In the annals of recently invented holidays, nothing beats Talk Like a Pirate Day, taking place every September 19. What set sail in 1995 as a racquetball joke between two buddies and walked the plank into the public oceans when columnist Dave Barry wrote about it in 2002 has become a pop culture phenomena, a force behind a website (, books (from Piratitude to The Pirate Life: Unleashing Your Inner Buccaneer), and international intrigue from Sydney to Ireland to NPR. And this year, Santa Barbara is finally embracing the event with open-and properly hooked-arms, as the Maritime Museum and Speaking of Stories team up for a Saturday of storytelling, sailing, and buccaneering fun.

“There’s no better place to celebrate this kind of zany holiday,” promised Abbey Chamberlin, the museum’s director of education, who explained that the day will start with hat-making and a sing-a-long for kids from 11 a.m. to noon, continue with a 2:30 p.m. benefit voyage on the Channel Cat, and then culminate with the 7:30 p.m. Speaking of Stories performance inside the museum, featuring tales from Herman Melville, James Thurber, Linda Greenlaw, and others. The nod to pirates isn’t a first for the museum, as Chamberlain explained that they often pass along pirate vocabulary to visiting kids. “We teach them phrases like ‘good day, mateys!’ and ‘ahoy, me heartys’ – which are your crew members,” she explained. “You know, the essential stuff to get by on a pirate ship, at least through the holiday.”

Chamberlain turns out to be quite the pirate lover herself, as the curator of the museum’s current exhibit of Hip³lito Bouchard, the French-born, Argentine-hired pirate who terrorized the Santa Barbara coast in 1818. That’s when Jose De la Guerra’s soldiers performed a legendary ruse to scare Bouchard away, a tale told compellingly in the museum’s presentation. “We’ve always wanted to have a pirate exhibit,” said Chamberlain, “but we wanted to relate it back to the Central Coast’s maritime history.”

So, as part of Talk Like a Pirate Day, Chamberlain also arranged for the soldados from El Presidio de Santa Barbara to come by at about 7:15 p.m. and protect the museum with their rifles. “They’re a tough act to get,” she said, “but they recognized the historical significance and thought it fit their time period.”

And don’t forget that the museum is offering free admission during the day for anyone who comes dressed like a pirate. Does that include people dressed like modern day pirates, perhaps in the latest Somali sash? “It’s open to interpretation,” said Chamberlain.

For tickets and more info, call 962-8404 or visit


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