Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Chase

A chase was a thing that our seafaring ancestors loved almost as much as booty.  From large navies to rebel privateers, from well-heeled Golden Age pirates to rag-tag buccaneers in leaky pirogues, nothing said potential quite like "chase."

The etymology of the word even speaks to the pursuit of a prize.  According to Webster's, the modern English word derives from the Old French word chacier, to take, which comes from the Latin capiare, to strive to seize.  Nothing is more eloquent then that last definition; a chase is a vessel that another vessel will strive to seize.  The chaser is then the vessel doing the chasing.

To chase is, obviously, to pursue another ship.  Another way to put it would be giving chase.  There are variations of the chase, as Admiral Smyth advises us in The Sailor's Word Book:

A stern chase is when the chaser follows the chased astern, directly upon the same point of the compass.  To lie with a ship's fore-foot in a chase, is to sail and meet with her by the nearest distance, and so to cross her in her way, as to come across her fore-foot.  A ship is said to have a good chase when she is so built forward or astern that she can carry many guns to shoot forwards or backwards; according to which she is said to have a good forward or good stern chase.  Chasing to windward, is often termed chasing in the wind's eye.

And that, Brethren, is some excellent seafaring language for your next piece of piratical fiction.

Chase is just as frequently used in the parlance of ship's guns.  A bow chase is a gun set to the fore, where it can be used for firing on a chase.  The chase-ports are the gun ports right fore and aft on a warship.  Chase guns then are those that are moved to these ports as the situation warrants.  In some cases, chase guns may also refer to small swivels almost always mounted fore or aft.  Chase-stern guns refers specifically to guns pointed astern.  The chase-sight was where the sight of the gun was placed.

A chase, or in this case chasse, was also a ship.  The French chasse-maree, known in English as a lugger, has been discussed here at Triple P in depth.

And so, fair winds and a following sea to all the Brethren this fair Saturday.  May all your chases surrender easy and be packed to the gunnels with rich booty.

Header: Sailing Ships in Stormy Seas by Harvey George Wainwright via American Gallery

Friday, June 29, 2012

Booty: A Good Defense

Surfrider Foundation, who has been supporting the welfare of marine life for over three decades, has now stepped into the world of art.  A new exhibit, entitled They Can't Protect Themselves, is being funded by Surfrider through donations.  Some artists are already on board and have created amazing images of armored sea creatures; the dolphin shown above, for instance.  From the exhibit's online information page:

Marine life have several natural defenses such as speed, camouflage and natural schooling behavior.  However, these defenses are powerless against man-made threats such as pollution, ocean warming and overindustrialization.  To convey our need to protect these animals, this collection of life-size armor was born.

The animals enarmored include not only the dolphin but a spiky crane, an otter who would clearly have a much easier time cracking open his lunch but a much harder time floating, and a school of clown fish.

Click the link above to really appreciate the beauty and size of these amazing pieces of craftsmanship.  Also, should you be so inclined, click over to Harald's fascinating roleplaying site The Book of Worlds, and get some ideas based on this exhibit for your next sci-fi/fantasy short story, novel or game.

One more suggesting for Friday reading, which deals specifically and historically with the effects - both bad and surprisingly good - of climate change.  Check out our mate Blue Lou Logan's thoughtful post "Of Weather and Ancient Mariners: Brian Fagan's The Great Warming."  It doesn't get much better than that for free, kids.

Happy Friday one and all; I'll spy ye tomorrow for another Sailor Mouth Saturday!

Header: Armored Dolphin from the Surfrider Foundation exhibit via The Book of Worlds

Thursday, June 28, 2012

History: Medicine Chest

Our mate and supporter of Triple P David brought an article over at Daily Mail UK to my attention on Tuesday.  While I'm not a huge fan of Daily Mail - really, how many of us care what Pippa Middleton is wearing? - this piece was one of their rare gems about a true historic find. 

According to the article, a magnificent "surgeon's chest" dates from 1817 and was found recently in a house in Derbyshire, England.  Virtually untouched except for a few dosings, most of the bottles and jars retain their contents and the chest, made of mahogany, is complete with its original instruction booklet.

The piece in its entirety will be auctioned in Derby this coming Saturday and speculations as to its original use are given by auctioneer Charles Hanson:

It may have been used out of hours by a doctor on call, or owned by the family of a large country house to carry with them on a long journey by horse or carriage. 

Or, if I may, by sea.  This sort of chest was exactly the type that well-provisioned naval surgeons would have had aboard ship in most of the navies of Europe and certainly the U.S. Navy by the Napoleonic Wars.  This tradition of bringing boxes of medicines - and of course implements - aboard along with a surgeon/barber probably originated with Henry VIII's English Navy.  As noted here at Triple P before, Henry's great warship Mary Rose had a similar surgeon's box aboard her. 

This type of medicine chest would also have been coveted highly by pirates and privateers.  Though a legitimate privateer might ship a surgeon (for instance, many of the larger U.S. privateers during the War of 1812 did), pirates almost unanimously never did.  Finding a surgeon's chest such as this aboard a prize would have been a boon to every man in the crew. The contents would, for the most part, have been familiar to the sailors.  Although their knowledge of doses and weights may not have been up to snuff, they would have had a general idea of what to do with the contents of the chest.

As to what is in this individual specimen, the spectrum of medicines seems to cover most ailments.  Manna, noted by Mrs. Child in The Family Nurse as a "mild, agreeable laxative that may be safely administered to children and the aged" is included.  Also available is peppermint water which would have been used not only for nausea and vomiting but also, again to quote Mrs. Child, "to cover the taste of disagreeable medicines, and diminish their griping effects."  A bottle of Cream of tartar might have been used as a laxative; Mrs. Child also recommends it mixed with lemon in a tisane to fevers. 

Of course the most popular medicine of the era, laudanum, is not forgotten.  A tincture of opium in alcohol, laudanum was the go-to medication for everything from hysteria to anesthesia.  Yes, old Doc Sawbones knew enough to give a sailor a heavy dose of opium before he cut off that gangrenous limb.  If he had any available, that is.  He might also get into the stuff himself, forming a disagreeable habit that could ruin him.  This was certainly the case with Patrick O'Brian's fictional Doctor Stephen Maturin who managed to free himself from addiction through sheer force of will.

The surgeon's chest found in Derby is a rare and important find that could give historians new insights into how our ancestors treated disease.  Let us hope, as the article notes, that it is purchased by someone who can not only appreciate it, but share it as the "time capsule" that it really is.

