Believe it or not 2019 is about to sail into history, and like you, I can’t really believe it. If I didn’t know better, I’d think those scoundrel pirates stole it. And with a new year ready to sweep over us, that can mean only one thing. New Year’s Resolutions.
There’s something deep in the soul of every human being that strives towards a better life. Something that makes a person want to be better, do better, and achieve more. Even the slackers who sit back and collect welfare for a living, or use their time and talents to scam others, like those shysters who keep calling my house trying to sell my wife devices for her back and legs, all the while pretending to be from Medicare.
Making New Year’s Resolutions seems to be part of our DNA… even if we only make them in our head. As a pirate and a writer, I can’t help but wonder what kind of resolutions some of the more famous pirates might have made.
First there’s Blackbeard. Before assuming that name, he was known as Edward Teach, or possibly Edward Thatch, but somehow that doesn’t have quite the zing to it that Blackbeard does. That must have been one of his resolutions early in life.
Blackbeard died in the shoals of North Carolina where he had been hiding out. The night before he threw a massive party, and had an incredible hangover the next day. And it got worse. Lieutenant Maynard, who had been sent by the governor of Virginia to track him down, discovered his hide out and initiated an attack. If you ever had a headache from imbibing too much the night before, imagine how painful it must have been when cannons roared. To make matters worse both ships were stuck in muck and both sides had to wait for a rising tide to maneuver.
Outgunned by Blackbeard’s cannons, Maynard was in a precarious position. He ordered his men below deck, and Blackbeard, his head throbbing but certain of victory, swarmed Maynard’s ship. Suddenly, a door burst open, and Maynard’s well-armed men swarmed the deck. Fighting was vicious, and it took a combination of almost two dozen pistol shots and sabre cuts to bring Blackbeard down.
Ironically, the only thing that stopped him was a sword that separated his head from his shoulders. Well, that’s one way to get rid of a hangover, but not highly recommended.
I’m willing to bet my last doubloon that had Blackbeard lived, he would have made a couple of resolutions. One, go a little lighter on the rum. Two, Never underestimate your enemies. And three, arrogance can be your undoing.
Then there’s the situation Bartholomew Roberts got himself into. Also known as Black Bart, Roberts hounded shipping in the Caribbean pretty much freely till the British Navy got tired of his antics. He even went so far as to have a flag drawn up with the initials AMH and ABH on it as a warning to the governors of Barbados and Martinique that he would kill them if he got the chance. He did exactly that when he caught up with the governor of Martinique.
Unfortunately, Roberts got into trouble when he got over sure of himself and chased a ship that turned out to be a British man-of-war. Oops. His smugness no doubt turned to dismay when he realized he was trading broadsides with a ship better armed than his. Roberts died in the battle and his men threw his body overboard at his request. No doubt he didn’t want to be placed in a gibbet and his remains left hanging for everyone to stare at.
I bet if Roberts had to make a New Year’s resolution or two one would be: “Keep a low profile. Drawing a lot of attention to yourself isn’t a good thing.” I bet his other resolution would have been: “You don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to.”
Then there’s Captain William Kidd. He’s often described in some books as one of the most evil pirates in history. That’s not true. Kidd was a businessman who entered into a partnership with some very influential businessmen in New York, including the governor himself. With sea water in his veins, he went to sea to hunt pirates, not become one. During his voyage, his recalcitrant men, hungry for booty, became rebellious and forced him to attack ships not on his list.
When Kidd finally made his way to the Caribbean, he was shocked to discover he was a wanted man. Partners with some of the most powerful people in the British government, he was certain he could easily clear his name. Was he wrong! Embarrassed to be associated with Kidd, everyone denounced him and let him die on the gallows in England.
Want to guess what Kidd’s New Year’s Resolutions would be? “Don’t be too naïve. Politicians are about as good as their word, and when the caca hits the fan, you better not be standing too close.” I bet he wished he had stayed in the Caribbean a little longer, working on Plan B.
