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Ahoy mateys

CNN.com has just named Capt. Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean film as the greatest movie mariner of all time.

“The indefatigable Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Pirate Lord of the Caribbean, and star of three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, must be Hollywood’s finest seafarer,” wrote CNN’s writer Tom Peck. “Scourge of the Royal Navy, hero to his motley band of Pirates, and regular rescuer of damsels in distress. Oh, and his dad was in the Rolling Stones.”

Sparrow beat out fellow seafarers Jack Aubrey from “Master and Commander” and Erik from “Erik the Viking.”

While this list is entertaining and even interesting to look through, I realized that none of these characters hold a candle to the men and women I saw this weekend at the Blackbeard Pirate Festival in Hampton.

First of all, I had never been to the festival (or BPFest as I have grown to call it). I had no idea such an event was even in existence. I guess I should not have been too surprised. After all, I grew up in Virginia Beach, and in the third grade when we were studying the city’s history we were repeatedly told how Blackbeard was a fixture on our shores.

Well, Saturday was my 25th birthday and after searching for things to do that weekend, I found BPFest.

When you find out your birthday falls on the same day as the celebration for one of the most notorious felons in history, you go.

There we were Saturday morning — pirate hats and eye patches firmly in place — walking through the streets of Hampton.

And let me tell you, pirates do not play around. Hundreds of men and women were decked out in their best pirate gear. I’m not talking about our lame attempts to fit in (my whole ensemble cost 4 bucks); I’m talking about real, authentic swashbuckling outfits. They also talked like pirates, which is a little off-putting in 2009.

Whenever I stopped pirates to take my picture with them, I instinctively checked for my wallet.

Despite always being on the lookout for pirate thievery, it was a great time. There were pirate bands, where one woman played a naked piano – which sounds much more salacious than it is. And there were plenty of tents where you could learn about weaponry, proper flying of flags, sailing and linguistics. For instance, never call a pirate a “paddy west sailor,” or else you’ll have a real brawl on your hands.

All in all, it was a great day and much better than just watching a DVD of Capt. Jack.