A Pirate’s Life For Me

Pirate ship on a dark night

FAR RIDER is primarily the story of a young woman’s search for identity and a quest to gain respect. It could be a navel gazer except for the pirates, kidnappers, demons, civil war, genocide and senile wizard.

vintage pirate ship

I’m at the point in revisions now where the main pirate, Captain Boots Trelaine, is revealing more of his story. This is epic fantasy, but I’ve tried to make the world real. That meant a lot of research, including delving into the world of pirates even though Trelaine’s story isn’t the main arc.

Everyone thinks of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN now when they think of pirates. While it’s a fantasy story of its own, there are a few interesting things that pop up.

The role of Elizabeth Swann, was most likely inspired by Anne Bonny, one of the more famous female pirates. Bonny was the daughter of a wealthy, respected plantation owner and lawyer. She defied her father’s wishes to marry well to run off with a small sailor and part-time pirate named James Bonny. Thus beautiful Anne Cormac began her adventures.

Anne met Calico Jack Rackham and had an affair with him. For this, Bonny demanded she be flogged for adultery. She was dragged before the governor with the charges. Calico Jack offered to buy a “divorce by purchase,” but she refused to be sold like cattle and she insisted on taking the flogging. Calico Jack arranged for her escape and they sailed together to wreak mayhem on the Caribbean.

There’s also an amusing part of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN saga where various people claim the right of parlay. I haven’t found any instance of that, but pirates did have written documents called Articles of Agreement. In these articles, the governing rules were laid out. I’ll post one set of them later.

Few Articles of Agreement have survived because if a pirate ship seemed in danger of being captured the pirates destroyed them. Most articles were kept on the door of the great cabin, so people could refer to them and they were signed by each crew member. Courts used the documents to prove they were pirates, so it was a dangerous thing to leave intact.

One of the interesting parts, to me, is they all had dismemberment clauses. It was very plainly spelled out what a crew member would be paid out of a general fund for loss of limb. Each pirate paid into this fund until a certain amount was reached to reimburse injured crew members.

Many pirate ships were actually a democracy and the captain could be voted out for incompetency. The crew members voted for officers and affairs that affected their lives. These democracies were well established before America dreamed of such a thing.

In FAR RIDER we have a limited democracy since Boots specially commissioned the Lorena Marie, his ship, and paid for it unlike many pirate ships that were captured. Boots had the Lorena Marie specially designed to be faster and shallower than many ships of the time. This meant she could strike quickly, outrun most ships and also harbor in shallower waters where most ships couldn’t sail.

The downside to the design was she was smaller, so a large warship could take her down. That’s where a definite plan comes in. Part of the plan is being a privateer as opposed to a straight pirate. Privateers were government sanctioned pirates who had authority to attack pirates and enemy ships. Boots, leaves off the pirate ships, but inflicts serious damage on enemy merchant ships.

Even being “marked” as a privateer had its problems. Capt. Kidd took down the Quedagh Merchant in what he felt was a legal catch, but he was still tried and executed for piracy.

Bartholomew Roberts’ articles

One of the best known sets of pirate articles was set down by the famous Portuguese pirate Bartholomeu Português in 1720.

I. Every man has a vote in affairs of moment; has equal title to the fresh provisions, or strong liquors, at any time seized, and may use them at pleasure, unless a scarcity (not an uncommon thing among them) makes it necessary, for the good of all, to vote a retrenchment.

II. Every man to be called fairly in turn, by list, on board of prizes because, (over and above their proper share) they were on these occasions allowed a shift of clothes: but if they defrauded the company to the value of a dollar in plate, jewels, or money, marooning was their punishment. If the robbery was only betwixt one another, they contented themselves with slitting the ears and nose of him that was guilty, and set him on shore, not in an uninhabited place, but somewhere, where he was sure to encounter hardships.

III. No person to game at cards or dice for money.

IV. The lights and candles to be put out at eight o’clock at night: if any of the crew, after that hour still remained inclined for drinking, they were to do it on the open deck.

V. To keep their piece, pistols, and cutlass clean and fit for service.

VI. No boy or woman to be allowed amongst them. If any man were to be found seducing any of the latter sex, and carried her to sea, disguised, he was to suffer death; (so that when any fell into their hands, as it chanced in the Onslow, they put a sentinel immediately over her to prevent ill consequences from so dangerous an instrument of division and quarrel; but then here lies the roguery; they contend who shall be sentinel, which happens generally to one of the greatest bullies, who, to secure the lady’s virtue, will let none lie with her but himself.)

VII. To desert the ship or their quarters in battle, was punished with death or marooning.

VIII. No striking one another on board, but every man’s quarrels to be ended on shore, at sword and pistol. (The quarter-master of the ship, when the parties will not come to any reconciliation, accompanies them on shore with what assistance he thinks proper, and turns the disputant back to back, at so many paces distance; at the word of command, they turn and fire immediately, (or else the piece is knocked out of their hands). If both miss, they come to their cutlasses, and then he is declared the victor who draws the first blood.)

IX. No man to talk of breaking up their way of living, till each had shared one thousand pounds. If in order to this, any man should lose a limb, or become a cripple in their service, he was to have eight hundred dollars, out of the public stock, and for lesser hurts, proportionately.

X. The captain and quartermaster to receive two shares of a prize: the master, boatswain, and gunner, one share and a half, and other officers one and quarter.

XI. The musicians to have rest on the Sabbath Day, but the other six days and nights, none without special favour.

Capt. Roberts was a fascinating, if exceeding cruel, pirate and arguably the most successful of his time.


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