safety tips

Halloween Advice for Pirates

What happened when the pirates argued about who should keep the skeleton?
For the answer see the end of the blog.

It’s hard to believe Halloween is almost here. Pirates know something about that holiday. Let’s face it who knows more about scary things like skeletons and things that go bump in the night. Especially since so many pirates were turned into skeletons over the years.

I’ve noticed a lot of advice being given to trick-or-treaters these past couple weeks. It’s good advice for kids who dare to go out in the dark, facing unknown dreads just for a little bit of candy. You won’t find genuine pirates facing their fears for a Snickers bar. Maybe a little rum, or a pretty wench, or a little gold, but it’s going to take more than a Mary Jane or some stale popcorn to get me out of me easy chair.  It was a Mary Jane that ripped out half my fillings one Halloween when I was a kid.

A lot of the advice kids get is good, sound information. Travel in groups. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Watch out for obstacles. Not every adult is your friend. Check something carefully before consuming it. That’s advice every pirate should heed.

For example, a lot more pirates would have survived the Golden Age of Piracy if they stayed in groups. And even more would be alive if they didn’t take unnecessary risks. Blackbeard should have paid attention to that one. After an intense exchange of firepower, a ship that attacked him appeared to be lifeless. Instead of letting things alone, he had his men board the ship. Was he ever surprised when a whole regiment of soldiers and sailors suddenly poured on deck and decimated his crew.

And Captain Kidd was thinking more like a kid when he sailed to New York and met with the very man he trusted would exonerate him. Lord Bellomont may have held a respectable position as governor, but he certainly was not his friend. Kidd trusted two passes to Bellomont, passes that would have cleared his name. Instead, the passes mysteriously vanished, Kidd was put on trial, hanged, and his body left to rot on a dock where other sailors could view his remains for months to come. I bet Jamie Lee Curtis or Freddy Kreuger didn’t have to face anything like that.

Moms and dads have the bases covered when it comes to protecting their kids this Halloween, but I’m a little worried about pirates because some of the great advice kids are given is just plain terrible for a buccaneer.

For example, someone told his kid not to wear an eye-patch because it would obstruct his view. That’s terrible advice for a pirate. I mean what do you expect a bloke with one eye to wear? Besides when you’re being attacked by a one-eyed pirate with a black eye-patch, you’re probably going to think twice about fighting back.

Adults also tell kids to wear bright clothing so they can easily be seen. When you’re a pirate, being easily seen is the last thing you want to happen. How do you think pirates got their hands on all that booty not to mention their wench’s booty over the years?

Another piece of advice that is just plain wrong is wearing reflective tape on your costume. You can’t be serious! Bartholomew Roberts would still be alive today if he didn’t do something similarly stupid. He used to dress up in bright fine clothes with gold chains and other jewelry around his neck. Can you guess what happened to him at the very beginning of one battle? I’ll give you a hint. It was his last battle, and not because he retired.

Kids are told not to carry pointed sword, sticks, or other sharp objects. Now that is excellent advice. BUT NOT FOR PIRATES! I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell pirates before they go out to leave their swords below deck. I think you can imagine where they would stick them before I finished giving such fine advice.

Finally, kids are warned to avoid dark places. Now that’s sound advice for a kid on any night of the year. The trouble is that’s where pirates do their best work. And I can’t think of a better place for a pirate to cozy up with his wench than a quiet, dark place.

Halloween is almost here, so I gotta go. I have to look for my eye-patch and check to make sure my sword is sharp enough for whatever things I meet that go bump in the night. Then I’m going to grab me pirate wench and find a nice dark, cozy room.

Happy Halloween and stay safe.

                                      Bill Hegerich

                                      The Uncommon Mariner

                              Riddle Answer: It became a bone of contention.

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The Dirty Dozen: Part II It’s a Dangerous World Out There, but Your Favorite Summer Activity Doesn’t Have To Be


Last week we talked about the little dragons that come to call while you’re on vacation, spoiling an otherwise perfect day at the beach or at your favorite pirate hideout. Whether you’re pillaging and plundering in the Caribbean or just stretching out on your hammock in the backyard, when you’re prepared for the unexpected, you’ll be more likely to escape with nothing but good times to remember.

Lightning. Some of the worst weather days start out with bright sunshine and the promise of endless fun. Then the clouds begin to build. Whether you’re at the beach, the golf course, or hiking in the woods, you suddenly realize a summer storm is about to implode your dreams. You can endure the clouds and the rain, but one thing you can’t survive is a lightning strike. Every year forty-nine people are killed by lightning. Some were caught unexpectedly off-guard; others played chicken with nature and lost.

Let’s get this straight from the outset. There is NO safe place outside in the middle of a thunderstorm. The only safe places are a sturdy building or an enclosed vehicle which rules out your typical Jeep. When you see the first signs of a storm coming, it’s time to start packing. Lightning isn’t confined to the clouds. It often hits as far away as three miles, sometimes more.

