VIP Marina Lake Travis

The Clap of Thunder Pirate Dock Party at Lake Travis: Piracy with a Purpose

May 10, 2024 | Parties & Events on Lake Travis

Cannon booms rumble across Lake Travis 22 miles northwest of Austin. Has the Texas Revolution come back to the present day, or has Jean Lafitte risen from the dead and brought an outfit of shoreline raiders to Volente Beach? 

Then, as the smoke clears, a child in full pirate costume aboard a real pirate ship smiles gleefully as a balloon artist hands them a balloon sword. Partygoers on deck swill Blackbeard-influenced rum drinks. Friends dance to live music like sailors at port in 1674. 

Hosted by VIP Marina Lake Travis and Stevens Charter Lake Travis Cruises, this is the Clap of Thunder Pirate Dock Party at Lake Travis. 

A Lake Travis activity supporting our fallen and disabled service members

The dollars spent on dark drinks and dancing under a flowing pirate flag don’t just fall into an oaken pirate chest, to be buried on the shores of Lake Travis. This is the fourth annual Clap of Thunder party event, and one that supports Folds of Honor of Central Texas

Folds of Honor is a nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships for the families of fallen and disabled service members, and since last year, they now support the families of first responders. Firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, police, and our nation’s soldiers — the sacrifices they make create losses that are never forgotten, but the needs of the families remain. 

Lieutenant Dan Rooney was inspired in 2007 to create Folds of Honor after he was on a flight from Chicago to Grand Rapids and experienced the intensely emotional procession of Corporal Brock Bucklin’s remains being returned 7,000 miles to home. Corporal Bucklin’s twin brother, Brad, was sitting in front of Lieutenant Rooney in First Class. Since Rooney founded Folds of Honor soon after, the program has awarded over 52,000 scholarships with 91% of their donations going directly to primary school or college scholarships. 

VIP Marina Lake Travis and Stevens Charter both ardently support this mission, and consider the Pirate Party a tribute to the military as much as a start of summer event. They came together four years ago to create a gathering that could be raucous, purposeful, and yes, filled with the thunder of cannons echoing across Lake Travis. VIP Marina Lake Travis — led by General Manager Bill Gauspohl — is a member of the VIP Marinas family, an Austin-based marina group that supports Folds of Honor through many other events like Northshore Marina’s Start of Summer Party and In-Water Boat Show (also a Lake Travis activity). 

What is this “real pirate ship” you speak of?



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A post shared by The Goonie Ghost (@thegoonieghost)

The Goonie Ghost

Back in the 1950s in Portland, a carpenter laid the hull for a ship that would, almost 75 years later, delight Lake Travis visitors 2,000 miles away. The ship cruised the Caribbean for three decades, making it through the Panama Canal, before it was sold and came to rest on Lake Travis. Rodney Stevens, owner of Stevens Charter, perpetuates the pirate lore by including the Goonie Ghost as a central highlight of its Lake Travis boat rental fleet. Visitors can rent the fully operable ship for up to 15 guests at a time, bring their pirate garments and feasts, and head out on Lake Travis to fire cannons at whomever they please. 

Stevens’ daughter, Tara, gave a tour of the Goonie Ghost for the Natalie & Tara YouTube channel, and had this to say about the only ship on Lake Travis that encourages firing on the neighbors:

“That’s the number one favorite fun thing to do while we’re sailing around is to fire the cannons at people, so if you ever take a charter with us, ask for the cannon special.”   

The ship includes comfortable deck seating, a private captain’s cabin with a bed and mini fridge, and of course, a real pirate’s steering wheel from Scotland. 

Who are VIP Marina Lake Travis and Stevens Charter?


VIP Marina Lake Travis boat slips

VIP Marina at Lake Travis is the premier boat storage location at Volente Beach, and this time of year as summer breaks open, the location for Lake Travis tour boat rentals. Each boat in VIP Marina Lake Travis’s fleet of Lake Travis tour boats carries up to 50 guests and is complete with a second-story waterslide, a flattop grill, and a personal captain that doubles as an onboard chef for all a group’s feasting aspirations. The tour boats can be seen floating around the Goonie Ghost on open Lake Travis, creating a veritable flotilla of ships resounding with music, laughter, and the swaggery cackles of Lake Travis pirates. 

Stevens Charter is a luxury yacht charter service that provides Lake Travis sailing adventures for the visitor searching for a voyage that’s a little more decadent. Austin weekend warriors escape to Stevens Charter’s Lake Travis yacht rentals for bachelor and bachelorette parties, family reunions, or soirees in full swashbuckling costumes aboard a wooden cannon-laden deck.

The Goonie Ghost - Stevens Charter

The Goonie Ghost, photo courtesy of Stevens Charter


Alright, so how do I attend the Clap of Thunder Pirate Dock Party at Lake Travis?

Pirates, mermaids, and renegades of the sea will commence the revelry at VIP Marina Lake Travis at Volente Beach at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 18th. The party carries into the evening and includes live music, exotic drinks, and family-friendly Lake Travis pirate activities like balloon art and the pirate costume contest. Proceeds benefit the Folds of Honor of Central Texas. 

When you reach the Lake Travis shoreline in a full-on pirate’s outfit and see the Jolly Roger fluttering from the mast of the Goonie Ghost, remember one thing:

You’re about to sail 300 years into the past. You may not wish to come back. 


For more information about the Clap of Thunder Pirate Dock Party at Lake Travis, call VIP Marina Lake Travis at 512-331-5375.