As I welcome 2020, I realize I have a lot of good resolutions I never quite got around to executing from last year. I also have a few new ones I’m sure will make my life better in the new year; maybe there’s something you might be able to use too.
One. Plan your day. If you’re a wandering generality, as Zig Ziglar likes to say, tomorrow’s going to look just like today which looked just like yesterday. But a plan changes all that.
Two. Don’t over plan your day. Leave time for fun and adventure. Otherwise your life is going to look like a boring checklist from the back of some How-To book.
Three. Have Hope. You must believe All things are Possible.
Four. Always appreciate what you have. Practice this every day. If you think you got it really good, God is going to say to you: “If you think things are going great for you now, wait till you see what I have planned for you next week.” He’ll also say to those blind to their blessings: “If you think you have something to complain about now, wait till you see what I’m sending you next week.”
Five. Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. Learn from yours and move on.
Six. People will betray you. You’ll think they’re in your corner, and one day you awake to find out they’re gone. It’s life. Don’t let it stop you. The power of how far you will travel in life is determined by you, not your enemies.
Seven. Never stop dreaming. Your dreams are what keep you young. I count my age by my dreams. Years are a chronological fact like the United States was born in 1776.
Eight. Never stop believing in yourself. No matter how old you are, there’s a vast, untapped potential waiting to be discovered. What are you waiting for?
Nine. Don’t listen to “No,” when your heart says “Yes.”
Ten. This one is for you to fill in. Please tell me one resolution you think would be invaluable for everyone to make this coming year.
I don’t know what storms will blow my way or yours this year, but if you take only one or two ideas here, you just might have a little more fun navigating the Seas of Life. I wish you Health. I wish you Fun. I wish you Love. And I wish you Adventure.
The Uncommon Mariner
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Aarrrgh is one of the defining words in our common psyche when we think of pirates. My wife says two mature, normal grown-ups can’t help but smile when they utter that word to each other. You can be a pirate aficionado, a parrothead with 50 years of partying and pirating under your sash, or just plain nuts like me, but the response will always be the same when someone greets you with “Aarrrgh!”
I don’t know why that is. As Johnny Depp says, “Enjoy the ride while it lasts.” Don’t question the gift of Aarrgh when someone brightens your day with one.
I taught school for over 37 years, and it’s the one word that’s practically impossible to misspell though I know a few people who would come close. Despite what you think and what you’ve seen in the dozens of pirate books you’ve read, there really is no one way to spell Aarrrgh.
Here are some of the more common ways. Aarrrgh! Aaarr! Arrrr! Arrr! Arrrgh! For the sake of consistency, I’m using Arr, though there are times when Arrgh is better.
Some historians assert that pirates never once uttered the word Aarrgh or anything like it. They assert that the word is a Hollywood device that can be traced back to Long John Silver in the story Treasure Island. I don’t think they would argue their point so loud if they were looking down the barrel of a Caribbean pirate’s cannon, or dancing a jig at the end of a pirate sword.
The fact is, many pirates were Irish, Welsh, and English. All three spoke with distinct accents that gave Aarrrgh a delightful flavor. Count among Welsh pirates, Henry Morgan, the inspiration behind Captain Morgan rum, and Black Bart aka Bartholomew Roberts. I don’t think a lot of people reading this would have wanted to sail on Roberts’ ship. He preferred to drink tea instead of rum.
Captain William Kidd was Scottish. I think his Aarrgh would have been as good as anyone’s in history. Blackbeard and Edward England were both English as was Calico Jack Rackham though his shipmate the notorious Anne Bonny was born in County Cork, Ireland. Anne delighted in revealing her breast to the men she conquered. Talk about wild Irish lasses! That alone deserves an Aaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!
That’s not to say there weren’t French, Spanish, and Dutch pirates. Boy, there were plenty of those too. But I just don’t know how you can put a French or Dutch accent on Aarrrgh! Awkward!!!
