Ahoy! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Talk Like a Pirate Day bannerSept. 19 is the annual Talk Like a Pirate Day, so prepare to be boarded, or at least to hear Arrr! and Avast Me Hearties! and other pirate sayings.

Eighteenth century pirates now seem like colorful, fun-loving blokes, but historically speaking, the facts are much more serious. So I’m posting an article I wrote on the subject. And if you’re interested in my pirate romance, check out Marooned.

Marooned coverTreacherous Beauty: Piracy in the Bahamas, by Lyndi Lamont

No one can dispute the tropical beauty of the Bahama Islands, but the early history of the islands is filled with danger and treachery.

In 1492 the islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus who claimed them for Spain. Later Spaniards enslaved the native Lucayan people and transported them to work the gold and silver mines in Cuba and Hispaniola.

By the time the British arrived in the late 1670’s, the islands were no longer inhabited. A group of colonists settled on the island of Eleuthera, and a few moved on to New Providence, but most of the islands were left unsettled and provided a haven for pirates and privateers. The islands were close to the major trade routes and New Providence Island had a natural harbor that afforded a safe anchorage in which to hide. With its shallow waters and over 700 islands, the Bahamas provided a perfect environment for pirates to maneuver. Many hid their plunder in the islands’ limestone caverns.

Grand Bahama was considered perilous because of the reefs surrounding it. Pirates would chase merchant ships into the shallows where they foundered on the reefs and were easily plundered. In fact, “wrecking” remained a local occupation for some time. The inhabitants placed a lantern to lure ships close to shore so they could scavenge its cargo.

The resort city of Nassau, on New Providence Island, became notorious as a pirate haven. By 1710 the harbor was filled with ships, some of them rotting hulks that were destroyed after being emptied of their cargo. Contemporary accounts describe it as a ramshackle shanty town with no permanent buildings, just a dilapidated fort, a few wood huts, and a disreputable tent city where pirates could gamble away their plunder, get drunk, or get laid.

The islands were home to famous pirates such as Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, Calico Jack Rackham, and the infamous female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who were members of his crew.

Blackbeard’s legend lives on as the most ferocious of pirates. A tall man, he had wild eyes, long, matted black hair and a matching beard which he braided. Before battle, he twisted pieces of fuse into his hair and lit them. With his face surrounded by smoke he was a fearsome sight. Teach was chosen as magistrate of what the pirates called their Privateers’ Republic, but in 1718 the British government sent Royal Governor Woodes Rogers, a former privateer, to the islands to end piracy in the Bahamas. Blackbeard was at sea at the time, so he made the Carolinas his main base until his death in November 1718 at the hands of the British navy. The leader of the British expedition, First Lieutenant Robert Maynard, later said that Blackbeard didn’t fall until he’d received at least five gunshots and twenty sword wounds. Blackbeard’s head was severed, though whether it happened during battle or afterward is not clear, and hung from the bowsprit of Maynard’s sloop to prove that the feared pirate was truly dead.

Calico Jack and Anne Bonny met in New Providence where he persuaded her to don men’s clothing and join him on his ship. (Women were banned from most pirate ships, hence the disguise.) Mary Read, who also dressed as a man, was on board, too. The two women became friends and were known to be fierce fighters. When Woodes Rogers’ men attacked Rackham’s ship in 1720, most of the crew were drunk, except for the two women who fought bravely. The entire crew was captured, tried in Jamaica and sentenced to death. Jack was hanged but the two women “pleaded their bellies”. Because of their pregnancies, the women were not sentenced to death. Mary died in jail of fever before giving birth. Anne’s fate is unknown, but there are rumors that she was eventually released and returned to her home in the Carolinas.

Woodes Rogers was successful in his attempt to end piracy in the Bahamas. In fact, immediately upon his arrival, he was met by a large group of pirates eager to swear loyalty to the crown in exchange for a pardon. Rogers eventually pardoned about 600 pirates. The hard cases like Calico Jack and Blackbeard were chased down and brought to justice.

By 1720 the Golden Age of Piracy was coming to an end. But like the beauty of the islands, tales of the daring pirates live on in legend.

© 2005 by Linda McLaughlin


Researching Pre-Statehood Hawaii & Molokai’i Island by @JanetLynn4 & @Will_Zeilinger

Pre-Statehood Hawaii, Molokai’i Island Research
by Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

Strange Markings coverSTRANGE MARKINGS is the second in the Skylar Drake Mystery series. The novel begins in San Pedro, California. The clues lead to pre-statehood Molokai’i, Hawaii, 1955.

