Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Pirate's Primer

So You Want to be a Pirate?

Look at yourself, ya scurvy dog. You think you want to be a pirate? You? . . .Ha! You're a landlubber, matey. I'll bet ya don't know your articles from your yard arm. Pirates are rough bunch of people and if you want to join 'em then you better learn up on 'em. Otherwise, you'll be kissing the gunner's daughter long before the dog watch. Lucky for you that I happen to run in that circle. I'll help ya out with The Pirate's Primer. Pay attention and you'll be kicking the powder monkey and climbing the ratlines in no time. Me? Oh, you can call me Simple Simon. I'm the cook, and sometimes the gunner's mate, aboard the privateer Sabine.

Let's start with some basics. First I'll explain everything I just said to you. And I'll use wee little words that a child could understand as I can see you're a bit confused. Then we'll talk about some of the future topics that you can expect to see in the Pirates Primer.

Scurvy is a disease caused by a lack of fresh vegetable food, but a scurvy dog is a low, base, mean or rotten person. I'm sure ya know what a landlubber is, anyone who is not a sailor. A ship's articles are the contract that everyone on board ship signs agreeing to abide by the rules of the ship. That may not sound very piratical to you, but it is through and through. A yard arm is either half of a long slender horizontal pole affixed at a right angle to the to a mast that is used to support a square sail. Kissing the gunner's daughter refers to a shipboard punishment involving being tied over a cannon to stretch your back out real well for a flogging. The dog watches are a pair of short half shift watches occurring roughly from 4-6 and 6-8 pm. Kicking the powder monkey refers to harassing one of the young lads who serve aboard ship to quickly run the bags of gunpowder from the magazine, where it is kept safe and dry, to the cannons. The rat lines are the cargo netting-like ladders that run up the sides of the masts. Now maybe you know a little more than you did before and that is the goal here.

As the weeks go by we will look at the different types of ships seen in the age of piracy. We will discuss the parts of a sailing ship and her rigging. We will talk about the various crew positions on board ship. We will examine the ship's articles and discuss why they made the rules they did. We will talk about naval warfare during the period as well as some of the famous figures of the time both pirates and pirate hunters. Finally, since we're not at sea, this won't be one man rules all so I welcome any comments, questions, or suggestions that you might have. Don't worry matey. Just stick with Simple Simon. I'll not be tellin' anyone how green ye are now and soon enough you'll know more about being a sea dog than ye ever dreamed.

Copyright 2001, Mark S. Cookman

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