There is a persistent urban legend, repeated by the now-defunct UK newspaper the Sunday Correspondent, which ascribes sexually suggestive names – such as Master Bates, Seaman Staines, and Roger the Cabin Boy – to Captain Pugwash's characters, and indicating that the captain's name was a slang Australian term for oral sex. John Ryan, Pugwash's creator, successfully sued both the Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian newspapers in 1991 for printing this legend as fact. In a stage show in Frome on 5 June 2009, Richard Digance claimed to have originated this urban legend in a 1970's sketch. A 25-year injunction preventing Digance making any further references to Captain Pugwash expired at the end of 2008 and the material is now part of his act.
The characters were actually Captain Pugwash, his crew; Master Mate, Barnabas, Willy, Tom the Cabin Boy and the Captain's mortal enemy Cut Throat Jake.