Man builds pirate ship, sells for $80,000 on Craigslist

Story highlights

  • Missouri boat builder creates his own pirate ship, sails Mississippi River
  • Ship Gypsy Rose II advertised on classifieds website Craigslist
  • Snapped up by History Channel for $80,000 to be used in TV series
  • One of six ships built by Captain Tim Woodson, dressed as pirate

The Mississippi River: home to grand old paddle steamers, blues music, Huckleberry Finn, and... pirate ships.

With its skull-and-cross-bones flag flapping in the wind, and swashbuckling captain at the helm, this is perhaps the last boat you'd expect to find on America's most famous inland waterway.

But the 12-meter Gypsy Rose II is just one of six pirate ships built by 54-year-old Captain Tim Woodson and setting sail on the iconic river.

Now the buccaneering boat has been sold to the History Channel for $80,000, after being advertised on classifieds website Craigslist.

"It's probably the most photographed ship on the Mississippi River," Woodson, from St Louis in Missouri, told CNN.

How female sailors take on men
How female sailors take on men

    JUST WATCHED

    How female sailors take on men

MUST WATCH

How female sailors take on men 07:35
Sailing's greatest pay in play challenge
Sailing's greatest pay in play challenge

    JUST WATCHED

    Sailing's greatest pay in play challenge

MUST WATCH

Sailing's greatest pay in play challenge 05:23
Breaking sailing boundaries in Namibia
Breaking sailing boundaries in Namibia

    JUST WATCHED

    Breaking sailing boundaries in Namibia

MUST WATCH

Breaking sailing boundaries in Namibia 05:03

"We get a lot of kids running along the shore, trying to catch the cannonballs as we go by," he said, referring to the 4-inch sponge balls shot from the ship.

Read: Ship-shape accommodation -- World's top five 'boatels'

Dream boat

The professional boat builder first started making pirate ships five years ago, converting ordinary house boats into fairytale vessels.

"I wanted to find an old boat that I could transform into something really cool," said Woodson.

"My girlfriend asked: 'What are you going to do?' I don't know where it came from, but I said: 'I'm going to build a pirate ship.'"

That's exactly what he did, adding fake masts and covering the boat in planks of wood stained with varnish and black spray paint.

"As you walk on board you see a skeleton wearing an eye patch -- that's the old captain we pillaged the boat from," said Woodson.

"The sails are all torn with cannonball holes," he added. "Inside, the first thing you see is a hand-drawn map, globe of the world, and an old desk covered in treasure."

Luxury living

The remarkable boat may appear to be something out of a 17th century European fable, but inside it has all the luxuries of a modern ship.

Read: The circus family living on a sailboat

Woodson spent just over two months building Gypsy Rose II, which can hold around 30 passengers.

It features two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, and putters along at 30 kilometers per hour.

"The galley is fully functional but is stacked with rum barrels and pewter mugs," said Woodson.

"It really is a modern-day pirate ship with 1600s treasures scattered throughout."

Costume drama

With his battered hat, ripped vest, and dangling earring, Captain Woodson is every inch the pirate of old.

Alongside his girlfriend, Wench Maria, he can be found steering his fantastical vessels from Missouri to Illinois as part of sightseeing tours down the murky Mississippi.

Groups can also rent the boats for pirate-themed parties, with one elderly woman recently celebrating her 99th birthday on board.

Read: Back to the Future for Richard Branson boat

"When I was a kid, pirates were cool and that hasn't changed," Woodson said. "It's about that feeling of being free, of being an explorer."

"It gives you an excuse to be the bad boy."

One man's fleet

Among Woodson's six converted pirate ships are a former 21-meter U.S. troop carrier and another 12-meter boat now lined with 18 bunk beds for school trips.

Once complete, each boat is advertised for sale on Craigslist, with the History Channel snapping up Gypsy Rose II for its TV series Ax Men, which follows the history of timber cutters.

Other boats have been bought by cruise operators and restaurateurs.

Read: A bright idea -- Lighthouse hotels

"When I was building my first ship, people would say I was crazy," said Woodson.

"But five years, six boats, and probably 200 cruises-a-year later -- they're not telling me I'm crazy now."

        MainSail

      • Wide shot of a sailboat from a drone

        Drones offer new angle on superyachts

        "Sometimes, I fly the drone with my head in a trash bag so I don't get salt spray from the sea on my equipment," says drone operator Justice L Bentz.
      • Dave Swete and Nick Dana on the bow of Alvimedica for a windy downwind sail change during the team's second trans-Atlantic training session, this time from Newport, Rhode Island, USA, to Southampton, England

        Disney duo's new 'fairytale story'

        Navigate the world's most treacherous seas, crossing 73,000 nautical kilometers in a confined space with stressed-out, sleep-deprived crewmates. 
      • The Triton Submarine.

        Millionaire water toys

        Personal submarines, jetpacks, even 'walking boats.'
        Why the Monaco Yacht Show is a bit like stumbling upon James Bond's secret gadget lab.
      • London's new superyacht hotel, in Royal Victoria Docks.

        Inside $67M superyacht hotel

        London's new superyacht hotel is so enormous, authorities had to lower the water level by five meters just to fit it under a bridge.
      • Thomson hurtles up to the top of the mast aware that the boat can keel at any moment and fling him either onto the deck or the water below

        What next for sailing's daredevil?

        His mast-walking stunts have attracted over 3.5 million hits on YouTube, but Alex Thomson just wants to get back to doing what he does best.
      • Endeavour, a 1934 J-Class yacht, racing during The America's Cup Anniversary Jubilee around The Isle of Wight 21 August 2001. The four entries in the J-Class category represent the oldest remaining class used in America's Cup competition. Over 200 boats, including vintage yachts are taking part in the America's Cup Jubilee to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the first America's Cup race in 1851. AFP PHOTO Adrian DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

        Through hell and high water

        Elizabeth Meyer talks to CNN's Mainsail about the "Armageddon battle" to restore the pioneering J-class boat Endeavour.
      • Specatators use a boat to watch as boat crews race on the River Thames at the Henley Royal Regatta on July 2, 2014 in Henley-on-Thames, England. Opening today and celebrating its 175th year, the Henley Royal Regatta is regarded as part of the English social season and is held annually over five days on the River Thames. Thousands of rowing fans are expected to come to watch races which are head-to-head knock out competitions, raced over a course of 1 mile, 550 yards (2,112 m) which regularly attracts international crews to race. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

        'Downton Abbey' on the water

        Like "Downton Abbey," Henley's Royal Regatta reminds its visitors of an England of old. But for how much longer?
      • LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 10: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge poses next to the America's Cup as she visits the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich for the Ben Ainslie America's Cup Launch on June 10, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

        Britain's $134M secret weapon?

        Can a $134 million budget and the royal seal of approval bring the coveted America's Cup back to British shores for the first time in sailing history?
      • Eyos Expeditions offers superyacht journeys to the most remote places on Earth.

        Yachting to the ends of the Earth

        Bored of lounging on your superyacht in the Mediterranean? An increasing number of millionaires are now sailing their luxury vessels to the ends of the Earth, to get their kicks.