Where the Ghosts of Pirates Still Walk the Streets: The Pirates of Nassau

 

PIRATES OF NASSAU

            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. Continue reading

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Marooned!

 

SAFE HARBOR

            I have to laugh at these survivor “reality” shows that depict teams of fit athletes, or sometimes couples, naked and afraid, cast into inhospitable conditions then expected to prove their mettle! Meanwhile, a TV crew and backup are prepared to supply them with any basics necessary should an emergency arise. What a joke!

Do you see anyone arriving on your front doorstep when there’s no money in the bank, the roof is leaking, the latest doctor bill is on you because the insurance company rejected your claim, and the landlord just raised your rent again? Now that’s reality!!!

If you want something closer to a real story based on a true life adventure, I suggest you pick up a book that’s nearly 300 years old. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, though written as a novel and published April 25, 1719, relates the story of a man who actually requested to be marooned on an island a million miles from civilization. Continue reading

Fifteen Simple Things You Can Do to Help Our Blue Planet on Earth Day

CRUISE PIX 669 BLUE SEA

            It’s been forty-six years since earthlings celebrated the very first Earth Day. We’ve come a long ways righting the wrongs we’ve inflicted on the earth and sea, but, oh, how far we have to go!

The problems that still lie before us seem almost insurmountable, but we must remember the harm wasn’t caused in one year or one century. I’m confident if each of us does just a little something in his corner of the earth, that earth, sea, and sky can rebound magnificently.

Here are a few things you might consider doing where you live. You don’t have to do them all. Start with one or two. It might feel so good, you’ll want to try a few more:

  1. Visit websites that will open your eyes to the beauty and wonder of the sea.

These are just a few. There are many more worthwhile ones besides these.

The Blue Ocean Institute at www.blueocean.org

Ocean.si.edu

Ocean.nationalgeographic.com

World Wildlife Fund  at worldwildlife.org

Sea Shepherd at www.seashepherd.org

Greenpeace  at greenpeace.org

Ocean Conservancy at www.oceanconservancy.org

Friends of the Earth at foei.org

Global Coral Reef Alliance at www.globalcoral.org

  1. Consider joining an environmental group. You’re familiar with some of the bigger ones. Write a check. You don’t have to give them all your money and end up like a naked Sadhu wandering the forests of India, but it’s not going to hurt to give a little.
  1. Do an impromptu beach clean-up any day of the year. Earth Day shouldn’t be for just one day. Earth is your neighborhood; take pride in it.
  1. Implement your own “Carry on, Carry off” policy when you go to the beach or a park. Assume that if you leave your trash in one of the receptacles, some of it is going to end up in the water where it will do a lot of harm to the local denizens that live there.
  1. Be more conscious of chemicals you use in your home. Many harsh cleaning agents can be substituted with natural ones that break down in the environment with little harm.
  1. Consider curtailing your use of weed killers and strong fertilizers in your garden. They all end up in the sea where they wreak havoc. I’m the first to admit sometimes a potent weed killer is the only way to eliminate a terribly stubborn or invasive plant. But be aware that overdoing it is very, very bad and comes at a terrible price.

Continue reading

Who’s Broadsiding Your Ship?

Never a ship sails out of bay, but carries my heart as a stowaway. - Roselle Mercier Montgomery

It was a chilly morning in late October when Captain Cribbs first spotted the ship flying the Jolly Roger. Immediately, he knew the terrible ordeal his men were in for. He pulled his coat tighter about his shoulders as the restless waves rocked his ship in an almost lyrical pattern. Without a moment’s hesitation, he gave his men their orders, and like a well-oiled machine, the crew set to work, preparing for the horrendous battle about to engulf them.

Cannoneers and their crew prepared their artillery while others greased the deck and covered it with dried peas.  They then laid down boards with nails driven through them. Sharp shooters prepared their weapons as they took up positions. If pirates were going to take the Bauden, they would have to fight savagely for Captain Cribbs and his men weren’t going to yield so much as a plank.

“Strike colors!” the captain of the Trompeuse commanded, motioning to the flag snapping high in the stiff morning breeze.

Cribbs’ eyes glowered with pent-up rage, and the pirate captain knew death would come for many men on both ships. Suddenly, cannons thundered mercilessly, the vibrations shaking the very hulls of the two ships. When cannon balls landed, masts splintered and timbers became deadly projectiles hitting several men. The broadside continued as soon as cannons were reloaded, and once more men and ships were reduced to human pulp and wooden fragments.

Four hours later, both Cribbs and the pirate captain lay dead. Realizing the gravity of the situation, the pirates withdrew.

Hopefully, your days don’t get as dramatic as that, but still I must ask you. Who’s broad siding your ship? Out on the high seas of life, dangers wait. Some are big and thus obvious. Others are seemingly insignificant yet just as deadly.

When things don’t go well for you, when you run into trouble, what are you prepared to do? Are you willing to bleed for your dreams? We all have our ship to command. How we handle that responsibility makes all the difference in the world.

Broadsides from our enemies are often predictable, so we can prepare for them. But how many times are we broadsided by small things, and then with barely a whimper, we surrender.

How many times were you sailing smoothly towards the island of your dreams, when that mutinous voice inside your head cried out. “I’m too old.” “I’m too young.” “It’s too late to do anything about it.” “I don’t know where to begin.” “I don’t have the connections.” “I don’t have the experience.” “No one wants me because I have too much experience.” “I got a late start in life.” And on and on the traitorous voice whispers. Continue reading

April Fool’s Day… Pirate Style

JOLLY ROGER FOR FRONT PAGE WEB SITE

            Though it’s hard to trace the origin of April Fool’s Day, it’s a safe bet it’s not going to go away any time soon. I’d bet my last piece of eight it’s  been around for as long as pirates, but I know I’d lose. Just look at the old Greek saying: “When God created the sea, he created pirates.” Now that’s longevity for you.

Did you ever wonder though what it would be like to play an April Fool’s Day prank on a pirate? I suspect it wouldn’t be a very bright idea. And that’s something I would bet my last piece of eight on.

Imagine the surprise pirates might have when they dig for a treasure chest under the hot Caribbean sun, and you finally shout as sweat drips from their faces and necks onto their broad shoulders, “April Fools!” Imagine how many pieces thirty angry pirates can cut you into.

Or imagine some polliwog bringing a jar of termites aboard ship and letting them run up and down a shipmate’s wooden leg as he awakens to you shouting “April Fool!” I bet that prankster would feel like a bigger fool after he’s stripped and tarred with molasses then marooned on a flea-infested island.

It’s not that pirates didn’t have a sense of humor. They often put on little skits to while away their time. Some of these referred to dancing the hempen jig. For the uninitiated, that’s pirate lingo for hanging at the end of a rope. They all chuckled at the prospect, knowing full well that if they stayed in the business long enough, that’s exactly how they were going to end their days.

And I pity the fool who would dare spike a shipmate’s rum with salt water. “April Fool!” he shouts as the victim spits out what was once a perfectly good dram of rum. I bet a day lashed to the main mast without a drop to drink might show the scalawag the error of his ways.

Pirates were rarely a sophisticated lot so they weren’t beyond crude jokes, but I just can’t imagine the saltiest of them laughing off a tack on their seat after a hard day of pillaging and plundering. “You think that’s funny?” the victim snorts? “No, this is funny!” he fumes as he pulls his cutlass from his scabbard and shows the prankster the true meaning of being half-assed. Continue reading