Header: Surgeon's chest via Daily Mail UK

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

People: Le Filibustier

Francois Grogniet is mentioned only in passing in most accounts of the buccaneering era, if at all.  His connection to more famous buccaneers Edward Davis and Captain Swan keeps his name in the history books, however.  The buccaneer navigator turned author, William Dampier, mentions Grogniet.  Two prolific pirate historians, Philip Gosse and David F. Marley both give Grogniet a separate entry in their seminal works, but the information is sketchy at best.

Grogniet (whose name is pronounce groan-ee-YAY and not like a Russian saying no to grog) was almost certainly born in France.  Where, exactly, is impossible to say but it is reasonable to imagine that he came from one of the many sea ports along the Channel or the Bay of Biscay.  He, like so many others, probably learned his trade on merchant ships.  When this no longer suited, he shipped out to Saint Domingue and the buccaneer havens of Tortuga and Petit Goave.

He first appears on the books, so to say, in 1683 when he is captaining his own ship and sailing in company with a Captain L'Escayer.  These two teamed up with Davis and Swan in an attempt to take the Armada del Mar del Sur, a Spanish treasure fleet, off the Central American coast.  This endeavor came to naught and, as Marley notes in Pirates of the Americas, the buccaneers scattered and took a few months to lick their wounds.

Meeting up with Davis and Swan once again, Grogniet joined them in an attempt to blockade the port of Panama for ransom.  This scheme failed as well and, though Davis and Swan headed out for Nicaragua and a raid of the town of Leon.  Instead, Grogniet kept his Sainte~Rose off the coast of Nicaragua and took his men ashore at Remedios to loot and pillage.

Finding a bit of success at Remedios, Grogniet and his crew lurked off the coast of Panama, hitting small hamlets for what ever they could carry away.  Apparently emblodened by success, Grogniet returned to Remedios evidently for water and provisions.  They were ambushed by three Spanish ships and the ensuing fight cost many of the buccaneers their lives.

According to Gosse in The Pirate's Who's Who, however, the city that was revisited by Grogniet was not Remedios but Quibo in the province of Quito.  Here, again according to Gosse, Grogniet's Sainte~Rose was burned to the waterline by the Spanish.  Half-starved and beat up, Grogniet and his now rather meager crew of slightly more that 100 men were reduced to three periaugers as they set out north for the cities of Granada and Guayaquil.

Both Marley and Gosse agree that Grogniet eventually entered the Great South Sea and, joining with English buccaneer Captain Townley, continued to raid towns along the coast of modern day Peru and Nicaragua.  A successful raid on Granada seems once again to have encouraged the ever-optimistic Grogniet, despite the fact that half of his crew had abandoned him preferring to take their chanced with one of their own, Le Picard, as captain.  Townley and Grogniet planned a raid on the wealthy city of Guayaquil.

In April of 1687, the raiders came to the Guayas River.  Finding the current unfavorable, they took refuge on Puna Island where they were spotted by Spanish lookouts.  Managing to overcome these guards, the buccaneers entered Guayaquil and trapped 700 of the townspeople in the city's Cathedral.  They plundered the homes but were, at some point, assaulted by another group of Spanish military.  In the hand-to-hand fighting, Grogniet was severely wounded.

The buccaneers periaugers were stuffed with booty and prisoners - perhaps up to 200.  Despite the favorable current of the Guayas, the heavy-laden boats had a slow go back to the ships.  Meanwhile, Grogniet bled out onto the deck of his periauger.  He was still alive when the buccaneers returned to their flotilla but he would die of his wounds on or about May 2nd.  As Marley notes, "never enjoying the silver and jewels won during his one great strike."

Header: Dead Men Tell no Tales by Howard Pyle via Wikimedia 

Monday, June 25, 2012

International Day of the Seafarer

Today, June 25, is the International Day of the Seafarer.  Remember all our sailors, past and present, and thank them if you can.  For all you do to keep our world running smoothly, Triple P salutes you!

(Thanks to our mate Captain Swallow for the heads up on this one.)

Books: Captured by Pirates

Given the title of the book I'm about to discuss, one might imagine that Triple P is going in some awkward direction.  Have faith, Brethren; half the book is about a midwife but the other half is about her husband who has been captured and enslaved by Maltese pirates.

The story in The Midwife of Venice centers on Hannah Levi, the titular character who lives and works in Venice's Ghetto Nuovo in the last quarter of the 16th century.  Hannah's husband is a trader whose work takes him out onto the high seas now and then.  When we meet Hannah, on a sweltering summer night in 1575, we find that her husband, Isaac is held captive in Malta and that she is frantically trying to raise the two hundred ducats that will ransom him.

Enter the Conte di Padovani who comes to the ghetto to seek Hannah's aid.  His sickly wife has been in labor for two days and only the reknowned midwife with her secret devise for assisting difficult births can save her life and the life of the Conte's all-important heir.  But Hannah is a Jew and by law cannot attend a Christian woman.  But the Conte will pay the ridiculous price of two hundred ducats for her services.  But the Rabbi keeps screaming that she cannot go.  Oh, the dilemma.  I think we all know what Hannah does.

Meanwhile, on that rock of an island called Malta, Isaac is managing to talk his way out of the worst kind of slavery - chained to an oar on a Maltese galley.  He also dodges conversion by a not-very-Christian nun and puts his literacy to good use in the service of a man that I think, but I'm still not sure, is a shipwright.  Eventually news of a virulent plague in Venice reaches Malta and Isaac despairs, certain that his wife is dead and he must find his own way to freedom.

The machinations of the story weave in and out of themselves like sticky syrup that won't come off your fingers.  Roberta Rich has taken the modern advice to writers, be a sadist and make your characters suffer, to the enth degree.  Poor Hannah's unfortunate involvement with both the di Padovani family and her Christianized, prostitute sister, Jessica, turn her life inside out while she continues to struggle to save Isaac from a fate worse than death.  For me, it became an honest slog by around page 130 when Hannah inexplicably returns to the di Padovani palace for dinner.  Knowing I had two hundred more pages ahead seemed more daunting than it should have been.

That said, the history is spot on for the most part.  I would have liked a bit more background on the Maltese Corsairs and why they had taken Isaac as a slave.  For the most part, this Catholic brotherhood preyed on Barbary ships and left those from other Catholic nations, such as Venice, alone.  But we are left without an answer for that and the focus is often on Isaac and Hannah's otherness as Jews in a Christian world.

