Monday, June 29, 2009

Put-In-Bay Pirate Festival

Micky and I checked out the Put-in-Bay Pirate Festival on Saturday. Put-in-Bay is an island in Lake Erie. It is near the site of a major naval engagement during the War of 1812 when Admiral Perry, aboard the Brig Niagara, defeated a British fleet. Today the island is a party town.

We got conflicting information about the pirate festival. I think that this is the 4th year that something piratish has happened but that this was the first year that it was an island-wide festival.

The festival consisted of a small living history encampment of "pirates" who normally do French and Indian War period, a short parade, and a costume contest. Also the modern reconstruction of the Niagara visited.

Micky took second place in the men's class. A Jack Sparrow won. You can't beat Captain Jack.

A large percentage of the island's population was dressed for the festival. Several businesses had pirate flags out.

One complaint about the reenactors who were there - one of them insisted on bringing up the "pirates wore eye patches to see in the dark" myth.

The festival could use more (and better) pirates. We may try to set up an encampment next year.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Maryland's 375th

On June 20th, Maryland celebrated the 375 anniversary of its founding. As part of the celebration, they invited in the 17th century reenactors who normally come to the Grande Muster in October (which has been canceled this year). While not actually a pirate event, there were pirates there. The Sea Rats and the Pirate Brethren were present. We were there as colonists. That weekend usually has a nautical festival and a number of people brought their boats. My Whitehall fit right in with these. There were some full-sized ships and a couple of larger boats - the John Smith Shallop and the Explorer.

I had been worrying about the heat. They held the Grande Muster that weekend a few times in the 1980s and it was extremely hot. This year wasn't too bad, mainly bacause of a couple of thunderstorms which cooled things down.

Military manuvers for the event were minor. We lined up, turned and fired a single shot, retired behind the pikes while charged by a single horseman, then returned to our original position.

I did get to go sailing a couple of times. The first time Michael and I took the Whitehall out but the wind died and we had to row back. The second time there were three of us. There was a good wind but we didn't make very good time and it didn't want to answer the rudder. I think that having a third person in the bow changed the weight around too much. Also, the wind was not with us.

At one point the wind changed direction and the boom swung around unexpectedly, knocking Michael's hat into the bay. Undetered, the Sea Rats went out and found it. They claimed that a sea monster spit it back up.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Monkey Island is back!


LucasArts and Telltale Reveal Series of New Monkey Island Adventures Coming Soon!

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif – June 1, 2009 – LucasArts today announced that the original hilarious pirate adventure is back, with two new projects underway based on the classic Monkey Island franchise. First, Telltale will premiere the Tales of Monkey Island™ game series, delivering a completely new epic storyline and swashbuckling flair that will unfold across five monthly episodes on PC and WiiWare™ beginning with the season premiere episode on July 7. The Monkey Island celebration continues later in the summer when LucasArts publishes The Secret of Monkey Island™: Special Edition, a completely re-imagined version of the first game in the series that adds updated high definition graphics, a re-mastered musical score, and full voiceover to the classic adventure game originally launched in 1990. The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition will be made available on Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, and PC.

Today's announcement represents a new partnership between LucasArts and digital entertainment pioneers Telltale who are crafting new experiences for today's audiences with engaging stories delivered through regular monthly episodes. Tales of Monkey Island is developed by Telltale, whose team includes designers and artists who worked on all of the previous Monkey Island games. The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is being developed internally by LucasArts, the company that started it all with the original Monkey Island games.

"We couldn't be any more excited about bringing Monkey Island to today's gamers -- both in our special edition of the original classic, and through our collaboration with Telltale on the episodic series," said LucasArts' President Darrell Rodriguez. "We can't wait for Guybrush Threepwood and LeChuck to return to gamers' screens."

About Tales of Monkey Island

Telltale's Tales of Monkey Island brings the adventures of pirate Guybrush Threepwood into a new era with an explosive storyline that becomes deeper and more entangled during the course of the five-episode saga. While battling his nemesis, the evil pirate LeChuck, Guybrush accidentally unleashes an insidious voodoo pox that threatens to transform the buccaneers of the Caribbean into unruly pirate monsters. Players will experience the humor, romance, and swashbuckling action the Monkey Island games are famous for and unravel an insidious plot which is revealed across the course of the series. Tales of Monkey Island is set to premiere on PC and WiiWare in the coming weeks.

