By Donna Beth Weilenman
Martinez News Gazette
Special to the Herald
Worried that your children are spending too much time on electronic devices? Are they fresh out of class and already bored? Greg Medley and Maria Eivers-Medley have a solution.
Enroll them in pirate school.
The couple operates the Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham School of Piracy for the Young and Impressionable, and have been annual features at the Northern California Pirate Festival, the largest pirate festival on the West Coast and one of the largest in the country.
The 11th Northern California Pirate Festival takes place June 17 and 18 – Fathers Day Weekend – at Vallejo Waterfront Park.
“We decided to start the school because we thought it would be fun to have an activity that both kids and their parents could enjoy together,” Eivers-Medley said. “We wanted it to be fun, interactive and educational.
“We named it The Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham School of Piracy because they were a well-known pirate couple, and of course, Anne was the better-skilled of the two,” she said. Rackham also is known by his nickname, “Calico Jack,” based on his colorful clothing.
While the school is designed to be fun, its physical and intellectual challenges were chosen carefully, she said.
The couple wanted to teach children about the history of piracy and the skills needed to be a seafarer, she explained.
“The kids will do activities such as learning how to tie knots, how to load a cannon as part of a cannon crew, swinging across on a rope in order to board another ship, designing and painting their own pirate flag, learning the parts of a sailing vessel, how to talk like a pirate and other activities,” she said.
Children get to take the school at their own pace. “We want each child to feel accomplished, “Eivers-Medley explained. “Also, the child can always come back anytime during the pirate festival to complete the activities. They do not have to do it all in one visit.”
Each child receives a lanyard once they enter the school, and for each activity the child receives a colored bead to add. The child collects the beads, and once the school is complete, the child receives a graduation certificate that notes the rank the child has earned.
“One bead is a swabby and six beads will make you a captain,” Eivers-Medley said.
“Children of all ages” are welcome, she said and accommodations are made for youngsters and adults with special needs.
The reaction this year is delight on the part of both children and parents.
“We often are told it is the best activity at the Pirate Festival,” she said.
“We have kids that come back each year to do it again, and we even have graduates and their parents who come back to volunteer to help at the school. On average, we will have about 900-plus kids that go through our school over the weekend.”
The Vallejo couple is part of a community of people who participate in a variety of themed fairs, “so of course when this festival was started, we wanted to support it,” she said. The Northern California Pirate Festival is in its 11th year.
“The first two years of the festival, we were in other groups, and then the third year of the festival, we started the school, so this will be the school’s ninth year at the festival.”
And, it’s a Northern California Pirate Festival exclusive, she added.
There is no charge to enter the school, but the couple will be selling buttons and bumper stickers. Money raised from those sales get put back into the school, she said.
And Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham are always looking for additional crew to tutor the young sea rogues. Those interested in volunteering may email PirateSchool@yahoo.com. “No special skills needed,” she added.
Eivers-Medley said the Northern California Pirate Festival “is a unique event. It gives everyone the chance to play pirate for the day, have fun seeing piratical entertainment and enjoy many unique and skilled craftsmen.”
Even though it will be a working weekend for the couple, Eivers-Medley said, “I enjoy seeing people of all ages coming together and having fun, being able to get away from all the stresses of their daily lives.
“It is always fun to see the different outfits and to see how into character everyone gets. But at the end of the day, my favorite thing is seeing how much fun the kids are having with their parents. The smiles and laughter are the best.”
The Northern California Pirate Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 17 and 18 at Vallejo Waterfront Park, 298 Mare Island Way, Vallejo. The Buccaneer Bash, for those 18 and older, is a Burlesque and Pirate Rock party that starts at 6 p.m. June 17.
Admission to the festival is $12 for adults and free for children 12 and younger. Tickets to the Buccaneer Bash are sold separately and are $15. Tickets are available at the festival’s website, https://www.norcalpiratefestival.com.