or dig into your coffer to throw down a few doubloons to get yar’self the garb for the occasion. No need to pillage and plunder if you can’t find the perfect piece, as you’re sure to find last-minute costumes, jewelry, accessories, and souvenirs with an assortment of vendors that will be scattered across the grounds. So, pop on your peg leg, grab a parrot and your hearties, and join the fun!

Practice your song and dance, maties, because there’s a song around every corner. This year’s festival is packed full of local and national talent including the war pipes and drums band Cu Dubh, featuring TikTok sensation Ally the Piper, the exclusively assembled pirate-themed rock and roll band The Plankwalkers, and a locally homegrown group of Chauncey singers, the Whydah Washashores. “We have wonderful talent here on Cape,” Chris proudly exclaims. “We’ve got some of the best voices and performers on Cape Cod!”

If you’d like to splice the mainbrace at the pub, you’ll find it staffed by the Harlot Queens, who’ll be pouring and performing in a pirates-meet-coyote-ugly fashion. The 1000 Islands Pirate Society will launch a “stationary pub crawl” consisting of drinking games and traditional games, telling stories as they move from table to table interacting with the crowd. If pub life isn’t your bag, a wide variety of food will also be available from vendors at the festival.

“It’s a blast! It’s great for families.  It’s great for young couples and groups of friends who want to go out. There’s a little bit of everything.”

-Chris Shultz, Founder of the Cape Cod Pirate Festival

The 2nd Annual Cape Cod Pirate Fest will occur at the YARMOUTH FAIRGROUNDS located at 669 MA-28 in West Yarmouth for “two roguish weekends” June 4th & 5th and June 11th & 12th from 10:30 am – 6:30 pm.

This event is partially funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

This blog is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

(Britt Skinner is a freelance writer.)

The Center for Historic Shipwreck Preservation

Students can now explore ancient shipwrecks, study marine science, dive into America’s maritime history and relive the Golden Age of Piracy – all without leaving their homes.

The Center for Historic Shipwreck Preservation (Shipwreck Center for short) launched a new online learning program in April, using the expertise and archaeological treasures of the Whydah Pirate Museum in Yarmouth. The project, which is up and running but still being expanded and refined, was prompted in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brandon Clifford, executive director of the nonprofit Shipwreck Center, said education has always been a big part of the organization’s mission, but the virtual learning program was created after public schools shut down in March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. He said he helped set up remote classrooms for the Laurel School in Brewster, where his daughter is a student.

“After watching my daughter and her classmates become separated, I just felt inclined to do something positive and help out in any way that I could,” he said. And that work led to the bigger project.

“We realized that we could potentially reach, hundreds or thousands of students online across the country and connect them this with this really unique history of pirates,” Clifford said in a telephone interview.

In addition to pirate history, the virtual learning program will cover a wide range of ocean-related topics, he explained. Lessons will reach students in kindergarten through 12th grade, with two categories – history and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The center also provides lesson plans and educator guides – all approved for Massachusetts schools, Clifford said.

Treasures from Whydah Bring Lessons to Life

Brandon Clifford is the son of undersea archaeological explorer Barry Clifford, who discovered the Whydah Gally shipwreck in 1984 and founded the Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth. The Shipwreck Center is independent from the pirate museum, with its own projects, research, resources and multimedia content, but Brandon Clifford’s ties to the museum and his father’s exploits help the center enhance its online classes with centuries-old artifacts recovered from the Whydah.  

“As time goes on, we’ll be able to do virtual field trips to a dive site,” he explained. Clifford envisions future explorations with “a camera out on a boat and a class being able to log on and join us for 45 minutes out on the ocean – watching how we set up our surveys and watching divers come out of the water with real pirate artifacts .”

The Whydah, a 100-foot slave ship that had been commandeered by pirate Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy, was bound for Maine with a load of treasure when it sunk in a storm in 1717, killing Bellamy and all but two of his 146-member crew. Explorer Barry Clifford discovered the wreck near Wellfleet’s Marconi Beach in 1984, and more than 35 years later, the Whydah remains the only authenticated pirate shipwreck ever to be recovered.

The Whydah site remains a work in progress with new diving expeditions every year. Researchers are still discovering artifacts that reveal not only clues to the life of pirates, but also to the slave trade and everyday life in the 18th century, Brandon Clifford said. Three years ago, divers found some 600 manillas – copper bracelets used as currency in the slave trade. Crews also discovered a small cannon that was most likely used as a chase gun on the Whydah, and explorers hope the latest discoveries will lead them to the ship’s stern.

The wreck site is scattered on the sandy bottom roughly 1,000 feet out in the ocean, Clifford said, owing to 300 years of storms and waves eroding Cape Cod’s shoreline at a rate of roughly 3 feet per year. Explorers theorize that the Whydah broke apart in the waves and the stern drifted away.

In addition to the Whydah Gally, classes will explore other shipwrecks, Clifford said. Teams led by his father plied the water off Madagascar’s coast near the island of Sainte Marie (aka “Pirate Island”) and found a half-dozen wrecks, including one that was tentatively identified as Captain Kidd’s Adventure Gally. They also searched for the Santa Maria, Columbus’s flagship, and worked on the northern and southern coasts of Haiti, looking for Captain Henry Morgan’s ship, the Oxford.

“We are going to use all our projects as examples,” Clifford said. “We’ll look at artifacts from various shipwrecks, and as things progress, we’re going to include more classes and more guests and create more virtual field trips.”

Membership, Donations and Lessons

The Shipwreck Center is using CrowdCast for its webcast platform and raising money with – a web-based program used by artists, educators, writers and other creators to engage members and raise money for projects. CrowdCast integrates well with Patreon, Clifford said, allowing group questions and answers, which is well suited for a classroom environment.

The Shipwreck Center’s website contains links to the virtual education program, along with pricing and program descriptions in three membership tiers – student, family and home-schooling, and schools and classes.

Clifford says the virtual learning program currently has two Massachusetts schools enrolled, along with some student and family memberships. An April 30 webcast on the value of preserving history with expedition archaeologist and conservator Sophia Morong, was attended by roughly 60 students, he said.

Clifford is now hoping to expand the service beyond Cape Cod and Massachusetts to share the fascinating stories of Atlantic pirates.

“You know, essentially we’re storytellers,” he explained. “We’re looking for shipwrecks but we’re following stories. And we really look forward to sharing the experience with as many as possible.”

Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce blogger Andy Tomolonis is a multimedia producer, award-winning journalist and author.