The following are thirty pirate riddles with the word Aarrr in the answer. I have no doubt even Henry Morgan, if he sobered up long enough, would surely be amused. Ready or not, here they Arrr!
1.How do pirates like their eggs?
2. Where in the Caribbean do pirates go for vacation?
3. What’s a pirate’s favorite game fish?
4. Why was the pirate voted most valuable player in baseball?
Because he had the most Arrr BI’s.
5. What happened to the movie about pirates who plundered a ship with scantily clad wenches?
It was raided Arrr!
6. What music do pirates listen to?
Arrr and B
7. What’s a pirate’s favorite musical instrument?
8. What was the pirate’s explosive secret weapon?
9. What were pirates doing in the dollar store?
Looking for a b-arrr-gain.
10. What do pirates like to smoke after a day of pillaging and wenching?
11. What does a pirate do after brushing his teeth?
He g-arrr-gles with rum.
12. What did Blackbeard do when fuses got hopelessly tangled in his beard?
He went to a b-arrr-ber.
13. What do pirates like inscribed on their tombstone?
Arrr I P
14. Why didn’t the pirate say anything at his own trial?
Because there was no use in Arrr-guing with the judge.
15. Why did the pirate interrupt the band in the middle of the song?
He didn’t like the Arrr-angement.
16. What famous pirate appeared in Star Wars?
Arrr 2 D 2.
17. What’s a pirate’s favorite part of the boardwalk?
18. What do you call a muscular pirate with a German accent?
19. What vegetable does a cook never serve on a pirate ship?
20. Why did the pirate drink unsweetened iced tea?
He didn’t like Arrr-tificial sweeteners.
21. Where do pirates hold their tailgate party before a night of plundering?
In the p-arrr-king lot.
22. What TV show do pirates like to watch when they get up in the morning?
23. What job did the pirate volunteer for on Thanksgiving Day?
C-arrr-ving the turkey.
24. Why was the pirate limping?
25. How do pirates spend their Saturday mornings?
They go to yarrr-d sales.
26. If God is a pirate, what’s the first thing he’s going to ask to see when you reach heaven?
27. What kind of toilet paper do pirates use?
28. What’s the smelliest part of a pirate?
His Arrr-m pit.
29. Who was the best pirate to ever play golf?
30. What did God tell Noah to do when he turned pirate?
Start building an Arrr-k.
How about you? I bet there’s a little pirate in you yearning to break free. What arrr you waiting for? Let me hear your best aarrr jokes.
To leave a comment, click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2019/04/10/aaaarrrrgh/ with a sense of humor.
The Uncommon Mariner
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.
The Uncommon Mariner
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It’s amazing how many different kinds of postage stamps you can buy at the post office this time of year. There’s the Madonna and Child, Saint Nick, and a lamb proclaiming, “All is calm and bright.” Of course, there’s also one celebrating Hanukkah, another Kwanzaa, plus quite a few more. And that’s on top of some pretty amazing stamps commemorating people and events from America’s past.
One of my favorites is a black and white stamp of John Kennedy. It captures a very handsome man displaying an air of leadership and dignity, something lacking in the presidency these days. I remember when he first became president. I was only 14, but even a callow youth like me sensed the feeling of hope that pervaded the country. Anything seemed possible then, so much so that Kennedy promised the United States would put a man on the moon in a decade. He beat his own timeline.
Coming from any other politician, the prediction would have been preposterous dribble, like a slimy politician promising to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the country. But when a man like John Kennedy shared the vision of a New Frontier, most Americans believed that it was not only possible but probable.
I don’t think we should put the picture of politicians on postage stamps today. It seems most are obnoxious and deceitful, many millionaires who buy their position with the family inheritance or with obscene amounts of money from lobbyists. And that’s a disgrace. Who wants to mail a letter with a politician’s picture on it who robs from the poor to give to the rich?
