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.
The coolness inside is a welcome respite from the heat of Nassau, and when I turn I realize I am alone. The black sentinel has taken up his position outside ready to recruit another pirate into his stronghold.
My eyes adjust to the dimness of the interior, and I thread my way through a fascinating labyrinth of relics and history. A pirate ship emerges from the dark, much like the hundreds of pirate ships that once took up residence in the harbor not far from here. Suddenly, it becomes apparent what world pirates and sailors inhabited in those adventurous times.
I wind my way through the dimly lit hall, and one exhibit after another whispers secrets only a pirate ship could give up. Before me, a cook pulls shrapnel and glass from the back of one unlucky pirate with nothing more than a crude pair of pincers.
History abounds here. No, it more than abounds! It thrives! And I linger time and again over the fascinating relics that bridge the gap of three hundred years. A lifetime later, I’m back on the street and deep in conversation with the black pirate. Could he really be the black pirate Laurens de Graaf? Common sense laughs at the idea, but my senses don’t lie.
Playfully, he thrusts his pistol in my hand and challenges me to a duel. His sword drawn, my arm tightly around his throat and my gun cocked, he winks and someone snaps our picture. The only evidence I’m still in the twentieth century.
With a broad smile and a heart too sad to leave my friend, a throw him a wave. I’ll be back. Just like the last time, and the time before that, and the time before that.
Should you ever find yourself in Nassau, Bahamas, do yourself a favor and look up my friend. Slip into the museum and let the spirit of another age sweep you away. And don’t forget to slip him a little something on the way out. After all even pirates of the twenty-first century like to take home a little booty.
Do this, and I guarantee your pirate heart will never be the same.
The Uncommon Mariner
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