Here at Deck Ape, we’ve got a thing for pirates. There are a few reasons for our thematic decision; for one, we’re based near the Treasure Coast of Florida. Our staff and coverage currently center around two cities: Tampa, which holds the annual Gasparilla festival in celebration of the legendary Spanish pirate captain Jose Gaspar; and Orlando, home of the pirate ride that was turned into a film franchise.
We believe that you can’t know enough about pirates, so you should definitely seal yourself in a dark room and think about them for several hours. Here are some fun facts to get you started!
5. The Pirates Most People Know and Love Weren’t Around That Long
Piracy has been around for as long as criminal types have had access to seaworthy vessels. (And they’re still around, of course. The “Fatbeard” episode of South Park addresses the disparity between modern pirates and classical examples quite aptly.) That being said, most modern depictions of pirates, including everything you’ve seen regarding Jack Sparrow, were extrapolated from a time period called “the Golden Age of Piracy.”
This period spanned less than 100 years, lasting roughly from the 1650s to the 1730s. To narrow things down even further, most of what we circulate as pirate lore is pulled straight from the third “outburst” of piracy that hit the Caribbean and Eastern US Coast from 1716-1726.
This means that when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales hits theaters next year, the run of the film franchise will actually be longer than the period in history that it’s depicting.
4. We’ve Had Blackbeard’s Name Wrong for Centuries
According to historian and author Colin Woodard, the infamous Blackbeard’s name was not Edward Teach. That misconception is a result of a broadsheet typo regarding the mythical man’s actual name: Edward Thatch.
It’s worth noting that Woodard is the author of “Republic of Pirates,” the book upon which the show Crossbones was based. In the show, Blackbeard is referred to as “Teach,” so I guess the producers told Woodard and his research to piss up a rope.
3. Recruiting Pirates Was Pretty Easy
When pirates from that era took over a ship, there wasn’t much need to slaughter the crew. Once the defeated sailors realized how much freakin’ money they could make through a life of piracy, the question of “join us or die” was sort of a no-brainer. This type of boarding and converting action was like naval vampirism; ships that were overtaken would often sail off to commit their own acts of piracy with a new, mixed crew. In the case of Blackbeard’s exploits, these ships would typically join his impressive fleet of pirate vessels.
Just how much did a pirate actually “earn?” Big shots like Blackbeard were worth millions of dollars by today’s standards – far more than any legitimate naval officer could ever hope to earn. In fact, even the lowliest of pirates could pocket more money in a month than British Captain would be paid in a year.
2. There’s No Evidence that Pirates Ever Made People Walk the Plank
There are written records of unruly, uncooperative types being thrown overboard, but the whole plank-walking thing was probably too theatrical and involved for practical use.
1. “Buccaneers” Earned Their Name from Their Grilling Technique, Not Their Piracy
You’ve probably heard the term “buccaneer,” especially if you’re an NFL fan or a Tampa local. The word has become a general term for a pirate, but do you know where it originated? Specifically, buccaneers weren’t just any pirates — they were Caribbean-based raiders who attacked Spanish shipping lanes and coastal cities during the 17th century. The term itself is derived the Arawak word buccan, a type of wooden frame used for smoking meat. (In those parts, they were often cookin’ up manatee.)
Since we’re talking about pirates, I will take this opportunity to gripe about my annoyance with the Tampa Bay Bucs’ “Siege the Day” campaign. It just kind of irks me because siege warfare has absolutely nothing to do with piracy, so it’s a pretty big thematic disconnect. The two ideas are separated by around two or three centuries. What makes it even more inept is that their marketing people would have been better off leaving the phrase as “seize the day.” Pirates seized things all the time. Never in all of written history did a pirate “siege” anything. Actually, no one ever “seiged” anything, because the verb is “besiege.”
I know I’m nitpicking, but as someone who also writes both fiction and marketing copy for a living, I get put off by this kind of creative laziness.
But I digress . . . let’s get back on track.
All opinions are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deck Ape...or anyone else. Arrr!