Captain Kidd

Setting Sail in 2020

May your heart be filled with Joy as you navigate the Seas of Life in 2020.

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.

Roberts targeted the governors of Barbados and Martinique after being hunted by them. The initials stand for A Martinique’s Head and A Barbadian’s Head

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.

Whatever 2020 holds for you, I hope your heart soars with the spirit of courage and adventure with the dawn of each new day.

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.

Happy 2020!!!

 

            Bill Hegerich

            The Uncommon Mariner

 

To Leave your resolution, please click on the following link and leave it at the bottom of the page. Happy New Year. https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2019/12/31/setting-sail-in-2020/

The ABC’s of Being a Pirate

Pirates have often been accused of being illiterate, ignorant thugs whose only interests were rum, booty (spell that gold, silver, and pieces of eight), and booty (spell that hot babes), but that simply is not true. Okay, on some ships it was, but if you sailed with Captain Benjamin Hornigold, William Kidd, or Thomas Tew, you had better know your stuff.

The fact is, navigators had to chart their course literally by the stars, and unlike sailors today didn’t have the guess work taken out of a tedious and dangerous journey by GPS equipment and computers. That’s not to take away from the modern sailor who still must be an expert to bring a ship safely into harbor; it’s just that these ancient sailors had to be so knowledgeable and skilled, that common sailors referred to them as Artisans.

I’ve compiled a small tribute to pirates and mariners whether they graduated from the Yale of their day, or never saw the inside of a classroom. I hope Hornigold, Kidd and Tew approve. Maybe even today’s sailors will see a little something of themselves in this “Verse”-a-tile poem.

A is for anchor pirates throw out in a storm.

B is for booty, just the thought keeps me warm.

C is for cannons that boom and then blast

It’s also for slow crew who move just half fast.

 

D is for the ever-dangerous Davy Jones;

He lies in the ocean ready to rattle your bones.

E is for every able-bodied sailor at sea.

There’s hardly a port that they’d rather not be.

 

F is for flags and the pirates who fly ‘em.

They’ll steal yours if they can,

Cause they’ll never once buy ‘em.

G is for gibbets that cage rotting bodies;

Soon only vultures will think Pirates are hotties.

 

H is for harbor and halyard and hammock;

Sleep in one too long, and you’ll want a bed,

Oh, by damn it!

 

I is for island where wenches are waiting;

The bawdiest ones get the highest of ratings.

J is for journeys that surely must end;

With endless horizons, it’s just hard to say when.

 

K is for Kraken, a horrible beast;

He loves salty sailors as good as roast beef.

L is for lighthouse that shines out at sea;

For centuries it’s filled sailors’ hearts with great glee.

 

M is for marooned pirates abandoned on shore

With a dram of hot rum and a rusty, old sword.

  1. is for New Providence, the wickedest city on earth.

Here pirates are promised rum, women, and mirth.

 

O is for overboard when the plank is withdrawn.

Better be a good swimmer,

Cuz ye could be swimmin’ till dawn.

 

P is for plunder and pieces of eight

Spent on wenches and rum,

You know I can’t wait.

 

Q is for quarters, and none will be given;

Best fight to the death; ain’t no time to be quittin’.

R is for rum or a wanton sea rover.

On ship or in port, ain’t one that is sober.

 

S is for shipwrecks, but it could be for sin;

pirates are naughty wherever they’ve been.

 

T is for treasure. I blew mine in port

Gamblin’ and wenchin’ and rum by the quart.

U is for Uncommon Mariners at sea,

Far from all land, they’re just thrilled to be free.

 

V is for vaporing pirates who curse;

Resist and they’ll turn you into

Dainty hors d’oeuvres.

 

W is for shipwrecked with me nothing to wear;

And all I can think of it’s Five O’clock Somewhere.

X marks the spot where pirates their treasure did bury,

After feasting and gambling and making all merry.

 

Y is for yawl, a small vessel afloat,

In South Carolina, they call it a boat.

Z is for zero; it’s what’s left of me booty;

I spent it in bars, romancing the Cuties.

 

                        Bill Hegerich

                        The Uncommon Mariner

 

To leave a comment on this poem, please click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2019/06/10/the-abcs-of-being-a-pirate/

 

Aaaarrrrgh!

This rendition of Anne Bonny at the Pirate Museum in Nassau captures her sauciness if not her sense of humor.

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?

Arrr boiled

2. Where in the Caribbean do pirates go for vacation?

Arrr-uba

3. What’s a pirate’s favorite game fish?

Sh-arrr-ks!

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?

An Arrr-monica

8. What was the pirate’s explosive secret weapon?

F-arrr-ts

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?

Cig-arrrs!

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?

The Arrr-cade.

18. What do you call a muscular pirate with a German accent?

Arrr-nold Schwarzenegg-arrr

19. What vegetable does a cook never serve on a pirate ship?

Arrr-tichokes.

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?

C-arrr-toons.

23. What job did the pirate volunteer for on Thanksgiving Day?

C-arrr-ving the turkey.

24. Why was the pirate limping?

Fallen Arrr-ches.

