As the most recent winner of the National Piers Society’s ‘Pier of the Year’ award in 2018, Portsmouth’s South Parade Pier has been enjoyed by residents and tourists alike since the structure was re-opened in April 2017. But last Saturday, this iconic building received an unscheduled visit from a stag party full of drunken pirates that turned a relaxing day’s fishing for some into utter bewilderment. Gavin Dollery speaks to some of the people who witnessed this peculiar event.
According to the mission statement on the company’s website, PugSea Boat Tours ‘aims to bring fun and good times to all stag and hen parties on the South Coast looking for the authentic pirate experience’. Since the company was founded in February 2018 by entrepreneur Peter PugSea (pictured above), it seemed that this statement rang true for all who set foot on the company’s flagship pirate vessel, the Solent Swift.
Unfortunately for Mr PugSea, this statement doesn’t ring true when you consider the company’s most recent ‘stag do’ event during which the captain lost control of the Solent Swift in the Solent and the ship ended up moored to South Parade Pier. Did it bring ‘fun and good times’ to the stag party on that occasion? Did it allow them to have that ‘authentic pirate experience’?
Portsmouth local Sandra Smith was fishing off the side of the pier when she first spotted the ship drifting towards her.
‘It was a rare sight to see a ship so close to the pier, let alone a pirate ship,’ said Sandra. ‘Using the pier as a dock is usually off-limits so people thought it was some kind of unannounced shipping event. But when we heard the dance music blaring out at full volume and saw the huge barrels of alcohol on the deck, we soon realised that this was an unscheduled stop. They must have sailed a bit too close to the shore or lost control or something.’
The mystery surrounding the Solent Swift‘s visit only added to the confusion. Spectators wrestled for a good spot on the pier and beach to watch the ship come into the shallower waters.
‘The music was deafening,’ Sandra continued. ‘The boat was actually shaking it was that loud. Then suddenly a man and a pug [dog] came running out and somehow managed to moor the ship to the pier. They were both dressed as pirates. The costumes were interesting because it looked like the man was dressed as Captain Hook from Peter Pan and the dog appeared to have a tailor-made pirate outfit. Captain Hook was shouting, “Don’t worry people, we’re only a stag do” while it looked like the dog was literally barking orders at him. They stepped onto the pier and were soon joined by a several other men in fancy dress.’
Tourist Jonathan Wiles was eating fish and chips on the pier with his mother when the group emerged from the ship. He told S&C what happened next.
‘Most of them staggered off the ship and they’d clearly been drinking all day. Whenever the dog barked they all shouted, “Yes Captain PugSea!” It probably comes as no surprise that the other men were also dressed as “famous’”pirates. From what I could make out there was:
‘Long John Silver; Captain Jack Sparrow (from Pirates of the Caribbean); Captain Redbeard (apparently the best man); Captain Morgan (the rum guy); Captain Pugwash (the groom’s father); Black Beard the Pirate; Captain Birdseye (who I still don’t think is even a pirate); and just one bloke with his shirt off covered head-to-toe with UV paint and glitter (this, it transpired, was the lucky groom-to-be).’
The public cheered these interesting characters when they arrived, but their behaviour soon raised concerns.
‘They were all carrying plastic swords,’ said Jonathan. ‘Red Beard and Jack Sparrow wasted no time by immediately having a sword fight with each other right there on the promenade. It was quite a theatrical display that, for some reason, involved the use of laser pens. While those two were going at it, Captain Morgan threw up on a pensioner’s lap, and Long John Silver was trying to scare off any seagulls daring to land on the pier by shouting at them and charging. All of this happened within the first five minutes.
‘Word soon got round that the pug was actually the owner of the company and this explained why he and Captain Hook kept running back to the ship to retrieve items. Firstly, they dragged out a lot of alcohol and then produced a table, some mops and several mystery boxes. Before long all the pirates – and the dog – were playing drinking games and it was clear that Mr PugSea wasn’t concerned about being sober enough to steer the ship home.’
Student Theo Greene had been jogging in the area when curiosity got the better of him and he decided to investigate the commotion around the ship.
‘They set up a table next to the fairground and started to play beer pong,’ he said. ‘In order to include the pug in the game, Captain Pugwash held up the dog whenever he needed to throw the ping-pong ball, but the mutt’s accuracy was atrocious. He couldn’t throw it more than a few inches and it kept landing in his own cups rather than his opponents’. For that reason he was severely punished by others. The pug consumed what I can only describe as a disturbing amount of rum and was soon staggering all over the place, and bumping into things.
‘As well as the beer pong, there also seemed to be a series of punishments for any pirate who broke the rules of the game. All losers were required to drink shots of rum or ale.’
As Theo recalls, punishments were issued for the following offences:
• Anyone failing to refer to another party member by their pirate name.
• Any pirate not holding a mop when Captain Pugwash shouted, ‘Mop the deck!’
• Any pirate being the last one to draw their sword when Redbeard shouted, ‘Draw your swords!’
• Any pirate being the first one to collapse while performing ‘the plank’ yoga pose when Blackbeard shouted, ‘Do the plank!’ (It was usually Captain Hook who lost this one).
The beer pong game came to an abrupt end when Captain Birdseye announced that he himself would be returning the ship because Mr PugSea was ‘too sloshed’. Concerned for the group’s safety under the captaincy of this intoxicated nutter, a worried onlooker called the police.
Theo describes the final moments of their visit. ‘Ignoring advice from members of the public, the pirates then boarded the ship and set sail very quickly, leaving the groom behind. He had been trying to run past them but they weren’t letting him on board. He was left stranded on the pier half naked. He was a bit confused by this at first, although seemed to be in good spirits. We saw him high-fiving everyone while walking into the arcade. Soon he fell asleep underneath a slot machine, though. I left as soon as I got a good picture of him.’
While it is still unknown how the Solent Swift arrived at the pier, the Harbour Police intercepted it after it departed. Peter PugSea and Captain Birdseye (his real name cannot be disclosed for legal reasons) were arrested and now face a series of criminal charges. They will both appear in Portsmouth Crown Court next month.