Crouching down won’t help. You’ll only look like a big roasted turkey if it hits you. Standing under a tree is worse than stupid. Lightning likes to hit things that stick way up in the air. Spell that mountains, hills, and trees. Did you know that lying on the ground is also a very bad idea? More people die from ground current than direct strikes. When lightning strikes an object, the current spreads out along the ground, electrifying everything it touches.

Mosquito Bites. Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, along comes another disease carried by mosquitoes. This year it’s Zika. It’s mostly predominant in parts of South America, but authorities are concerned that it could spread to the United States and Europe. While your chances of contracting Zika are small, West Nile virus is always a threat. Symptoms are headache, body ache, joint pain, and vomiting. Spray yourself with Deet. Adults can use a mix of fifty percent; for children it’s thirty percent. Don’t use it at all on infants. Eliminate standing water on your property. That includes buckets, barrels, cans, flower pots, and the hulls of old pirate ships. Clean bird ponds once a week. I would tell you to put on long pants and a long sleeve shirt, but when it’s ninety degrees outside and you’re thinking of your string bikini that would be silly. However, don’t go romping in the woods or through tall grass where mosquitoes thrive.

Tick Bites. Ticks still carry Lyme disease and symptoms include chills, fever, headache, muscle aches, and a bull’s eye skin rash. Some people, however, who never have signs of this rash still develop full blown Lyme’s disease. Deer, mice, and other small animals can carry the ticks bearing this disease, so eliminate plants, weeds, and anything else that invites these critters to visit your property.

Check yourself and your kids when you’ve been outside. That includes not only obvious places, but your scalp, underarms, groin, and between your buttocks. And don’t worry about a crawling tick. It’s only after it’s attached itself for twenty-four to forty-eight hours and started sucking blood that danger evolves.

To remove a tick, use a tweezers and get it as close to the skin as possible where the tick has attached itself. Don’t twist. Instead pull straight out. Whatever you do, don’t put the tweezers around the body of the tick. Crushing it is likely to force some of the infected blood back into your body, infecting you even more. Don’t forget to put some kind of antibiotic ointment like bacitracin on the site. For additional info, check out Continue reading →

The Dirty Dozen: Part I It’s a Dangerous World Out There, but Your Favorite Summer Activity Doesn’t Have To Be

Don't let your summer fun be spoiled by a bad decision.

Don’t let your summer fun be spoiled by a bad decision.

Summer is in full swing, and millions of people are spending more time outdoors than ever before. Pirates, mariners, tourists, and sailors. Swimmers, kayakers, hikers, and bikers. With a world full of creepy, crawly things on land and sea, what’s a pirate to do?

Relax, inhale, take another sip of your Starbucks or your Margarita, and let me remind you of the Dirty Dozen. These are the little spoilers that can pop up at any moment and spoil an otherwise perfect day of fun in the sun. With a little forethought, you can wake up tomorrow refreshed instead of nursing wounds you might well have avoided. Here they are in no particular order.

Rip Tides. Did you know there are over 370,000 drowning deaths a year worldwide? While getting caught in a riptide may seem like a death warrant, it doesn’t have to be. It happens like this. The sandy bottom under your feet is suddenly sucked out from under you, and your whole body is dragged rapidly from the shore. No matter how hard you fight, you are swept farther and farther from shore. It’s hard not to, but remember not to panic. Rip tides are powerful only near the shore and quickly lose their power.

Instead of fighting it, let it carry you out. Then swim a few yards parallel to the shore before attempting to swim back in. Because rip tides are only a few yards wide, you’ll be free of its grasp. To avoid rip tides entirely, pay attention to your surroundings. If lifeguards have posted warnings, heed them. If there are no guards, stay with other swimmers where it’s safe.

Drinking While Boating. Did you know according to United States Coast Guard statistics that alcohol resulted in 228 injuries last year and 91 deaths? No one’s saying you can’t go out on the water and imbibe. Go ahead. Drink enough to satisfy a whole shipload of pirates. Just don’t get behind the wheel.  The penalties for drunk boating are the same as they are for drunk driving. Why turn a fun day on the water into a nightmare? Do you really want to end your day sitting in your wet bathing suit in lock-up with Bubba staring at you? For more tips on safe boating, visit

Dehydration. Whether you’re out for a morning jog bearing down on mile thirteen like my daughter Jennifer often does, or standing in line at the waterpark, your body is sweating, and when it’s sweating, it’s losing valuable fluids that control your core temperature. To keep it healthy and happy, you need to drink about three quarts of water or juice a day. Of course, it’s not quite that simple. The more you’re sweating, the more you need to drink. People who weigh more need to drink more. Those who spend a good deal of time in the sun like laborers or sun-worshippers need more fluids.

If you’re feeling lightheaded, get out of the sun, and hydrate. If your urine is dark, you’re already dehydrated. And don’t limit yourself to water. Replace lost electrolytes with drinks like Gatorade and fruit juices. Most importantly, if you feel you are seriously dehydrated, get yourself immediate medical help. It may very well save your life. Continue reading →