The History of Maritime Piracy
Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Updated 8 January 2011
ye be wantin’ pirate adventures? In this here modern time where
rarely prey in Atlantic and Caribbean waters, wherever can a pirate
or laddie find fun-filled treasures?
'Tis a rare
thing for pirates to be visitin' the same waters where in the past they
be not welcome, but St. Augustine, Florida loves pirates! In fact, one
such rogue by the name of Saucy Jack (also known as Joseph O'Steen, author of Falcon's Revenge and Pursuit of Honor)
says ye can be walkin' the streets of this fair city in all yer pirate
finery and no one will be havin' ye dance the hempen jig. And there be
times when pirates descend on St. Augustine -- reenactment of Searle's
Raid in March and Drake's Raid in June -- but the one what caught me
fancy be the St.
Augustine Pirate Gatherin' this November past. Each November we
Brethren o' the
descend on the oldest city in North America to parade through the
streets, fight battles at sea and swordfight on land, and enjoy a
wee dram while listenin' to rousin' sea dog entertainment. There be a
Buccaneer Bash, for those brave enough to venture out at night amongst
us rogues, but be warned too much rum may find ye facin' justice at the
pirate court the next mornin'. 'Tis a treasure-filled weekend for sure!
Here I be wi' Saucy Jack himself (left). He's a rogue of many talents.
Aside from his maritime tales, he be the President and Commodore of the
Augustine Pirate University and makes and sells Saucy Jack's Pirate
Hats. Below left be his tent at the St. Augustine Pirate Gatherin',
where he poses with his lovely pirate wench, Barbara Bett (also known
as Chris O'Steen). To the right be two buccaneers, one o' whom has a
Lest ye be thinkin' that be all the pirate fun
to be had, think again. Back in 2005 I ventured down to Key West to see
Pat Croce's new Pirate Soul Museum. 'Twas a grand and glorious
adventure filled with treasures galore -- those from our esteemed and
somewhat notorious past, and includin' some whats once belonged to real
pirates, such as Thomas Tew's treasure chest -- the only authentic one
in the world. The pictures below provide ye with a
glimpse o' what the Key West museum featured before 'twas closed in
A street in Port Royal,
Jamaica afore 1692
The Main Deck of a Pirate Ship
Although 'twas a fine museum, Key West be not an easy place to get to
and there were fewer visitors to Pirate Soul than Pat Croce had hoped for. Plus this
avid collector of piratical artifacts be wantin' young pirates and
apprentices to be seein' a part of history that teachers often overlook
unless they be pirates themselves. So he decided to relocate and expand
his pirate museum to a city that pirates have visited since the place
was first founded. (If ye be wantin' to learn of that history, ye be
wantin' to read "The Pirates of San
Augustín".) On 8 December 2010, I be happy to say, the St. Augustine
Pirate and Treasure Museum opened!
Since we be there afore then, we had a private tour through the museum,
located on South Castillo Drive opposite the Castillo de
San Marcos. Our guides were Sarah Knott, Museum Consultant, and
Kari Cobham, Director of Media Communications. Most exhibits
weren't yet in place, as the contractors were
busy puttin' the
finishin' touches on those, but havin' been to Pirate Soul, we were
able to imagine what each room would be like when 'twas finished. (Ye
be lucky because ye dinna have to imagine. The museum has given me
permission to share photos from their galleries with ye. But beware
Mistress Kari be grantin’ me a letter o’ marque
to be doin' so. Ye be
welcome to look, but don’t be plunderin’ these views without askin’.)
This be the St. Augustine Pirate
Museum under construction the day after our visit in mid-November.
Early Artistic Renderin' of
St. Augustine Pirate and
Treasure Museum taken 22 December
Now let's be goin' inside to see what awaits ye. Yer first stop
be our old pirate haven, Port Royal, where ye learn
about architecture, medicine, navigation, and geography. Ye can also be
after seeing King James I's royal proclamation against us, which he
issued in 1605. Rogues
Tavern be where ye meet the likes of Sir Francis Drake and Captain
Robert Searle, who both attacked St. Augustine (at different times). Ye
can view authentic pirate artifacts and learn about the buccaneers of
Augustine, whose portraits be done by local artists. Or perhaps ye
pirate apprentices fancy interactin' with touchscreens to learn more
about the brethren of the past.
Museum Executive Director
Cindy Stavely and Elaine Fraser, General Manager at the Oldest Wooden
Schoolhouse, check out pirate captain Robert Searles (left) and Sir
Francis Drake (right).
"flip" through the award-winning interactive
Book of Pirates in
Next step aboard a pirate ship's main deck. This fully interactive
be where ye sign the articles, ring the ship's bell, man her helm, and
hoist the Jolly Roger. Ye can practice your knot-tying skills or fire a
flintlock pistol as well.
Gordy Wilson, superintendant at
Castillo de San Marcos fort, and visitors
venture onto the Main Deck at the museum.
If ye be real quiet, ye can be enterin' the Captain's
Cabin, although by rights it belongs to all the crew. This exhibit
Kidd artifacts (including Lt. Thomas Longish's journal from 1699 of
the pirate's last voyage aboard HMS Advice
to his trial and execution in England), navigational tools, and first
editions of pirate books, some what were written by the rogues
themselves, such as Alexandre Exquemelin's 1684 edition of Buccaneers of America. Ye can also
be opening the discovery drawers to find the artifacts they hold.
