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David Koenig
Splash Pirates
What's the name of that ride on the west side of Disneyland, the flume ride with the sudden drop that sometimes leaves passengers drenched?

Did you say Pirates of the Caribbean? Well, it was the weekend before last, anyway.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean

With a spruced-up Pirates just coming off its annual rehab, cast members began noticing that the boats were taking on more water than usual. Attendance was light that rainy Saturday (April 7), but the lead realized that as soon as the crowds increased, so would the flooding. So, she called Facilities, warning that there could be big problems when they started filling every boat with guests. Evidently, maintenance ignored the request.

The next morning, with clear skies, attendance picked up. That meant packed boats on Pirates. As the boats hit the bottom of the two drops, more water than usual splashed in. Many passengers were drenched. Within a few hours, the unload dock was saturated with the water that dripped off disembarking guests.

At first, the cast members thought it was funny. They started calling the ride "Splash Pirates" and "Splash Mountain of the Caribbean." Many of the soaked patrons, though, were furious. Leads and managers had to be called to help soothe the angry hordes, and began "handing out merchandise comp tickets hand-over-fist."

Cast members who went on a ride-through to check things out got so wet they had to go change costumes. They closed the ride at about noon, tried reopening at 4 p.m., then shut down again about 20 minutes later. The Maintenance Response Team spent all day trying to figure out what went wrong. Wetsuit-clad scuba divers had to be sent out to check the bottom of the drops. The ride remained closed until 10 the next morning.

Cast members have two theories. First, some suggest that the repairmen screwed up the ride during rehab. "Apparently, the bottom of Drop One was redone during its rehab, and baffles to suppress water that would normally splash into the boats were taken out," says one employee. "When the boats hit the bottom of the flume, the water would splash up, bounce off the walls, and into the boats. Some guests got a real drenching."

Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean

"Many people dread rehabs now because it seems Facilities is always taking things out or trying to find a cheaper way to run the attraction," grouses another cast member. "The baffles and splash guards have always been there. Why can't they just leave them alone? It caused many headaches, hours of downtime, and lots of wet, angry guests before it was fixed. Blech."

Others blame the drenchings on the amount of water in Pirates' lower level. One source says he went on a ride-through the previous Friday and "at the bottom of Drop 2, I did NOT notice that the splash guards were gone. On the contrary, they seemed to be working fine." He theorizes that the water level was too high because maintenance overcompensated after complaints that the flume was losing about 4 inches of water a day.

"Things have definitely been altered at Pirates, and I doubt we can lay the blame on the blue collars," a Facilities staffer says. "The welders worked on Drop 1 runout. Water level is almost uncontrollable, with mid-level (from bottom of Drop 1 to top of Drop 2) WAY too high, and top (dispatch) too low. The water level up top was once controlled by the dispatch brake at the top of the first drop, which covered most of the flume when no boat was going through. This would prevent the water level between the drops from getting too deep. When the water is too deep, boats reach the bottom of Drop 1 and tend to 'plow' into the water and the side rails at the curve to Drop 2. If there is enough water, the boats can hang up on the sides, which can create obvious problems. I'm told the top gate is now just a guide wheel stop, with no effort to control water level, a design change proposed by our new engineers as 'something we use elsewhere in the park that will save money.'"

Yeah, it's also used on Splash Mountain.

The Mark Twain on the Rivers of America
The Mark Twain on the Rivers of America

Coincidentally, there also have been recent problems with the water level in the nearby Rivers of America. The best test of the water's level, according to an old-timer, is to "go to the Twain Dock in the morning before the guests arrive. At the center of the Mark its deck should be even with the dock. However, lately the Twain deck has been 1.5 to 2 inches below dock levels. Mark and Big C slow for Fantasmic! show passes, possibly due to their bellies scraping through the muck."

He says last week a ride operator told him that while docking at the Fort dock, he felt like he'd run over a VW.

The culprit may be a new 36-inch drain that runs from the river toward Tomorrowland and has absolutely no flow control of any kind. Another maintenance man says, "We don't yet know for sure why this drain was added, but we think it's a part of some flood control scheme."

You can write to David atthis link..

Splash Pirates


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David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999); all titles published by Bonaventure Press.

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.

You can contact David here.


Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.

Visit MouseShoppe to purchase copies of David's books. (Clicking on the link opens a new window.)


Click Here to Pay Learn MoreAmazon Honor System

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