The other focus is Hannah's midwifing secret, the one that has her threatened more than once with the Inquisition.  These are her silver "birthing spoons" which amount to nothing more than forceps.  As someone who has done a lot of research on midwifing throughout history, it was a little disappointing to find that out.  Forceps were one of the largest causes of the rise in cases of puerperal fever in the second half of the 19th century.  The other being the decline of midwifery and the rise of physicians.  Doctors, in a hurry and unwilling to wait, used forceps on one woman after another spreading a disease that, prior to the introduction of the devise, was no where near as common as moderns are led to believe.  An excellent discussion of this issue can be found in Judith Walzer Leavitt's book Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950.

I won't spoil the ending, although I imagine you can guess.  The Midwife of Venice might be a nice summer read, maybe on a cruise or on the beach, if  - unlike me - you're not hung up on trickier issues of historical accuracy.  I also had a hard time with the "Readers Group Guide" at the back of the book; I find those things insulting at best.  But again, that's just me.

The Midwife of Venice is available via Amazon and other book sellers.  As is, if it is more to your taste, Brought to Bed.  Happy reading.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: Old Ironsides Again

June 24, 1833:  USS Constitution enters drydock at Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, MA, for overhaul. The ship was saved from scrapping after public support rallied to save the ship following publication of Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem, "Old Ironsides." 

Header: USS Constitution in 2006 via Wikimedia

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Pin

There aren't a lot of pins at sea, if I'm honest.  Pins and needles, of course, have always been handy for sewing and sailmaking is sewing elevated to fine art.  So a sailmaker would certainly use pins, and happily.  But there are a number of words associated with sailor-speak that begin with p-i-n.

Most lubbers are familiar with a maul, which is essentially a hammer made of heavy iron.  The seagoing variation was known as a pin-maul because it had the familiar flat hammer head on one end of the iron and a pointed spike on the other.  The pin was used to dig things out of wood, such as nails and old tar and oakum when re-caulking was in order.

Pintles, along with braces, are the mechanisms from which a ship's rudder is hung.  The two working in tandem connect the rudder to the ship while still allowing it to swing free and steer the ship.  As Admiral Smyth notes in The Sailor's Word Book:

The braces are secured firmly to the stern-post by jaws, which spread and are bolted on each side.  The pintles are hooks which enter the braces, and the rudder is then wood-locked; a dumb pintle on the heel finally takes the strain off the hinging portions. 

A pin-tail is not only the familiar duck with a long tail and exceptional down, but also the iron pin that connects a gun-carriage to its axle-tree in artillery.

Many small ships begin with the word pin.  A pingle was a boat usually found on the northern coasts of England and Scotland and often used for fishing.  A pink was a form of launch, with a narrow stern.  It was popular as a gunboat in the North Sea up to the mid-19th century.  Pink can also mean to catch a stow-away. 

A pinnace is a small vessel, usually two or three-masted and schooner rigged, that often featured among ship's boats.  In general, it was comparable in shape to a barge, if slightly smaller.  The French used armed pinnaces to patrol their northern coasts during the Napoleonic Wars, but the pinnace's history is much older.  Shakespeare mentions it in Henry V, and it may be from this mention - in connection with Falstaff - that the word pinnace came to mean someone who cared little about most things others find important. 

Pintados is an old word for chintz, particularly the brightly colored cloth that was imported to England from India.  Early in the career of the East India Company, the cloth was very expensive and a prized bit of booty for pirates.

Of course, the most recognizable pin of all - speaking of pirates and movies about them - is the belaying pin.  Again, in the words of the Admiral:

Short cylindrical pieces of wood or iron fixed into the fife-rail and other parts of a vessel, for making fast the running-rigging.

And, I hasten to add, a handy weapon in a pinch for the likes of Errol Flynn.

Header: Breezy by Franklin Dullin Briscoe via American Gallery

Friday, June 22, 2012

Booty: Family Tree

When I was in elementary school we used to climb on the dinosaur about once a week and roam over to my mother's parent's home.  It was always something I looked forward to; not one of those horrible "eat your Brussels sprouts" experiences.  Gran and Grandpa were really wonderful people.  In many ways, they were far more easy going than my own parents.

One of the things I liked best about Gran's house (and it was always "Gran's house") was the two over-sized volumes of Norman Rockwell works that were always kept in the spare room.  They were books Gran bought when Rockwell was at the height of his popularity as the Saturday Evening Post illustrator and they doubtless cost her dear.  The fact that she and Grandpa allowed me to look through them, and then Grandpa left them specifically to me, has always been a wonderment in my life.  One I am thankful for indeed.

My favorite illustration, of all the amazing art in both books, has always been the one above.  Entitled "Family Tree", it shows the ancestry of the charming red-headed mite pictured at the very top of the branches.  I would literally stare at this painting for an hour, taking in all the detail, memorizing the faces and the fashions and - as you already guessed - marvelling at the detail of those ships.  Oh, those ships.

How I wished my family could be like this one, with pirates and prospectors, Native Americans and saloon girls.  I got lost in those faces and imagined something far less "white bread" for me and mine.

I think it was this painting, at least in part, that drove me to genealogical research, which helped me find those less "white bread" people in my family (pirates! African-Americans! smugglers! whores!) and ultimately led me to my historical novels and thus right here to Triple P.

In fact, when I look at that painting now, it is surprising how very close it comes to portraying my own family.  There's my husband's ancestors on the right, staunch backbones of the U.S. from hardworking, square-jawed Pennsylvania stock.  Then there's my antecedents on the left, rogues and trailblazers; people who always needed more space and a bigger sky.  We even have a red-headed mite to put at the top of the tree, although ours is - thankfully - a girl.

Happy Friday, Brethren.  Find what inspires you today, or tomorrow, and chase that horizon no matter what.

Header: Family Tree by Norman Rockwell courtesy of Curtis Publishing Co. (click to enlarge; you'll be glad you did)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ships: A Ship-of-the-Line

The first ship-of-the-line commissioned by the U.S. Navy launched at the Boston Navy Yard on June 22, 1814.  She was named for Jefferson's Declaration, and USS Independence was America's answer to the heavy ships of the contemporary Royal Navy.

