Monday, June 28, 2010

Put-in-Bay Pirate Fest II

For the last few years, some of the bars at Put-in-Bay had a pirate weekend. Last year this was expanded to an official island-wide festival. Mickey and I checked it out and thought it might be nice to come back with a display. He contacted the organizers. things stalled out a few times and we ended up pulling a group of historic pirates together at the last minute. The idea was to add some historic depth to the festivities. A lot of other pirate festivals do the same thing.

Since Put-in-Bay is an island, the first problem is getting there. We brought two boats so the organizers got us passes for the boats and the cars hauling them plus passes for the participants. Everyone put their gear in the boats.

There were a few rough spots. The mayor did not want us camping in the park where we would be setting up so we were camped about two blocks away. That meant more set-up time and more tentage was needed. The organizers planned on providing dinner for us Friday but we were later than expected and the kitchen closed. They still managed to accommodate us with some nice chicken dinners.

On the other hand, the organizers provided many amenities that we were not used to. They gave us a couple of dinners and breakfasts and a local historic hotel let people use their showers. They also provided a golf cart (the most common means of transportation on the island) and they gave everyone T-shirts.

It was a pretty laid-back event. There were no battles so all we had to do was provide the display. The festival also had a costume contest and many of the pirates entered (M.A.d'Dogge won first prize - a trip to the Cayman Islands).

We used the Black Sheep as part of our display. Since is it flat-bottomed, it represented our long-boat. In late afternoon, we launched Firefly and rowed around the harbor. We even threatened the Brig Niagara (we had a musket and most of their guns weren't mounted).

Saturday was pretty warm although a breeze helped during the day. Sunday was outright hot with no breeze until a chain of storms came in. We got caught in a downpour while we were striking camp. That meant bringing home wet canvass but it also cooled everyone off.

The lake was rough because of the storms. The rain had stopped but a lot of spray came over the rail, drenching people - a lot like standing too close to a water ride at a theme park.

In all, the organizers were happy and want us back next year with even more pirates. The participants all enjoyed the experience, also. With luck, we should see this event grow.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Working on the Black Sheep

I have the Black Sheep home for a few days until the Put-In-Bay event. I took the opportunity to do some minor work on her.

The rear-most bench was made in two parts. I suspect that it was cut wrong and a wedge-shaped piece added to keep it in place. I had some extra wood sitting around so I cut a new seat. As a bonus, I found that the old one fits in-between the forward rowing bench and the loggerhead where the swivel gun is mounted. When I was firing it during the Santa Maria event I was sitting on a pile of life jackets so this is a big improvement.

There was no place to tie the stern. When it was at the Santa Maria, they tied a line to the rear bench (the two part one). I added a ring. It is on the inside of the stern post instead of the outside so it does not interfere with the rudder but it should work.

I noticed a landscaping timber that has been sitting around in the garage. This is a good piece to start with for a mast. It was not long enough so I raised it up with some glued-up 2x4 that was also sitting around. I should be able to fit it and hoist the yard by the weekend. With that rig it will only sail downwind but it will look better.

The bench where the mast goes has a big hole in it for the mast. I was sitting on it when we rowed the boat to the boat ramp and the hole is a pain. I made a cover for it with some more spare lumber. I set some dowels in the front to keep it in place.

Most of the thwarts were loose so I glued them back in. The cord on them needs some pine tar so I ordered some. I will do some other touching up with it when it comes.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pieces of Eight

Treasure Island is full of characters whose past is only hinted at. Chief among these is Captain Flint who buried the treasure and died in Savannah before the novel starts. British Author John Drake is writing a series of novels filling the back-story of these characters and answering such questions as how Long John Silver became a pirate and lost his leg, where Flint's treasure came from and why it was buried and how Pew lost his eyesight.

The first of these books I found was the second - Pieces of Eight. It and the first novel, Flint and Silver, are available through Amazon (currently Pieces of Eight is a Kindle-only edition). The next novel, Skull and Bones is coming.

So far I've only read Pieces of Eight but it was good enough that I have Flint and Silver ready to read next. While they are written as a series, it is fairly easy to read as a stand-alone novel.

Apparently, in Flint and Silver, Flint mutinied on an English navy ship full of treasure. It ended up on the island (known as Flint's Island) in the novel. Only Flint and Billy Bones know how to find the island.

There was a fight between ships commanded by Flint and Silver with Silver's ruined ship beached on the island and Flint limping off to gather a force and take the island and the treasure from Silver.

The novel follows the preparations the two make. Silver has a limited number of men and has to fortify the island against a likely overwhelming force. Flint is short on cash and has to convince others to sign on with him.

The narrative is different from Treasure Island. That was told in first person from the perspective of the boy, Jim. Drake's novels follow multiple characters so it is written in the third person with a number of nautical references that give it a period feel.

Anyone who has read Treasure Island has some idea of how things will turn out. Several characters will survive and escape but the treasure stays on the island. That still leaves a multitude of characters who are fair game to kill off including an entire tribe of Indians.

All of the characters are fully fleshed out and flawed somehow. Flint is not only a ruthless bastard but he has a little problem with women. Then there is Captain Danny - six foot four, a fierce fighter, and womanizer who is actually a woman. Silver is the most admirable character.

I may have to buy a Kindle just to follow the series.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


In one of their pirate specials, the Mythbusters investigated the question - do splinters cause more deaths than cannon balls? They pronounced this a myth. Since this conflicts with period accounts, they must have gotten something wrong, but what?

I found the answer in a display on the HMS Victory - Nelson's flagship at Trafalgar. They combined period accounts and modern experiments and came up with a different answer.

It turns out that splinters don't just happen. There is an art form to making them and the Mythbusters did exactly the wrong thing. They used as much force as they could to penetrate their mock-up hull but, the more force you put into your cannonball, the fewer splinters you get. What you want is to just barely pierce the hull. That makes the biggest splinters.