Pirates first made their appearance in the 14th century and they’re still around today. We seldom even think about the modern day version of pirates. They aren’t nearly as glamorous as Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Capt. Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series. Modern times have them attacking larger vessels via small motorboats, usually supplied by a larger ‘mother’ ship anchored close by.
Instead, we visualize peg legs and eye patches. Cannons and planks. Wenches aplenty. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum. Buried treasure. We hear the past echos of their “aargh’s…” and even celebrate “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”
If you happen to be obsessed with the pirates of yesteryear, as many people are, wouldn’t it be fun to vacation like one? Or maybe just go someplace where all things pirate-related are celebrated. Someplace where these time-honored cutthroats are honored and revered. If you’re a Capt. Kidd wannabe but don’t know where to express your deepest inner desires, here are a few suggestions for getting your pirate on.
Port Royal, Jamaica
In the late 17th century Port Royal was an international shipping hub which saw a vast number of cargo ships coming and going. As such, these cargo vessels became sitting ducks for pirates anchored further out to sea. Since sea-going vessels at the time required large crews, and encountering pirates was anticipated, ships were heavily armed and many a fierce battle ensued, sending some of them to a watery grave.
Once labeled as the “wickedest city in the world”, Port Royal was a drinking kind of town. Pirates who regularly hung out had no problem finding a bottle of rum. There was one pub per every 10 residents. Blackbeard and Henry Morgan were among the celeb pirates who frequented Port Royal from time to time.
It’s a shame how much of Port Royal was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692. A stopped pocket watch recovered in 1969 has the time of the quake at 11:43 a.m. Still, Historic Fort Charles and its museums are packed to the hilt with pirate artifacts, and of course, the city capitalizes on their claim to fame making it a perfect destination for pirate lovers.
Beginning sometime in the early 17th century, Tortuga became a pirate stronghold. So much, pirates based out of this northern coastal city in Haiti formed an unofficial union, even adhering to an agreed upon code of conduct. They became known as the “Brethren of the Coast” and the governor of Haiti at the time, Jean Le Vasseur, who was obviously benefiting from their presence, worked diligently to establish Tortuga as the pirate capital of the Caribbean.
The Spanish and English governments teamed up to curb the pirate’s activity in Tortuga by importing 1,000 prostitutes in hopes the ladies charms would settle the men down. Though their plan ultimately failed, the guys were quite grateful for the kind gesture.
These days Tortuga can only be approached by boat but for stalwart pirate fans, this should pose no hindrance. After all, it’s the same way the Pirates had to get there.
New Providence, Bahamas
Because New Providence happened to lie in the direct path of major shipping routes, many a buccaneer sought solace in the island’s bars and houses of ill repute when not out plundering. Between the late 1600’s and early 1700’s, the island was teeming with pirates making it a highly undesirable stop for any sea goers of the honest variety.
Famous pirates like Blackbeard, Henry Morgan, Calico Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, rubbed elbows and spun yarns, all of them considering New Providence their personal playground. The island’s reefs and narrow channels also made it a happy hunting ground for the skull and crossbones flagged ships, who knew the waters well, to snag unsuspecting cargo ships. It’s been rumored treasure still lies buried on the island.
Home to the Bahamian capital of Nassau, this favored cruise line stop attracts sun worshipers and snorkelers, but as one might imagine, the entire island is drenched in a pirate theme.
Without having to leave the USA, Gasparilla Days in Tampa Florida will rapidly propel any pirate fan into overload mode. As stated on the Gasparilla Days official website; Pirates, Parades, and “Piratechnics”… Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla invites you to join us for the pleasures n’ treasures of Tampa’s historic Gasparilla celebration.
Every year since 1904 Tampa has celebrated the return of the apocryphal legend Jose Gaspar, a mythical Spanish pirate who was said to have roamed the waters of Southwest Florida in the 1800’s. The festival features three parades, the largest of which is the Parade of Pirates which takes place on the last Saturday in January. It’s the third largest parade in America with an attendance of over 300,000 spectators, many dressed in full pirate regalia, and it produces a favorable economic impact of $20 million. This is also the day when the pirates aboard Gasper’s ship stage a friendly invasion of the city.
All sorts of other events take place during Gasparilla season included music concerts, art shows, and etc., but if you really want to party down pirate style, don’t miss the Parade of Pirates.
New Port, Rhode Island
New Port deserves a quick shout-out as a playground for pirates during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. They actually provided a needed service at a time when the colonies trade was restricted. The Pirates brought in the much-needed goods and supplies to help boost the local economy, and of course, they liked to blow off some steam when in port.
Pirating was brought to an end in the early 1700’s but visitors to New Port can take a Pirates and Scoundrels Walking Tour where they can trace the footsteps of these once welcomed scoundrels.
Pirates of today certainly present a different picture then at one time, but the colorful, flamboyant, sea-warriors of previous centuries are the images we cling to and find fascinating. This list will get you started if your craving a pirate fix.