Though she was built to take her place with the frigates of the U.S. in the War of 1812, she saw very little in the way of action there.  While Jackson and his band of miscreants and Kaintucks were showing the British the door in New Orleans, USS Independence, under Commodore William Bainbridge and captained by William M. Crane, sailed alongside USS Constitution in the important but dull duty of protecting Boston Harbor.  Once the war officially ended in February, 1815, Independence readied herself for her first authentic mission: confirming the end of the Barbary Wars.

As The Dictionary of Naval Fighting Ships online notes, Stephen Decatur had already negotiated a peace treaty with the piratical Barbary states when Independence arrived in the Mediterranean.  She, however, "led an impressive show of force before the Barbary ports, encouraging them to keep the peace."  In this, she began a long standing tradition of the U.S. Navy that continues to this day: a peaceful show of force is often more effective than aggression could ever be.

Her job done in Barbary, Independence returned to Boston.  In 1819, Bainbridge lowered his pennant and it was replaced by that of Commodore John Shaw.  Independence then cruised the Atlantic front until 1822 when she was placed in ordinary for repair.

By 1836, the U.S. Navy found itself in need of smaller, faster frigates rather than the lumbering style of ship-of-the-line that had been popular with European navies during the Napoleonic Wars.  Independence was, therefore, razeed: cut down to one deck rather than three.  Her gun load equaled 54 and, with her sail plan unaltered, she set out to serve as one of the fastest frigates in the American Navy.

As such she would sail to England, Copenhagen and finally to Kronstadt, Russia, where she delivered the new U.S. ambassador, George Dallas, and his family.  She then headed for South America where Commodore John B. Nicholson was charged with attempting to effect a peace in the war between Argentina and France "for the good of neutral commerce."  The mission failed, and Independence returned to the U.S.  She dropped anchor in New York Harbor on March 30, 1845.

In 1846, now under Commodore William Shubrick, Independence set out for the Pacific where she would see action in the Mexican-American War.  She used San Francisco as her home port and from there captured a number of Mexican ships and the town of Mazatlan in November, 1847.

After the war, Independence was again deployed to the Mediterranean, where she remained with Commodore Charles Morgan's squadron until 1852.  Her final deployment saw her returning to the Pacific where she sailed between Chile, Hawai'i and California as a deterant to predation upon clipper ships headed for and from the gold fields.

Independence ended her service at Mare Island north of San Francisco Bay in 1912.  Though plans were made to use her during the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915, these never came to fruition.  She was stripped of her usable timber and iron.  On September 20, 1915, the long lived Independence, the first of her kind in the U.S. Navy, was burned at Hunter's Point in California.

The sturdy veteran of the days of wooden ships and iron men survived more than a century, 98 years of which were spent serving the U.S. Navy.

Header: Sailmaker's plan of USS Independence via Wikipedia

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

History: Why Turn Pirate?

Yesterday marked the two hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812.  On June 18, 1812, the U.S. declared war on Britain specifically to protect "free trade and sailors' rights."  The issue was Royal Navy harassment of both U.S. merchant ships and naval vessels as well.  The famous Chesapeake/Leopard affair of 1809 saw James Barron's USS Chesapeake fired on and boarded by HMS Leopard.  In the fray, some American sailors were "pressed" into Royal Navy service after being erroneously identified as British citizens and deserters.  These kind of incidents continued to happen until the outcry from the common sailors and their families was enough to cause Congress to make the difficult decision to go to war once again with the mighty British Empire.

The issue of ill treatment aboard Royal Navy and British merchant vessels was a long standing one and it was arguably one of the primary causes for the rise in piracy that led to the early 18th century "Golden Age" of same.  What happened aboard ship, though technically governed by Admiralty Law, was almost entirely hinged on how sane, rational and humane an individual captain and his officers might be.  Knowing that ultimate power corrupts ultimately, one can easily imagine how bad things could become afloat if the governor of your little wooden world was a sadist.

All it took was for an officer or captain to decide they had it in for a man and things could turn ugly.  As Gaile Selinger, pirate historian, notes, history is full of stories of men being permanently crippled or dying due to seemingly unfounded harsh treatment aboard ship.

Men could be chained below decks and held indefinitely, sometimes with very little or no food and water.  Sweating was a popular punishment as well, with various ways devised to work a man quite literally to death.  Men might be forced to climb up and down the rigging, hour upon hour, until the simple fell to their death.  Hugh Pigot, the famously cruel captain of HMS Hermione, would effect this punishment and, once the man dropped over of exhaustion, have him tossed into the sea dead or alive.  On other occasions men were forced to run around the deck to the same end.  Pirates notoriously adopted this form of torture, adding the pricking with sharp objects shown in the engraving above.

Boys were sometimes made to sit at the main masthead as punishment for an infraction, sometimes as simple as misspelling a word in a letter home.  They might be left up there for days; if they fell asleep and tumbled to the deck, so be it.  Men were also similarly tortured by being hung from the top.  Battered against the hardwood of the mast and exposed to the elements, death would often result.

The general malevolence of Royal Navy officers toward common seamen can be summed up in the writings of one of their own, Nathan Uring, who called sailors "... unthinking, ungovernable Monsters... when there is no power nor laws to restrain them."  Even writers of nautical fiction who hold the Royal Navy dear had to concede that trouble could arise at least now and then.  Patrick O'Brian has Jack Aubrey's usual coxswain, Barrett Bonden, aboard another ship at one point in the Aubrey/Maturin series.  When Bonden requests a transfer to HMS Surprise, he is given the ridiculous punishment of 500 lashes for his trouble.  Needless to say, Captain Aubrey takes immediate action.  Unfortunately, most sailors weren't so lucky.

Given all this and more, it seems a simple thing to imagine why a man would turn pirate.  Better to take your chances on your own, and not have as much worry about torture, denied pay or lack of shares in a prize.  At least you knew what you were getting into: a short life, but a merry one indeed.

Header: Pirates "sweating" a prisoner, 19th c engraving via Photographers Direct

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tools of the Trade: Rope and Cable

The Young Sea Officer's Sheet Anchor by Darcy Lever is along the same lines as The Seaman's Friend by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.  Published in 1819, Lever's seminal work on the running of a ship may have influenced Dana's book, which came out in 1879.

In Sheet Anchor, Lever tells us how to lay down rope and cable the old fashioned way.  This is his description of how ship's rope was made from time in memorial: by hand and with a lot of human effort:

Ropes are a combination of several Threads of Hemp, twisted together by means of a Wheel in the Rope-Walk.  These Threads are called Rope-Yarns and the Size of the Rope in Diameter, will be according to the Number of Yarns contained in it.

