The Makings of a Pirate

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Ever wonder why people today become pirates? It’s a dirty and dangerous business just like it’s been for centuries. The only guarantee is that if you do it long enough, you’ll either wind up caught and serve heavy time in a foreign prison or you’ll be dead.

No doubt men end up in the business for more than one reason. There’s the chance of quick cash much like a bank robber hoping to score it big. Then there’s the destitute person with nowhere to turn. Chasing down a ship carrying goods worth more money than you’ll see in ten lifetimes is more than a little appealing. When you grow up in poverty with no way to feed your family, the lure of piracy becomes irresistible.

Probably most casual observers would attribute the motivation of pirates to plain and simple greed. But a closer look would show this to be only partially true. Illegal fishing off the coast of Somalia has actually helped to nurture piracy there. Rob men of their ability to make a living, and even decent men can be driven to the unthinkable.

In a country where there is little government or one that is more corrupt than the people it serves, desperate men will not hesitate to take extreme measures. That’s why coming to solutions about piracy requires an understanding of individuals and their particular circumstances.

Look at the pirates and privateers of the 17th century Caribbean. Many began their career with the blessings of the king of England. When they were no longer needed, they became problematic. What the hell do you do with a sea of pirates you sanctioned for years to attack your enemies’ ships? For the17th century pirates, unemployment was not an option. Continue reading

International Coastal Cleanup

Won't you help me? Every piece of garbage you pick up is one less I'll eat accidentally.
Won’t you help me? Every piece of garbage you pick up is one less I’ll eat accidentally.

You’re going to have a lot of fun this weekend. Two important dates coincide on Saturday September 19th : Talk Like A Pirate Day and the 30th Annual International Coastal Cleanup. If you work it right, you’re going to have a blast swinging your cutlass with one hand and cleaning up the beaches with the other. And in the offing you’ll make new friends.

The Ocean Conservancy is one of the driving forces behind the event that not only beautifies beaches and rivers all around the world but serves a very real and practical purpose… removing dangerous trash before it washes into the ocean and gets ingested by birds, turtles, and other marine life.

The Ocean Conservancy, one of several environmental groups at the forefront of the battle to save our oceans, estimates that since International Coastal Cleanup began thirty years ago that 200 million pounds of trash have been removed from beaches, bays, and rivers.

I URGE you to join a group near you and give back to Mother Nature some of the love she has given you. You don’t have to spend all day on the beach or bay picking up garbage. Most cleanups last only three hours. If all you can afford is an hour, go for it. All those hours add up as does the garbage that we won’t have to worry about… garbage that is likely to end up in the stomachs and digestive tracts of many of those beautiful creatures of the deep.

If you don’t think that you’ll make much difference I urge you to google Turtle Hospitals. There’s quite a few around. Pick one and see what incredible patients they treat who have gotten into terrible situations because they mistook dangerous garbage for food. If you can prevent one seabird, one turtle, one manatee, one fish from an unnatural and hideous death, you will have done a remarkable thing not unlike a miracle.

So go ahead. Talk Like A Pirate, mate, and have fun cleaning up wherever you live. When you drop into bed Saturday night, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve been a special angel to some of those beautiful creatures of the deep. Have a good weekend and smooth sailing into next week. Leave a comment here, and let me know how you made out.

Want more info on South Carolina’s BeachSweep/River Sweep? Organized by the SC Sea Grant Consortium and the SC Dept. of Natural Resources, these folks have been organizing beach sweeps since 1988. Contact http://www.scseagrant.org/.

Check out Ocean Conservancy at http://www.oceanconservancy.org/ to learn more about the great work these people do. Likewise, the Hidden Harbor Turtle Hospital in Marathon Key, Florida is a perfect example of the kind of work being done to assist sick and injured turtles. Visit them at: http://www.turtlehospital.org/

Talk Like a Pirate Day

aargh talk like a pirate day

Aaaarrrrrrgh! Talk-like-a-Pirate Day is September 19. Are you ready, mates? Put on yer cleanest eye patch, polish yer pirate accent, and get hooked on a load of rum. Er, I mean fun.

Origins of Talk-like-a-Pirate Day are hard to come by. Some scalawags blame, er, I mean attribute the day to Rover Louis Stevenson, that author of renown disrepute who boldly forged the  concept of the pirate in our psyche forever.  His book Treasure Island produced generations of pirates, and now there seems no end to them. You can see them everywhere from nursery schools to boardrooms, swinging their plastic cutlasses and raising their schooners in bars and on beaches, toasting the pirate spirit that refuses to die.

