It all began with a ship……
It’s funny, as a child I remember seeing tallships and pirate ships in stories and movies and some in real life, and I remember absolutely detesting the idea of ever wanting to be anywhere near a ship! I thought they were primitive, and disgusting, actually. So….organic. Wood hull with splintering weathered ends, fabric sails that can fray and tatter in the wind, the pervading smell of tar from the shrouds and ratlines and the ship all ‘round….. the toxic smell of gun powder, having to sleep on the gun deck right next to the cannons……the dizzying array of countless lines of rope strewn all about the entire ship…what a mess and a visual nightmare! And the fact that there was no idea of a cockpit or covered weather-proof place to sit and navigate the ship, instead you have to STAND, OUTSIDE, in the rain or cold or whatever elements the sea decides to shower you with….not to mention the idea of NO SHOWERS aboard…. And what was the horrible grog made from that crew members had to eat? I don’t even want to know! Oh, and my worst fear: the POOP deck!
The point is, I HATED the idea of pirate ships. I absolutely detested them. Utterly. Completely.
Until I first laid my eyes on…. The Black Pearl, from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Like many, I became enamored with this movie… not so much because of Johnny Depp, nor the blossoming Keira Knightley, but because of a ship with black sails, captained by a man so evil that he11 itself spat him back out. The Black Pearl and her then captain, played by Geoffrey Rush, Captain Barbosa, my favourite character.
My first instinct as a toy enthusiast was to search for a toy of the Black Pearl. However, at the time of the first movie, none existed. So my little girl and I went to Toys R Us and purchased a different ship with a black hull, BlackBeard’s Pirate Ship by Playmobil for US$29.99:
Suffice it to say, my daughter and I had loads of fun pretending it was the Black Pearl. But somehow its ugly plastic red furled sails and missing spanker sail just didn’t do it for me, so we turned her into this:
Our pseudo-BlackPearl, aka The Black Widow, using black 3-ring-binder plastic for the sails, and a custom-cut spider sticker as her insignia, and added regular playmo cannons to replace her “big bertha” cannon. She was a fine ship, but it just didn’t seem right still. By then, the second and third movie were being filmed, and I was elated to discover that, unlike the first movie where the Black Pearl was a façade built aboard a floating barge, Jerry Brookheimer had commissioned the construction of an actual sea-worthy SHIP! (though it too is a sort of façade built over an existing cargo ship named the “Sunset,” and had masts that ended at the tops, requiring the rest of the masting above the tops to be added later in post-production as digital elements). But she seemed “real” enough to me. I was in love! I began studying the leaked photos that permeated the internet, becoming obsessed with the ship with each click I made of the mouse.
Unlike the barge, the new sea-worthy Black Pearl had a very curvy deck profile, similar to old-style galleons of yore. I had to have a better ship than the 3750 style 2-masted Black Beard ship that, to me, actually looked more like a fishing vessel than a pirate ship.
So I purchased the Black Pearl by Mega Bloks.
The Mega Bloks ship was a disappointment, however. The hull was way off, and the masts and sails and lack of shrouds or rigging of any sort made me quickly toss it aside, my thirst for the perfect Black Pearl still unquenched. It’s hard to believe that this ship went for US$40 at the time (not worth it, IMO), and now commands prices upwards of $200 or more on ebay. Why?! Her only redeeming parts her her bow and stern. Everything else in-between is just horrid.
Then I saw the Ultimate Black Pearl Playset by Zizzle for US$80 that could accommodate 3 ¾” figures from the movie line. It was HUGE! BUT, I realized the proportions are even WORSE than the Mega Bloks ship, PLUS it had no chance of floating like a Playmobil ship, so I skipped out on buying her at all at the time.
And then, I found the infamous 3286 ship by Playmobil for US$90 at the time (she now fetches upwards of $150 on ebay)…
This picture alone convinced me that this would make the perfect Black Pearl, as it seemed to mirror the curved lines of the real ship:
For a long while I played with the 3286 as she was in all her red plastic glory, only adding topsails to her masts, otherwise keeping her in stock condition. For months I stared at her, imagining and imagining how awesome it would be if she were even more like the Pearl, with 3 masts instead of 2, 3 stages of sails, totaling no less than 12 sails total, with 2 flying jibs and several staysails. And with a forecastle, and giant lanterns and ornamentation at the stern, and cannons on both the gun deck And the main deck. For the longest time, I would just sit there and imagine….
Until one day, it came to me: why not have the best of all worlds? Why not have a ship that floats and is durable like the Playmobil ship, but correctly ornamented like the Mega Bloks ship, and on the verge of realistic detail like the Zizzle ship?
So, the first thing I did was get my dremel, took a deep breath, and began to saw off the bow of the 3286 ship. Once I made the cut, I knew there was no going back! Using parts of the Megabloks ship, I test-fitted the transplants onto the 3286 and took pics of her in black and white as I took my first steps towards creating The Black Pearl ala Playmobil style:
I first purchased the 3286 in 2006, only first modifying it to this stage after 2 years in 2008. It wouldn't be until June, 2010 that I would take the next step by painting her black and adding extra yard arms and rigging to accomdate more sails......
More to come…….