Perhaps, thanks to Disney, the fantasy of living the pirate’s life is grounded in the adventures of Captain Hook from the infamous stories of Peter Pan, or more recently, the mutiny, pillaging and plundering of Captain Jack Sparrow. However, not all pirate stories are tall tales of fiction. Some stories of modern-day pirates are hidden in plain sight for the world to see. Recently, the only known, legitimate pirate ship in the U.S. visited the Antioch Marina on its inaugural cruise to the Caribean, where it will call home. We were lucky enough to visit with Pirate Daniel Robin Blevins Catalano and his crew and learn what it means to be a modern-day Pirate on his ship the “Devil’s Gauntlet.”
An Introduction to Pirate Dan
Pirate Dan did not always go by the title “pirate” – although he admits that he has always thought himself as such. And after dedicating nearly 14 years as a Captain to pirate-themed cruises throughout the Caribean, he thinks that the title fits him just fine. He bought his first sailboat after the appearance of Captain Morgan and immediately became impassioned by life on the water. However, the vision to actually build a pirate ship and take it to sea came only after a not-so-agreeable trip to the VA hospital.
Before his adventures, as a pirate came to be, Dan built custom bikes and hotrods. He came from a family of developers where he learned how to do, what he calls, “everything with my hands.” From woodwork to wiring, Dan led a life where he saw something broken as a challenge to repair and improve. Perhaps it was this mindset that allowed him both the skill – and the patience, to build a pirate ship.
Dan is a cancer survivor. After serving in the U.S. Army, he sought treatment at a VA hospital. After a nurse asked why he wasn’t watching TV, he said, “There isn’t anything worth watching!” Her response was, “Well, why don’t you do something better yourself?”
A Pirate’s Remedy on the Devil’s Gauntlet
Pirate Dan got to work. He developed a TV show that he called, “A Pirate’s Remedy At Sea” where first responders, veterans and others struggling to overcome addiction would be sent out to sea to live as pirates. Today the show is titled, “Pirates of the Devil’s Gauntlet” and has been picked up by several big-named production companies. Although seemingly silly, the foundation of the show is to teach survivors how to thrive, survive and contribute to a world that might not quite understand their lived experiences.
Working in close spaces, learning how to work as a team player and depend on others, while completing tasks that keep the ship afloat are skills that are transferable. Not only do they show hard work, they teach people how to work with others and that their individual contributions are important. It also teaches that every single person has a valuable role to play – and it only works when everyone works together and trusts together.
Plus, Pirate Dan explains, “It is fun! Who doesn’t want to be a pirate? Laugh? Work Hard? Adventure? Life is too short to not work hard and have fun doing it.”
But, First. Pirate Dan Needed A Ship
Pirate Dan’s TV show was picked up. But, as he explained, “How TV works these days. If you want to do it…you have to provide everything. So, I guess I needed to find a pirate ship!” Dan came across a ship in Richmond, CA that was on the list to be sunk. For $1, Pirate Dan commandeered the vessel and got to work.
Fast forward 16 months and the pirate ship, named “The Devil’s Gauntlet” scuttled from her homeport in Stockton, CA to her first stop in at the Antioch Marina. Pirate Dan explained that when he first towed the failing vessel away from Richmond, people told him, “It will take you the work of 10 men and 10 million dollars to bring her back to life.” With only the help of two friends on the weekend, Dan completely refurbished the ship from stern to aft for about $1 million. Although the bones of the ship are still the same remnants of the Sultana, the new ship is nothing short of a spectacular vision from a history book.
A Peek Inside His Pirate Lair
The “Devil’s Gauntlet” truly is a full-functioning ship. The styling and decor of the visible upper decks of the ship are reminiscent to historically accurate tall-ships. However, once you are able to sink into the bowels of the ship, you see how special the ship is.
The ship can comfortably sleep 10 and boasts a full kitchen, multiple bathrooms, a sitting room with a flat-screen TV, and all the amenities that offer the comfort of home. Better yet, Pirate Dan’s room has a huge sunken tub for relaxing evenings after a hard day of pillaging and plundering with a sweet parrot making a home in the cabin’s corner.
