It’s a noble pursuit in the boating world: rescuing old, beyond-hope fiberglass boats in disrepair and giving them new life. That’s what a retired firefighter is doing in Virginia’s Northern Neck—but with a twist.
All of Dan Corder’s rescue boats are transformed into pirate ships and then sold to just the right buyer. In a little part of Lodge Creek off the lower Potomac River that he calls Pirate’s Cove, Corder takes boats that “you couldn’t give away”, makes them seaworthy, and decorates them in full pirate regalia.
One such boat is listed for sale right now, and the listing has gone viral. Priced at $49,000, the houseboat features a galley, dining area, banquette, cabin, and of course, cannons off the stern. Cheekily named Surrender the Booty, the boat comes with a “skeleton crew” of bony buccaneers, all wearing Corder’s signature pink flipflops.
Click through the exterior and interior photos below:
You can see why this boat listing has attracted attention, even warranting a post from the “Zillow Gone Wild” social media account on Instagram and Twitter, which features unusual real estate listings. The post has 785,000 likes. TV and radio interviews followed.
Corder says text messages and voicemails continue to flood in about the boat, making it a full-time job to answer inquiries. But he’s picky about who he will ultimately sell it to—it has to be the right person, the right location, and the right intended use. He’d love for the new owner to keep the houseboat at the dock as a floating guesthouse for grandchildren, or for it to be used as an Airbnb to help draw tourism to a small, sleepy town like those in Northumberland County in the Northern Neck.
When he found it, the houseboat was on the hard, essentially abandoned at a marina in Lewisetta, Va. He swapped the engine for a more user-friendly outboard motor and gradually brought the boat to life.
While this boat is getting all the attention, it’s actually Corder’s 33rd pirate boat makeover. The first was a neglected skiff his neighbor planned to set adrift in the Potomac about 13 years ago. Corder intervened, turning the 18-foot sailboat into a “gaudy” spectacle so laden with pirate decor that it only had about 8 inches of freeboard.
“It was so outlandish people would cheer when I came by,” Corder recalls.
A pirate enthusiast with a themed cabin on Smith Mountain Lake, Va. spotted the skiff and offered to buy it on the spot, and the rest is history. Corder typically chooses smaller, affordable boats to make over and sell: speedboats, pontoon boats, even a jetski. Most are priced around or below $10,000 because Corder wants to show people that “you don’t need a lot of money to have fun on the water.”
One of his boats even sold to Disney as part of a Make-a-Wish Foundation wish fulfillment. The full-blown pirate ship was planted in the backyard of a child with cancer, surrounded by blue flowers to make the “water”.
A self-proclaimed “eco-pirate”, Corder feels it’s good to keep old boats out of landfills and hopes others will follow his lead.
“Boats are like people: when you’re young and beautiful everybody wants you but when you get old and tired nobody wants you,” he quips. “I keep these things out of the dumpster.”
He also reuses materials for all the decorations on his boats. Corder finds almost everything at local thrift and consignment shops, using everything from spires and crows’ nests to decorative table legs and ornate bedposts.
“It’s repurposing in an artistic way.”
A widower at age 63, Corder also takes on the projects as a form of therapy since losing his wife. She was supportive of his pirate ship hobby, and the couple enjoyed showing up on one of the vessels at waterfront restaurants dressed in costume.
He’s showing no signs of slowing down in his boat makeovers. After the houseboat sells, he has two more old boats he hasn’t started advertising yet.
To inquire about buying the houseboat, call Dan Corder at 571-233-1663.
-Meg Walburn Viviano