AquaCraft's King's Ransom RTR as a Party Ship and Haunted Pirate Ship - RC Groups
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AquaCraft's King's Ransom RTR as a Party Ship and Haunted Pirate Ship

In honor of "National Talk Like a Pirate Day" Mike Heer shows us how he converted his King's Ransom RTR into a Mexican party ship and his own haunted pirate ship for Halloween!



Double Click:On the above pic!
Weight:10 lb 5 oz
:Keel3 lbs, attaches with thumb screws
Servo:Aquacraft standard size servo
Transmitter:2 channel AquaCraft by Futaba FM
Receiver:Futaba 2 channel
Battery:6 cell Nicad pack
Motor:550 brushed
Price:recommended $299.99, paid $150.00
Available From:Tower Hobby

If this were a "normal" review of the King's Ransom ship by AquaCraft I would be going into some detail about the pluses and minuses of the boat as I bought it from Tower Hobby. But the purpose of this article is to show you how I made my King's Ransom a night time Mexican party ship as well as a night time haunted pirate ship! I'll also touch on what some others have done with their ships to make them into their personal pirate ships.

For only $150.00 (Tower Hobby sale) I got an almost ready to run large ship (over 40" long) complete with motor, ESC and radio gear already installed. The extra items I needed (battery pack, charger and 8-AA cells) I already had on hand.

Easily completed in an evening, assembly consisted of installing the masts and rigging. Despite having display sails, the ship is powered with a 550 electric motor - good for me since I wanted to operate the ship at night under calm conditions.

Thanks to its wide and multiple decks it can be a seasonal decoration that can be displayed indoors and still be operated in the water with the quick addition of its weighted keel (attaches via built in thumb screws).

(FYI, the masts are plastic and not designed to take the force of the sails being filled with wind nor is the boat otherwise designed to operate under sail. The King's Ransom is a motorized launch with decorative masts and that was exactly what I wanted.)

The Experiences that Launched this Project

In December 2006 we had a family vacation in Nuevo Vallarta just north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. One of the fun things about Puerto Vallarta is their pirate party ship the Marigalante. The Marigalante has family day outings and "adult" evening dinner cruises. My wife and I had seen the ship from a distance coming back to port several nights the previous year. The ship was lit-up and shooting off fireworks and having a "battle" as it fired its cannon at a skiff by downtown Puerto Vallarta. In 2006 we booked a dinner cruise for our family.

I saw pictures online of the Marigalante, and I was struck by how much she looked like the King's Ransom. In fact, if miniature white lights were added to the King's Ransom it could look like the Marigalante party ship. The following Tuesday they released the DVD for the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and the idea of making the King's Ransom as a haunted pirate ship was launched.

From the pictures below of the Marigalante you can see how much it looks like The King's Ransom. The Marigalante is a scale reproduction of the ship the world knows as The Santa Maria, Columbus's lead ship in his first journey to the Americas in 1492. To convert the King's Ransom into a stand off scale replica of the Marigalante all I needed were the right lights.

Kit Contents

My ship arrived in a nice strong shipping box from Tower Hobby. The finished hull was packed in foam with all items below deck properly installed. The transmitter, the masts and rigging as well as the four man crew and a few additional deck parts arrived safely in their individual small boxes and the instructions came safely bagged.

Additional Items Needed

  • 6-Cell battery pack
  • Charger for battery pack
  • 8-AA batteries for transmitter

Ship Operation

Buy some Grim Racer Grease and put it around the propeller shaft inside and out. Some at the top of the rudder post is also a good idea. Even with that precaution, expect some water to get into the hull. Without those precautions, check on your ship after 10 minutes.

I haven't operated with the sails down, but the "cobwebs" on my Haunted Ship acted like sails in just a slight breeze. With a sudden breeze and incoming Delta tide, it went way over but righted back up. Oil the thumbscrews on the keel per the directions for ease of installing and removing.

The ship's motor and radio system is powered via a 6-cell rechargeable Nicad battery pack. The transmitter is powered by 8-AA batteries. The transmitter allows me to control the throttle and the rudder. The boat was able to travel much faster than I wanted it to travel in normal operation. As will be seen in the videos, my operation of the ship can be best described as “leisurely.”

Ship Modification

Decorative modifications and modifications to all three of the ship’s hatches to gain better access to the inside of the hull. The hatches were held in place with two rubber bands each attached to a hook under the hatch. The hook was attached to a big block of wood. I wanted the space used by that hook and the block of wood to store power packs in the front two hatches in the boat. Additionally, I wanted to be able to completely remove the hatch covers to get better access to the inside of the hull to allow me to more easily hide, secure and access battery packs that powered the various lights I added to the ship.

