A neighboring sailor, Cap'n Keel, gives Popeye his ship, the Lilly Mae, for free. At first, Popeye is suspicious about Cap'n Keel's enthusiasm about giving his beautiful ship away, then, after signing the files, Keel casually mentions that the ship is haunted: "Big spooks" are aboard. Despite not believing in ghosts, Popeye and Olive Oyl are not pleased with the deal.
The sailing journey begins with Popeye ordering the Jeep to point at whichever direction Popeye's Poppa is at, while the antics of Oscar and Toar initially take center stage. Toar keeps being chased around by Oscar, pretending to be afraid. The unwitting Oscar believes he is "naturally awesome", only to find himself unable to lift an anchor or actually confront Toar seriously.
However, when night falls, the "spooks" start to show up; more accurately, a tall, mysterious being, covered with a white sheet with two holes on top. The creature scares a few passengers stiff. When Popeye sees it, it somehow juggles around a bearded human head. Popeye confronts it head-on, even crawling into the white sheet to find what is inside ("They's a thousing hairy arms squeezin' the life outta me!"). The fuss quickly turns into a brutal beatdown. Popeye manages to defeat it, but reveals that he has been fighting a gorilla under the sheet the whole time, and the "ghost" runs away.
The following day, the mysterious "ghost" reveals its true form to the readers while hiding in the forward hold: it is actually Poopdeck Pappy, a man who greatly resembles Popeye, except with a white beard. The "Head" it had is his companion Pooky Jones, whose beard covers his entire body. They plan to escape from the ship soon, as they are closing in on Barnacle Island, Pappy's home. Meanwhile, Popeye feels that he is being lied to by Eugene, since the Jeep always points to wherever the ship is pointed, and assures that Popeye's father is aboard, a truth that Popeye does not believe in the slightest.
That evening, Olive bumps into Pappy near the hold. Pappy shows his sociopathy by hitting Olive in the face, and when Olive tries to reason with him, he throws her out of the hold. He even takes down a few sailors with ease. Olive and the crew tell the situation to Popeye, and when the sailor finally realizes his own mistakes, Pappy has already escaped on a lifeboat. The heartbroken Popeye feels insulted when Olive tells him about Pappy's rudeness and vulgar manners, even to the point of strangling and spanking her to silence her ("I loves me Poppa an' I'll defend him!").
The folks disembark at Barnacle Island, which is heavily guarded by deadly creatures working for Pappy. As Popeye and Olive are approached by a giant octopus named "Charlie", Pappy eagerly anticipates their gruesome death. Popeye gets eaten whole by the octupus, but Olive brings a can of spinach in time to help him smash the beast into bits. Popeye finally meets up with Pappy, only to be greeted with bitter verbal abuse ("Well, what the @X*! do ye want me to do, KISS YE?") and even a heavy punch.
Pappy eventually admits Popeye into his shack for dinner. He quickly assumes the role of a commanding parent and demands Popeye to eat his spinach, which Popeye responds with laughs, since he loves spinach. Popeye and Olive learn that, 40 years ago, Pappy sent the two-year-old Popeye out to buy a pipe, and it only took a few hours for him to lose patience and then sail away, leaving Popeye alone in a big city. Popeye wants to be nice to Pappy, yet Pappy still hates the former's company, forcing Popeye to resort to brute force ("If you wasn't me Poppa I'd smack ya!!"). He asks Toar to hold Pappy as he makes a wooden crate to confine the old man like a beast.
The folks set sail for home, along with Pooky Jones and Pappy. On the way, Pappy reminisces about his past reclusive life on the island, and declines any sympathy offered by others. When the ship arrives at home port, he greets a few "people" following from afar behind, who turn out to be several scantily clad mermaids that he flirted with before. The mermaids even manage to sneak into Popeye's bathroom.
At home, Olive Oyl warns Popeye that if Pappy hits her again, she will not hesitate to fight back. Popeye, unwilling to see Olive beat his Poppa, is forced to teach Pappy to be nice, leading to the next storyline, "Civilizing Poppa".
- List of Thimble Theatre storylines
- Goonland: Pappy's debut in animation, with a similar premise and certain dialogue lifted from this storyline
- Popeye's Pappy: the above's remake
- "Me Quest for Poopdeck Pappy"
- Popeye: the live-action film adapts part of this storyline and the previous one
- Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy