Ahoy, mateys, it’s September 19th and this is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Though we’re on land at the moment, it doesn’t prevent us from reminiscing about Pirate Days past. Actually, I suppose lots of land folk dress up like pirates and say “Aye-aye” and “shiver me timbers” today. It’s a good occasion for a party and the Talk Like a Pirate website can help with the activities … including lots of good pirate pick-up lines (really?). Who needs a pickup line if you’re a real sailor?
Pirates are not, however, and never have been, fun-loving kind of people. We’ve romanticized them. They were usually cutthroats, reprobates or profiteers/privateers, men licensed by the Crown to pillage and sink foreign enemies’ ships (in which case they were not called pirates, but actually were).
During the so-called Golden Years of Piracy (1690-1730), the seas were not safe. There was Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, Black Sam, Black Caesar and Black Bart among others. Black Bart, by the way, was considered the most successful at his trade, having captured 470 vessels in his three years of active piracy. These guys were primarily British, but the rest of Europe had their representatives, like Benito Bonito and Jean Lafitte. And piracy wasn’t limited to males either. Consider Irish Anne Bonny, probably the most famous (or infamous) female pirate in history who successfully teamed up with Calico Jack and Mary Read until they were captured and supposedly hung. And then, of course, there’s Captain Jack Sparrow aka Johnny Depp.
We’ve often been asked if we’ve ever met any real pirates. The answer, thank goodness, is no. We were boarded while on the hard in Uruguay by a petty thief who was near apoplectic when a naked David rose out of the cockpit with a machete. He got away, but probably turned away from his life of crime after the incident. We were boarded by a band of pirates in Charleston during the 2007 Tall Ships Fest. They were quite friendly, very careful about not hurting the varnish and called in advance to schedule the boarding.
Piracy is still very real on the world oceans … some places more than others. Cruisers stay in close touch and reports of boardings and piracy spread like wildfire. We work hard to avoid known areas of piracy like the Red Sea, east coast of northern Africa, the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Colombia, and parts of the Philippines. We’ve known several people who have been boarded and hurt and also some who have been murdered. The stories are horrendous. This blog post is in no way meant to minimize the dangers nor the atrocities committed nor make light of a serious world problem on the high seas.