It’s not that people don’t expect you to bend the rules when you ’re president, but they do expect you to play fairly and not be mean-spirited or vengeful. Which brings me back to postage stamps and an interesting character from America’s past. Blackbeard.
I can’t help but think he would have made a great president, looking great on a postage stamp. He was clever, manipulative, strong, focused, and a great motivator. If you served with him, you might not always agree with his methods or his goals, but life couldn’t have been fairer on his ship. He wouldn’t have had to tweet for you to know what he was thinking or to exert his authority.
As I mull over this whole postage stamp thing, I can’t help but think what one would look like with Blackbeard’s picture on it. He’s usually portrayed with a black, straggly beard and a full head of hair. His eyes didn’t twinkle like Santa Claus’. Rather they were dark and piercing, quick to root out malingerers.
I don’t know if Donald Trump’s likeness will ever appear on a postage stamp. One reason is just practicality. How can you get a picture of someone with all that hair into such a small space? The other reason is more ethical. Is it really a good idea to extol someone who thinks it okay to grab a woman by her genitals without even asking? I’d like to see Donald Trump do that around Blackbeard.
Another figure that deserves a place on a postage stamp is Captain William Kidd. Kidd’s gotten a pretty bad rap over the years, but many historians are revising their view of Kidd as a ruthless, blood-thirsty murderer. The fact is, when Kidd set sail from New York, he did so with the explicit approval of some very influential politicians. His fortunes turned bad when his crew grew mutinous after failing to capture any ships on a list pre-approved by the King and politicians.
Kidd struggled to control his crew, all the while attempting to satisfy the demands of his well-connected investors. If Kidd had a flaw, it was that he was naïve and trusting. After returning to the Caribbean, he discovered he was a wanted man, yet opted to willingly return to New York, certain he would find support from those who hired him.
Politicians, realizing they were about to be embarrassed, disassociated themselves from Kidd, and even went so far as to hide two tickets that would have exonerated him. Upon his arrival in New York, he was jailed and shipped to England to be tried for murder and piracy. Forbidden to present an adequate defense, he was found guilty and condemned to hang. Kidd’s picture on a postage stamp? He earned it after dealing with cutthroats at home and at sea.
And not to slight the ladies, I think Ann Bonny is another pirate who deserves to be on a postage stamp. At an age when women on ships were taboo, Ann broke the glass ceiling or at least the crow’s nest on the mainmast. It took a lot of courage for a woman to pass herself off as a man, rubbing elbows and God knows what else with a ship filled with lusty sailors. Just going to the bathroom took a lot finesse and cleverness so as not to expose her identity as well as other things.
Eventually, Bonny’s sex was discovered, but she earned the crew’s approval when she showed she could fight as well as any man. Surprisingly, Ann and her cohort Mary Read proved more valorous than the men who cowered below deck when the ship was under attack. When captured, she was tried and sentenced to death. The only reason the sentence wasn’t carried out was because she was pregnant.
I could suggest other pirates whose faces deserve to be on postage stamps, but I’d be happy with just these three. Like the typical politician today, they were resourceful, clever, and master manipulators. Unlike today’s politicians with their aristocratic attitudes, pirates had a strong sense of fair play and democracy. On a pirate ship, no one was privileged. Not the rich; not the well-connected; and certainly not the blood-sucking lobbyists.
The motto of pirates could be summed up in a familiar phrase: “All for one. One for all.” If Blackbeard and his ilk were alive today, they might even adopt the motto of the Carnival Cruise Line: “Fun for all, All for Fun.” Though they would probably insist on changing it to: “Rum for all. All for Rum.” Rather than argue with them, I figure why not join them.
It’s almost 4:30, and I have to close this piece. My wife needs a book of stamps at the post office. I don’t know what kind she wants, but if I had my way, I know which ones I’d buy.
To leave a comment, go to https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2017/12/09/my-stamp-of-approval/
It’s been a busy month for pirates… at least those rascally bucaneers who pillaged and plundered the Caribbean three hundred years ago.
