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Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts/Getty Images
Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts/Getty Images

11 Rules from an Actual Pirate Code

Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts/Getty Images
Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts/Getty Images

Even scallywags had their standards. Ranking among history’s most successful pirates is Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts (1682-1722), a Welsh plunderer who worked with one of his many crews to draft the following bylaws in 1722. Some might seem remarkably progressive to modern readers, while others definitely won’t. If you’d been onboard Roberts’ vessel (the Royal Fortune), would you agree to them anyway?

1. Rock the Vote

“Every man shall have an equal vote in affairs of moment. He shall have an equal title to the fresh provisions or strong liquors at any time seized, and shall use them at pleasure unless a scarcity makes it necessary for the common good that a retrenchment may be voted.”

2. Be Smart: Don’t Steal from Pirates

“Every man shall be called fairly in turn by the list on board of prizes, because over and above their proper share, they are allowed a shift of clothes. But if they defraud the company to the value of even one dollar in plate, jewels, or money, they shall be marooned. If any man rob another, he shall have his nose and ears slit, and be put ashore where he shall be sure to encounter hardships.”

3. Gambling’s for Landlubbers

“None shall game for money, either with dice or cards.”

4. Mind the Curfew

“The lights and candles shall be put out at eight at night, and if any of the crew desire to drink after that hour they shall sit upon the open deck without lights.”

5. Keep Battle-Ready

“Each man shall keep his piece, cutlass and pistols, at all times clean and ready for action.”

6. Never Bring Your Date Home

“No boy or woman [shall] be allowed amongst them. If any man shall be found seducing one of the latter sex and carrying her to sea in disguise, he shall suffer death.”

7. Stand by Your Hearties

“He that shall desert the ship or his quarters in the time of battle shall be punished by death or marooning.”

8. Settle Disputes Onshore (with Pistols & Cutlasses, of Course)

“None shall strike another on board the ship, but every man's quarrel shall be ended onshore by sword or pistol in this manner: at the word of command from the Quartermaster, each man being previously placed back to back, shall turn and fire immediately. If any man do not, the Quartermaster shall knock the piece out of his hand. If both miss their aim, they shall take to their cutlasses, and he that draws first blood shall be declared the victor.”

9. Lose a Limb, Get Worker’s Comp

“Every man who shall become a cripple or lose a limb in the service shall have eight hundred pieces of eight from the common stock, and for lesser hurts proportionately.”

NOTE: Pieces of eight weren’t just for pirates. These Spanish coins once enjoyed widespread international use & were even accepted as legal tender in the U.S. until 1857.

10. Remember: Rank Has its Privileges

“The Captain and the Quartermaster shall each receive two shares of a prize, the Master Gunner and Boatswain, one and one half shares, all other officers one and one quarter, and private gentlemen of fortune one share each.”

11. Give the Band a Break

“The musicians shall have rest on the Sabbath Day only, by right, on all other days, by favor only.”

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10 Pirate Landmarks You Can Visit
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Hungering for a scurvy-ridden romp across the seven seas? We’ve mapped out an international journey that will take you through 10 historic places with maritime yarns to unravel. From a rediscovered wreck to the site of real buried treasure, these locales will set your timbers a-shivering.

1. THE QUEDAGH MERCHANT, CATALINA ISLAND, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC


Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1695, Scottish privateer William Kidd was hired by an English governor to fight pirates in the Indian Ocean. But he made one critical mistake. On January 30, 1698, he captured the Quedagh Merchant, a treasure-laden ship flying a French flag. Since England was at war with France, Kidd believed he had a legal right to seize this ship. However, a nobleman who stood to lose his riches on board complained to the British East India Company, which put out a call for Kidd’s arrest. Unable to prove his innocence, Kidd was convicted and hung by an English court in 1701.

As for the Quedagh Merchant, Kidd had abandoned the vessel and its final resting place remained unknown for centuries. Marine archaeologists discovered the wreck off the coast of Catalina Island in 2007. The site is now a protected marine area where divers can read about its history on underwater plaques.

