The eighth annual Lake Sinclair pirate Boat Parade sets sail Saturday from Goat Island.

The mission is a little different from their 17th century open ocean predecessors, but the garb remains the same for The Pirates of Lake Sinclair.

What started about eight years ago as a small gathering of friends celebrating the birthday of famed Welsh pirate-for-hire Captain Henry Morgan has grown into a full-on boat parade boasting 150 participants riding in 50 vessels.

The eighth annual Lake Sinclair Pirate Boat Parade sets sail Saturday for another year of frivolity on the water. There be no fee, RSVP or registration necessary, just dress your boat and yourself in your pirate finery and gather at Goat Island (the one on the north end of the lake) at 2 p.m. This year’s route will take captains and crew members from the island to the big water at Georgia Power’s Sinclair Dam. There, prizes will be given to the best-dressed pirates and best-decorated boats. Nearly 40 prizes have been received from lake area businesses, including restaurant gift certificates, rounds of golf, apparel and even some things lake life lovers will find handy. 

The annual event has had a few different organizers and has taken on several forms over the years. Jerry Arnold, a Lake Sinclair weekender for 16 years now, has taken the wheel in 2020. His introduction to the pirate boat parade came as a spectator years ago. The sight of the Jolly Roger or black sails may have frightened those living in coastal cities 400 years ago, but Arnold quickly learned that the local pirate parade puts out a decidedly different vibe. 

“It’s just a chance to have some fun by decorating your boat and wearing something funny,” he said. “Some boats just fly a pirate flag or have people wearing pirate hats, but some of the boats are elaborately decorated. It’s almost like decorating for Christmas for some people and the kids love it.”

Saturday marks the third scheduled date for the 2020 pirate parade as even water-centric events are not immune to the effects of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the cruise wound up at the Grill at Crooked Creek Marina where 150 gathered for post-sailing food and drink. Organizers tried to postpone this year’s ride until it would be safe to get together in such large groups again but opted for a new plan with the lake’s busy months drawing to a close. 

“The restaurant is open, but it’s just not safe for 150 people to be together like that so everything’s going to remain on the water this year,” Arnold said.

This year’s ride from Goat Island to the Sinclair Dam is expected to last no longer than an hour, but participating pirates are welcome to join anywhere along the route. The big open water near the dam makes it the perfect meet-up point as many boats are expected to park there in hopes of earning cool prizes.

The Lake Sinclair Pirate Boat Parade is a great example of social media bringing a little positivity into the world. It’s partly how a small get-together between a few friends has grown into an annual event bringing in well over 100 participants. 

“You make friendships, and in talking to people you find out you live right around the corner from one another,” Arnold said. “That’s what it’s all about, really, is giving people who normally just wave at each other on the lake the opportunity to meet each other.”

For more information on The Pirates of Lake Sinclair’s boat parade, visit the group’s Facebook page by searching “Pirates of Lake Sinclair.”

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