Pirates and pirating have been romanticized for decades, and here at Getting Nauti, we celebrate this dastardly daring bunch of ne’er-do-wells with some of our designs. But what did it take to be a real pirate?
Captain James Hook & Smee (NOT Real Pirates!)
Well firstly, a pirate ship was a total meritocracy and entirely democratic. Captains were voted in, and everyone was equal with an equal share of the booty haul. This fair community was often preferable to a more legal sailing servitude where corruption was rife, pay was often skipped, and beatings frequent. The pirate's code; don’t fight, steal or lie but the punishment of flogging, keelhauling, being thrown overboard with cannonballs attached to your ankles, marooning, or beheading, for committing these infractions was positively severe. Of course, if you survived an epic battle with authorities and were captured then your fate was no better.
Captured Pirates Were Severely Punished
Well, you’d better have some sailing chops or fighting skill or some way to contribute to life on board. You need to be fit with lots of stamina; manning a pump for hours on end is no mean feat, and hauling wet ropes and handling sails requires strength. Daily life would be filled with menial ship maintenance tasks, and conditions would be hard, rat infested, and dirty. Rancid food and foul water would contribute to malnutrition and scurvy, and close and cramped conditions meant disease swept through crew quarters. A staple food, hard tack, was a biscuit-like food and often infested with weevils and best eaten in the dark so you couldn’t see ‘em. Turtles, fish and other marine life were eaten and other ships food supplies were plundered, but it was an insecure supply that on occasion resulted in eating slaves or leather goods. Now I wonder why Hollywood doesn’t portray this side of life?
Well then it didn’t matter where in the world you hailed from or whether you were male or female as pirates pulled together as a team to plunder the seas. No sexism or racism on board. There were some very successful female pirate captains. Ching Shih terrorized the South China Sea with some 300 junks and up to 40 thousand pirates at her disposal. She is probably the most successful pirate ever and retired having been granted amnesty. No Davy Jones Locker for that lady!
And who on the seven seas was this guy Davy Jones anyway? It’s not possible to know anything about piracy and not have heard of Davy Jones. He symbolizes death in the deep. To go to Davy Jones Locker is to die, to awaken Davy Jones is to bring wrath in the form of a storm. You might think that he was a fearsome pirate and while little of truth is known the story that pleases me most is that he was an owner of a pub in London. The tale goes that he used to drug drinkers and lock them in his ale locker to be sold as slaves to pirates. Hence Davy Jones (ale) Locker – nice!
Whoops! Wrong Davy Jones!
Contrary to popular belief pirates didn’t bury their treasure. When life is so treacherous, you’d better spend what you have now. No point in hiding it for a later return as chances are, you weren’t going to. More practically, pirate booty was often perishable like cocoa or cloth. So don’t expect to be following treasure maps looking for the elusive ‘X.' Another myth is that of the Jolly Roger Flag popularized today. Pirates did fly fear inducing designs once they revealed themselves to would-be victims, but these came in many designs. The famous icon of the skull and crossbones is distilled from many variations which would have included skeletons, devils, weapons, and skulls all designed to induce terror.
Never. Except that one time in the library in Venice...
If out and out piracy is a step too far, consider those described as privateers. These guys had permission, usually in wartime, to plunder the ships and ports of those governments opposing forces. An excellent and convenient way to put your enemy to work to your advantage. Of course, if you were on the receiving end of such plundering, I’m sure you would still consider this act one of piracy. It’s all really about your point of view, and from that of the pirate or privateer, at least you have one less foe to consider.
If I still haven’t put you off why not enroll at MIT who issue pirate certificates to those students completing courses in pistol use, archery, sailing and crossbow use or simple mark September 19th on your calendar and start practicing for ‘Talk Like a Pirate’ Day all while toting one of our pirate designs. Then there is always the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, FL. Just make sure you’re wearing your Pirate Dear from Getting Nauti! Aaargh!