Disney was right to name their amusement attraction and film series by the name Pirates of the Caribbean. Both helped capture the essence of what has made pirates attractive over the centuries though some people I talk to are shocked when I point out Jack Sparrow was just a fictional character.
Books and films have propagated some of the common myths we cherish about pirates like burying treasure every chance they got or entertaining themselves endlessly by making their victims walk the plank.
The fact is pirates were too busy donating their money to impoverished innkeepers in exchange for a little rum to find time to bury it. Why they were even known to assist lonely women down on their luck and their backs in return for a couple of life’s simple pleasures. Their generosity left them broke.
As for walking the plank, it’s difficult but not impossible to find references to this diabolic deed. You can read more about it in me upcoming book Uncommon Mariners. Let it suffice to say, once pirates captured a ship, like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, they set straight to work, searching for all that hidden gold.
Disney would have you believe as would Homer Pyle the painter of pirates that those who didn’t cough up their belongings were forced to walk the plank while a crew of gnarly, smelly pirates chortled and snarled “Aarrrgh.” Sometimes spelled aarrrrgh or arrr, the accent being on the last three letters. The truth is, if murderous pirates were sufficiently annoyed with you or their underwear was too tight that day, they simply threw you overboard.
A lot of people including a number of historians over the years put Blackbeard in this category, but that’s only because they came to believe the Hollywood hype and Blackbeard’s own press releases. Of course, Blackbeard didn’t actually issue press releases. He didn’t have to. His physical demeanor gave the aura of being the nastiest, meanest, most ornery, ferocious pirate in the Caribbean. One look at his snarly beard bedecked with burning fuses struck more fear in a shipload of sailors than a hundred press releases.
The reason I’m telling you this is because December the 10 has slipped into oblivion again this year, the date Stede Bonnet, was hanged in Charleston in 1718. Bonnet was a gentleman pirate and one of Blackbeard’s consorts, but It would be stretching the truth to call him his friend.
Bonnet became a pirate for the most unlikely of reasons. He was tired of his wife’s nagging. If you had to pick him out of a lineup of ten pirates, you’d be wrong nine times. He looked more like a Wall Street type than a thick-bearded ruffian ready to cut your heart out.
Still the fact remains he was a pirate. Strangely enough, he had to buy his ship not steal it, and he didn’t even understand how the whole pirate thing worked: First, you pillage, then you plunder, drink some rum, then pay the crew. Pirates called it: “No prey, no pay!”
Stede’s first mistake was paying his crew before they even left port. Actually, his first mistake was becoming a pirate.
After being resoundly beaten in one of his earlier encounters, he limped into the pirate base of Nassau where it was love at first sight. Not what you’re thinking I guarantee you. Blackbeard was on the dock, and when he laid his eyes on Bonnet’s ship, the Revenge, he knew he had to have it.
The amusing thing is Blackbeard through wit and coercion had Stede Bonnet join his fleet with the gentleman pirate pretty much a hostage on his own ship. “You read yer books in yer fancy library,” he no doubt told Stede, “and I’ll find ye a fine sailing captain to manage the dirty work. Arrrrgh!” I’m not sure Bonnet was ever aware Blackbeard had relieved him of his ship.
A lot of adventures passed under the ship’s keel before Blackbeard and Bonnet parted ways, but you can be sure it wasn’t over until the master of intimidation said it was over.
Bonnet didn’t last long after that. The luckless pirate was caught by mistake off North Carolina when pirate hunters were searching for someone else. He was brought to Charleston, South Carolina where more than a few common folk threatened to riot when he and his men were scheduled to be hanged.
Many of these locals were ex pirates from Nassau and smugglers who made more money than an inside trader on Wall Street. But the thriving days of piracy in the Caribbean were on the wane, and Stede Bonnet’s days were numbered.
Stede Bonnet may not have cut the colorful swath in history Blackbeard did, but you deserve to know that despite the myths, he was Blackbeard’s peer and should be respected for that.
