The driftwood pirate ship of New Brighton

At the start of this year a pirate ship sailed into New Brighton. The first in many a year. This is a very unique pirate ship. It came in on a high tide in bits and pieces. Driftwood for the most part, but also rope, flags and even the odd wet suit. Local artist Frank Lund and his friend Major Mace saw the potential in these bits and set about building an entire ship, having spent the past 6 months crafting dolphins and a nativity scene from whatever they found on the shore.

It took about a month to fully develop the ship. They spend a few days a week maintaining the ship, but ultimately appreciate that the sea could take back her at any time. The main problem isn’t the kids playing on it, it’s the adults. There is a lot of wood in the ship and it looks beautiful. It’s all been aged and weathered by the wind and the sea. One log is absolutely massive and one man alone couldn’t move it. Frank asked his mates to help out and facing an early start to move a huge piece of driftwood he found himself alone. Thankfully a woman from Oregon with a broken wrist helped. She said they know how to move wood over there.

The ship just took on its own life from there. Built in response to what two men found on the beach with a little help from passers by, the ship became a focal point for the community. Passers by couldn’t believe what they were seeing. At a distance it’s a real pirate ship. Up close and through the eyes of the children hanging off every rafter its a pirate ship. It’s beautiful and in no way funded. Frank didn’t want funding for it. He wanted it to be organic. He wanted it to bring the community together.

Unfortunately some members of the community felt the need to destroy instead of create. In late spring someone set fire to the affectionately named “Black Pearl”. Thankfully someone saw this and the local fire brigade were able to put it out before the ship was completely destroyed. A good portion of the back of the ship had been burnt. Requests for help appeared on Facebook and Twitter.

A date was set and the community rallied around the ship to rebuild. Initially the idea was to simply clear away unusable wood but on the night there was such enthusiasm that the entire back end was pulled down and rebuilt in about 2 hours. Men, women, and of course children all got stuck in. Frank said that while it was sad to see the ship on fire it would have never brought everyone together. BBQ’s were roaring, free pies handed out and the community cheered as the pirate flag was once again hoisted up the main sale on our lovely Black Pearl.

Months on and the ship is still there. Kids are in tears being taken home for tea. “Just one more minute!” Families setup for the day there with prams, picnics and ice-cream. It’s really transformed that area by where the old New Brighton Tower stood. It really shows the importance of public art and how simple things like this can transform a place. Would this have been commissioned in New Brighton? No, never. It’s exactly what we wanted though.