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Captain Avery, Part III: Living Like Kings

If you read Parts I and II of the Captain Avery saga, you’ll recall that Henry Avery hijacked the good ship Duke in 1695 and took her to go a’pirating. In due course he came upon Captains Tew and Dew, who, with their pirate sloops, agreed to sail with him. The three ships came across and took a ship belonging to the “Grand Mogul of India,” packed with pilgrims on their way to Mecca, and stuffed with incredible riches meant as offerings.

Captain Avery convinced Tew and Dew that the treasure would be safer aboard the Duke, and they readily agreed. One cannot imagine their disappointment when, on the following morning, they found their two ships alone on a wide, wide sea – Avery had sailed away in the darkness with all their treasure. Everyone else’s stories are covered in Parts I and II.

This is the story of Tew and Dew.

With no treasure, and with great disappointment, the two captains and their men agreed that maybe they should put ashore on the north coast of Madagascar for awhile. It was widely known that Madagascar was friendly to sea rovers.

They dropped anchors in a cove that was rarely visited by Europeans. The natives, in fact, were both fascinated and terrified of the white men and their guns. The pirates found soon found that this gave them a huge degree of power.

It didn’t take long for the pirates to subjugate the people of Madagascar, treating them like slaves and lackeys, forcing them to do their bidding. Different tribes within the native population allied themselves with the pirates in order to make war on other tribes – an alliance the pirates were only too happy to make.

The pirates found they could live like kings, declaring huge parts of the jungle as their own domains. They spread out, built palaces, and settled down to be great plantation owners.

One day another pirate ship dropped anchor in the cove. She was the Delicia, skippered by the renowned Captain Woodes Rogers. He tried to barter with these island kings, who had now been on the island for 18 years. But he found them treacherous, trying to sew unrest in his own crew and to take his ship from him. He sailed away, thankful to leave these wayward kings on their own.

Here’s the twist to the story:  the crews of Tew and Dew had trudged ashore with the clothes on their back and little more. By the time they were visited by Woodes Rogers, their clothes were threadbare, in most cases non-existent. Their shoes had long worn away. Their hair and beards hung in great, wild tangles. They peered at him with dirty. emaciated faces.

By European standards, these self-appointed kings of Madagascar had turned savage, and had lost all semblance of civilization. They were kings, but kings of nothing.

So ends our tale of Captain Avery. The Duke‘s crew broke up and enjoyed their tiny part of the Grand Mogul’s treasure. Avery died penniless on a dusty road. And Tew and Dew became the kings of nothing.

And so ends the story as told by Captain Charles Johnson, in his A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, printed in 1724. Is it true? That’s up the good captain. As for you and me, well, do you think there’s a certain poetic justice, in that so very little came out of so horrific a crime? Thanks for sailing along with us!

Captain Avery, Part II: Henry’s Diamonds

If you read Part I, you’ll know that the legendary pirate Captain Henry Avery, in company with the pirate captains Tew and Dew, in the year 1695, attacked and took a royal ship belonging to the Grand Mogul of India – a ship filled with diamonds, gold, and an overwhelming number of other treasures. Captain Avery swindled all of the treasure away from Captains Dew and Tew, and sailed off to North America, where his crew broke up to become wealthy landsmen. What they never knew was that Captain Avery had swindled them, too, as he had secretly filled his pockets with diamonds from the Grand Mogul’s ship.

Captain Avery must have been pretty pleased with himself. He held a huge fortune quite literally in his pockets. Wherever he wanted to go in the world, whatever he wanted to do, he could now choose with abandon. Except.

Except that while many members of his crew had accepted a pardon for their piracy offered by King William III, Henry was afraid to do so: he was aware that his taking of the Grand Mogul’s ship had caused a major international incident, and that, instead of a pardon, a local governor would more likely offer him a noose.

Except that the diamonds in his pocket were beautiful, and exceedingly rare. So rare, that he dare not sell them in the Americas for fear of being discovered as a sea rover and hanged.

So, sadly, Henry took ship to Scotland, and then to Ireland, where he felt certain he could sell them and make his fortune. To his utter dismay, outrage against piracy was just as strong in Ireland as it was in the new world.

He crossed over into England, finding an acquaintance in Bristol who knew some rich fellows that were well versed in managing the kind of financial problems Henry faced. He stayed in the small town of Bideford and changed his name. The acquaintance brought the financiers to Bideford, and the meeting went well.

The financiers gave Henry a tidy sum of money as a deposit, and took the diamonds back to Bristol to sell them. This all seemed well and right with Henry, who finally was on his way to his fortune.

Except that he heard nothing more from the financiers. No money came, no letters, no words. The tidy sum, while tidy, was not enough for him to last very long. As the months went by, he began to worry.

Taking his courage in hand, he traveled to Bristol, and confronted the financiers in their offices. They gave him a much smaller sum of money. When he demanded his diamonds back, they refused.

“Begone, ruffian,” they probably said, “or we shall turn you in for the pirate that you are.”

The tiny sum of money wasn’t enough, and didn’t last very long, and Henry was very probably fearful for his life. He decided to go back to Ireland, where he was quite unknown.

But he had no money, and no skills to get any. The famous Captain Avery took to begging. “Help a sailor down on his luck…”

Except that his pride caught up with him. He resolved to get those diamonds back, let the ashes fall where they will.

He took a job as a common sailor on a ship bound for Plymouth, England. Once there he jumped ship and walked through the countryside, determined to get what was his.

Except, on a bright and sunny afternoon, walking a common dirt road in the English countryside not too far from Bristol, Henry stumbled and fell face first in the dirt. A cloud of dust lifted around him, flickering in the sunshine. The birds in the trees fell silent for a moment, but then went back to their squawking and chattering. Henry Avery was no more.

Captain Henry Avery, murderer, rapist, liar, cheat, swindler, and, above all, a diabolical pirate, died face down in the dirt, trying to get what he deserved.

So ends Part II of the Captain Avery trilogy. Sad, yes, but don’t you find it poetically correct?

There is one more part to this amazing tale: the adventures of Tew and Dew and their crews.

This abbreviated story is from A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, first written in 1724 by Captain Charles Johnson. You can find more information on the Further Reading page.

Captain Avery, Part I: A Tragedy in Three Parts

On the Further Reading page, you’ll find a reference to a book called A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, by Captain Charles Johnson.

Captain Johnson’s book was first published in 1724, right smack in the middle of the Golden Age of Piracy, by a fellow about whom nothing is known. Was he Daniel Defoe, the popular novelist of the age? Maybe. Was he himself a pirate, writing under a false name so as not to get hanged for his crimes? Likely.

Regardless, most of our knowledge of pirates from this era comes from him. There were newspaper accounts, and official records, of course, but nothing that comes even close to the depth of detail provided by the good captain.

And no story in his History is as ironic or poetically pleasing as his story of Captain Henry Avery. What is most fascinating about Avery’s story is this it’s very short, stunningly wicked, and is actually three stories – three forks of a tale, or tail.

Part One: Duke’s Crew.

In 1695, the Spanish have trouble keeping English pirates from taking ships bound for their ports in the Caribbean. As they don’t have enough ships themselves, they hire, in England, two powerful British ships, the Duke and the Duchess, to patrol the Caribbean waters on their behalf.

These are powerful ships, of 30 guns each. Captain Gibson, in command of the Duke, is a well-respected, established sea officer with many years of experience behind him. His first mate is a fellow named Henry Avery, born some years before in Devonshire, near Plymouth, England. Avery is a tough and able sailor.

Avery notices early on in the voyage from Plymouth to Jamaica that Captain Gibson likes to drink and pass out in his bunk early in the evening. Every evening. Avery sees that the crew notices this, too.

It doesn’t take much for Avery to convince the bad apples in Duke’s crew, and there are many of those, that it wouldn’t take much effort to steal control of the ship away from Captain Gibson.

