A watermelon carved to look like a pirate ship makes a charming and refreshing addition to the spread for a summertime cookout or pirate-themed birthday party. This project requires an oblong watermelon to achieve the elongated shape of a pirate ship, although you can choose from multiple pirate ship shape options. Use the pirate ship watermelon as a vessel for serving the watermelon and other fruits such as cantaloupe or grapes, where you and your guests can pretend the fruit is pirate treasure.
Shave a long, thin strip of rind from the bottom of the watermelon, making the bottom flat so it doesn't roll while you carve it or while the finished ship is on display. Avoid cutting too much of the rind -- you don't want to expose the red inner flesh or you'll end up with a mess of watermelon juice.
Draw the basic outline of the pirate ship on the outside of the watermelon with a permanent marker or sharp pencil. Starting about 1 inch down from the top of the watermelon, draw a horizontal line extending about one-third of the watermelon length. From the end point, draw a vertical line down 1-1/2 to 2 inches. Draw a horizontal line extending the remaining two-thirds of the watermelon length, bringing it around the other side of the watermelon so the two sides match.
Carve the watermelon with a long, sharp knife along your marker or pencil lines to form the basic shape. Make the cuts as clean as possible, using a sawing motion when needed. A smaller precision knife, such as one used for pumpkin carving, comes in handy for cutting corners and fine design details.
Scoop out the red watermelon flesh with a melon baller, place the melon balls in a bowl, and refrigerate. Cut melon balls from the piece you cut from the top of the watermelon. Scrape off any excess red flesh from the cut pieces, leaving only white and green rind. Reserve the large rind pieces to make accessories for the ship.
Cut four sails from the large pieces of rind you reserved from the watermelon top. Cut the sails in the shape of a square with curves on two opposite sides to give the look of a sail blowing in the breeze. Cut two of the sails slightly smaller than the other two sails. Carve off the green rind layer with a channel knife to make the sails white. This V-shaped knife cuts the rind in thin strips. Alternatively, you can carve stripes to make green and white-striped sails.
Push a bamboo skewer up through the bottom and out the top of each of the larger sails, leaving the centers of the sails unattached. Slide the rinds down to leave room for the smaller sails. Bend the rinds slightly on the skewers if you really want to give the look of wind-puffed sails. Push the smaller sails onto the skewers on top of the larger sails. The skewers you use must be long enough to fit the two sails and reach to the bottom of the pirate ship.
Push the opposite end of the bamboo skewers into the bottom of the watermelon pirate ship to stand the sails and flag upright. Fill in the ship with the watermelon balls and your choice of other fruit. The fruit can be used as treasure for the ship, but also helps hold the skewers in place.
Push a toothpick or bamboo skewer horizontally into the ship's bow, pointing forward, to act as the pirate ship's bowsprit, if desired. You can tie thread or other fine string from the bowsprit to the bamboo skewer masts just as you would see on a real ship.
Cut out a rectangle shape from the top rind pieces. Cut a wedge out of one side to make a pirate ship flag. Draw a sigil such as a skull and crossbones on the flag with a pencil; carve out the design with a channel knife. Push the flag onto a bamboo skewer.
Draw several small circles in a row down the length of the pirate ship. Carve these down to the white of the rind with a channel knife. This step is optional, but the additional embellishment gives the suggestion of cannon holes or port holes on a ship. You can cut holes all the way through the rind, if desired, but you'll end up with leaking juice if you use the watermelon to hold a fruit salad.
Bamboo skewers and toothpicks can be dyed if you don't like the natural wood color, but you should use food coloring to achieve the desired color if you plan to consume the fruit in the watermelon ship.
Try cutting stars and shell shapes with a cookie cutter from pineapple or cantaloupe to decorate around the watermelon pirate ship.
A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.