Life Issues – A life in the Ocean Waves
Pirates – the very word either sends a chill up your spine or it brings about feelings of excitement and adventure.
There have been pirates around for as long as there have been boats. There are pirates around in this day and age too and they are extremely dangerous people.
But for the time being, let’s take a look at the pirates of old and what it was like to have lived on some of those boats with the skull and bones flying on their flags…
Aye Aye Shipmates
It is fair to day that life must have been incredibly boring for a lot of pirates. They were often lonely men who wanted to escape life on the land and thought that their fortunes lay with finding treasure somewhere or stealing it from passing merchants ships.
Pirate ships were more often than not taken away from other sailors rather than purpose built and once taken away the ships would have been customised to suit the particular pirate. Pirates tended to go for faster vessels so that they could give chase to other ships and board and plunder quickly before retreating and escaping.
Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum
Life at sea would have been very hard. Living in enclosed and claustrophobic conditions with little or no food would not be a dream way of life for most people. Food would have consisted mainly of ships biscuits (also known as hard tack) and perhaps a bit of fresh meat in the form of chickens that had been brought aboard.
Turtles were easy meat for pirates that sailed in the Caribbean. Beer and rum was taken on board for drinking. Pirates would often suffer from vitamin deficiency so on longer journeys lemons and limes would be taken along to avoid this.
Where’s the treasure?
Imagine spending day in and day out just sailing around trying to avoid fighting with your fellow pirates and keeping on the good side of the captain. An occasional brush with another ship would add the excitement the pirates craved but in general they would have been pretty bored.
Pirates would have been very choosy about which vessels they would have attacked as it would have been stupid to have gone for a vessel that did not have enough goodies on it to warrant a battle.
Then the pirates would have had to share out the booty and this would no doubt have caused more than it’s fair share of problems!
The belief that pirates buried their treasure is actually not as true as many think and there are only one or two pirates in history that did bury their treasure.
The concept of buried treasure came from the novel by Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
A captain would have been constantly watching his back because although he would be the master of the vessel this did not mean that he had the last say on punishment dished out to the crew.
A pirate ship operated as a democracy and if the crew did not agree with the captain then they could easily mutineer and the captain’s life would be in very real danger.
William Kidd – a famous pirate captain –
Captain Kidd is one of the best known of pirates in history and was actually employed to rid the seas of pirates!
Born in England in 1645, Kidd spent some time in America before returning to England and was asked to captain a ship called the Adventure Galley.
Kidd’s mission was to capture French ships and the pirates of Madagascar. Kidd accepted the position and sailed to Madagascar where many of his crew jumped ship to join the local pirate forces.
The remainder of Kidd’s crew threatened mutiny unless Kidd joined them in plundering merchant ships. Kidd refused at first and even killed a man who had threatened him personally but he soon relented and became a very successful pirate captain.
Kidd eventually met his end when he plundered the 400-ton treasure ship the Quedagh Merchant. Kidd was in possession of the greatest pirate treasure ever and ordered that his ship set sail for New York where he would convince the authorities that his treasure had been taken directly from other pirates and French vessels.
The authorities did not believe Kidd and they arrested him and sent him back to England. He was hung 3 times before he died and his body was hung by chains on the banks of the River Thames in London to serve as a warning for other would-be pirates.
Pieces of Eight
Many of us think of pirates as having one wooden leg and a parrot on their shoulder. Why parrots? It seems that some pirates would have kept these exotic birds that they came across on their travels as they would undoubtedly fetch a lot of money back at home where these birds would not have been seen before.
Fact or Fiction?
It is fair to say that there have been many books and poems written and movies made about pirates. Most of them have romanticised this group of bloodthirsty men and women. But nice as it is to watch a good romantic movie or get carried away in the pages of a book it is true that most of the pirate stories are totally fictional.
The pirates that sailed the seven seas and plundered the vessels that passed them in the night were actually incredibly dangerous and unlawful people who wanted only to better themselves by stealing from others.
Join us soon for another Life Issues.