Sunday, March 31, 2013

Meta: Yet More

No kidding, right? Hoppy Easter to all y'all and I do hope to be back sooner than later. Love you... seriously...

Header: "Ahoy me Bunnies" via my friend Jeff Coyle via FB

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Meta: A New Adventure on the Horizon

I apologize for skipping my favorite post of the week, Sailor Mouth Saturday, today but I am short on time. I will be embarking on a new adventure starting Monday in the form of a full time, away from home job. I'm thrilled to be so fortunate; the company is an excellent one and they are offering the all-important medical benefits that my family very much needs right now. I cannot gush enough about how lucky I am.

Unfortunately, though, this will impact my ability to spend as much time on Triple P as I have in the past. While I will certainly continue this labor of love, there will be some "down time", at least for a little while. Meanwhile, though, please enjoy the archives. I will return to some form of regular posts, perhaps two or three a week, sooner rather than later. Thank you all for your support, Brethren. And now, let us pack on all sail and put her bow toward that promising horizon...

Header: Captain Kermit Sparrow, apparently, via my good mates at Under the Black Flag on FB

Friday, March 22, 2013

Booty: Remembering the Decatur vs. Barron Duel

March 22, 1820: After years of bad blood between the two, U.S. Navy captains Stephen Decatur and James Barron meet to settle their honor with a duel. While the hows and whys of the actual duel continue to be disputed by historians, the facts are clear. After Decatur shot first, wounding Barron in the hip, Barron shot Decatur in the lower abdomen. With his bowel punctured, Decatur would linger two days at his Lafayette Square home in Washington D.C. crying out in abject pain.

For more on the details of this unfortunate moment in American naval history, see this post on James Barron.

Header: Miniature of Stephen Decatur and the plaque now attached to the home where he died via The Decatur Minute

Thursday, March 21, 2013

History: The Home Remedy

While sawing off bones and applying blisters may have been more dramatic, the surgeon at sea was usually more occupied with the dispensing of pills and syrups to keep his mates going. Often, perhaps more often than we might suppose, these little remedies came from home rather than the wards of a training hospital. The truth is, most naval surgeons had no formal training and most pirate surgeons were simply kidnapped away from various navies.

The cures were generally for such recognizable maladies as colds, sore throats, indigestion, nausea and "the itch" (more on that in a minute.) Some of these are documented, to one degree or another, in the large seafaring memoirs of doctors like Alexander Exquemelin but most are more readily found in writings more close to shore. Mrs. Child in her The Family Nurse of 1837, for instance, gives us some insight into the time-tested cures that were certainly in use for centuries when she wrote them down.

Just as a few examples, colds could be treated by soaking the feet in warm water, binding them up with a warm onion each and then putting the patient to bed with a half pint of strong penny royal or calamint tea. Mrs. Child assures the reader that this is "almost sure to cure a cold."

Likewise, a small lump of saltpeter held in the mouth until it dissolves will help alleviate a sore throat. Wrapping the neck in warm flannels will hurry the process along. Given that saltpeter can be poisonous, one imagines that dosing would need to be carefully monitored.

A tablespoonful of "the brine in which rennet is preserved is extremely salutary in cases of indigestion and an acid stomach." This ancestor of Alka-Seltzer, Mrs. Child says, "is less disagreeable" if taken with a little water, "but it is better to take it clear."

"Common ashes," as from a fire, stirred into twice as much boiling water is given a teaspoon at a time "at intervals" to help control nausea and vomiting. Mrs. Child notes that "some prefer to stir it in cider" and given that cider was most often an alcoholic beverage at the time the results must have varied to say the least.

"The odor of burning feathers, horn or leather, is good for hysteric fainting fits," and "O'Meara, surgeon to Napoleon, declares that a teaspoon of salt, moistened and put upon the tongue of a patient during an epileptic fit, affords immediate relief."