One night, while Captain Gibson sleeps drunkenly in his cot, Avery orders the ship to weigh anchor, and off they sail for India. The captain awakens with a start when he senses the changed motion of the ship.

“Are we run aground?” he stammers.

“No, Captain,” replies Avery, who is in the cabin when the captain awakens. “I have taken your ship from you, and we are at sea. Pray, put your clothes on and come out to the main deck. I will put you and those who don’t wish to go to sea with us ashore in a boat.”

Which is exactly what happens – Captain Gibson and five of his men watch the Duke sail over the horizon with almost a hundred sailors, all of who had turned pirate.

That’s the story according to Captain Johnson. Wikipedia doesn’t describe this part of Avery’s history, and differs from the good Captain in detail for what comes next. We’ll stick with Captain Johnson’s story, because it’s intriguing.

Avery puts into a small bay on the island of Madagascar to find wood and water. There he meets Captains Tew and Dew, each in command of a small sloop. The three agree they should go a’pirating together.

The three ships together attack and overwhelm an Indian royal ship, belonging to, according to Johnson, the Grand Mogul himself. The ship is packed with passengers who are on their Mecca, and have brought enormous piles of gold and diamonds and money as offerings.

Johnson glosses quickly over what happened aboard that ship in his book. But the details you’ll find on Wikipedia make it clear that these men were barbaric at the least. It must simply have been horrifying for the pilgrims on that ship.

So, according to Johnson, before splitting up the wealth, Avery himself lines his pockets with the diamonds that he finds, knowing that his fortune is made. He has quite hit the jackpot.

After they dispatch the Mogul’s ship, Captains Avery, Tew, and Dew hold a council as to how best to secure the treasure. All three captains agree that they don’t need to be pirates anymore, as their futures are secure. All they have to do is get the treasure off of the sea, away from capture by other pirates. Avery suggests, and they all agree, that the Duke is the most powerful of the three ships, and should therefore carry the treasure.

They all make a solemn pact to meet at Madagascar to divvy up the goods. They drink, they shake hands, Tew and Dew row back to their ships, and, in the dark of night, Avery quietly sails away with everything.

Avery and the Duke’s crew divvy up the treasure amongst themselves, and each member of the crew finds himself terribly wealthy.

This is where the first part of the story concludes: the crew is terrified of getting caught as pirates, so they break up, and wander off into the wilds of North America – some to the Carolinas, some to New England – assuming new names and leaving their horrible crime behind them. Some became landed gentlemen – we’ll never know who, because everybody changed names.

So, what became of Captain Avery? That’s part two.

And what of Tew and Dew? Oh, that’s a fascinating story – very much part three.

 

Blackbeard’s Trio of Mysteries

If you Google the name Blackbeard, everything you read will start with something like “Blackbeard was the most famous pirate…” Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Here are just some of the cool things about Blackbeard:

Mystery #1

Captain Charles Johnson, who wrote about pirates in 1724, referred to Blackbeard as the bloodthirstiest of pirates. He once sat at a table with his “friends” Israel Hands and another fellow. As they chatted, Israel noticed that Blackbeard slowly lowered two pistols under the table, and he heard the click as Blackbeard cocked them. Fearing the worst, Israel leapt to his feet – but too late. A pistol ball smashed his knee. The second shot completely missed the other fellow.

“Why on Earth did ye do that?” Israel bellowed.

“If your crew don’t fear ye, they won’t respect ye,” came the laconic reply.

And yet, and yet, many historians write that Blackbeard was way more fearsome than bloodthirsty. An educated man, he doesn’t seem to have done half the nasty things history says he did.

This requires research!

Mystery #2

Although little pieces of a book were found inside one of the cannons recovered from the wreck of Blackbeard’s prized ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, they appear to have been torn out of a popular book of the day about an ocean voyage to Peru.

