Ahoy, mateys! Jump wit’ me on this ol’ but faithful boat ‘n let’s set off on adventures that shall become legendary! Anchor up, set sails ‘n off ye go!
The winds of the past
The LEGO Creator 3-in-1 Pirate Ship’s (31109) sails, adorned with the great Jolly Roger, are blown by a strong wind of nostalgia. At the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, my eyes shone to the wonderful pirate sets flaunted in the catalogues. And that was actually the end of my contact with this LEGO series. So, when I had the box containing this set in my hands, I sighed deeply and heard the creaking of the rigging—right after I heard the opening credits from cult 1980s Polish TV programme The Sea (opening credits combine music from The Pirate Movie by Ken Annakin and footage from Pirates by Roman Polański) in my head.
First, I must admit that I initially treated this set a bit neglectfully. The ship, especially compared to LEGO’s Pirates of Barracuda Bay set, looked like a small brig one might find sailing alongside a proud, great galleon. However, it turned out to be a great set. What’s more, it even has some advantages over its larger predecessor.
The minifigure crew of this set comprises two sea wolves and one cub. Here is Captain Bootleg—a man who has circled the world 5.4 times, a fearless wave rider, tapping the deck with an iron leg made from a falconet barrel.
Boatswain Smokey—an experienced sea wolf, saturated with salt and weathered by wind—last set foot on the mainland (not counting islands) some 15 years ago. He knows the seas like his own leaky pocket, and he leads ships through straits with his eyes closed. And no hands.
Slug or just “the boy” is a deckhand who dreams of being Smokey or Captain Bootleg one day. Or maybe both of them at once. He can tie a sailor’s knot. On his third try.
The home port has to be left behind, so the journey begins with the set’s main model—the ship. And from the very beginning, one of the two biggest advantages of this set over the “Barracuda” becomes apparent: The hull is made entirely of bricks.
We will not find specific parts used only for the construction of this particular hull—only bricks. The ship must be built brick-by-brick, and while I am far from being a brick purist, I know this is very important to some LEGO architects. So, my black-as-gunpowder heart tells me this fact earns our newest little marauder a win over the Barracuda Bay ship. The hull’s structure actually resembles real boatbuilding work, when the rib-shaped parts and boards are arranged layer by layer. It’s a very pleasant feeling when a solid but also slim shape emerges from a pile of bricks.
Clip parts are cleverly used to build this model, making it possible for a grand cabin to be affixed to the stern. Clever mounting techniques are the hallmark of the Creator series. There aren’t many details, but they are smartly designed and positioned so the ship appears richly decorated. It is also thanks to the colors, mainly brown, black and red with a mixture of gold. After all, it is a pirate ship! The latter is clearly demonstrated by the ensign on the stern and the huge Jolly Roger on the foresail, made of bricks!
The brick sails and flag probably have fans and haters. I actually considered cutting the sails out of cloth [the stencils were even featured in LEGO Explorer magazine], but this is the Creator series, where everything is made of bricks. That’s the Creator philosophy.
My fears that the brick sails would look too heavy were quickly put to rest once I completed the build. The ship looks great, especially when the embrasure doors are open, with gun barrels protruding menacingly. Yes, this ship has a gun deck, unlike the Barracuda, which has windows in its embrasures.
It’s very playful, giving much joy. My daughters immediately started to plan forays and adventures with the ship! Arr! Under full sail, this ship is really very pleasing to the lens—but mostly to the eye! I felt like a celebrity while walking along the beach with this impressive ship in a transparent container, looking for a good spot to shoot. I drew the gaze of numerous sunbathers (keeping social distance of course), and a few of them even snapped a shot or two as I was setting the ship!
Though small, as if in a lens, the Island brings together all the features of a decent desert island, suitable for hiding treasures—in accordance with guideline no. 3.14 of the Perfect Pirate Manual.
With the help of just a few blue and green bricks, the designers sketched the shore of the island and the flora washed by the waves. The rest is done by the imagination and the skull in the center. Isla del Cráneo sows terror, not only among sailors. Even the pirates fear the huge, vacant eye sockets that stare out across many miles of sea.
The white bricks used to build the skull—the same bricks that make the sails (such versatility!)—suggest that it was formed from limestone.
Underneath, it turns into a cozy cave, which is a great place to hide treasures, though this model is a small treasure itself.
The story of our three brave mateys concludes at The Barrel and Plug Inn. After collecting the treasure and hiding some of it on Skull Island, the pirates take the rest ashore to celebrate another fruitful trip at the inn.
The building is designed neatly, but I’m afraid it’s the Old Maid of this set.
Pleasant details include a mast protruding from the roof, a hammock made of a sail, and a wet wall covered with plants by a mill water wheel.
The interior of the building is actually a pretext—it only consists of three beds, a gun rack and a map hanging on the wall.
But let’s be honest, how much time do pirates spend on land?
Set 31109 is from the Creator series, which is characterized by the lack of figures other than minifigures. Therefore, all animals are made of bricks. The shark looks good with a movable jaw and tail, the horse looks nice, and even the orangutan, which looked so-so on the box, looks way better after being built. But it would be great to have an old-school parrot, an enduring symbol of the pirate genre. Birds as constructions are pretty cool, but they don’t work well with minifigures. They’re too big and angular.
The 31109 set, though it boldly refers to the history of LEGO pirate sets, is not a simple duplication of the scheme. Instead it develops and evolves the theme in a clever, interesting-during-construction and very pleasing way.
Whoever lives, aboard ‘n anchor up! Fair winds ‘n followin’ seas!
Ahoy! While you’re here, we invite you to sign up to our weekly Toy Photographers email roundup where you’ll get a recap of all the week’s babbling. And while you’re at it, you should definitely join our MeWe community! We hold monthly contests with prizes and lots of other cool stuff.