Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: Pirate Hunter of the Caribbean: The Adventurous Life of Captain Woodes Rogers

Officially this is a biography of the twice-governor of the Bahamas and the man who ended piracy in the Caribbean. While Woodes Rogers had an eventful life, details of it are sketchy so the book is padded with a lot of general information on piracy. It also contains a mini-biography of Alexander Selkirk who was an inspiration for Robinson Crusoe.

The book was written by David Cordingly who has written other major works on piracy such as Under the Black Flag and his familiarity with piracy shows.

While Rogers was twice governor of the Bahamas, this was not his major achievement. He was one of the first captains to circumnavigate the world and his exploits doing this and attacking the Spanish in the Pacific are more exciting than a Pirates of the Caribbean novel.

In addition to Rogers and Selkirk, the book follows other pirates to their end including Blackbeard and Calico Jack Rackham. Several battles are described in detail showing just how audacious the pirates and privateers were.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Talking Like a Pirate on the Santa Maria

We held our annual Talk Like a Pirate Weekend on the Santa Maria September 17 & 18. The event is held on the closest weekend to Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Gas prices, health problems, and competing festivals kept the number of pirates down but we still had a decent turn-out. Counting ship staff members who put on costumes, we had nearly twenty pirates.

This is an educational event and the pirates worked hard. We had different stations where people were presenting something relating to pirates. This included Mission's pirate surgeon display, a gaming table, and cooking. I brought my new cannon and ran visitors through cannon drills. Michael made a hammock. There was also a table where kids could get certificates making them part of the pirate crew. These were hand-lettered and had wax seals.

We had to scale back the battle. Sometimes we have had enough pirates to fill three boats. This time we only used one boat with no effort to actually board the ship. I don't think that the visitors noticed the difference.

Attendance was not as good as last year but it was still a very good weekend taking in just under $2,000 for the weekend.

Disney contacted us and donated hundreds of posters and certificates for two Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides DVD so every family got a posted and a chance to win a DVD.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Small Boats

I've been reading Pirate Hunter of the Caribbean: The Adventurous Life of Captain Woodes Rogers   and I was struck by the use of small, open boats. In several cases pirates left their ships behind and attacked ships or even cities from boats.

Attacking cities always meant landing which usually meant using boats. It was common for pirates to land some distance from a city and attack it from land. But other times they would land and attack.

Fighting a ship from a boat seems foolish. One good hit from a cannon and the boat is gone. On the pirate's side, they could only carry small arms.

Surprisingly this was enough. In one case three dug-outs carrying sixty some pirates met three warships with over two hundred sailors and soldiers. The pirates won, driving off one ship and forcing the other two to surrender.

Boats offer a few advantages over ships. Boats were faster and could move against the wind. In the case above, the pirates shot the helmsman of one ship and it turned into the wind and stopped - what is known as being "in irons". They continued to shoot anyone who tried to take the tiller. Since cannons are mainly aimed by turning the ship, that rendered the cannon useless.

The pirates were better shots than the Spanish. After the battle ended, the Spanish tallied their dead and wounded. Only a half-dozen were completely unharmed.

I read a different account in in Exquemelin where he describes a small ship taking a much larger one. In this case the Spanish captain saw the pirates but dismissed them as being too inferior a force to threaten his ship. After dark the pirates used a boat to board the Spanish ship, took the captain hostage, and forced the surrender of the ship.