And yet, and yet, at the end of Captain Johnson’s book, he says that Blackbeard kept a journal, and that, when asked where on his South Carolina plantation Blackbeard buried all his treasure, the pirate’s response was “that’s between me and the devil.”

So? Is there a journal? Does the journal tell us where the treasure is buried?

This, too, requires research!

Mystery #3

This isn’t so much of a mystery for you, but it certainly is for me. As a modeler of fine and beautiful sailing craft, I would love to put my hands on plans of Queen Anne’s Revenge.

And yet, and yet, such plans don’t seem to exist. What? Marine archaeologists have found her, in the shallows off of Beaufort, North Carolina, and have brought thousands of her pieces ashore. But no plans have been drawn – not even a deck plan!

She began life as a 26-gun British ship, was taken by the French during the War of Spanish Succession, and then was taken by Blackbeard. Blackbeard, typically, up-gunned her to 40. It’s no surprise she ran aground.

Oh, here’s a bonus mystery for you: by the time he ran her aground, Blackbeard had about 300 pirates in his company – that’s a lot of guys!

Stede Bonnet, a co-captain, felt that Blackbeard ran Queen Anne’s Revenge aground on purpose, so as to break up that huge number of pirates. According to Captain Johnson, he actually stranded 17 men on a desert island, with no food, no water, no nothin’. If Stede Bonnet hadn’t rescued them, himself having been ditched by Blackbeard, they’d have been goners for sure.

So? Why no plans of Queen Anne’s Revenge? And, did Blackbeard run her aground on purpose?

 

It’s all mysteries, my friend. All crying out for research. Are you up to the challenge?

A Man, A Plan, A Canal, a…

No, this post has nothing to do with the Panama Canal – I just couldn’t resist using the anagram… it’s supposed to read both directions the same, but doesn’t work. Rats.

So, a Deck Plan of the Kathryn B, from Marigold’s End. Was you a shipwright, back in the day, this might be where you start your design. You might sit thee down with your client, he what wants the ship to be built, and draft, with pencil and ruler, a plan similar to that which you’ll find on the A Map page. Similar, but no color, of course, and a wee bit more sophisticated.

The Kathryn B was built as a merchant ship, so she’s a little beamy, being roughly four times longer than her width. What does beamy mean? Ships were (and still are) measured in two dimensions: length and width, which was (and still is) called her beam. So, if she’s stubby, like the Kathryn B, she has a little more width, or beam, compared to her length, than other ships. For example, warships of her day were approximately five times their width. She’s beamy, which means she’s not the fastest sailer, and she probably tends to roll in rough seas. But, that beaminess means she’s got tons of room below the main deck for cargo, and that’s what she was built to carry.

Caribbean pirates might be wary of the ten guns – six pounders, I believe them to be. That means each gun would fire a six-pound ball. It doesn’t seem like much, but when it hits the side of your ship at four hundred miles an hour, it can do a lot of damage! Each of these guns is about eight feet long, and weighs about as much as Toyota Camry. By the end of the 1700’s, big warships commonly carried guns that fired a 32-pound ball. That, my friend, is a lot of iron!

This map shows you most of the whereabouts of stuff aboard the ship. In thinking about it now, you’ll need to find the ‘tween decks yourself, along with the stairs that lead to the hold, and Phineas’ cot.  Hey, what’s the value of an adventure except to discover new stuff!

Enjoy the plan, and let me know if there be changes you’d like to see!

Phineas@phineascaswell.com

A Dangling Fortune

Why did pirates wear earrings?

Well, there are a quite a few theories, but also some hard facts.

This’d be a fact: was you a sailor up until around the year 1800, you would get yourself an earring to signify to them what saw you that you had survived a shipwreck. A sailor with two earrings, one in each ear, why, that fellow had survived two shipwrecks. Three earrings, three shipwrecks, and so on.

I read a theory that pirates also wore earrings as a way to show their wealth. The danglies alongside their head would tell you at a glance whether this is a successful brigand, or simply a wannabe.

