Help, I’ve Been Shanghaied by CBS’s Pirate Master

Embarrassingly, I am a reality TV junkie. Well, that may overstate things a bit since I am particular in my viewing habits. I love the Amazing Race and Deadliest Catch and enjoy the Apprentice. Once in a while I’ll watch Survivor, Big Brother and, shamefully, The Real World, too. Now, CBS has got me with their new show Pirate Master.

This is probably not too much of a surprise to people who regularly read the Sea-Fever blog or who know me personally. I do have a THING for what I call maritime culture. It all started back with childhood visits to the New Bedford Whaling Museum where there is a half scale model of a tall ship absolutely perfect for grade school adventures. A little later in life I had the good fortune to sail on the “pirate-like” tall ship Tabor Boy throughout my high school years and this experience is currently being chronicled over at The Tabor Boy Project. For the last 6 years, I have been the executive director of the American Sail Training Association which is an international nonprofit with 200 tall ships and sail training vessels from all over the world. The Barque Picton Castle, the ship used in the Pirate Master was one of the more visible vessels in the ASTA fleet. Today, through Sea-Changes Foundation and Sea-Fever Consulting LLC I create maritime experiential education and maritime cultural initiatives for youth of all ages. 

I enjoyed Pirate Master more than I thought I would. Of course, the sailing scenes are incredible and serve as the best advertisement for sail training and adventure sailing that one could imagine. Even with the cheesy “pirate props” the island of Dominica, a place where I previously would not have thought of visiting, looks amazing. Lots more tourists will probably be heading there as a result of the show.

The real hook for me is the human dynamics that get played out in the game. Maybe its because I just spent a week at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government participating in a program called The Art and Practice of Leadership Development, (which at times felt like being in a reality TV show) but I constantly find myself thinking of the leadership issues that manifest themselves in these shows. It’s fun to wonder how I would have acted and reacted under the circumstances of the week. Of course, its all impossible to know without being part of the experience. I guess that’s a big reason why I feel so strongly about experiential education. To live is to learn.

I look forward to watching Pirate Master and from time to time I plan to write about the leadership issues that play out in the show. I know it’s all quite silly, but who said learning can’t be fun and entertaining! Hop aboard for the adventure!

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Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

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