High in the San Bernardino Mountains is the small town of Big Bear Lake. It’s a vacation destination for families throughout Southern California, winter for snow and summer for recreation near the region’s namesake body of water. Many companies offer trips on the calm waters of Big Bear Lake, but for those looking for a more unique ride, there is a boat called Time Bandit.
The boat is a replica of a Spanish galleon but much smaller at a third of the size. It’s been decorated like a miniature pirate ship: painted black, with red and white accents, fake skeletons attached to shrouds, with a flag that reads “Time flies when you drink rum.” The captain of the ship is dressed in a pirate outfit and sea shanties play over the ship’s speakers as he leaves the dock.
The 90-minute tour takes passengers around the western half of the lake, with beautiful views of the surrounding forested mountains. The ship’s captain discusses the history and ecology of the area, as well as places of interest. There are plenty of corny pirate jokes, and while the ship doesn’t have a real cannon, a handheld version provides enough explosive power to make you feel like you’re really swashbuckling. Kids are even invited to try steering the ship and take a picture with the captain.
The ship lived a full and varied life before arriving on the lake. It was hand built by a father and son in San Diego over 50 years ago. The father, who was the future captain, began construction in his backyard in 1955, but did not complete the ship until 1969. His original intention was to sail the ship to the Sea of Cortez, near Baja California, and live on that. However, the time it took him to build the boat, he lost interest in the idea.
In 1981, the ship ended up in the movie “Time Bandits”. The film, written and directed by Terry Gilliam, is about a little boy with an interest in history, who is taken on a crazy adventure by a group of time-traveling people. Travelers navigate a ship to their destinations, and the one used in the film is the same one that floats on the lake today.