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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pirate ship is booty for curious

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The faux pirate ship's stern can be seen from the adjacent boat launch area lot, which is actually also private property. The ship will sail as the Black Pearl in filming this summer.

WILL HOOVER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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It appeared in the distance one day last week like a dark and menacing apparition from the sea.

The pirate ship Black Pearl, clearly visible from as far away as the Ko Olina Resort and beyond, has since become a magnet for movie fans, who now flock to a boat launch parking lot next to The Phoenician boat repair facility in Kalaeloa. There, the celebrity vessel is getting a makeover for its next cinematic appearance.

The ship has had a leading role in the phenomenally successful "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, starring Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow, perhaps the most charming buccaneer to ever fly the skull and crossbones.

On weekends and early evenings after folks get off work, the gawker migration has been continuous, say workers in and around the drydock. Officially, those workers confess to being under strict orders to speak not of the mysterious pirate ship.

However, one who refused to give his name because "I'm afraid they'll fire me" quietly confessed that one visitor had offered him $20 to let the man get close enough to kiss the ship. The bribe was declined.

Disney publicist Michael Singer said company officials are aware of the curiosity-seekers who have been coming to gaze in wonderment at the vessel and snap photos through the chain-link fence separating the drydock from an adjacent boat launch and parking lot.

"Certainly we understand the interest, and appreciate it as well," he said. "I have heard that once the enthusiastic response was seen that they stepped up security a bit."

Indeed, yellow-shirted personnel from Andrews International Private Security are present next to the chain-link fence and pirate ship around the clock.

Otherwise, Singer wasn't singing.

"I cannot talk about what they are doing to the ship," he said. "They are obviously doing work on it for the film, the nature of which I'm not able to talk about."

Singer could not say how long the craft would be in drydock. He could not even verify that the fourth installment of the series "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" will be filmed on Kaua'i and O'ahu, even thought that's been widely reported. He did confirm that the ship at the drydock is the same one seen in the second and third "Pirates of the Caribbean" films.

One person who doesn't appreciate the ongoing interest in the ship is John Gomersall, operations manager of The Phoenician, who describes the scene next to his facility as "kind of a frenzy" that's "unfortunate."

"I don't want a continuous parade of people," said Gomersall. "I just have to allocate too many man-hours for controlling that. And I'm quite upset that the Disney people tell me I have to be quiet about things and then they put it out there in the newspaper where it is, when it is, and what they are going to be doing."

Gomersall also pointed out that the boat launch beside The Phoenician is on private property.

A notice on the boat launch parking area reads: "This is a private launch ramp. All users must register at the office. All nonregistered users will be towed away at the owner's expense."

There are also numerous "Private Property" signs posted around the parking lot.

"That is private property and in no way are we inviting people to come and look at it (the pirate ship)," Gomersall continued. "In the state of Hawai'i you have to allow people to get to the shoreline, but you don't have to allow people to get in there to take pictures of a boat that's not shoreline access."

And from the shoreline, visitors can feast their eyes on a close-up view of the Black Pearl's high, swooping stern plus get a snapshot of the ship's actual name: The Sunset.