It's a pirate's life

Sanford man transforms worn boat into vessel worthy of the high seas
Jul. 19, 2014 @ 05:33 PM

Miniature pirate ships trapped in glass jars may be well and good for some people. But J.R. Brady, captain of the H.M.S. Galilean, prefers to feel the breeze in his hair as he sails his pirate ship across Jordan Lake.

The Galilean took her maiden voyage on Memorial Day after almost a year of planning, painting and construction.

Brady said the idea to build a personal, seaworthy pirate ship was planted four years ago.

"[My son] was 6 at the time," he said. "We took [the kids] out for a treasure hunt on my son's sixth birthday. 'Pirates of the Caribbean' was going strong at the time."

Brady started the actual construction last September. He said his family had had the boat, a 1990 Bayliner Sunbridge, for a while, and the wear and tear was starting to show.

"I decided I wanted to give it a 400-year-old face lift," Brady said of the 30-foot-long boat.

Brady spent the winter modifying the boat in his spare time, often with the help of his children, Sky, 14, and Seth, 10.

"My dad put a lot of work into it," Sky said. "We'd help him with the ropes or the anchor sometimes. It's unique. I like the fact that it's handmade from a normal boat."

Once the boat was finished and ready to sail, the captain and his family headed to the Poe's Ridge boat ramp on Jordan Lake for some Memorial Day sailing. What the family didn't know was that winds would be strong that day.

"During our maiden voyage ...  we got hit by a big crosswind, and we were actually blown in to [Ebenezer Church beach]," Brady said.

He added that everyone on the beach rushed over to see the ship. Cameras flashed as people clambered to get on board. Brady, who was busy holding his ship steady, was afraid the boat would capsize. Thankfully, a family friend arrived to tow them back out to the open waters.

"[Our boat] turns a lot of heads," said Seth.

"It turns a lot of cellphones," Sky added. "People are always taking pictures and videos. It's unique. It's fun to be the only person out there on a pirate ship."

But one pirate ship is not enough for Brady. He enjoyed building his first one, and he said he hopes to build a fleet of six to eight ships eventually.

"I'd like to have the next one done within the next 12 months," Brady said. "I'm looking for partners and sponsors right now to help fund it."

Brady said once he had the boat, it cost about $1,000 to outfit it as a pirate ship. The ship's mast is composed of PVC pipes and bamboo. The rear lanterns are Gold Peak sweet tea bottles outfitted with flashing aluminum and solar-powered light bulbs.

"My boat is clean and green," Brady said. "Everything is either solar or battery powered."

Brady dreams of rounding up crews to recreate pirate battles with water balloon cannons once he completes a second boat.

"I picture two boats pulled by two vehicles in a sort of figure-8 pattern so they get close to each other and then move apart," Brady said. "There would be two teams of five — one captain, two gunners and two loaders. You'd get points for hitting certain parts of the boat. If the captain gets hit, then the rest of the crew has to figure out what to do without someone to give orders."

On Aug. 8, Brady and his family will head to Beaufort for the annual Pirate Invasion, a reenactment of a pirate battle in 1747, when pirates stole two ships from the Beaufort docks, outfitted them with cannons, returned and battled the local militia.

Brady will not be joining the pirates, who were eventually defeated, but will be showcasing his personal pirate ship.

Sky and Seth said they are both excited to dress up as pirates and partake in the festivities surrounding the reenactment, and Brady said he already has most of his captain costume ready to go.

Brady said his wife, Geraldine, told him he was the kind of person who thought outside of the box.

"To me," Brady said, "there is no box. I said, 'I got this boat. I can do something with this.'"