"The Monkey Island series set the standard for storytelling and character development in games," said Telltale CEO Dan Connors. "The next several months should be filled with all kinds of surprises as we continue the dramatic stories of Guybrush, Elaine and LeChuck. We are happy to be working with LucasArts to make this happen."

Telltale has posted a video preview and screenshots today at, and has opened up pre-orders at this site.

About The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

This summer, LucasArts will release The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition via Xbox LIVE Arcade for Xbox 360 and for PCs.

Back by popular demand, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition faithfully re-imagines the internationally-acclaimed classic game (originally released in 1990) for original and new audiences alike. The development team at LucasArts is bringing the game into the modern era with all-new HD graphics, a re-mastered musical score, full voiceover, and an in-depth hint system has been added to help players through the game's side-splitting puzzles. Purists will also delight in the ability to seamlessly switch between the updated HD graphics and the original's classic look.

The game's twisty plot leads hero, Guybrush Threepwood, on a hilarious quest throughout the fabled Monkey Island. Tales of pirate wealth attract Guybrush, who lands at the port of Mêlée with high hopes, no money and an insatiable desire to become a pirate. If the player is clever enough, Guybrush will win the confidence of Mêlée's established pirates and soon find himself blown by the winds of fate toward Monkey Island -- a storied isle whose name alone chills the bones of even the most bloodthirsty buccaneers.

More information about The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition can be found at the official website,

These efforts are just the start of LucasArts' new mission to revitalize its deep portfolio of beloved gaming franchises. In addition to these new Monkey Island projects, LucasArts recently revealed that the classic adventure game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (originally released in 1992) is included as an unlockable bonus in the Wii™ version of Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings, set to be released on June 9. Additional announcements are forthcoming.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pirate Weapons vs. Conventional

In general, pirates did not create any new weapons. They simply used weapons that were in common use at the time. Still, there are differences between what pirates used and how they used them and how weapons were used in general in the GAoP (Golden age of Piracy).

A pirate's favorite weapon was the pistol. This is the biggest difference between them and the rest of the population. Pistols were normally used by civilians and officers. Regular soldiers were not issued pistols.

A pistol is generally a short-range weapon. Black powder expands slowly and a long barrel is needed in order to give the powder enough time to accelerate a ball to maximum speed. The shorter barrel means that the ball will be traveling substantially slower. In addition, pistols usually shot smaller balls than a musket. This means that a pistol ball will fall short before a musket ball does and that a pistol ball does not have the penetrating power of a musket ball.

There are other problems with pistols. Firing one-handed is not as accurate as firing a gun resting on the shoulder and steadied with both hands. A musket is carried muzzle-up while a pistol is usually carried muzzle-down. This means that a musket ball does not need to be tight-fitting which, in turn, speeds up loading. If a pistol is loaded with a loose-fitting ball and stuffed in a sash, the ball will fall out. A tight-fitting ball takes longer to load since it has to be forced down the barrel.

So why would pirates prefer a pistol? It has to do with the types of fights they had.

Ships are small. Even the largest ship of the time measured from stem to stern was barely as long as standard battlefield distances. If you are fighting on a ship you are going to be close enough that the problems with range and penetrating power do not matter. The same is true with aiming. You shoot at someone who is directly in front of you. The chance that you will actually hit him is higher than the odds of hitting someone at standard musket distances.

Pirates had a simple solution for the slow reloading time. They carried multiple pistols.

Muskets on the other hand, are difficult to use in close-quarter combat; you cannot carry more than one at a time; and loading them in a melee or on a small boat is difficult. Which doesn't mean that muskets were not used, just that they were confined to ship-to-ship fighting or land-invasion.

The infamous blunderbuss is another weapon that was mainly used by civilians and pirates. It is basically a sawed-off shotgun and is most effective against a group at close range.

