Pirates set to overrun Fells Point

Pirates and those who get a kick out of them flock to one of Baltimore’s oldest neighborhoods for the annual Privateer Day

April 09, 2010|By Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun

Kate Larsen is proud to be a pirate — and not the kind that hails from Pittsburgh.

Make your way down to Fells Point Saturday for the area's sixth annual Privateer Day, and you might be lucky enough to see Larsen. Just look for the most realistic-looking pirates around, and chances are she'll be the only woman among the group.

If you want to get on her good side — and who really wants to be on a pirate's bad side? — it would be best to address her not by her given name, but by the name she's known by in buccaneer circles. This weekend, she'll no longer be Kate Larsen from Portland, Ore., but rather notorious French pirate Margot la Mechante de Marseilles. And, she promises, she strikes quite the pose.

"I look pretty good as a pirate," the 52-year-old says with all due modesty, "even though I don't have the brawny tattoos. There are a lot of wenches but not a lot of pirate leaders who are women. I'm a French pirate, too, and there aren't that many French pirates.

"You know," she says, "the costume does sort of take over once you put the bodice on. I just become the French Margot."

Larsen … er, Margot … will have plenty of company Saturday, as pirates and pirate wannabes temporarily take over one of Baltimore's oldest communities. In fact, the country's 12 most realistic-looking pirates — those who "exemplify piratitude incarnate," in the words of Pirates magazine — will all be in Baltimore this weekend. There will even be two actors who played pirates in the 2003 blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," Vince Lozano and Treva Etienne.

There might be no planks to walk and precious few decks to swab, but Privateer Day will offer plenty of other activities to enjoy in and around the Fells Point waterfront, centered at the foot of Broadway. Live music will be provided by The Brigands, Inishowen and Capt. Thomas Flint. Some serious mayhem should be provided by members of Chesapeake Roller Derby, almost certainly Maryland's only pirate-themed roller derby team. There will be a living-history camp near the foot of Bond Street, and a 5 p.m. mock sea battle between the Pride of Baltimore II, the HMS Bounty (the ship that starred in the 1962 movie "Mutiny on the Bounty," up from Florida for the weekend) and the schooner Farewell.

Some 40 vendors will be scattered throughout the area, offering enough food and wares to please even the scurviest of knaves. Kids will be able to make their own messages-in-a-bottle, hunt for treasure or get their faces painted.

Now all this might seem a bit much, especially considering that there never were — as far as anyone knows — pirates operating out of Fells Point. Sure, there were privateers back in the early days, essentially pirates licensed by the government. They would raid enemy ships and split the profits between themselves and the government.

True, the British, after being raided by one too many clipper ships operating out of Fells Point in the early 1800s, referred to the community as "a den of pirates." But privateer buffs bristle at the suggestion that they were the same as their scruffier counterparts, who operated totally outside the law (like what's going on off the Somali coast these days). Organizers of Privateer Day, however, promise that they are not purists. Pirates, both rogue and sanctioned, will be welcomed.

"We'd like to think that there's something for everybody," says Jason Sullivan, executive director of Fells Point Main Street, which organizes Privateer Day. "Just have fun, and take from it what you will."

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

The sixth annual Privateer Day is set for 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, April 10, in and around the Fells Point waterfront, centered at the foot of Broadway. Information: fellspointmainstreet.org

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