A new pirate crew has invaded Newfoundland and Labrador, but, thankfully, this one is not likely to pillage or plunder.
The Raiders of the Avalon Pirate Crew is a collective of more than 160 pirate impersonators attending events across the province.
"We have a wide range of members in the group," said Rod Hand (also known as "Captain Flint Locke"), the group's founder, in an interview with CBC Radio's On The Go. "Law enforcement, lawyers, artists, you name it. It's all in there. It's almost like a little melting pot of pirates."
The group, which was formed before the announcement that Disney's Peter Pan & Wendy would be filming on the island, sprang out of Hand's love of history, as well as his desire to bring people together after more than a year of COVID-19.
"I think people needed something, you know? They needed something to get them out of their houses and get them back into doing something that's fun," he said.
Before he started the group, he was already hunting treasure as part of the Diggin the Rock Metal Detecting Facebook group. He asked Gary Murrin, another group member and leather maker at Valgar Leather and Forge, to design a tricorn hat for him to wear as part of a pirate costume.
When Murrin decided to join in the fun and become a pirate too, Hand decided to start a pirate collective, inspired by other groups in places like Nova Scotia, Florida and even Texas.
Hand said Murrin is responsible for much of the authentic leather in the group's costumes, and that Murrin's work is so impressive, he has begun getting orders from pirate collectives outside the province.
"He's very good at what he does," Hand said.
Taking inspiration from history
Inspiration for characters in the collective comes from a variety of historical and fictional pirates, including Blackbeard, Samuel Bellamy and Anne Bonny.
Hand based his own "loveable" pirate character on Johnny Depp's performance as Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series.
He was also inspired by Newfoundland and Labrador's own history of piracy, specifically Peter Easton, an English pirate who conducted raids on ships and harbours from Trinity Bay to Ferryland in the early 17th century.
Easton's headquarters was in Harbour Grace, where he built up his fleet and recruited men to his crews, before he eventually sailed to France.
"He's one of our famous Newfoundland pirates, and he was very successful," Hand said.
While the group is still in its beginning stages, Hand said it already has appearances planned for this summer. Last weekend, the group "took" the HMCS Oriole while it was docked in St. John's Harbour for its 100th anniversary. On Aug. 1, Raiders will attend Bonavista Days, and on Aug. 8 they will participate in Pirate Family Day at the Stone Jug Restaurant in Carbonear.
Hand said anyone who would like to join the crew is welcome. Aspiring pirates can find more information through the Raiders of the Avalon Facebook group.