A Proportion of Yarns (covered with Tar) are first twisted together.  This is called a Strand: three, or more of which being twisted together, form the Rope; and according to the number of these Strands, it is said to be either Hawser-laid, Shroud-laid, or Cable-laid.

A Hawser-laid rope is composed of three single Strands, each containing an equal quantity of Yarns, and is laid right-handed, or was is termed with the Sun.

A Shroud-laid rope consists of four Strands of an equal Number of Yarns, and is also laid with the Sun.

A Cable-laid rope is divided into nine Strands of an equal Number of Yarns; these nine Strands being again laid into three, by twisting three of the small Stands into one.  I is laid left-handed or against the sun.

Header: Venetian Sailboats by Carl Schmidt via American Gallery

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: HMS Helca

In the forenoon an ice-berg was seen ahead.  To one who, like myself, was a stranger to  these climes, I need scarcely apologize for mentioning the novel beauty of the evening of this day.  At a quarter past ten the sunset: the sky over-head was of the purest azure, here and there sprinkled with light silvery clouds of the most fantastic forms.  As about mid-heaven in the western sky, a range of purple clouds, edged with vivid gold, formed a delightful contrast with the softened glowing scene...  ~ Captain G. F Lyon of HMS Helca June 16, 18 21

Header: Dawn of Night by John Ottis Adams via American Gallery

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Food and Drink

If the cards at the market are to be believed, Dad is all about eating on Father's Day.  That and wearing slippers.  For my Dad, may the saints rest his soul, it was usually barbeque and beer that hit the spot; slippers optional.  To celebrate Dads, since Father's Day here in the U.S. is tomorrow, SMS would like to deviate slightly from our usual programming and offer a list, however noninclusive, of some U.S. Navy chow slang from before World War I. 

Afters: dessert (usually in this era that meant canned fruit for the enlisted men but sometimes, depending on the occasion, cake, pie or even iced cream might appear)
Albany beef: boiled sturgeon from the Hudson river
Baby's head: meat pudding
Bag meal: a boxed dinner or supper
Bargemen: weevils swimming in soup thickened with ship's biscuit
Bilge cod: a general term for "it's fish for dinner"
Black meat: bacon
Cheesy-eggy-hammy-stopsides: omelets
Chicken fruit and/or cackleberries: eggs
Covered wagon: pie (of any kind, not just sweet)
Dalmatian pudding: suet pudding with raisins or currents (this was the spotted dog or, in the Royal Navy, spotted dick of the 19th century more appetizingly rephrased)
Deep sea beef: haddock (also known as "priest's fish" as it was often served to Catholic crewmen on Fridays)
Fisherman's sauce: salt water, vinegar and mustard (for making questionable meat more appetizing)
Fish eyes: tapioca pudding
Floaters in the snow: sausages and mashed potatoes
Hollow meat: chicken (sometimes other meat such as rabbit)
Nuts and bolts: stew (sometimes called "nuts and bolts with an awning" meaning a savory pie)
Osh-me-gosh: beef and vegetables
Poison-on-a-plate: biscuits dipped in beef drippings, usually for breakfast
Red lead: canned fish, usually herring or sardines, in tomato sauce (also slang for a red-haired individual)
Resurrection pie: leftovers (also known as "twice laid", for obvious reasons)
Sharks: canned sardines
Soap and flannel: cheese and bread
Spudoosh: stew of mostly potatoes
Torpedo: sausages

There you have it, Brethren; or some of it anyway.  Be nice to your Dad tomorrow if you are fortunate enough to still have him around.  Unless he was truly bad, it never hurts to say "Thank you; you helped me become the person I am today and that's pretty awesome of you."

Header: Enlisted sailors' mess, USS Massachusetts c 1905 via The Pirate's Lair

Friday, June 15, 2012

Booty: La Grace

The generous gentlemen rogues over at Under the Black Flag (who I utterly and reprehensibly failed to mention last Friday) posted the above video to YouTube a while back.  Entitled La Grace Pirate Ship, this five minute montage will make you remember why you love the sea, and wish you were back aboard ship searching for that next prize.

Happy Friday, Brethren.  Be sure to click over to UtBF when you have a moment and read a few of their piratical posts (some may even be a little familiar...)  And follow them on Twitter while yar at it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Home Ports: An End to the Wickedest City

On June 7, 1692, all Hell broke loose in what was at the time said to be the "very seat of Satan".  Virtually the entire island of Jamaica was rocked by an earthquake that today would be considered off the scale.  And the worst damage came to the town of Port Royal which, in almost Biblical fashion, quite literally sank into the sea.

According to those who lived through the disaster, the weather had been hot and literally without a breeze for several weeks.  When I lived in Southern California, we often referred to these kinds of conditions as "earthquake weather" and Port Royal's unfortunate experience seems to hold true to that superstition.  Even here in Alaska, our earthquakes tend to come as the weather warms; the devastation of Anchorage in 1964 occurred in an unusually warm spring.

If you click on the contemporary broadsheet above, it is easy to see how the earthquake mangled the city selectively.  Areas closer to the port were built on sandy ground which liquefied during the unbearably long six minute earthquake.  Houses collapsed, people were pulled down into the newly formed quicksand, and violent geysers of sand and water erupted hurling wreckage, animals and people up into the air only to send them crashing back to the rolling earth again.  Further back, on what could be called the high ground of the city - indeed High Street, the home of most of Port Royal's elite merchant class, was located there - a limestone bedrock prevented the liquefaction of the earth.  One can see that some homes, despite being built of brick in the English fashion, remained standing.  Three forts, including Morgan's Fort at the far right, also survived.

As the water receded from the sand, being pulled back toward the Caribbean to unleash the next round of terror, people were literally trapped in the now hardened sand.  Stephan Talty in his engrossing account of the life of Henry Morgan Empire of Blue Water quotes an eye witness:

That watery hiatus closed again the next moment, catching hold of some people by the Leg, of others by the middle of the Body, and of others some by the Arm, etc., detaining them in dismal torture, but immovably fixed in the ground, till they, with almost the whole Town besides, sunk under Water. 