While there is a little merit to this theory – who doesn’t want to advertise their success? – it runs into a bit of a problem when you think who pirates were.

And by, who pirates were, I mean who pirates ARE, because there are a great many seafaring pirates out there today. Those guys with Uzis and motorboats that attack oil tankers and freighters in the waters off Indonesia – thugs with machine guns and grenades – are every bit as much a pirate as Long John Silver and Captain Jack Sparrow.

If one of these modern day pirates were caught, say, by the Somalian Navy, they’d be hanged on the spot, and the world would cheer to be rid of the nasty fellow. As a consequence, modern day pirates keep a low profile, for fear of getting caught.

The pirates of the Caribbean were no different. Vicious, rapacious murderers, they had nothing in their minds beyond what was in it for them.  Although they had some degree of brotherhood between themselves, they were viewed as a plague, and their hangings were accompanied by cheers from those that witnessed it.

So, would a pirate walk about, surrounded by thieves and cutthroats, wearing a fortune dangling from his ears?  One has to wonder…

Another theory says that a pirate wore his fortune on his ears that he might get a decent burial. I be dead, says I, but use me earrings to afford me a grave, would ye?

As above, surrounded by thieves and cutthroats, one simply must wonder.

– Hey, mate,Bob just died. And he’s got a fortune in diamonds hanging from his ear.

-Don’t take them earrings, Jake. Bob wants us to use them to pay for his funeral.

-Bob’s dead, mate – he don’t need no funeral. Shove him over the side – but gimme them earrings, first.

Why did pirates wear earrings? Well, was they a sailor, it showed how many shipwrecks they survived. And, some chaps just liked the look of ’em. That’d be the true of it!

 

Pirates and Yoda: an Unlikely Connection

“Judge me by my size, do you?” – Yoda

“Judge me by me size, do ye?” – Red Suarez, fictional pirate.

Eerie, isn’t it? Try this one:

“The future I cannot see” – Yoda

“The future I cannot see” – Cap’t Jack Sparrow.

Call me crazy, but I’m seeing a definite link between the syntactically challenged English Yoda speaks and the educationally challenged middle English spoken by fictional pirates. A link, a connection, a commonality.

Try it. Take any Yoda line, swap out the word “you” with the word “ye”, and say it like Long John Silver.

“Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.”

Creepy, am I right?

So? What give?  I’ve come up with three theories:

First theory: Yoda and pirates come from the same stock. One day those ghost hunting guys who keeps discovering Chupacabra tracks for cable television are going to uncover the remains of a Yoda-like creature that crash-landed in the Caribbean some 500 years ago. “Help me, you must,” cried the sole survivor. This theory is not very likely.

Second theory: convoluted sentence structure is a byproduct of being strong with The Force. Yoda is certainly robust in that respect. And it’s not a long stretch to imagine pirates as being strong in the Dark Side. Still, Darth Vader didn’t talk like a pirate, and Kylo Ren uses pretty good grammar. Even Luke Skywalker, about whom Darth Vader said “The Force is strong in this one” – even he got subjects and verbs in the right order. Another not very likely theory.

Third theory: Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back, needed to give Yoda a quirky-yet-charming mannerism that would make him sound both familiar and alien. Clever choice, this dialect was. This would be the most likely theory.

Now, as I know you know, not all pirates talked like Yoda. Pirates mostly spoke in the dialect of their native lands – during the Golden Age of Piracy, this would have been England. And, since the greatest percentage of pirates were not men of culture and learning, they tended to use the rougher language of the streets – stab me in me vitals if that don’t be true!

If you read Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, you’ll get a great pirate caricature in Long John Silver. But read The Black Swan, by  Rafael Sabatini, and you’ll find a great mix of swashbuckling pirate and gentlemen of fortune that, while quite romantic, was probably equally accurate.

And, middle English, which was in use at the close of the Elizabethan Era, quite at the same time as the Golden Age of Piracy, was full of fun, convoluted sentence structures. This one is my current favorite: “Avoid taverns, brothels and gambling halls should I, were I you.”