The carbine is probably under-represented among pirate reenactors. This is a shortened musket. It was mainly used by cavalry and could be carried on a shoulder sling. There was also a naval version. The carbine had a greater range and penetrating power than a pistol and could be loaded faster than a pistol or musket but the short barrel made it easier to use in a crowd or on a small boat. If it was carried on a sling then it would need a tight-fitting ball.

Cannons are another example of a weapon being used differently. Unlike most naval battles, pirates seldom wanted to sink the ship that they were attacking nor did they want to cause too much damage if it was a ship that they might want to take as a prize. That limited their choices in ammunition. The best choices for pirates would be canister shot or grape shot. This was a load of musket balls which turned a cannon into a huge, powerful shotgun capable of decimating a crew but sparing the ship. Bar shot and chain shot might also be used. These were effective anti-personnel loads but they could also be used to disable a ship's sails, rigging, and masts.

Swords are a special case. Through the middle of the 17th century, some troops were issued swords and some were not. Officers and cavalry always had them. Pikemen (pikes are 16-20 foot-long spears) often had them. Musketeers usually did not carry swords. It is difficult to use a sword while carrying a musket so musketeers depended on the pikemen for protection from hand-to-hand combat or used their muskets as clubs.

At sea, hand to hand combat is the norm rather than the exception so most people had a sword or alternate cutting implement such as a boarding ax.

Finally, grenades were known but seldom used on the battlefield for the simple reason that it was hard to pitch one into the right place at the right time. Again, given the closer quarters of a fight on a ship, a grenade could be more easily used.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hampton Blackbeard Festival

We were at the Hampton Blackbeard Festival over the weekend. This is an impressive festival. Unlike most pirate festivals, the Blackbeard Festival actually has some ties to pirates and Blackbeard. He raided the eastern coast until the Governor of Virginia decided to put a stop to it. Two sloops were sent out to capture or kill Blackbeard and his crew. They were successful and returned with Blackbeard's head and several members of his crew who were tried in near-by Williamsburg. Blackbeard's head was placed on a pike int he James River as a warning to other pirates. According to legend, this was at or near Hampton.

The modern-day festival is in its 8th year. There were no attendance figures but thousands attended and estimates based on food sales put the crowd at an all-time high.

At the heart of the festival is Pirate's Cove, an encampment of accurate pirate reenactors along with some sutlers and performers. Further out were the non-period vendors and performers. Four ships and three boats participated. Three of the ships played the parts of the sloops, reenacting Blackbeard's last stand. After that, the three smaller boats did a tactical.

Unfortunately the number of reenactors has outgrown the Pirate's Cove so a small, grassy area along the waterfront was also used for reenactors. This was assigned to the Crew of the archangle which we fell in with. This kept us somewhat away from the main event.

I provided one of the small boats - the smallest one. My Whitehall fit in nicely with the two larger boats. All had similar lines. They just differed in size. The tactical involved pirates stealing the largest boat, the Explorer, then fighting the middle-sized boat over who could take our boat. This meant that both boats were chasing us much of the time.

The Whitehall was up to the challenge. With two people rowing, one streering, and one at the swivel gun, we easily outmanuvered and outsped the larger boats. On Sunday the three small craft exchanged fire with one of the sloops before going to the boat ramp. Again, with five people aboard and two rowing, we easily passed the middle boat which had four or five people and three rowing.

Many of the local boats were decorated. Most simply had pirate flags but some had elaborate decorations including treasure chests and pirate figures. Many of the locals had pirate costumes.

The most bizzare thing was how many of the women on boats were calling out invitations to us as we rowed past - things like, "I want to be plundered!" One woman was dressed as a parrot and wanted a pirate to adopt her. I wonder what these women's husbands and boyfriends thought?

The weather could have been better and it could have been worse. It poured rain on Friday afternoon and evening and the camp sites were a soggy mess for the rest of the weekend. The rain gave way to simply being overcaston Saturday and sunny on Sunday. The temperatures were lower than normal for Virginia in June which was a blessing when rowing a boat.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ebay Pirate Ship

I've liked to ebay auctions before. This is a nice little boat. The owner calls it a ship but it is really a 12 foot rowable sailboat with a sprit for the jib (that's the pole sticking out the front for the leading sail for landlubbers). I'd be interested myself if I didn't already have a bigger boat.