Monday, July 28, 2008

Nautical Superstitions

Black cats are considered good luck and will bring a sailor home from the sea.
While black is the color of death, and black bags or clothing are harbingers of doom, black cats are considered lucky on the sea. Mostly this is believed to be the result of the opposite effect of land based superstition, where a black cat is unlucky.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Captain Blood

The director of action hits such as Clear and Present Danger, Catch a Fire and many others, Phillip Noyce is taking on a remake of Captain Blood, the iconic tale of swashbuckling and puffy shirts.
The Academy Award-nominated pirate movie starred Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland and Basil Rathbone and was based on a novel by Rafael Sabatini. Set in the 1600s, it tells the story of a doctor who is convicted for treason against the King of England, sold into slavery and escapes to high seas as a pirate. (The book also was adapted in 1924 by the Vitagraph Co.)
I'm pretty excited, my favorite car-chase/explosion sequence from childhood is from Clear and Present Danger, it's so good it was even repeatedly re-purposed for network TV (JAG used footage from it at least twice).

Also, if you haven't seen Catch a Fire, you should do that right now. I don't care what you're doing. Noyce also directed Rabbit-Proof Fence, which has significantly fewer explosions but deals with very serious subject matter in a hugely interesting and poignant way.

More details as they develop.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


This begs the question, what is Darch? and when did I say it?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Nautical Superstitions

Don’t look back once your ship has left port as this can bring bad luck.
Looking back to port implies that you are not truly ready to brave the seas and complete your voyage, bringing about bad luck on yourself and the ship.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Friday, July 18, 2008

Gold Teeth

In honor of me getting wisdom tooth surgery today (send me good vibes) today we're going to talk about Gold Teeth.

Since as early as 629 AD in China, people have been filling their teeth with amalgams of precious metal, and
Gold is malleable, nearly immune to corrosion, and hard enough to form a biting surface that can be used for years. Gold was used before silver was available and continued to be used for specialized purposes.
Also, gold teeth, like gold earrings, were an insurance policy for a sailor. Since there was no banking and no guarantee that your crew mates would have your back if you died at sea, a gold tooth was a great way to guarantee that you could pay for a proper burial.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pirates in the Caribbean: Nathaniel Butler

Nathaniel Butler was born in 1577, and rose from English Privateer to Governor of Bermuda in the 70 some years of his life.

He was appointed Governor of Bermuda in the 1619 until 1622 and while he built many of the buildings on Bermuda and captured many pirate ships, he's not famous enough to have warranted an image easily found on Google. An inauspicious end for a hard-working man.

In his early sailing career the Earl of Warwick was his patron, a powerful protestant, the Earl had Butler govern his pirate colony on Providence Island off of modern Rhode Island. He then captained privateering expeditions against Spain in the Caribbean and around South America.
In about April 1639, he assembled a mixed fleet of Dutch and English vessels. After looting several smaller towns, the raiders descended on Trujillo, the chief port of Honduras. Trujillo had repelled Sir Anthony Sherley in 1597, but Butler'' raiders took it by surprise and collected a ransom of 16,000 pounds. Butler apparently kept more than his fair share of the booty. Returning to Providence in September 1639, he sailed for England in great haste and secrecy.
Not much is known about his life after 1639, if indeed he survived past 1639.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nautical Superstitions

Never say good luck or allow someone to say good luck to you unanswered.
If someone says “good luck” to you, it is most assuredly a bad omen and sure to bring about bad luck. The only way this can be countered is by drawing blood. A swift punch in the nose is usually sufficient to reverse this curse.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Nautical Superstitions

The Evils of the Banana, from Failed Success
Bananas are a mainstay of most cultures and are the world’s most popular fruit. However, these deliciously yellow treats have no place at sea. Since the 1700’s, it has been widely believed that having a banana on board was an omen of disaster.

In the early 1700’s, during the height of the Spanish’s South Atlantic and Caribbean trading empire, it was observed that nearly every ship that disappeared at sea and did not make its destination was carrying a cargo of bananas. This gave rise to the belief that hauling bananas was a dangerous prospect. There are other documented origins to this superstition as well.

Another explanation for the banana superstition is that the fastest sailing ships used to carry bananas from the tropics to U.S. ports along the East Coast to land the bananas before they could spoil,” Chahoc said. “The banana boats were so fast that fishermen never caught anything while trolling for fish from them, and that’s where the superstition got started."

Another theory is that bananas carried aboard slave ships fermented and gave off methane gas, which would be trapped below deck. Anyone in the hold, including cargoes of imprisoned humanity, would succumb to the poisoned air, and anyone trying to climb down into the hold to help them would fall prey to the dangerous gas.

And finally, one of the better known dangers of bananas at sea, is that a species of spider with a lethal bite likes to hide in bunches of bananas. Crewmen suddenly dying of spider bites after bananas are brought aboard certainly would be considered a bad omen resulting in the cargo being tossed into the sea.

Any of these scenarios could be the reason behind fishermen’s mistrust of the yellow fruit, possibly all of them. Whatever the case may be, it is best that you don’t attempt to bring any bananas on board your next seafaring excursion, just to be safe.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Black Bart, continued

A few weeks ago I did a post about Black Bart, but I neglected to mention a very interesting controversy around Black Bart, he may have been a woman.
Black Bart was one of the most successful pirates of the Golden Age, and "he" had no problem showing off his success. He dressed up for battle, fine silk coats and pants, jewels and other baubles shining in the sun, gilt and was considered a little vain, though I doubt anyone called him vain to his face.

He was always well dressed, never drank alcohol, had on board musicians, was clean shaven, had excellent manners and handwriting, never shared his cabin and had a standing order to be thrown overboard if he died in battle, which was eventually followed by his crew. Some historians argue that he might have been a woman because of these particular traits.

Pirate Jokes!

Here are some great pirate jokes that I heard on my vacation.

Thanks to Tam!

Have you heard of pirate jokes?

They're jokes you didn't pay for

What do you call a pirate with no boat?

A Mugger

What were the pirate's famous last words?

"What Ninja?"

To read the punch lines, scroll over the line beneath the question.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Nautical Superstitions

If the rim of a glass rings stop it quickly or there will be a shipwreck.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth Of July!

If pirates represent anything, it's Freedom in its most raw form, dangerous and wonderful. So Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Horrible Things That Could Happen to you at Sea: Barrel of Roaches

Today's installment of "Horrible Things that Could Happen to you at Sea," delves into things that pirates would do to people on ships they boarded.

In order to learn the location of valuables, or just for the pure enjoyment of torturing someone (it gets really boring at sea), pirates came up with some awful and awfully creative methods of torture.Barrel of Roaches:

While not the most lethal of torture choices, a Barrel of roaches is still pretty icky. One, you're sealed in the barrel, two, dozens and dozens of squirming, roaches all over your whole body. Getting squished as you move around, squeaking and crunching. They would probably eat little things off your body, drink your sweat which i suspect would be pouring off you in the hot, sealed barrel you're sharing with a bunch of roaches.

When their non-fatal tortures are rather unpleasant, stay tuned as I cover progressively more and more disquieting methods of pirate information extrication in the coming weeks.