I am a writer–but I’m also a pirate.
Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with the history of pirates. From fictional accounts such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, to the writings of Captain Charles Johnson, A. O. Esquemeling, Howard Pyle, Marcus Rediker, David Cordingly, and more, I devoured anything I could find about the Golden Age of Piracy (roughly 1690 to 1730).
In 20 years as a naval officer, I had the opportunity to sail many of the world’s oceans, including two-handing a sailboat from Puerto Rico to Key West. I experienced firsthand the challenges of life at sea while plying the very same waters that Thomas Tew, Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Charles Vane, and others sailed in search of their next victim.
As a boarding officer in the Persian Gulf, I had a taste of the pirate profession by stopping and boarding ships in open water. I would be lying if I said every time I climbed a rope or scaled a pilot ladder onto the deck of a sometimes less-than-compliant dhow, cargo ship, or tanker, I didn’t have visions of going on the account and capturing a prize.
I have also published two feature articles on piracy (modern and historical) and was invited to participate as a panel speaker at the 2009 European Conference on Maritime Piracy in London, England.
Hell, I even have a parrot tattooed on my left shoulder and Blackbeard’s flag on my right!
If all that doesn’t convince you of my
fetish for attraction to all things piratical, I don’t know what will. Oh wait, yes I do…
Yesterday, I started a part-time job at the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum!
Okay, I’m not one of the costumed tour guides (yet), but I got my foot in the door–the front door, to be exact…just through the gift shop at the entrance to the museum proper. If that didn’t tip you off to the nature of my new swashbuckling adventure, I’ll tell you: I work the cash register.
Pirates don’t work cash registers!
True, Jack Rackham or Charles Vane likely never scanned price tags on t-shirts or sold admissions tickets, but they made change (sort of). You see, when a sailor went on the account (gone a-pirating, if you will), he knew just how much he would earn as a share of whatever plunder was taken during his time aboard. For example, if a seaman was promised a 1/10th share of the loot on any given take, he would walk away with 1/10th of one share of the sugar captured out of Martinique. Now that’s not 1/10th of the sugar haul, but 1/10th of a single “share.” By contrast, the navigator may get 3 shares, or 30x what the seaman received. Got that?
Enough math. The point is, the pirate captain was making change. The poor sack who had his cargo taken gave the pirate captain a twenty (the captured booty), and the captain gave each crewmember whatever he didn’t keep for himself. Instead of a ball cap with a cool skull and crossbones, though, the captain of the plundered vessel was usually happy to hand over the money just see another sunrise.
It’s all a matter of perspective, see? To outsiders, I’m just a cashier, but from my perspective, this new part-time gig is just like being on the account, without the mortal hazards.
Fine, I’m still a cashier. But I get to work with this guy,
…which beats working here:
“Come,…let us make a hell of our own.”
So for now, I will still be writing (my full-time profession), but I will spend a part of some of my days with the pirates. My wife has graciously stepped up to fill the kid-taxi void that emerged with my new-found employment. It ain’t gonna be pretty at times, but as Blackbeard said–according to Captain Charles Johnson–“let us make a hell of our own.”
I know it will be hot (we live in Florida, and it is almost summer), but I think this new “hell” will only make us stronger as a family. And less time means less wasted time, so perhaps the next book will be done a lot sooner than anticipated.
Until next week, Fair Winds and Following Seas, y’all.
(Note: This post is going out a bit later in the day than my previous posts as I try to determine the optimal time of day to reach the most number of people. Remember, I’m still new at this blogging stuff 🙂 )