As for this well-educated man with a refined background turning to a life of crime, I have to ask you. What would it take for you to live your pirate dreams?
See you out there on the high seas of life. Arrrgh!
To leave a comment, please go to https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/on-stede-bonnet-pirate-myths-and-blackbeards-foil/
I have a bumper sticker with a skull and crossbones on it. The skull is wearing an eyepatch, smiling no doubt because of the bright red bandana it’s sporting. Underneath it reads: “Put a Real Pirate in Office. Jimmy Buffett for President.”
I think Jimmy is having way too much fun to be tricked into running for president, but of all the pirates I’ve known, Blackbeard would make a terrific president. It’s hard to think of a more presidential candidate than Edward Thatch. That’s his baptismal name. Yes, even the parents of buccaneers have high expectations for their offspring.
Of course, I can hear your comments now. He doesn’t look anything like a president. Look at all that hair! And that beard! Have you lost your mind? As a matter of fact, I have, but my wife has gotten used to it. Did you know we had quite a number of presidents who were no slackers in the hair and beard department? Abe Lincoln, of course, being one of the greatest.
It may interest you to know the last time we had a president with a full blown beard was President Rutherford Hayes, twenty-third president who served from 1877 to 1881. He could have passed as Blackbeard’s double though I don’t think Blackbeard would have approved of him as president. At his wife’s urging, he banished wine and liquor from the White House. That’s not the sort of thing a president with pirate tendencies does.
In case you haven’t noticed, Donald Trump is no slouch in the hair department though he would probably garner a bit more respect if he let it go pure white instead of using something on it that looks like dog pee. His hair dresser should tell him white hair implies age and wisdom.
As for Blackbeard, he was a dedicated pragmatist who knew exactly how to utilize his hair and beard. He used to weave fuses in his beard then light them during battle to intimidate his opponents. Imagine how frightening he would appear before a joint session of Congress or in a tense meeting with Vladimir Putin when suddenly smoke belched from his head, his black penetrating eyes boring a hole in your soul.
But it takes more than hair to be a leader. When you’re the leader of a pirate ship, you need three things: an ability to take control, a knowledge of people, and a thorough understanding of your profession. Blackbeard had these in aces.
However, like every politician, he held his position using guile, though his strong pirate persona would certainly give him an edge over whining tea partyers. He once blew the candle out in his cabin while drinking with a few of his crew. Suddenly, he picked up his pistols and fired them underneath the table, laming one person. When asked why he did it, he answered: “Got to show ‘em who’s boss once in a while.”
I think that would work well when a pirate president runs into a congress like we’ve had for what seems an eternity. After all, if pirates pulled off the crap that our senators and congressmen have, they’d never leave port. Pirates unlike most members of Congress today knew if you wanted to get things done… if you wanted booty, rum, and wenches then you had to compromise; you couldn’t sit on the deck and whine about having everything your way: “I don’t want to go to Africa; I don’t think we should take that prize; how come I don’t ever get first choice of captured guns. Blah! Blah! Blah!” Continue reading →
It stands about a block off Bay Street in Nassau, Bahamas at the corner of King and George, but when the sun hits the sign on that deep pink building the drunkest pirate could find it after the wildest night of debauchery. And if you haven’t indulged too heavily the night before, you’re likely to hear Blackbeard’s voice boom as he swears gleefully at Benjamin Hornigold, his one time shipmate and mentor.
“And what the hell is me quartermaster be doing on these streets when ye got important business on the ship?” swears Hornigold.
Blackbeard studying his captain barely blinks. “I got me an itchin’ for that raven-haired wench at the Crossbones Pub and a thirst to match.”
“We be sailin’ tonight for sure. Word has it a shipload of Spanish coins, lots of rum, and an assortment of lovely baubles all be headin‘ our way.”
Blackbeard grunts then slips into the dark coolness of a nearby tavern. His dark beauty is waiting.