2. FOX POINT, ST. GEORGE ISLAND, FLORIDA


Kristenlea71 via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Born in Maryland, William Augustus Bowles was a British loyalist during the Revolutionary War. While stationed in Pensacola, Florida, he married into the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and, later, fought on behalf of both nations against Spain in the Gulf of Mexico. Bowles would later establish himself as a pirate and self-appointed representative of the Muscogee Nation, and secured Great Britain's support for establishing an independent Muscogee Republic. In those roles, he attacked numerous Spanish ships and was arrested by the Spanish authorities. He escaped from prison and was on his way back to Florida in the British schooner HMS Fox when it went aground on St. George Island at a site now called Fox Point. A historical marker commemorates the Fox’s wreck.

3. A REAL BURIED TREASURE SITE, GARDINER’S ISLAND, NEW YORK


Howard Pyle, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Contrary to popular belief, most pirates did not bury treasure. (People who steal loot generally want to spend it right away.) In fact, the only pirate known to have stored booty underground was William Kidd. Prior his arrest by the British authorities in 1699, Kidd paid a visit to Gardiner’s Island, a spot between the forks of Long Island. Its owner, John Gardiner, agreed to let Kidd bury some valuables there. Accounts differ about what happened next. Some sources say that Gardiner decided to come clean and tell the colonial governor, Lord Bellomont, about the treasure. Others say that Bellomont learned of its whereabouts directly from Kidd. Either way, the loot was exhumed and taken to Boston. The gold, silver, and other valuable items were worth more than $1 million in today's U.S. dollars. Today, a stone plaque marks the spot.

4. DUNGEON ROCK, LYNN, MASSACHUSETTS


Ejkastning, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1658, a group of buccaneers landed in Lynn, Massachusetts. Most were arrested, but a pirate named Thomas Veal escaped into the forest. Legend has it that a huge geologic formation now called Dungeon Rock became his hideout. Once a spacious cave, it was reduced to a pile of boulders by an earthquake, entombing Veal and his treasure within.

Almost a century later, a spiritualist named Hiram Marble, who believed Veal's ghost had contacted him from the afterlife, bought Dungeon Rock. He and his son, Edwin, spent their lives digging for the treasure but found nothing. Since then, the site has been incorporated into the Lynn Woods Reservation. A door bars the entryway to the rock's interior, which is open to visitors during certain times of the year. Nearby, you can pay your respects to Edwin Marble at his modestly marked grave.

5. LAFITTE’S BLACKSMITH SHOP, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA


Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress // Public Domain

Lafitte’s origins are shrouded in mystery, but he arrived in New Orleans around 1806 with his (alleged) brother, Pierre. They organized a fleet of smuggling vessels and conspired with potential business partners at a colleague's blacksmith shop on Bourbon Street. Now a popular bar, the building was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

During the War of 1812, Lafitte offered his ample supplies, experienced sailors, and local knowledge to the American forces under General Andrew Jackson, in exchange for the release of some of Lafitte's men then in prison. At the Battle of New Orleans in 1814-15, Jackson's and Lafitte's forces helped repel the British attack, and the two Lafitte brothers both received federal pardons.

6. LAFITTE’S FORMER STOMPING GROUNDS, GALVESTON, TEXAS


DHuss/iStock

Soon after the Battle of New Orleans, the city's elites grew tired of tolerating the Lafittes. In 1817, Jean Lafitte decamped to Galveston, Texas, with seven ships and a few dozen followers. They established a town called Campeche with its own boarding house, taverns, and courts, while continuing to prey on Spanish ships in the gulf and operating a large slave market. In 1821, the U.S. government ordered them to clear out. Nothing can be said with certainty about Lafitte's post-Galveston exploits. Just like his origins, Jean Lafitte’s fate remains the stuff of speculation.

A relic from his time in Galveston can be found at 1417 Avenue A, where Maison Rouge, Lafitte’s home and fortress, once stood. The grounds are protected by a chain-link fence, which also surrounds the remnants of a second building that was built on top of Maison Rouge’s foundation in 1870. Learn more at Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast, a local attraction which focuses on Lafitte’s life and deeds.

