The Pirate FAQ
Ever have a burning question about the pirates of lore, and wished ye just had a list of frequently asked questions and answers to aid ye in yer search for… answers? Well, now ye do. We’ve gathered some of the most commonly inquired topics and gathered them all up, right here, for yer convenience. Read on!
Did pirates really wear eye-patches and peg-legs?
Pirates got banged up pretty bad on the job, as did all sailors, and since there wasn’t much in the way of health insurance the best solution was sometimes to patch it up or replace it with a timber.
Did they really have pet parrots on their shoulders?
This idea was made popular by Long John Silver in that wonderful pirate classic, Treasure Island. The only real account of parrots and piracy is that in tales of Port Royal, there was said to be so much rum casks sitting open that the birds were even drunk.
Did pirates bury their treasure?
Captain Kidd buried his treasure in thinking, on his way to trial, he might use it as leverage. It didn’t work out all so well for him, but his clever act inspired many a story to come, and I little doubt other pirates did the same thing!
What role did the captain play?
He was elected by the crew to lead them, since they needed a strong individual in charge. That said, he didn’t have absolute power except for in times of battle, and everything else was voted on.
What did pirates eat?
Mostly hard tack, which is a sort of compressed biscuit with no nutrients (since nobody knew what that was back then) and cackle fruit, which is eggs, until they ate the chickens! The food aboard was needless to say not so good, and that is why a night on the town was always welcomed.
How often did pirates come to port?
Who can say? Basically as often as their supplies ran out, provided they wanted to stay alive. They would also come to port when they had loot to sell, which was quite often.
What kind of ship is a ‘pirate ship’?
Any ship can technically be a pirate ship, so long as it is sailed by… you guessed it… pirates. That being said, a good frigate or a schooner would be the best bet, since they were big enough to put up a fight but small enough to out-maneuver their prey.
Were there any ‘good’ pirates?
Depending on where you stand, a lot of pirates were on the right side of things. They gave rights to Africans and women long before any country did, they ran a floating democracy, and some of them did nothing worse than steal gold and silver plundered from the Caribbean natives. But to cite one example, I bring to mind Black Sam (Samuel Bellamy) who was so good to his captives that his men called him Robin Hood.
Were women allowed aboard a pirate ship?
As mentioned above, yes; but not always. John “Calico Jack” Rackham was known to have two women aboard his vessel; Anne Bonny (his lover whom he married at sea) and Mary Read.
Where did pirates ‘do their business’?
When nature called, and a sailor was at sea, he had to go towards the prow of the ship where very uninviting boxes called ‘the heads’ awaited. These were the closest thing to a toilet, and the good news is the sea washed them out as the vessel dipped into the troughs of the waves!
Why did pirates die out?
With the advent of steam engines and the end of loose governors, the life of a pirate became reserved for story books only. Real pirates shifted their area of operation closer to the American coast, and eventually into the rivers where they continued to plunder for years to come, but never so epically as on the high seas.
What was the Golden Age of Piracy?
This was a period of time spanning from the year 1650 A.D. to 1726 A.D.. This was the perfect time to be a pirate, as the Caribbean was governed very loosely, meaning pirates could sell their plunder and repair their vessels without fear of capture, and also because trade and imports were huge. There were also the rich Arab traders and the East India Company in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, the eastern American seaboard, and basically everywhere you looked there was something to plunder!
Did pirates really have secret lairs?
Not like the ones you see in movies and books, but aye! Pirates would often set up their base of operations in their favorite ports or even in their own little shanty towns.
Were victims really forced to walk the plank?
This is not historically proven, but not impossible either. See in theory, if a man walked the plank he was doing himself in, so no nasty murder charges could come of it. But only in theory… The waving swords and pistols might knock it more into the realm of murder after all.
What did it look like below decks?
It varies from ship to ship, but basically it was dark and sometimes spacious or sometimes cramped. Halls led to cabins, where higher ranking sailors got to sleep since they had a room all to themselves then. In the hold, goods were arranged by type (if the ship was organized!) and each ‘segment’ was divided by a wall and door.
Which pirate was the best?
This can’t be answered easily, because there is no one way to measure greatness on the high seas. On the one hand ye can say that Black Sam (Samuel Bellamy) was the richest before he died in a storm, but one could also argue that Henry Avery was the best for his incredible raid on the Grand Mughal’s fleet.
Then ye might also say that Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard wins for his most infamous reputation as a fiendish captain, or Henry Morgan for his daring sacking of Panama City, or Bartholomew Roberts for his countless ships captured. It all comes down to yer opinion of greatness in the life of a pirate.
Did we miss an important question? Did we get something wrong? Did we do something right? Let us know!