The Dawn of a New Year has broken, a leap year none the less, and many of you still have no idea where you want to set sail.
To be sure, you want this year to be different- you want this to be the year to make deep and profound changes in your life. For some those changes are personal, for others financial; yet for others the changes are more spiritual. But beyond that vague ache in your heart, you’re not sure where to set your course.
I say to you, to set a new course in the new year, follow your Pirate Heart. “Follow my Pirate Heart?” you ask incredulously. Yes, and if you haven’t before, go to my website Uncommon Mariners and read the section “About Me.” It’s all about discovering your pirate heart and following your pirate dreams.
Pirates more than 200 years ago especially Caribbean pirates became pirates for a lot of reasons, only one of them being financial gain. Beyond money was the underlying hunger to regain control of their lives. In 2016, that’s what being a pirate is all about, at least on a more profound and symbolic level.
The quintessential question posed before you at the beginning of this new year is very basic. What do I need to do to reclaim my pirate life, the life I was born to lead?
Here are a few questions you should consider before you go to bed each night of 2016 or at least when you start each day: Continue reading →
Someone asked me recently if pirates ever took vacations back when they sailed the Spanish Main. “It must have been nice; all that gold to spend in Port Royal on rum and wenches, and going out plundering when you felt like it.”
While it seems like an idyllic life, the harsh glare of truth tells a far different story. Many pirates had their favorite places to operate. Like the pirates of today, some chose the Indian Ocean. Others the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. The fact is staying in port in a half dazed state for incredible lengths of time wasn’t really an option.
For one thing, the call of the sea was never far from their ears. Nor was the news of ships laden with treasure. Eventually, the long arm of the law grew closer and closer forcing them to look for new hideouts and strongholds. Add to that many pirates planned their year around the seasons.
Quite a few pirates followed the sun, so to speak, leaving the beautiful blue-green waters of the Caribbean for points north. They’re adventures might stretch all the way to New Foundland before returning south much like a cowboy following the rodeo circuit.
Perhaps you heard of this sailor quite at home in the Caribbean. His name was Blackbeard, and he held Charleston ransom for a treasure chest of medicine. Farther north, he had his cozy connections with the governor of North Carolina who gave him refuge in the bays of his coast after raiding ships off Virginia. He became such a pain in the neck to Alexander Spotswood, governor of Virginia, that it prompted him to send Lieutenant Maynard to resolve the situation once and for all. The end result was Blackbeard’s head jutting from the bowsprit when Maynard sailed into what is now known as Blackbeard‘s Point at Hampton, Virginia.
So if you’re a pirate still working on your Arrrrrrgh or someone with a pirate heart working a nine-to-five job, remember life wasn’t all rum and cokes for the Men of the Sea. This summer whether you’re sailing to the Caribbean or trekking to your backyard, tip one back for those daring and grimy pirates of the Caribbean. Just be careful not to spill your drink for, as Benjamin Franklin said: “A little thirst is a dangerous thing.”
Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all. When Helen Keller spoke those words, it’s not likely she was thinking of pirates, but they fit perfectly the happiest pirate this side of Margaritaville and his parrothead followers.
If there are three trademarks of a pirate, it’s these
1. The willingness to take bold chances.
2. The willingness to steal.
3. The thirst for adventure.
If this is true, then Jimmy Buffett is not only a pirate’s pirate, but he’s had school in session for over forty years, teaching parrothead/pirates the intimate details of how to pull this pirate thing off. Let’s get started by putting a few things up front.
Jimmy’s been shot down in Jamaica, crashed his plane in Long Island, been put down by critics, thrown out of sports arenas, and had his share of illicit taxi rides. Yet each time cannon balls fly his way, he’s found a way to “… jump up and smile back at …” us.
This is exactly what makes Jimmy Buffett a pirate’s pirate. Adversity is no stranger to him. It’s just that he’s learned to make friends with it. It’s hard to know whether Jimmy shines because of his resilience, or whether his resilience comes from his ability to shine. I’m convinced if given an electric guitar and Jimmy Buffett‘s example, Blackbeard would have turned out differently.
Let’s face it. No one would ever accuse Jimmy of being a saint, yet there are few people I know closer to God. When you make so many people happy in a world writhing in pain, it’s one of the most godlike things a human can do. More of us should learn to do that.
As for this whole stealing thing, Jimmy is guilty. For over forty years, he’s stolen our hearts while encouraging us to live our dreams. What‘s more, he’s taught us to steal our lives and our dreams back from those who stole them from us a piece at a time.