7. PLUM POINT, BATH, NORTH CAROLINA


m kasahara, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Blackbeard—whose real name was either Edward Teach, Edward Thatch, or some variant thereof—settled in Bath, North Carolina, for a brief period of quasi-retirement beginning in 1718. His place of residence was reportedly somewhere on Plum Point, an outcropping which cuts into Bath Creek. Despite his track record of plundering and theft, he was constantly getting dinner invitations from curious families. According to regional lore, he paid multiple visits to the Hammock House, an elegant white building thought to be the oldest surviving house in Beaufort, North Carolina. This city is also home to a gigantic Blackbeard statue on U.S. Highway 70. Beaufort’s branch of the North Carolina Maritime Museum contains numerous Blackbeard artifacts.

8. A PIRATE-FILLED CEMETERY, ILE SAINTE-MARIE, MADAGASCAR


JialiangGao, Wikimedia Commons // GFDL

In the Age of Sail, pirates operated in nearly all of the world's oceans. Île Sainte-Marie, near Madagascar, was a magnet for pirates back in the 17th and 18th centuries. The island had plentiful fresh fruit to prevent scurvy and convenient natural harbors for safe anchorages. So many crews visited the island regularly that trading posts run by and for pirates became a vital part of the local economy. In its heyday, more than 1000 pirates lived on the island. A great many now lay buried in a cemetery near Ambodifotatra, Île Sainte-Marie’s biggest city. The 30 on-site tombstones of pirates can be identified because they were given etched-in skulls, crossbones, or both.

9. BLACK BART’S MEMORIAL STONE, CASNEWYDD-BACH, WALES


Daniel Defoe, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Typically cited as the most successful pirate of all time, Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts was born in the Welsh village of Casnewydd-Bach in 1682. In 1719, the crew of the slave ship he worked on elected Roberts, an experienced navigator and seafarer, as their new captain. Roberts really seemed to like the name Royal Fortune, which he gave to multiple ships. He also authored a pirate’s code of conduct for his crew in 1721.

The dreaded “Black Bart” would seize more than 400 ships before he died in battle on February 10, 1722. His hometown acknowledges its native son with a memorial stone on the village green.

10. BLACKBEARD’S POINT, HAMPTON, VIRGINIA


Charles Ellms, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Our adventure ends with a visit to a place that once displayed Blackbeard’s severed head [PDF]. North Carolina's governor, Charles Eden, granted the pirate a pardon in exchange for a hefty share of his loot, which upset the colony's wealthy planters. The elites asked Virginia's governor, Alexander Spotswood, to get rid of Blackbeard permanently. Spotswood sent a naval force led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard to engage the pirate's crews in combat. Maynard caught Blackbeard by surprise in North Carolina's Ocracoke Inlet, and a great battle ensued, with Maynard coming out on top. Blackbeard was killed in the fight and Maynard mounted the pirate's head on the bowsprit of his ship on their way back to Virginia. Later it was suspended from a pole at Tindall’s Point, at the confluence of the James and Hampton rivers, where it served for several years as a warning to anyone else with piratical designs. Tindall Point is now called Blackbeard’s Point.

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7 Historic Beaches Worth a Visit on the U.S. Virgin Islands
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iStock

On St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, and Water Island, every coast is a museum—and every tanning session can double as a history lesson. From Cinnamon Bay to Honeymoon Beach, read on for the backstories of some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful stretches of sand.

1. CINNAMON BAY BEACH (ST. JOHN)

In the days before European settlers arrived, the U.S. Virgin Islands were occupied by two (often warring) groups known as the Caribs and the Taínos. A wealth of information about the latter has been discovered beneath the sands of Cinnamon Bay Beach on St. John. Here, archaeologists have unearthed what they believe was a Taíno temple, built at some point between 1020 and 1490 CE. Since 1998, the scenic coastline has also yielded hordes of Taíno artifacts with religious connotations, such as tiny sculptures of various deities. Other recovered objects include pots, beads, and golden discs.

