The Krewe Of NOLA Wenches held their annual Shore Leave, a shindig in New Orleans April 19-22 that coincided with Navy Fleet Week. Pirates, tall ships, tourists and over 3000 sailors from different countries mixed and mingled in the historic city for an exciting weekend. This is year three of the annual event, and it continues to grow exponentially. Cher Groves, Captain and leader of the NOLA Wenches Krewe says: “It’s the perfect storm for New Orleans and the French Quarter, but our pirates make sure it’s a fun storm. Where else in the world can you celebrate such an historic bicentennial like The of Battle of New Orleans with both Tall Ships and Pirates?”
Shore Leave is a gathering, an opportunity for pirates from all over the country to get together and drink rum, sing pirate songs, show off their weapons and harass tourists who don’t quite understand why the city has somehow been taken over by hordes of buccaneers from another era.
The French Quarter’s antique buildings and rich history is the perfect backdrop for a pirate party. Drinking by gas light in a 400-year-old bar is a unique experience you can only have in New Orleans.
The city allows drinking on the street and displaying weapons if they are peace-tied, a rare occurrence outside a faire and a must for this well-armed crew. While most pirates sport non-firing reproduction flintlocks, some prefer to tote real antique guns and swords.
The event schedule was packed with swashbuckling activities. Friday night the Krewe hosted a wench and cabin boy costume contest. Saturday afternoon roughly 50 pirates climbed aboard the Steamboat Nachez for a Jazz cruise down the Mississippi. That evening came together for a pub crawl where legendary pirate Jean Lafette’s Blacksmith Shop, New Orleans’ oldest bar, was one of the many destinations. Another stop was Pirate’s Alley Cafe, located in the shadow of the St Louis cathedral.
Legend says notorious pirates were known to meet in that alley in secret to trade contraband. Now you can get a beer or a glass of absinthe prepared for you by the saucy pirate wench behind the bar. No unsuspecting sailor is safe from being shanghaied into piracy, and there were a few American and French sailors that succumbed to the lure of the sweet life (or perhaps the beautiful pirate wenches?) and joined the crawl.
The night ended with Bourbon Street bead-throwing from the balconies of Tropical Isle and the Bourbon O. Sunday the pirates strolled down the the levee past the tall ships singing “The Battle of New Orleans” in front of an audience of hundreds of tourists. The weekend was wrapped up after dinner at Turtle Bay and later karaoke at the Bourbon Orleans where the pirates parted ways to sail back to home ports. Some pirates compared it to summer camp, sad to leave their mates new and old, but anticipating the fun again next year. For more information about the NOLA Wenches, visit them at www.nolawenches.com, or on Facebook.