And, as the anonymous writer noted, the "Water" was the next horror to hit Port Royal.  The tsunami that hurtled over those who were still alive was three stories high and traveling at an estimated sixty miles an hour.  Ships, becalmed in the harbor due to the recalcitrant weather, were forced up onto land.  In a happy accident Talty tells us that one, HMS Swan, fell upon the city but managed to remain upright.  Over two hundred citizens clamored aboard her and were saved from the following sea. 

Finally the lower part of the city simply collapsed into Port Royal Harbor.  Homes, storage warehouses, churches, people and livestock sank like stones.  Many were trapped in the structures with which they had sunk but many others floated up to the surface of the harbor. Over the course of the following week, corpses bobbed listlessly in the harbor, slowly rotting in the unrelenting heat.

Pestilence and anarchy fell over the city.  Port Royal, once labelled the "wickedest city in the world" for the number of pirates and whores who called it home, became even more wicked after the wrath of God apparently struck her down.  Once again it was the buccaneers, who had fallen out of favor now that Port Royal was full of "respectable" merchants trading in luxury goods, sugar cane, rum and human chattel, who gave the city a bad name.  Edward Ellyn, the receiver general of Jamaica, wrote home to England about the post-disaster environment that surrounded the survivors:

... Most of the seaman, English and Spaniards, contented themselves with what was floating in the water, tho' some instantly entered and riffled standing houses.  But the following nights and days those villains... robbed all houses, broke in pieces all scriptores, boxes, trunks, chests of drawers, cabinets and made spoil of all of value in the town, threatening to kill several inhabitants, if any durst be so hardy as to say, "This house is mine."  Our enemies could not have treated us worse than the seamen.

Even Cotton Mather, that scion of Puritan self-righteousness, saw fit to put his two cents in.  Calling the Jamaica earthquake an omen, he wrote "Behold an accident speaking to all our English America."  Get right with God, he said, or face the same fate.

Many of the British in Jamaica chose to head for home, or the North American mainland, rather than deal with the wreckage.  Others, in true colonial spirit, simply moved up and over.  They rowed across the bay and began to rebuild, eventually founding the city of Kingston.  Others clung stubbornly to Port Royal, but the great pirate capital would never be the same.  Today she is a tourist attraction more than anything else; a beloved sort of Mecca for those who crave the closeness of things touched and roads walked on by our buccaneer ancestors.

But what of Henry Morgan, arguably the most famous of Port Royal's citizens?  Dead and buried almost four years prior to the earthquake, Morgan's coffin spewed forth from the earth during the six minute tremor.  Carried out to sea, it was lost for ever in the blue waters.  And maybe that was the way it should have been all along.

Header: English broadsheet reporting the effects of the 1692 Jamaica earthquake via Wikimedia  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

People: The Pirate Governor

For those who study the histories of seafaring and piracy, the story of Henry Morgan quitting the buccaneering life and becoming the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica seems very novel indeed.  A wicked, cruel man by any account, Morgan turned his ferocity on the men with whom he had once sailed, and hanged old mates not long after shaking their hands.  Another, and lesser known pirate-turned-Governor went in the opposite direction, harboring pirates and protecting them from his own Danish government.  Or so it would seem.

Adolph Esmit was a real person.  We know from records on the island of St. Thomas, now part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and from Waldemar Westergaard's exhaustive The Danish West Indies under Company Rule that Esmit was Governor of the island from 1683 to 1684 and then again from 1687 to 1688.  According to The Pirate's Who's Who by Philip Gosse, Esmit was also a freebooter in his own right, and something of a rebel to boot.

Other than his birth in Denmark and his travels to the Danish West Indies in the late 1670s, there is very little information about Esmit's early life.  He was married to a woman named Charity who some historians speculate may have been an English Puritan.  Regardless of her religious background, Charity was willing to separate from her husband and plead his case for inauguration as Governor of St. Thomas in Copenhagen.

Esmit probably started out as an able seaman aboard merchant ships sailing for the Danish West India Company.  Eventually, it seems, he was captaining his own slave ship.  It was not unusual for slavers to turn pirate and there are hints that is exactly what Esmit and his crew did.  In need of a home port, he put in at St. Thomas some time in 1682 where his brother Nicolai was Governor.

By land, Esmit seems to have become very popular with the largely English population of the island.  He was a big spender, making local merchant's happy.  Within a year of his arrival at St. Thomas, he began to foment an uprising against his brother's leadership and eventually managed a sort of bloodless rebellion.  Adolph ousted Nicolai and, with Charity's aforementioned help, managed to secure an official inauguration as Governor in 1683.

Henceforth, St. Thomas became a buccaneer haven.  Governor Esmit would welcome fugitives from other island governments, harboring them and claiming that he had libeled their ships and goods when other Governors complained.  A particular case in point was that of Point Goave buccaneer Jean Hamlin who took refuge from Jamaican Governor Lynch at St. Thomas.  When asked, Esmit refused to release either Hamlin or his ship to the English.

It appears that Esmit even built and fitted out ships specifically for piracy on the high seas.  Whether or not he distributed letters of marque is in question, but his actions soon drew not only local attention but that of the Danish government.

A replacement Governor, Gabriel Milan, arrived at St. Thomas in 1684.  Rather than packing Esmit off to Denmark as he had been ordered, he imprisoned the former pirate and tried to extort money from him.  How Esmit managed to wriggle out of this sticky situation is unclear, but by 1687 he was again the official Governor of St. Thomas.

At this point, Esmit's renown as a friend of local buccaneers began to erode his credibility with the Danish government and, probably through the auspices of the Danish West India Company, Esmit was again deposed.  This time he was returned to Copenhagen to give an account of his service and, most probably, to face a prison sentence or worse.

Though history does not say exactly how, Adolph Esmit managed to avoid this final reckoning.  According to Westergaard, who calls Esmit "shift, shrewd, vain and at times boastful," the old buccaneer managed to escape to Courland, a small Duchy near Lithuania.  Here he and his wife may have lived out their days under aliases.  What actually became of the, beyond that, can be left only to educated speculation and/or fictional fantasy.  I'll let you chose for yourselves, Brethren.

Header: Iron Men and Wooden Ships, woodblock print by E.A. Wilson

Monday, June 11, 2012

History: Sandy Hook

On June 11, 1764, the light was lit for the first time at Sandy Hook Lighthouse.  The lighthouse sits at the southernmost point of the entrance to New York Harbor and is technically located in the state of New Jersey.  Legend tells us that the lighthouse is the oldest original light tower in use in the United States.  Find out more at the National Park Service website.