Now you may be thinking, “Oh, poor babies. You have to go to Hawaii for a book.” But you’d be surprised that even after spending hours searching online, a trip to the Hawaii State Public Library in Honolulu and the Molokai Public Library was a must. We needed to get it right!

Our first stop was Molokai’i and its public library, one of three places on the island that had AC and plenty of drinking water. Both of these are in short supply on the island, believe it or not. We spent hours going through newspapers, telephone directories and local magazines from the period. The librarian was more than helpful, pulling out old materials, blowing off the dust and piling them up on the table in categories. We were shocked that after 58 years, the town had not changed that much.

KaunakakaiPictures of the main street Ala Malama Ave. was exactly the way it looked now! The history of how the islands ownership of the sugar mill switched between cattle ranches and crops was like a chess game. We read extensively about the Sugar Mill and its role in the development of the island.

We took notes and gauged our exploration according to what was found in the newspaper articles. The Sugar Mill was in ruins but many parts of the interior and actual mill were intact. As we walked around the overgrown landscape, the original plot we thought of using, changed drastically, especially the Kapu (curses). The local people believed the mill was haunted toward the end of its run.

The trip through the west part of the island was desert-like, flat, dry, red dirt and plenty of places to dump dead bodies. On the west side, tropical foliage with cliffs and beautiful beaches with crashing surf. We took a side road through hills covered with dense forest and large groups of birds fluttering and singing. After a short hike on the trail we came across an old rusty, abandoned shack with saplings pushing against the dilapidated roof and bent sides. A perfect place to hide someone or something illegal perhaps?


The remaining two days on the island was spent interviewing the locals. Since we were out of our element and had some understanding of the layout of the island, we asked our usual question, “Where would you dump a dead body?” We discovered early on that people react differently. Some smiled and walked away, others didn’t even smile when they left. However, quite a few gave us cross streets, and specific building on the main street to check out. This we found a bit “creepy” that they thought about it!

The largest town is Kaunakakai, a consisting of 3 blocks of Mom and Pop shops, a single traffic light, and one gas station. The population hadn’t grown very much since the 50’s and the residents love their isolation. Air conditioning is reserved for the medical center, Post Office and the library. Much like it was in 1955. There were still many unpaved roads.

Fortunately, Molokai is a time capsule because the kind of growth that occurred on the other islands has been restricted in Molokai due to insufficient water and electrical resources needed to support large hotels, resorts and housing developments.

We found out from the locals that families still live near the water’s edge and fish for their living and the main street in town is still the gathering place for the latest news. To this day they still have a custom where the locals gather around the small bakery and visit, gossip, tell stories and basically catch up with each other.

Armed with a lot of notes, and pictures, we flew back to Honolulu on the same Cessna 208B, turboprop that brought us to Molokai’i, a 9 seater with a two man crew. Talk about Indiana Jones!

Cessna 208B Turboprop

We spend another two days in Hawaii State Public Library, again the librarian was very helpful pulling magazines, telephone books, newspapers, this time to get an idea what life was like in 1955 Honolulu. We even found great articles about the Red Light District, the perfect place for Skylar Drake and his partner to drown their sorrows. An interesting tid-bit, there was a large, well organized group of locals that didn’t want statehood during this time. They were very vocal about it. Also, politics at the time under the provincial government in Honolulu was as crooked as it was in the main land. Also, traditional Hawaiian music was by and large replaced with Latin music, Mambo, Tango, etc. AND, Huli-huli chicken was developed the summer of 1955. It went on to become a popular food item in Hawaii and the main land soon after. How about that!

After the first day, the librarian was surprised to see us again. As we continued to pour through the periodicals, she came up to us, “Would you be interested in some of the,” she paused for a moment, “legends, superstitions and curses from that time?” Both of us almost fell off our chairs, “Sure!” The rest of the day we read amazing stories, personal accounts and research into the origin of many of them. Fascinated we took photos, photocopies and notes on the amazing accounts locals had.

Hawaiian sunset

After our research, the two of us not only typed our notes into our laptops, but we had wonderful brainstorming ideas while sitting in the pool…watching the sunset…every night. The results, great research, new found friends, amazing plots and subplots, character and an interesting novel, STRANGE MARKINGS.

Strange Markings is available at Amazon and Smashwords.