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?

Your sc-arrrs.

27. What kind of toilet paper do pirates use?

Ch-arrr-main.

28. What’s the smelliest part of a pirate?

His Arrr-m pit.

29. Who was the best pirate to ever play golf?

Arr-rnold Palmer

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.

                            Bill Hegerich

                            The Uncommon Mariner

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.

To bring good luck upon yourself from the gods of the seas, leave a comment at: https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2018/10/30/halloween-advice-for-pirates/

My Stamp of Approval

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.

It takes a real leader to handle a shipload of pirates. Imagine what Blackbeard could have accomplished as President

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.

Blackbeard’s flag depicts a heartless scoundrel, but he was fair to the little guy. He would disapprove of today’s politicians who steal from the poor guy to give to the wealthy.

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.

                                            Bill Hegerich

                                            The Uncommon Mariner

 

To leave a comment, go to https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2017/12/09/my-stamp-of-approval/

 

Pirates in the Art of Howard Pyle

Happy Veteran’s Day to all those men and women who have sacrificed so much so that all of us Americans could enjoy our freedom. Whether you served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard, our debt to you is profound. We honor and respect you and thank you for the freedoms we enjoy.

MAROONED!!! 8X10

Arrrrgh! Sorry I be’s late with this communicado, but me and me pirate wench have been held incommunicado this past weekend. We were bivouacked at the Waccamaw Artists Guild’s Art in the Park at Chapin Park, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

My wife creates Little Books of Mirth that she absconded from fairies who live in the woods behind our humble abode. She learned that trick from the best of pirates. But she be just as famous for her beautiful shell wreaths made with shells from beaches around the world where many a pirate and mariner have been marooned.

As fer me, me art comprises of photographs I took while pillaging’ and plunderin’ from Cape Cod to the Caribbean. One of me favorites is a diorama I discovered celebrating Homer Pyle’s painting Marooned. It depicts a solitary pirate sitting on an abandoned beach, a bandana wrapped about his head, shoulders slumped, lost in thought, no doubt contemplating the events that led to his situation. No doubt, one of those somber thoughts, is about what is to transpire with no worldly possession in reach other than a swallow of rum and a pistol.

Ye see, mates, pirates were frequently marooned on an inhospitable island with nothing more than a bit of rum and a pistol with one ball to speed his end at his own hand. It was a fate assigned to that pirate who didn’t play well with other pirates.

Howard Pyle is also known for two other easily recognizable paintings of pirates. One is of a blindfolded man, hands tied, ready to walk the plank. In the background, several pirates leer gleefully, exhorting the victim to the edge.

No doubt, Pyle got his ideas of pirates from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Alexander Exquemelin who served as physician among pirates. While Exquemelin’s embellished accounts in The Buccaneers of America are grounded in fact, Stevenson’s poetic license resulted in the creation of several pirate myths that thrive to this day.

The truth is there are only one or two accounts of pirates making their victims walk the plank. Not being well known for their patience, pirates devised a much quicker method of disposing of unwanted mariners. “Run a saber through the bloke and throw the body overboard. Alive or dead. Makes no difference to me,” pretty much captures their attitude.

However, considering that some captains and crews were, indeed, sadistic, it’s not hard to visualize pirates delighting in the torment of a blindfolded victim teetering on a plank extended over the sea.
Continue reading →

Ten Startling Facts about Pirates

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!

  1. Life on board a pirate ship was hard compared to other ships. As false as yer false teeth, mate! Whippings on board a British ship were a lot more common than on a pirate ship. Pirates despised tyrants who handed out harsh whippings for the slightest provocation, and their captains understood that. Furthermore, it was share and share alike among pirates. Even the captain was to take no more than his fair share of grub.
  1. Pirates had one of the first workman’s compensation programs ever. True. When a pirate lost an arm or a leg he was given more share of the booty. The amount was fixed in the pirate’s articles. On some ships, an arm or leg was worth 500 pieces of eight. An eye or a finger was worth 100.
  1. Pirates spent a good deal of time burying treasure. False. These men of the sea spent it as fast as they got it. The expression “to spend money like a drunken sailor” especially applied to pirates. Pirate Thomas Tew did travel with his own treasure chest, but it was meant to hold his valuables while on board ship. This gem is now on display in Pat Croce’s Pirate & Treasure Museum in St. Augustine.
  1. Blackbeard was the most ruthless pirate that ever sailed the seven seas. He might have been close, matey, but there were some who were far worse. Though violent, Blackbeard was more of a tactician using violence to intimidate. French pirate Francois L’Olonnais, on the other hand derived great pleasure from inflicting unspeakable horrors on his victims. One method he was fond of was woolding, a technique of twisting a cord around a person’s head with a board till his eyes popped.
  2. The gangplank was a widely used method of punishment. False. In all the accounts of pirates, it is only referenced once or twice. George Wood at his hanging claimed he and shipmates made several walk the plank, but it might have been a case bravado. The fact is when pirates wanted to get rid of you, they simply threw you overboard, sometimes with your hands and feet tied.

Continue reading →