Shhh! Best not to wake the captain! And don't be
forgettin' to feast your eyes on a real Jolly Roger.
View of sleeping pirate
captain before completion
View of sleeping pirate
captain after opening
From the Main Deck ye descend to the Gun Deck, which has
two real guns ye can fire. This be where City of St.
Augustine Director of
Heritage Tourism and Historic Preservation Dana Ste. Clair tries his
hand at firin' one of them.
Local businessman Tiger Lee,
owner of Pirate Fashions N Fotos, checks out the Jolly Roger flag,
which dates back to the 1800s and is one of only two known to exist in
the world today.
Dinna fear! All ye who visited the old museum will remember the
spine-tingling Below Deck exhibit designed by Disney Imagineers. 'Twas
transported here to St. Augustine, so
if ye dare, venture within the dark, fetid hold of the ship and don the
special earphones that will surround ye with sounds of a real
pirate battle. Blackbeard be near enough to whisper in your ear, but so
be the rats, so BEWARE!
The next exhibition features Execution Dock, not a place any pirate
wishes to visit, but one we all know of. Here be where ye can listen to
Blackbeard's severed head or read the 1696 wanted poster for Henry
Avery. Ye learn about Calico Jack, women pirates, torture, and
execution. If ye be a notorious pirate, like Captain Kidd, ye might
find yourself hangin' around in a gibbet like the fella below.
A punished pirate hangs from a
a warnin' to all who pass of the fate that awaits pirates.
Shipwreck Island be just the place for scalawags what likes their
treasure, such as pieces of eight and gold bars. Two pirates -- one in
the hole, one out -- be diggin' for treasure, perhaps hopin' to
discover a chest like the 400-year-old chest below.
also view booty from Florida's historic treasure hunts --
gold candlesticks and jewelry -- some of what's been hidden in the
Tallahassee vault and ne'er seen afore. Blue Water Venture has loaned
pearl and jade from the Santa
Margarita, one of the flota
galleons that sank along with the Atocha in 1622.
Afore ye depart the exhibits, ye pass through Hollywood Pirates,
where ye can see the jacket Errol Flynn wore in Captain Blood and Johnny Depp's
sword and cursed coin used in Pirates
the Caribbean. The last stop be a treasure-filled gift shop
where ye be certain to find the perfect booty to remind ye of your
visit to the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum.
There be only one way for pirates to end the day,
and that be on a pirate ship. But afore we talk about St. Augustine's
very own pirate ship, there be another vessel what sailed in for a
visit while we were in port. She be the Lynx,
a privateer schooner from the War of 1812. (She be not the original Lynx, but an interpretation of the
famous Baltimore schooner and be now a livin' history museum.)
She's currently in St. Augustine through February 2011, so if ye be
wantin' to take a tour, here be the schedule.
Lynx enterin' the harbor
Lynx docked (left -- view of bow,
right -- view from stern)
Now pirate ships be rare indeed, but St. Augustine has the Black Raven, and ye can be sailin'
aboard her for fun and adventure. We went the evenin' the Pirate
Gatherin' ended. 'Twas dusk while we waited to board, but even so she's
bonny ship styled after a galleon.
of the Black
Gunnar Hedqwist be the owner of
the Black Raven and he and
his motley crew provide an amazin' round of entertainment for those
brave enough to tread the decks. And dinna be surprised if ye find
yerself part of the entertainment. Even if ye sail one time, the next
will be different, for not every pirate sails on every cruise.
Buccaneers galore waited to board this pirate ship the night we sailed.
When we climbed aboard, three crew members greeted us -- Oly Mackerel,
Captain Jack, and Black Rose -- but they were a friendly sort.
'Twas the pirate who stood on the grate in the waist of the ship,
though, what caught each boarder's gaze -- Blackbeard! There was an air
of intimidation about him, even without the famous lit fuses castin'
rings of smoke round his face, but as the night progressed, his
legendary charisma surfaced. Mayhaps 'twas his height or his brawn, but
more likes 'twas his joinin' in the fun that drew the passengers to him
The crew entertained us throughout the voyage with
singin', tale spinnin', dancin', and jokes, as well as a firin' of the
black powder gun. But 'twas Captain William Mayhem what held us
spellbound with his magic! And we also got to help a young pirate lad
celebrate his birthday.
The Black Ravens
Captain Mayhem, Blackbeard, Black Rose,
Captain Jack, Oly Mackerel
Captain Mayhem weaves his magic.
Blackbeard and Captain Jack assist the
birthday lad in openin' his treasure chest.
This be not the entire crew, but
each has his or her own talents that are sure to make for grand
adventure no matter how often ye sail aboard the Black Raven. Aside from the
activities mentioned here, ye can also partake of their special event
charters (like pirate weddings) or have your corporate outin' aboard
this pirate ship. For more information ye want to be visitin' their
website, but ye will find them berthed at the St. Augustine
Municipal Marina on Avenida Menedez. Sailin' with the Black Ravens is
an adventure ye soon won't forget!
2011 Cindy Vallar
Photographs and images are also
copyrighted and used with permission from Joe O'Steen and the St.
Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum.
Don't be plunderin' without askin'.
Earlier Pirate Adventures
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