Monday, March 28, 2011

Sailor Walks Into a Bar with a Pirate on his Shoulder....

Well, it's spring, and time for the cruise ships to be sailing away and coming back with a ship-pot full of people sick from some mystery illness. Everyone has a great time sailing the high seas aboard the SS Edward Teach, don't they?

Blackbeard's Flag seems corny today
It appeals to my mordant sense of humor to name a ship after Teach, who is better known today for his nickname, "Blackbeard the Pirate."  Long before Keith Richards was born, Blackbeard knew of the advantages that came with cultivating a fearsome appearance.   Another pirate had this to say about his look: "...such a figure that imagination cannot form an idea of a fury from hell to look more frightful."  He wore his hair long and wove colorful ribbons into the braids of his beard.  This sort of appearance today is called "Being An Oakland Raiders Fan."  He had a thick black beard. Remember, this was before there was before the days of Just For Men or Clairol Natural Instincts for Men, but then again, most accounts of his life say that it ended at the age of 38, the age that most American men of this era are just beginning to spread out a little, shall we say.
When I read about the dude, I was fascinated with the names of the other people who figured in his short yet colorful life.  His pirate apprenticeship was served under a pirate named Benjamin Hornigold.  Teach and Hornigold met a pirate named Stede Bonnet, who invented the hat that even today is worn by pirate girlfriends and bunnies at Eastertime. Or not.  But Mr Bonnet was an incompetent pirate!  I know! We don't often think of pirates as being incompetent, but he had deficiencies in sailing a ship and ordering a crew around, and those two skills have to be at the top of any pirate's list of talents to master.  So Blackbeard took over the Bonnet crew and sailed with his merry men around the Southern Atlantic and then wound up off the coast of South Carolina, where they blocked access to the port of Charleston (then called Charles Town). 

Timbers being shivered
His career plundering the high seas was short but, as you might imagine, colorful.  The colonial governor of Virginia, one Alexander Spotswood, sent a fleet of rickety ships, commanded by Lt. Robert "Bob" Maynard, after Blackbeard.  There was a short period of unpleasantness between the two men, which ended with Blackbeard's head being removed from his body against his wishes and being displayed on the bowsprit of Maynard's vessel.  

This is why, to this day, to ask a boat's intended course of travel, we ask, "Where are you headed?"

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