Header: Sandy Hook Lighthouse today via

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: Birth of a Legend

June 10, 1673:  Rene Duguay-Trovin is born in Saint-Malo, France.  Following a career path that almost exactly mirrored Jean Bart, Duguay-Trovin would start out as a successful privateer and graduate to a brilliant naval career.  In the process, he would take upward of 320 prizes.

Header: 19th century engraving of Rene Duguay-Trovin via Wikimedia

Friday, June 8, 2012

Booty: Versatile Blogger Award

Sometimes the kindness of strangers is the most surprising thing of all and that's what hit me upside the head last Friday.  Out of the blue, Triple P was awarded another honor this time from Austin blogger Laura Roberts.  Over at Rebels of the 512 she keeps us up to date on the older-than-time feud between pirates and ninjas (I think you know who will win in the end) as well as a bit of local politics.  She decided Triple P was worth a mention at her lovely site, and I cannot thank her enough.

In keeping with the theme of The Versatile Blogger award, which aims to expose as many people as possible to the really good stuff being written for you, for free, on the Interwebs, I extend the award to the following 15 must visit blogs/sites.  My theme is history meets art, two of my favorite things.  First history, then a wonderful crossover section followed by art.  Enjoy!

A Woodrunner's Diary  Where Keith gives us the low down on our ancestors and just how resourceful they were!
Age of Sail  As the title indicates, all things from the Great Age of Sail
Almost Chosen People  "A blog about American history, and the development of a great nation"
Bone in Its Teeth  Sailing, the Chesapeake and the joy of the salt air on your face
Naval History Blog  Great stories from the vast history of the U.S. Navy
New Orleans Ladder  Love New Orleans, the Saints, good food and/or good music?  Well then, ya heard
Res Obscura   Beautifully illustrated and minutely researched; a history geeks dream
The Scrivener  Angela offers thoughtful reviews of historical fiction and history books
Titillating Tidbits About Marie Antoinette  Leah Marie is not only a talented writer and historian but also an impressive artist (I have two of her beautiful holiday ornaments) and her blog constitutes the beginning of our "crossover" section
Black and WTF  I have featured photos and stories from this site before.  There is not much more intriguing than the odd and wonderful photographs our ancestors left behind

F**k Yeah History Crushes  You can learn a lot from other people's attraction to dead people
American Gallery  The first in my art links choices, American Gallery features American painters from modern to very early American
Been There, Drawn That  Cristina is one of the most talented artists and genuine people I have ever had the privilege to know.  Don't miss her excellent work
Mid-Century  One of my favorite sources for '40s and '50s nostalgia; a must view
Old Paint  Glorious artwork from all places, eras and genres

So there you have it, fifteen recommendations for some of the best stuff on the web.  Please stop by at least one or two, and tell them Pauline sent you.

My thanks again to Laura.  Kindness should always be repaid in kind.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tools of the Trade: Land Ho!

One of the most heart warming and at the same time spine tingling sights a true sailor can spy in his glass in land. While there is not more dangerous place for a ship to be – statistics show that over seventy-five percent of shipwrecks have occurred within sight of land – there is also no more welcoming situation than a snug harbor. But how did sailors of old know, granted with varying amounts of certainty, that they were nearing the respite of land? Here are a few prominent examples from the Great Age of Sail.

The first thing to look at is the color of the water. Even in large lakes, the water appears quite dark in color far from land. Depending on your eye it may appear gray or green or a very dark blue but it is only close to land that the water begins to lighten to that sky blue color painters love to chose – albeit erroneously – for the vast ocean.

Second on the list of prominent signs is a noticeable increase in the number of birds seen in the air. Though some birds will fly far out to sea, particularly during their migratory periods, most common seabirds tend to stick close to land. Gulls and pelicans, as well as others, follow a pattern of moving out to sea in the morning and back in to land at night. This can also be helpful when trying to determine the direction of land.

A trickier test for the closeness of land is the color, shape and movement of clouds. In tropical climes, lush lagoons surrounded by land verdant with plants can sometimes cause a green reflection on the undersides of cloud banks. In more northerly and southerly latitudes, ice near shore can cause these same types of cloud formations to look very white. A cloud that seems to remain immobile, while others move around it, may be a sign of a mountainous or hilly formation on an island or the mainland.

The sound of surf was a much longed for delight for many explorers. If the situation of the land is correct, particularly if high cliffs rise up from the ocean as at Basse-Terre or Gibraltar, the crashing of waves can be heard long before land is seen.

Fair winds and following seas, Brethren, and may all you love be waiting for you ashore. Some changes to come here at Triple P so I hope that you all will excuse me for the occasional absences ahead. I am excited about what is in store and I hope that all of you will ship out with me on this new adventure. More updates soon!

Header: Coastal Landscape by Glen Ranney via American Gallery

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Literature: Musings on Fore and Aft Rigging

The fore-and-aft rigging in its simplicity and the beauty of its aspect under every angle of vision is, I believe, unapproachable. A schooner, yawl, or cutter in charge of a capable man seems to handle herself as if endowed with the power of reasoning and the gife of swift execution.

~ Joseph Conrad

Header: Two Sailing Boats by Iwan J. Azis

Monday, June 4, 2012

History Continued...

I'm doing a seperate post to apologize for the look of today's official post. This is due to Blogger, not to Pauline. While I'm no IT genius, I usually manage but today all the "work arounds" for posting on Blogger aren't "working". Thus, the unfortunate format you see below. I can only hope that things will return to so called normal in a day or two. Thank you for your patience and support.