Though he seems to preach a hedonistic lifestyle, Jimmy is more of a Buddha than a sensualist. It’s all about the present moment. No matter what you were expecting, it is always now. Breathe in, breathe out. Move on. It’s a terrific lesson. Continue reading →
I think those who object to pirates generally do so for two reasons. First, they point to pirates as nasty, evil men and women who made travel on the sea a precarious and dangerous adventure. Some, indeed, were downright diabolical as can be testified by the ilk of Francis L’Ollonais, Edward Low, and Henry Morgan. Yes, that Henry Morgan who straddled the fence between pirate and privateer quite adeptly. At one point, Henry wasn’t above using nuns and monks as shields when he attacked the fortress at San Geronimo. Clearly these men were sadistic and evil, taking no small pleasure in seeing men and women brutalized for their own personal gain. But not all pirates fit that profile. Many pirates who have been demonized for centuries were not always the vile, murderous figures history has portrayed them to be. One only has to read Colin Woodward’s stellar book The Republic of Pirates to realize many were victims of circumstances. Richard Zacks’ in his revealing book The Pirate Hunter convincingly discounts the myth that Captain Kidd was the world‘s most wicked and notorious pirate. Whatever you can say about pirates and those with a pirate heart, one thing is true. Each is motivated by his own dreams… and whatever they are, a real pirate is willing to lay down his life for them. It’s too bad more people today don’t have that kind of passion.
The second reason pirates make some people feel uncomfortable is that few want to admit we all have the seeds of great good and terrible evil in us. Which ones we water determines what we become. Given the proper circumstances only God knows who among us would have gladly sailed under the jolly roger. Today we tend to romanticize pirates perhaps because we recognize that there is something within them that resonates in our own hearts. The history and literature of the world is filled with stories of men and women both fictional and real who rose from oppression and boldly struck out on their own to follow their dreams- consequences be damned. Their environment may have been landlocked fiefdoms instead of the high seas, but these heroes and heroines had a pirate heart just the same. Joan of Arc, Socrates, Thomas More, The Lone Ranger, Zorro, Davy Crockett, Julius Caesar, Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman. It’s why we root for pirates despite David Cordingly’s solid job of debunking a host of pirate myths in his book Under the Black Flag.
To us, Pirates were the good guys who in some way strove to throw off repression and cruelty inflicted by unfair governments and social castes. We see something of ourselves in them. We recognize unfairness and injustice when we see it and stand and cheer when someone bucks the system and fights back. We’re not just cheering for a pirate that knows how to sneer Arrgh. We’re cheering for ourselves because we too have known what it’s like to be oppressed by an insensitive boss or been bullied by an HOA or mistreated by a surly clerk or abused by an unfair insurance adjuster. It’s that part of the pirate we love.
Those with a pirate heart always challenge mainstream thinking and because of it risk becoming outcasts and paying the price. To be sure, we despise men and women who would readily cheat us of our possessions or deprive us of our lives. We spurn and despise the Bernie Madoffs of the world just as quickly as we eschew the pirates that plague the waters off eastern Africa. Yet we admire any soul who courageously breaks from the status quo to pursue his dreams.
The person with a pirate spirit today has a lot in common with the pirates from the Golden Age of Piracy. He stands tall, willing to push back on anyone and any power who would rob him of what is rightfully his. Namely, his life and his dreams. In those quiet moments, you can hear your dreams call your name. What plans are you forming to make them come true? What are you going to do today to reclaim your life out there on the high seas of Life? May God Speed, and may you always have the wind at your back and following seas. See you out there on the high seas of life. Aarrgghh!
Uncommon Mariners: A Nautical Almanac
A Voyage in a Book
How would you like to chase pirates and mariners across the seven seas? I’ve written a book Uncommon Mariners, and if you like the sea, and things of the sea, and stories about men and women who have lived and died on it, I think you’re going to love this book. But let’s forget the book for now, and let me tell you a little something about my birth into the world of the sea, pirates, and mariners.
Maybe it was one of those day trips to the Jersey Shore as a kid. My oldest sister Sandi and my brother-in-law Larry Molinaro arrived at the curb of my home in their maroon Lincoln, and they piled my sisters and me into the back seat along with my mother and off we went barreling down Black Horse Pike. The pungent salt air that rose from the marshes outside Atlantic City and the sand castles I built at the edge of that miraculous sea were bliss itself.
It was with a deep sense of loss that I packed up my sand bucket and shovel and headed for the local bathhouse as the sun lowered in the sky. Weeks later back in Philly, I could still feel the rise and fall of the sea as surely as those white curling breakers hurled themselves relentlessly towards my sandcastle that hot August day.
Or maybe it was that auspicious birthday years later, when my daughter Maureen and her husband Jason Olsen gave me the legendary gift box of Jimmy Buffett’s four CD’s Beaches, Boats, Bars, and Ballads. There was something about that mix of songs on the Boats CD that awakened the sleeping pirate in me. Suddenly, a black flag snapped somewhere in my brain, and I realized Jimmy vocalized what I had been feeling for years.
My first trip to the Florida Keys only further inflamed those pirate aspirations. Less than fifty yards down the isolation of Card Sound Road, civilization was replaced by the stark beauty of a paradise I could only guess at, and I knew I was home. Anyone who ever set foot on a ship and lost sight of land knows what I‘m talking about. I stood on the edge of the Universe and my whole soul opened up and I was swept into eternity.
Soon after, I experienced another event that insured I would never sleep again without the Jolly Roger wrapped tightly around my soul. One crisp October afternoon, while doing yard work, I disturbed a nest of hornets. I was stung on my ankle as the machine rattled and snarled at the aggravated bees. Armed with a can of wasp killer in each hand, the scene quickly deteriorated into hand to hand combat. Eventually I was able to slip in between the fragmented cloud of bees and turn the machine off. I left the wasps that were left to deal with their dying and dead.