Nassau, Bahamas is a booming island, and whether you visit by plane or by ship, you’ll find the people for the most part warm and friendly, and focused on the business of daily living just like the old days when Blackbeard and Hornigold turned it into one of the most thriving Pirate Havens of the Caribbean.
Little is left of their haunts where they unloaded their booty and swapped tales and goods with local merchants and citizens. New markets have risen on the ghostly remains of the old, but the smiles and grinning eyes remain in the town’s descendants.
But to really appreciate the significance of Nassau, you have to wander up from Bay street till you come to the pink clad building cloaked in an air of mystery. Like one who consorts with pirates, it sees far more than it tells.
Rounding the corner, the first thing I notice is the lone black figure standing tall in the street. Black boots, black trousers, black shirt frame the figure, a tricorn hat long associated with pirates sits atop the pirate’s ebony face. And he grins.
He grins and waves me over. “Let’s see how it fits you,” he calls as he motions to his weathered stocks with a hole just large enough to place my head and two smaller holes to clasp my wrists.
The black pirate’s disarming smile nudges me just feet from the dark castle-like building, its opening like a mouth ready to swallow one more visitor into its mysterious depths.
His penetrating eyes stare into my soul, and recognizing a compatriot, I smile back. With the same playful banter between Blackbeard and Hornigold, he invites me into a world of pirates, and suddenly centuries fall away, and it’s 1715 again when pirates overwhelmingly outnumbered its citizens. Continue reading →
Ever wonder if pirates in the Caribbean bothered to take time out from their busy schedule of pillaging, plundering, and wenching to celebrate Christmas?
It was no doubt the perfect time for pirates to return to the Caribbean after a year of plundering from Charleston to Boston. Once cold weather set in, it was the custom of some to head for warmer waters.
Blackbeard is a good example. Except it seems he made two fatal mistakes. One, he partied it up in North Carolina in November instead of heading to the warm waters of the Caribbean where Reggae bands, fancy rum drinks, and hot wenches waited. His second mistake was that he aggravated the living hell out of Governor Spotswood of Virginia so much so that the governor sent Captain Maynard in search of him and put an end to his fiendish ways.
Maynard didn’t have to look too far. Maynard met up with Blackbeard just before Thanksgiving in Oracoke, North Carolina. After a delicate game of cat and mouse, the curtain descended on Blackbeard with a dramatic flourish. Had he sought out a warmer clime, Blackbeard might have lived to see Christmas and another New Year.
One of the benefits of taking a few days to celebrate Christmas was the opportunity to clean your ship. We’re not talking about the excellent job housekeepers at resorts from South Carolina’s Grand Strand to Key West perform. Wooden ships are infamous for being on the menu of the toredo worm. A family of these hungry creatures can turn the hull of any wooden ship into Swiss cheese, rye bread and pastrami not needed.
The only way to combat them is to take the ship out of the water and scrape the barnacles and worms down to the hull. The process is called careening. Considering their size and bulk, putting ships in dry dock wasn’t an option, but the endless array of sandy beaches and shallow water bays in the Caribbean made that unnecessary.
Careening involved leaning the ship on its side, doing the necessary scraping, then leaning it on its other side and repeating the process. And all this while hoping the rum didn’t kick in too much with your crew and that pirate hunters would not discover you.
I admit it may sound like more work than fun, but how much fun is it for Santa to work his buns off making toys, doing recon work spying on boys and girls- and that’s not to mention the naughty wenches he’s got to keep an eye on. Well, okay, that part might bring a smile to his face, but how much fun is it to ride all over the world in one night, and then for a reward be stuck in your long johns the rest of the winter?
So you think you know all about pirates, eh, matey? Was it Jack Sparrow who taught ya a thing or two? Or maybe ye learned it from that scalawag Robert Louis Stevenson. Well, open yer one good eye cause yer about to enter the real world of pyrates. Just answer true or false. Three wrong answers and ye be walkin’ the plank!