If ye want to talk like a pirate, the spelling of the word Aaarrrgh is the first thing ye must master. Some spellings have the word ending with a gh such as Aarrrrgh!  Others simply spell the word Aarrr! And make no mistake about this, mates, no respectable pirate would have a conversation without throwing in at least two or three Aarrrghs.

If ye have trouble making your Aaarrrrrgh sound like a real pirate’s, don’t be discouraged. It takes practice. First take a shot of rum or root beer, depending on how much fun ye can stand. Then let the word form back in yer throat like yer gargling. At the same time, roll the RRR as it comes across your tongue. It’s best to do this without letting the rum come spilling out of yer mouth. Otherwise wenches will either cringe or laugh at you.

Sometimes it’s necessary to simply reduce Aarrrgh to its primitive form, Aarrr.   This is the preferred use when indulging in a swordfight or boarding a ship, and ye have trouble being heard over the shouting and cursing of other pirates. An “Arrr” is fast and effective as ye swing yer cutlass with one hand while clutching yer rum with yer hook.

Using Arrr instead of Aarrrgh is also useful when forced to walk the plank. It’s a short distance between the plank and the ocean and not a lot of time to shout your favorite profanity: “If I ever get my ********* hands on yer ******* , I’ll shove five ****** up yer *****    *****   ***.”  As you can see, Arr works just fine.

If ye really want to blend in with a bunch of pirates, don’t forget to sprinkle yer conversation with a few double negatives. “I don’t want nothing but gold and silver fer me wench.”  And be sure to tell the judge: “It weren’t me! I never stole nothing from nobody! All us pirates look the same!” Continue reading

Ten Amazing Facts about Mariners

   SAFE HARBOR

… There are millions of merchant marines in the world serving on ships of all sizes including freighters and oil tankers. The Philippines are the most represented in the field with over 700,000. Without the sacrifice of these men and women, world commerce would come to a halt. Wall Street may be the key to our financial institutions; trucks the key to shipping goods overland; but sailors manning the ships out on the sea are the glue that holds the world economy together.

… The average mariner can expect to be away from port for months at a time. It is probably the number one issue that professional mariners would change if they could. Some companies have started offering sailors year round contracts with a steady salary thus mollifying the sacrifice of months away from family. For most mariners, the issue is far from resolved.

… Though entry level mariners gain their education from the school of hard knocks, those interested in making a career of it must earn degrees or take courses to qualify themselves for better paying positions. In some countries, they must appear before boards whose members are sometimes described by sailors as being rude, unfair, and often outdated in their own knowledge. This makes advancing oneself difficult.

… Because of the economic climate today, many shipping companies are cutting back on ships and jobs. This leaves less good jobs for qualified mariners who work hard to promote themselves.

… Being a mariner is not a job for pansies. Hazards abound and death at sea, although not commonplace, happens. Dying thousands of miles from a loved one is difficult. Imagine the emotional and financial stress for family back home when they receive word their husband, father, or son has died at sea.

… One of the real hazards at sea is still from pirates. They often attack a ship, take what is of value including personal possessions of sailors, then leave. Those are the lucky ones. Other pirates, well-armed and ruthless, think nothing of brutalizing crew members. Still others take the crew as hostage and will not surrender them or the ship till a ransom of thousands of dollars has been paid.

… From Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean, we have learned the common cause of death for mariners is pirates or drowning. It may surprise you to know that top causes of death are accidents. Some are from falling from great heights; others from falling overboard. One of the greatest hazards comes from confined space. Depending on the type of space, the danger could be from fire, electrocution, poisonous gasses, crushing from loose cargo, high temperatures, or injury from slipping on wet surfaces. And this list is far, far from definitive.

… The overwhelming majority of shipping companies attempt to maintain safe and healthy ships, but a few send vessels that are barely seaworthy out on the ocean, with the profit margin as their compass.

…Sailors are a rough and tumble lot, able to accept most any hardship. And though they sacrifice much, some of the biggest problems they face are: not getting enough rest, not getting paid properly or on time, dangerous working conditions, and loneliness.

… We often think of ships as being loaded with sailors. And in the navies of the world, they are. Even the sailing ships of old were often manned by more than a hundred crew members. On today’s seagoing vessels, because of technology, the number is far more conservative. It’s not unusual for a tanker or cargo ship to have as little as fifteen to twenty hands on board to do everything from navigating to deck and engine room jobs, to the actual running of the ship.

Working out on the sea may seem like the adventure of a lifetime. And, no doubt, it has its moments. But we should never forget it’s first and foremost a job that requires sacrifices most of us would never be willing to make. Why not say an extra prayer tonight for the men and women out there on those wine dark seas? At the very least, give them a little nod of thanks for all they do.