A Bigger Stories Lies Beneath
The design of the ship is an intricate balance between utility and esthetic. Pirate Dan knew from early design ideas that the pirate ship had to reflect a true tall ship. From the rigging, masts, and foremast – all of the details you could imagine are integral pieces of the ship’s design. However, each detail offers a clear purpose.
Pirate Dan is a self-described “ex-military, army veteran, cancer survivor and outlaw.” He explains that he grew up with wartime values and street smarts. He raised four children and knew he had to ‘do something more’ after he lost one of his sons at the young age of 28. Pirate Dan said he saw the pirate ship and the TV show as a “once in a lifetime deal” that he had been dreaming about from a young age.
He also said that the loss of his son, his battle with cancer, and his unending gratitude for first responders motivated him to do something that not only could bring people back to life, but bring joy in ways that are unimaginable. He said, “This is a different way to help people enjoy their lives and get back on to a good path. I am here because I want to work with people who are lost and help them find a way back to family, jobs, and health..bring them back to reality.”
The “Devil’s Gauntlet” is just now setting out to sea. After leaving the Antioch Marina, they will be visiting all of the maritime museums down the coast of California. This will give community members, students, veterans and first responders all the opportunity to get a free tour of the ship. Pirate Dan mentioned, “It isn’t every day you can board a pirate ship. People love to come aboard and ask questions- and we love to be able to talk about the pirate’s life!”
The last stop in the California tour in San Diego and Catalina, for the Pirate Days, on the island. From there, “The Devil’s Gauntlet” will scuttle to Ensenada, Cabo, Mazatlan, Costa Rica, and then on to Jamaica, Cuba and finally settle in the Caribean.
Empowering People With Purpose
Once settled in the Caribean, the real adventure begins. It is there where “The Devil’s Gauntlet” will begin to film – partnering with Disney, Adventure Alley, and Untitled Films. As the show is filmed, the true messages of Pirate Dan will ring through.
First, Pirate Dan’s goal of empowering people with purpose, value, and skills will become a reality. Plus, he will be able to show how taking things that are often seen as lost or wasted can be brought back to life with time, skills, attention and purpose. Just like his ship has been tenderly brought back to life, Pirate Dan passionately awaits the opportunity to help people find their purpose again, as well. Pirate Dan said, “I can take the biggest pile of junk and turn it into something everybody wants and everyone treasures.” He then continued to say, “People are just like stuff. They need time, attention, and someone to believe in them. This is really giving people the help and life skills they need. It is giving them a purpose. That’s what we are all about.”
How To Get Involved with the Devil’s Gauntlet
Although “The Devil’s Gauntlet” has already left the Antioch, Marina, there are still many ways you can keep up with Pirate Dan and his crew. Until the show is filmed, the best way to follow the adventures is to follow them on their various Facebook pages and YouTube Channel.
To help cover some of the costs associated with the ship and the visits to the maritime museums, “The Devil’s Gauntlet” is offering reservations for weddings, charters, rides, and birthday parties. They are also open to hosting other events – your imagination being the only limitation. There are also different types of merchandise for sale, including kids’ toys, coffee cups, and shirts.
Nothing Is Impossible on the Devil’s Gauntlet
PIrate Dan also wants people to adopt the mindset that the impossible is not impossible. He passionately explained, “I want people to know you can do the impossible. I did the impossible!” He also said, “with clean living, you can still live fully with mutiny and mayhem!” Pirate Dan knows he is meant to be at sea. Join Pirate Dan and his Caribean adventures following him online. And remember, sometimes exploring your backroads means exploring the waterways on Pirate ships.
About Our Sponsor
At Smith’s Landing Seafood Bar and Grill, the food is only one piece of the total experience. The views visible at almost every seat within the restaurant are spectacular. Even on overcast, rainy days, the view is overwhelmingly peaceful. Daily, customers can enjoy their meals and cocktails watching the waters of the Delta pass by, and perhaps catch a glimpse of ships, yachts, or other sailing vessels. Throughout the year, many special ships visit the marina – making the views even more interesting.
For those of you who enjoy boating or kayaking in the Delta, Smith’s Landing has 10 boat slips to dock your boat or kayak. This makes Smith’s Landing an ideal place to stop and enjoy a meal, cocktails, or even catch a game on Sunday after a day out on the water. The lounge offers a distinct menu of ‘shareable’ to balance one of Smith Landing’s craft cocktails, libations or wine options.