Until the link between the citizens of Dagobah and Port Royal is defined, however, around Yoda my wallet should I watch. Arrgh.

Controversy: Pirates and Eye-patches

Question: Why did pirates wear eye-patches?

Answer: Duh. Because they had lost an eye. They wore the patch to keep dirt out of the socket, a place that was difficult to take care of.

But, now there’s a shadow of controversy about this seemingly straightforward answer. If you Google the same question, you’ll find that someone is floating a different theory.

According to this new theory, pirates wore eye-patches to help them see in the dark. It sounds outlandish, but makes a degree of sense.

If you run out of the bright sunshine into a darkened room, you’re going to find it hard to see for a few seconds until your eyes adjust to the change in light. If you cover one eye, however, when you’re in the bright sunshine, that covered eye will be ready for the darker room.

Here’s the scene:

The pirate Williwaw has run alongside the merchant ship Brother Jonathon. Cannons aren’t roaring now, because Williwaw‘s men are swarming over the railings to fight Brother Jonathon’s crew. Crazy Ned Ganders, fake eye-patch in place, dashes across Jonathon‘s main deck and ducks towards the aft cabin, cutlass in one hand and pistol in the other.

“Wait,” he mutters, “it be a trifle darker here in the t’ween decks.” He carefully stuffs his pistol into his belt, and then raises his eye-patch. “There,” he sighs, “that’d be better, wood’n it? Now I can see much more efficiently. Arrgh.” He pulls out his pistol and proceeds towards the aft cabin.

Somehow, I’m just not seeing it.  A battle between ship’s crews was pitched, hot, and incredibly fast. Until the merchant crew was subdued, a pirate was under attack from every side at every second.  Managing an eye-patch seems like it would be more of a nuisance than a miracle secret weapon.

Plus, the human animal is meant to see with stereoscopic vision. A pirate with one eye covered is at a distinct disadvantage to the merchant sailor who has both.

Finally, most pirates just weren’t that clever. They were regular sailors, just folks, like you and me. Well, a little unwashed, and a whole lot more vicious.

So, the next time anyone asks you why pirates wore eye-patches, you can say this with confidence: duh, because they had lost an eye!

Now’s the Time to Read Marigold’s End

 

Today. Right now. This minute. Don’t delay!

Go here: Smashwords.com and download your free copy while you can still get it for free. This, my friend, is a limited time offer!

Here’s the synopsis:

Struggling to deal with the loss first of his father and then of best friend, priggish, arrogant twelve-year-old Phineas Caswell finds himself aboard a ship on the very sea that took them both away.

Phineas’ one goal in life is to become a “landed” gentleman, and to marry the exquisite Susannah Kilburn – lofty goals for a penniless twelve year old Bostonian in the year 1706. To his horror, he is taken to sea by his well-intentioned but rather daffy Uncle Neville. Phineas finds he must learn to make his way among the frightening, gruff sailors aboard the ship, must hold his own against desperate pirates, and look beyond the past to find the meanings of courage, friendship, and home.

Patrick Caswell, Phineas’ sea-captain father, has disappeared into the Caribbean, rumored to have turned pirate. The Spanish treasure ship Tres Hermanas has been taken by buccaneers. In her hold she carried a cargo that will change the map of Europe. Queen Anne of England has dispatched secret agents to recover the treasure. But what has become of the treasure? What happened to Patrick Caswell? Who are these agents? Only Red Suarez holds the key. But he’s the vicious, self-appointed pirate king of Port Royal. Leave it to Phineas to bumble his way into a stunning adventure filled with naval battles, chases, and an amazing, all encompassing hurricane.

The sailor’s life has much to teach Phineas. Although he is a reluctant student, Phineas, Taylor the cabin boy, and the French princess Louise find themselves face-to-face with cruel buccaneers, and must learn the most difficult lesson of all in adventure as vast as the sea itself.

So, don’t delay. Download your copy today! Marigold’s End, by John D Reinhart.