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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Much of what we know about pirates is based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. False. Some of the most accurate descriptions of pirates comes from John Esquemeling, a physician forced to serve aboard a pirate ship. He wrote about his experiences in The Buccaneers of America. Though some of his accounts seem exaggerated, the book for the most part is considered the bible on pirates.
- Captain Kidd was a wicked pirate who killed not only his own men but most of his victims as well. Sorry, mate. Ye lose this one if ye said true. It’s true he got into a vicious fight with his gunner and hit him over the head with a lead bucket. He died the next day. Most often, however, it was Kidd’s crew that pushed him beyond the boundaries. When he didn’t go after prey with a pirate‘s heart, they abandoned him for a pirate captain who did.
- Captains on pirate ships were ruthless authoritarians. False. A captain held his position by a democratic means. They were voted in, and should they become unfair, they could be voted out. It was in the best interest of a captain to be fair and effective. If he was only one, he wasn’t likely to last long. Edward England was marooned by his crew because he spared the lives of a crew who killed over ninety of his men in battle.
- Pirate ships often traveled without surgeons. True. After a battle, when a leg or arm had to be amputated, the job was often done by three of the crew in the galley. The cook’s job was to cut off the limb of the unfortunate pirate, while another, possibly the gunner, seared the wound, and finally the sail maker stitched it up with the same needles he used to repair the sails.
10. The seeds for piracy in the Caribbean were planted by France and England. Take an extra share of rum if ye got that right. Countries during this time hired privateers to attack ships from other countries. This not only saved money by not having to maintain a larger navy, but if an embarrassing situation occurred, they could deny having anything to do with it.
There ye have it, mates. If ye be feeling adventurous, set sail for Pat Croce’s Pirate & Treasure Museum in St. Augustine where ye can plunder to yer heart’s content. Or sail away to Rob Ossian’s The Pirate Cove at www.thepirateking.com
. No self respecting pirate would pass up a chance to visit here. Until next time, live every day with a pirate heart.