2. COLUMBUS LANDING BEACH (ST. CROIX)

Thanks to the rhyme every kid learns in elementary school, the fact that Christopher Columbus supposedly “discovered” the New World in 1492 is common knowledge. But there aren’t many poems out there about the man’s three return trips. In September 1493, with 17 Spanish ships at his command, Columbus embarked upon a second expedition into the western hemisphere. This time, he came across a Caribbean island that the natives called “Ayay.” Columbus rechristened it “Santa Cruz,” though you might know this landmass better by its current name: St. Croix.

The famous explorer himself never went ashore. Instead, he sent a group of scouts to investigate the terrain. These sailors landed on a beach on the western side of Salt River Bay. In doing so, they became the only participants in one of Columbus’s voyages to ever set foot on what is now U.S. soil. Unfortunately, things quickly went downhill for the adventurous seamen. The party encountered several Taínos who’d been taken prisoner by some nearby Caribs. Columbus’s men decided to bring the natives back to the waiting ships, but en route, the Spaniards were attacked by a contingent of Caribs. Some historians maintain that this was the first documented confrontation between Europeans and Native Americans.

3. HONEYMOON BEACH (WATER ISLAND)

The United States bought St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas from Denmark in 1917. Then, in 1944, America took nearby Water Island off the Danish government’s hands for the modest price of $10,000. It was subsequently leased out by the Department of the Interior to a private developer in 1950. A terraforming visionary, the developer more or less built the landmass’ most popular attraction: Honeymoon Beach. Originally, this was a rocky patch of coastline that stretched just 50 feet in length. But under his direction, the beach was massively expanded—a process that involved removing some 200 truckloads’ worth of debris.

In 1996, Water Island was handed over to the territorial government. Today, the radically transformed land is a magnet for scuba divers, sandcastle-builders, and, yes, newlyweds.

4. THE CANEEL BAY BEACHES (ST. JOHN)

A grandson of industrialist John D. Rockefeller first laid eye on this tropical paradise in 1952. Utterly spellbound, he proceeded to purchase most of St. John and set up a resort on Caneel Bay. He couldn’t have picked a better location for this vacation spot, as the facility is surrounded by no less than seven beaches which continue to delight its guests today.

In 1956, the wealthy philanthropist gave some 5000 acres worth of land on St. John to the United States’ National Park Service (NPS). By accepting this gift, the government agreed to honor two key provisos. As per his wishes, the plot was converted into a brand new National Park—which now covers a grand total of 12,909 acres and spans multiple islands. The Caneel Bay resort, which hosts movie stars and dignitaries, is open for ten months each year.

5. LINDBERGH BAY BEACH (ST. THOMAS)

What does Charles Lindbergh have to do with the Virgin Islands, you ask? In 1927, he made history by becoming the first pilot to ever complete a solo, non-stop, transatlantic flight. Less than a year later, Lindbergh celebrated the feat by flying across Latin America, South America, and the Caribbean in an epic victory tour. On January 31, 1928, he touched down in St. Thomas, at the invitation of the then-governor. The aviator’s landing site was a golf course located on a part of the island known as Mosquito Bay. After his departure, this whole area was renamed Lindbergh Bay. Accordingly, its long, palm tree-dotted beach came to be known as the Lindbergh Bay Beach. 

6. MAGENS BAY (ST. THOMAS)

One of the most oft-visited beaches on the Virgin Islands, Magens Bay is another hotspot for Taíno artifacts. Flutes, pottery fragments, and even sculptures have all been found in the area. Presidential history buffs might also be interested to learn that John and Jackie Kennedy once went for a swim there on December 16, 1958.

7. GIBNEY BEACH (ST. JOHN)

Located on the Denis Bay peninsula, this white-sanded seashore was once the favorite vacation spot of a man who helped split the atom. In 1957, a veteran of the Manhattan Project bought two acres of nearby land and built a modest beach house for his family. Before the physicist’s untimely death in 1967, he could often be seen sailing offshore with his wife and their daughter. Sadly, his home away from home was eventually destroyed by a hurricane. At present, a government-run community center—complete with a front porch and kitchen—sits in its place.

What better way to explore the U.S. Virgin Islands’ rich history than in the Islands themselves? Learn more about the upcoming Centennial at VisitUSVI.com.

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