Thursday, June 28, 2012

It's Great to be a Pirate

Facebook is still full of posts about the Put-In-Bay Pirate Fest. The same thing happened after the last pirate event on the Santa Maria - people were excited about it for days. I'm thinking about how this compares with the 17th century colonial and English Civil War events I spent decades going to.

The numbers were similar. Except for a very few anniversary events, 17th century events were never huge and have been shrinking for the last 15-20 years. We had around 20 at Put-in-bay and close to 40 at the Santa Maria. This is more than I have seen at a 17th century event in years.

People mixed more. Most 17th century events are military events with participants coming as part of specific units. The units tend to keep to themselves. When events were bigger, some units took the distinction between officers and common soldiers a little too seriously. I remember seeing officers watch as soldiers pitched their pavilions for them. These same officers got steak while the common men got stew.

I don't see much of that in pirate reenacting. There are different crews but at the last couple of events no one cared. Even at larger pirate events the crews mix a lot more than at military events.

All of this is good. There is less friction and everyone gets along better. The end result is that everyone enjoys themselves more and wants to do more with that group of people.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Put-in-Bay Pirate Fest 2012

PIB Pirate Fest IV, the Revenge is over and was a success. This was the third one we have been officially involved with.

I think that we had a few more people than last year although not everyone from last year came. We had several new faces this year. All of them were at the spring Pirate Event at the Santa Maria and were still enthusiastic.\

Our display area was bigger this year with around eight display areas. As with the Santa Maria, the biggest attraction was the gibbet and pillory that the Beach Brothers brought.

The Festival made it worth their while - Billy Beach won the costume contest along with a trip to the Cayman Islands. His younger brother Clint won it a couple of years ago.

Since the event is on an island, most of us met on the mainland and transferred belongings to a few of vehicles that the festival provided ferry passes for. Several of us arrived between noon and 1:30 so we ended up with two vehicles and nine pirates crossing at once - most of us in pirate garb. This was enough to earn Thomas and Ed free beers from some ferry passengers.

The opening ceremony involves a "pirate fleet" attacking the the town. The fleet consists of a couple of decorated boats and a barge full of cannons. This time we joined in. Originally we were going to take both boats out but the seams of the Firefly were too dry and it took on too much water. After bailing it out, we transferred into the Black Sheep and attacked from there. We had ten people in the Black Sheep at once.

Afterwards we set up camp and went to a local restaurant for dinner. Eventually we ended up at Hooligan's Irish Pub to listen to the band.

The "pirate village" (that is our display plus some vendors) officially opened at 11:00 which let us eat a leisurely breakfast before setting up. Saturday was significantly cooler than previous years with a cool breeze.

In addition to the display and the costume contest, we also had a battle at the area fenced off for cannons. It was a quick affair with the surviving attackers killed by cannon fire but I still had enough time to get off around a dozen rounds.

We had dinner at Pasquale which is owned by the event organizer and put in an appearance at The Boat House which was pushing the pirate theme hard, then back to Hooligans.

Sunday had much lighter crowds. There was an antique car parade. After that we repeated the battle and began breaking down camp.

Most of us went back on the same ferry. While waiting for the ferry, most of the people still in costume posed in knee-deep water. Once on the ferry, Clint managed to get nearly everyone on the ferry to put up their hands for a picture. I guess he was pirating the ferry.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nautical Phrase Myths

While at Opsail 2012, I heard three completely different mistakes about the origins of words or phrases. There is a lesson to be learned here.

The first one came from a group representing the "World of 1812". There was a display of military items and someone asked if a piece was a carbine? A costumed boy in his late teens said, 'no, it was a musket.'

I looked at the piece and pointed out that it was carbine length. This was easy to verify because the display included a full musket. The boy confidently claimed that they called everything a musket, regardless of the length and that carbines did not exist until rifles were invented.

It so happens that I had looked up carbines recently and I know that the word goes back 200 years before 1812 (1590 to be exact). I mentioned that I have a 1640s carbine and I think he got the idea that I knew what I was talking about. At least he stopped arguing.

There were two problems here. The first is that you have to be very careful about your source material when you start arguing with the public. They have the world at their fingertips. I could easily have used my smartphone to show him that the gun in question is sold as a "1809 marine carbine" or have shown him the Wikipedia entry on carbines.

The other problem is that you should not assume that wearing a costume makes you an expert.

The next myth was much worse because of its source. The Bounty had a display of the mess area with signs above that offered information. One of them said that sailors used their elbows to keep their food from sliding around. Sailors were prime candidates for press gangs on shore so anyone who ate with his elbows on the table was at risk of being pressed.

It doesn't take a minute to debunk this. Just try eating while holding your plate still with your elbows. You can't do it.

The admonition against elbows on the table was referring to people who bent over their food, supporting themselves with their elbows and shoveled the food into their mouths. The idea is that you should sit up straight, supported by your back instead of your elbows. This is an example of trying to attribute a nautical explanation to everyday things.

Since this was on an official sign, the Bounty has no excuse.

The last example has nothing to do with Opsail. It just happened to come at the same time. A trivia slide on Pawn Stars said that "Mind your Ps and Qs" refers to the tab that a sailor would have with the ship and referred to quarts and pints.

I have heard the quarts and pints explanation before. Attributing it to ships is new.

The expression itself should be taken at face value. The letters P and Q look similar and "Mind your Ps and Qs" is a warning to be extra careful. The part about the bar tab just adds a little to the explanation. It is still based on the two looking alike. This is making a simple explanation more complicated. The part about it being the tab on a ship is an example of attributing everything to a nautical origin.

Note, you can make a strong case for it coming from printers since type is backwards which makes it easy to mix up the two.

The moral of all of this is to check your sources, don't needlessly complicate things, and remember that a story that is too good to be true probably is false.