I glued very small but strong magnets to the front corners of the hatch covers and the back middle of the hatch covers. With careful eyeballing, I drilled out holes for the magnets in the hatch cover supports attached to the hull. This allowed the hatch covers to fit flush as they had originally on the deck and the magnets to extend down in the holes I drilled. Under the holes in the hatch supports, I glued magnets that were larger then the holes I had drilled making sure they were facing to attract the magnets on the hatch covers. When I placed the hatch covers back in place, the magnets securely held them in place. NOTE: The rubber bands actually made for stronger pull in keeping the covers in place. If you don't need easy access I don't recommend this modification.

Adding Some Permanent Lights to the King's Ransom

Although I wanted to be able to seasonally change the ship's appearance I did want to have some permanent lights that helped with orientation and navigation. I wanted to have a red and a green light toward the front of the boat on the sides and possibly some lanterns and/or corner mounted lights on the stern of the boat. I toyed with the idea of installing lights at the stern that could be changed seasonally but ultimately opted not to do that.

Theme Lighting: First, The Mexican Party Ship

Party ship lighting

With the five permanent lights installed and the wiring and power pack secured under the front hatch, I was ready to create my first ship with theme lighting. I added a string of 50 Lemax lights to the rigging starting at the base of the rear mast, securing them with black thread. I went up the back and over the top of the rigging to the front mast and down the mast part way. Then starting from the bow and going out the bow spirit and up the rigging to the front mast and across to the main mast and down with a second string of Lemax lights.

The battery box in back is secured in the rearmost hatch with Velcro to keep it from shifting in the hull. The power pack for the string in the front is secured in the front hatch. Two AA batteries power each of these strings of lights. Next I added an 8 foot white neon glow wire that is powered by two AA batteries. Once again the power pack is stored in the front hatch, and I drilled a hole on the port side of the main deck where the glow wire comes out of the hull. The neon wire is secured around the railings of the ship using black thread to tie it in place and thin strips of tape where there wasn't any place to tie the wire. This combination of lights makes it very easy to see the ship at night. I added the four crew men from the King's Ransom and some from The Pirates of the Caribbean collection to populate the deck.


Converting the King's Ransom to a Haunted Ship

Other Captains’ Haunted Ships

I am certainly not the first to convert the King's Ransom to the Black Pearl or some other haunted ship. A few examples have been shared in RC Power and with the permission of their captains, I am sharing some of them with you. I recommend that you double click on the pictures below to get the full effect of the changes.

Here is another version of the Black Pearl where Paul Mirich took parts from the Black Pearl Playset and added them to the King's Ransom. Paul added the outside of the playset's "Captain's Cabin" to his King's Ransom/Black Pearl and added an interesting lighting effect. He also took his ship to a large lake one day where the wind blew it around and broke the front mast. He was able to repair it and make it stronger then before.

Making my Haunted Ship

I wanted my own version of a haunted pirate ship and not the Black Pearl. Skeletons, treasure, cobwebs and green lighting are the features I saw in my mind for my pirate ship. The availability of some Caribbean crewmen was mostly a factor of availability and cost. While I could remove the lighting I had added to make the ship my Mexican party ship I decided to try just leaving it in place and not turn it on. If needed, I could also lighten the ship by removing the 6 AA batteries that power the separate strings of lights and neon wire used for the party ship. As it turned out I ended up using the white neon wire in a flashing mode for my haunted pirate ship. All batteries stayed onboard ship.

For the haunted ship I ended up using a Parkflyer set from Glowire that has three strands wired to one plug and a second plug for an additional wire. I got an additional five foot section of Glowire. The Glowires were going to set the scene but I didn't want them to be seen directly. I secured one wire each to the three masts with the power source hidden in the hull and the neon wires coming out of the hull near the masts through holes I drilled. After tying the green neon wires to the masts, I added artificial cobweb to the masts to cover the Glowire and hoped for the cobwebs to be illuminated from within. I ran the five foot Glowire to the front of the bowspirit and up to the front mast and then to main mast. Artificial cobwebs were added to the rigging. The final step was adding the treasure to the main deck hatch cover and a few more pirates to the ship.

Items Used

  • Additional toy pirates from Pirates of the Caribbean and Lemax collection for Halloween
  • Lemax Halloween pirate treasure scene
  • Glowire kit for parkflyers in the color green
  • Extra 5 foot green wire for the Glowire unit
  • Artificial cobwebs


The Hobbico version of neon-like wire comes with one strand of plug-in wire and a controller with two wire plugs and one male servo receiver connector. The glow portion of the wire was about 22-23 inches long with a 6-7 inch lead. You can buy one power unit and an extra wire and have two lit wires. This was designed to be powered off of a receiver and and would add minimal weight. Great for a parkflyer if the receiver has an extra connector or two; but no so good for a two channel surface receiver.

