After Frederic meets Mabel and warns the girls of the pirates, the pirates come and try to kidnap the girls. Why did the pirates come on land, and if they were going to go on land why did the Pirate King say "Well, it’s the top of the tide, and we must be off" if he was going to the same place as Frederic?

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The explanation for “Well, it’s the top of the tide, and we must be off” is that the pirates have finally succeeded, after many years, in getting rid of Ruth, and so the Pirate King is keen to make an escape as soon as possible to avoid the risk of backsies.

Frederic Then I will not be so selfish as to take her from you. In justice to her, and in consideration for you, I will leave her behind. (Hands Ruth to King)

King No, Frederic, this must not be. We are rough men, who lead a rough life, but we are not so utterly heartless as to deprive thee of thy love. I think I am right in saying that there is not one here who would rob thee of this inestimable treasure for all the world holds dear.

All (loudly) Not one!

King No, I thought there wasn’t. Keep thy love, Frederic, keep thy love. (Hands her back to Frederic)

Frederic You’re very good, I’m sure. (Exit Ruth)

King Well, it’s the top of the tide, and we must be off.

W. S. Gilbert (1880). The Pirates of Penzance, act 1. Project Gutenberg.

Since the Pirate King’s line here is a patently fictitious excuse, there is no need to explain the supposed inconsistency with his subsequent actions.

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