History: This Way Be Monsters

Back before sextants and telescopes, seamen had to do things the hard way. Naturally, that included sailing off to points unknown and exploring worlds that landsmen imagined were unchartable. The Vikings were surprisingly good at that sort of thing, sailing off to Asia and North America and everywhere in between. Besides incredible courage, seamen have always had a penchant for story telling. And it’s a sure bet that nothing was more fun that scaring the hell out of a lubber or two when you got home from a voyage to the edge of the world. Here, then, are a few of the stories which have come down to us from before the Great Age of Sail. These are imaginary locations and usually, along with their name, some slightly vague and terrifying description of the inhabitants or troubles one might encounter there are included. Antipodes: this was the land of dragons. One could also find such oddly named and nebulous beings as garamantes and troglodytes there. Brumae: these were large areas of open ocean where enormous patches of seaweed lurked. The weed was said to be able to founder a ship. These tales may have been inspired by the Sargasso Sea. Located in the middle of the North Atlantic, the area is often clogged with sargassum seaweed which can indeed disable ships. Frigor: these areas were supposed to be empty, frozen lands at the northernmost and southernmost tips of the world, an obvious reference to the Arctic and Antarctica. Mare Tenebrosum: here giant monsters resided. All the tall tales one could imagine – huge bats with human faces, gigantic octopi that could drag a ship to her doom and sea serpents of every description – resided in this unnamed, uncharted part of the sea. Torrid Zone: this was the equatorial area, where calms plague sailing ships and the air feels like a furnace belched it out. Sailors would add to this terror by telling of giant walls of flame shooting up out of the ocean and hindering their progress. This area was sometimes referred to as Perusta. Just a few thoughts on what lurks beyond the horizon, some more real than others. Header: Classic Kraken; tinted engraving via Wikimedia

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: Able Seaman Melville

June 3, 1839: Future literary icon Herman Melville ships aboard the merchant St. Lawrence.  She will carry cotton from New York to Liverpool and young Melville will earn his seafaring experience on this his first of many voyages.

Header: Portrait of Herman Melville via The Academic World where they have one of my favorite Melville quotes:  "No American writer should write like an Englishman, or a Frenchman; let him write like a man, for than he will be sure to write like an American."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Lob

This is a word, either of itself or as part of another, which one reads a good deal in nautical fiction. There is lobscouse on the table, a loblolly boy in the sick berth, a whale lob-tailing off our larboard bow and that useless lob-cock over there. What is it all about, after all? Let us take a closer look.

Lob, as a stand-alone word, refers to a person aboard us who is of little or no use. He is a right landsman or, as Admiral Smyth puts it, “a sluggish booby.” If we’re truly contemptuous of the fellow, we may go so far as to call him a lob-cock. The Admiral opines in The Sailor’s Word Book that the word lob is the source of the more common lubber. That etymology remains in question but the possibility is there.

We’re all familiar with lobster, which was once the food of servants and is now a dining staple of the 1%. These curious “bugs of the sea” are caught in lobster boats which were once built with a purpose-fitted well in the center to keep the tasty crustaceans alive for the trip home. A lobster toad is an old English name for a type of deep sea crab.

Lob-tailing is the action of a sperm whale beating his tail against the surface of the ocean, causing formidable waves that have been known to founder a whaling boat. A lob-worm, on the other hand, is a type of creature similar to a blood worm with which the Brethren may be familiar from watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. Collected at low tide, they both make good bait.

A loblolly-boy was an untrained assistant to a ship’s medical man. Unlike the surgeon’s mate, who usually had some medical knowledge and was in apprenticeship, the loblolly-boy was more of a servant. His duties included bringing men down to the sick berth for treatment, providing food and water for those confined to their hammocks and holding men down during surgery. His appellation probably comes from loblolly, a type of gruel or potable soup that was often fed to those too ill to take meat and bread.

And then we come to lobscouse. Though it sounds like it might, this stew-like dish contained no lobster or for that matter any seafood at all in most cases. Usually made of pickled or corned beef or pork, it was an all in type of dish that was a wonderful way for the cook to use long-kept and perhaps questionable vegetables like potatoes and onions. Admiral Smyth tells us that the stew’s name came from the term lap’s course, which he calls “one of the oldest and most savoury of the regular forecastle dishes.” Anne Grossman and her daughter Lisa Thomas have another thought on this odd word’s etymology, however. In their Lobscouse & Spotted Dog they argue for a Viking origin of the word, sighting the Norwegian lapskaus, Danish labskovs and Low German labskaus – all forms of stew – as their proof. I like the ladies’ idea better, frankly. It may be, too, that even the Admiral’s lap’s course has its origin in one of the Nordic words. But that is the wonder of language; the more we know, the more we find out.

Header: Moonlit Night by Aleksey Savrasov via Old Paint

Friday, June 1, 2012

Booty: Ready for the Faire

Yesterday, Richard Rogue at 365 Days of Pirates tweeted a link to this article at EzineMark that gives a brief rundown on how to pick a pirate costume. The advice is timely given that the round of Renaissance and other Faires – which since at least the ‘90s have happily included piratical types – is letting out all sail right about now. Figuring that some of the Brethren may be looking for fairly permanent attire rather than a one party outfit, I thought I’d throw in my piece of eight, so to say.

The article hits the high points of standard pirate garb; shirt or blouse, vest or corset, pants or skirt, footwear, headwear and accessories. Authenticity, in my opinion, is key to making your look right as well as making you feel truly piratical. Unfortunately, that usually comes at a price.

If you’re good with a sewing machine, there are more and more period patterns being produced all the time. My personal favorite online retailer for such things is Folkwear. They have the most comprehensive list of historical based patterns I have found. Their patterns are also very user friendly for the modern seamstress or seamster; the website will let you know what level of skill you need to complete any given pattern, helping you avoid a lot of after-purchase frustration. Think outside the bilge here; an Edwardian blouse can be modified into a charming vest while an Incan shepherd’s shirt can easily transform into a sailor’s.

If you’re no sailmaker and never will be, the very best period clothing, again in my opinion, can be found at Sofi’s Stitches. The picture at the header is from their website and this tar in Highland shirt, sailor’s breeches, Elizabethan boots and pirate accessories would fit right in from the 17th to the 18th century on any dock from here to Venezuela. Ladies’ costuming is equally period accurate and detailed. I’m wearing a Sofi’s corset vest and shirt in my profile picture. These are well made pieces with lining, secured grommets and generous hems that will last year after year. Again, they are an investment, but if you’re ready to make a long term commitment to your pirate look, Sofi’s is absolutely worth the price.

These suggestions obviously lean toward the traditional Golden Age pirate look, but don’t be discouraged if you’re thinking of another era. Much of Sofi’s inventory has an Elizabethan feel, and would be perfect for a Drake-esque sea dog. Likewise, a privateer of old New Orleans could wear those sailor pants and that Highland shirt without batting an eye. Be creative and don’t forget to add some bling. You’re by land after all, and the impression of a little coin in your pocket is sure to draw the ladies if nothing else…

Happy Friday, Brethren! Let’s rendezvous here for Sailor Mouth Saturday.

Header: Piratical flare from the remarkable artists at Sofi’s Stitches