The Glowire brand unit came with three wires on one plug and a number of options for additional Glowires. The units power was up to me. I went with a Dean's micro connector and powered the unit off of one of my 1,350 mAh 3-cell LiPo packs. The wires in the three strand are 3 feet long and I bought an optional 5 foot strand of Glowire. As discussed in the article I went with the Glowire Brand for this project and will use the Hobbico wires with a park flyer or two.


The flashing white Glowire and the green Glowire gave an interesting effect, but not quite what I pictured in my mind and it was definitely not bright enough to show the pirates. The ship needed something more. Artificial cobwebs helped set the scene and partially hid a pair of Lemax Village battery powered floodlights. I secured the treasure and skeletons to the main hatch cover and the rest of the crew around the ship.

Is This For a Beginner?

YES! the King's Ransom comes RTR and the final assembly work was easy. The ship can be operated as-is or can be modified to make it your custom ship be it for party or haunted pirate ship. Have fun with it... in calm conditions. Do get the grease and lube the propeller shaft inside and out and the top of the rudder post.

Video/Photo Gallery



I have really enjoyed both making and operating my special versions of the King's Ransom. I spent more on the lighting then I planned but it looks good. Friends have enjoyed seeing it on display in my house but my real enjoyment is taking it out on a local lake, pond or on the Delta (per the second video above) on calm evenings. On a small lake surrounded by homes it can really attract attention that slowly builds as people look outside at night and see this lighted object sailing on the lake.

My thanks to Captain Dick Andersen for sailing while I took video and stills and to Drew Meyers the "Warden of the Marshes" for letting Dick and I sail on the CA Delta from his dock. My thanks to Jediwalker and Paul Mirich for sharing their ships. Finally, my thanks to my editors past and present. AnnMarie for encouraging me to spend my money and pursue my wacky ideas and Angela for editing this piece and helping to pull it together.

PS: For those of you near Columbus, Ohio, I understand that they have their own full size Santa Maria that has been made up as a haunted pirate ship for Halloween in past years. Check it out if you have a chance.

Last edited by Angela H; Sep 17, 2007 at 02:58 PM..
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Sep 19, 2007, 09:00 AM
Capt.Crash's Avatar
Arrr, nice re'iew. Looks like fun.

Capt. Slick

Gar, Where can I find a bottle o'rum?
Sep 19, 2007, 10:46 AM
Grumpa Tom
Kmot's Avatar
Sep 20, 2007, 10:48 AM
Trons and Fumes
wrightme's Avatar
Arrrgh! A grrreat review, and just in time for "Talk like a Pirate Day!" Arrr...
Sep 20, 2007, 04:00 PM
jrb's Avatar
Could it be rigged to "sail"?
Sep 20, 2007, 07:39 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Sep 21, 2007, 10:16 AM
jrb's Avatar
Might have to take that on as a challenge; 1st need to see one, hopefully at the LHS!
Sep 21, 2007, 10:56 AM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
If you try it you will have to reinforce the masts as they will break as Paul Mirich can attest and you will need to make a longer weighted keel to keep control of the boat and you are welcome to try and I hope you prove me wrong. Mike
Sep 21, 2007, 11:24 AM
jrb's Avatar
Like doing keel work!

Added a plate to my full scale 9m shoal draft; it improved the up winf perfromance quite a bit.

Thinking the CF puch rod I have might make nice masts.

Michael, I'll keep you posted if I go for it!

Last edited by jrb; Sep 27, 2007 at 10:04 AM.
Sep 21, 2007, 11:44 AM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Great review Mike!
Sep 25, 2007, 09:05 AM
Fun Manager
AMCross's Avatar
Fabulous work as always!! What a great article.
Sep 27, 2007, 09:00 AM
Teh Crash MAster!
Declined's Avatar
u making me well jealous!!
Sep 27, 2007, 10:04 AM
jrb's Avatar
Got to see one; not as large as I was thinking -- definitley cute though!

Mike, beyond "healing over" in a wind how is navigating (going where you want to) in a breeze with ther sails?

Sep 28, 2007, 03:30 AM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Without the spider web that acted as sails, and with the two main sails removed but the bow and stern sails still on I was able to sail it around a lake without much trouble in a lite breeze. I would not want to try and sail it in a strong breeze even without the sails. Mike
Last edited by Michael Heer; Sep 28, 2007 at 07:19 PM. Reason: changed "with sails" to the intended "without sails"
Sep 28, 2007, 08:29 AM
jrb's Avatar
Originally Posted by Michael Heer
I would not want to try and sail it in a strong breeze even with the sails.
Mike did you mean even without the sails (& web)?

As there's a lot of freeboard, that the wind would blow against?


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