Finally, both Mrs. Child and Exquemelin, in his The Buccaneers of America, agree on the cure for what they refer to as "the itch." This, of course, would have been the infestation of various crawling, biting parasites that have the habit of crawling around on the human body. Particularly in warmer climates the problem could become incapacitating fairly quickly. The recommended remedy is as follows:

... to stand half an hour, or more, in a tight barrel, cover to the throat with old blankets or carpets; two or three lighted brimstone matches should be placed inside the barrel, by means of a small hole near the bottom, and every crevice stopped, that no smoke may escape. It is well to take moderate doses of sulphur, night and morning, for some days after.

Exquemelin notes that this cure was risky at best at sea and generally reserved for times ashore, such as when careening or plundering.

Header: The Astrolabe and Zelee Aground in the Torres Strait by Louis le Breton c 1810s via Wikimedia

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tools of the Trade: Navigation Essentials

If there is doubt as to advisability of including some item of equipment, the safer decision is to include it. It is better to have unused equipment than to risk danger of becoming lost because of lack of needed equipment. ~ from the American Practical Navigator by Nathaniel Bowditch

What to bring, then? A ship can be a small thing with little room for human bodies much less spare equipment. Of course, as the advice above notes, it is better to have a thing sitting around than to not have that same thing when your life depends on it. According to Peter H. Spectre, Bowditch recommended this bare minimum in the early 19th century:

A watch with a second hand for timing courses
Gimbaled lamp to light your charts
Barometer for forecasting weather
Parallel rulers for making courses
Dividers for stepping off distances
Pencils, paper, etc.

All of these things would most often have been found at the so called "navigation station" aboard ship. Generally, but not always, this would have been located in the captain's cabin. Today, much of the busy work has been eliminated by GPS and computers. All the same, better have the above just in case. Technology is a wonderful thing... until it ceases to function, that is.

Header: View of Ships Near Venice by Oliver D. Grover via American Gallery

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Seafaring Sunday: Sea Language

The sea language is not soon learned, much less understood, being only proper to him that has served his apprenticeship: because that, a boisterous sea and stormy weather will make a man not bred on it so sick, that it bereaves him of legs and stomach and courage, so much as to fight with his meat. And in such weather, when he hears a seaman cry starboard, or larboard, or to bid alooff, or flat a sheet, or haul home a cluing, he thinks he hears a barbarous speech, which he conceives not the meaning of.

~ from the Naval Tracts of Sir William Monson. Monson, who was from a landed family in Lincolnshire, ran away to sea in 1585 at the age of 16. He saw service in a privateer as one of Queen Elizabeth's sea dogs and was a lieutenant in the Charles when she joined the English fleet against the Spanish Armada. Monson retired in the 1630s with the rank of Vice-Admiral and settled in to write his now famous tracts. He died in 1643.

Header: English ships and the Spanish Armada by an unknown artist of the British School via Wikipedia

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Fresh

Tomorrow is Saint Patrick's Day: the day we're all Irish. Aside from corned beef, beer and all things green I always harken back to - and I'm really dating myself here - these very old Irish Spring soap commercials. Making a "strong" man "fresh" was what Irish Spring was about and thus, today's SMS word.

Fresh at sea generally refers to one of three things: water, wind or rigging. Let's look at them in that order, shall we?

Fresh water if, of course, that that is not salt. A ship freshens her water by taking on more casks of same for drinking and cooking but rarely if ever for washing. Other fresh water, particularly that from rain or snow, was used for that purpose. If none of that was to hand one might have the good luck to use the freshening from a local river. The so called fresh shot was the fresh water that came down stream from a large river and emptied into a body of salt water. As Admiral Smyth notes in The Sailor's Word Book, in such cases - particularly after a large dump of rain or with snow melt inland - "... fresh water is often to be found on the surface a good way from the mouth of the river." There is, in similar cases, the freshes which refer to the large deposits of silt and other materials swept into the oceans and gulfs by the world's mightiest rivers. With the Nile, Congo, Ganges, Mississippi and others, the discolorations in the salt waters can be seen from outer space.

In relation to rivers, a sailor with blue water experience may refer to one who works rivers and lakes pejoratively as a "fresh water jack." This was essential an insult and meant that the individual was just this side of a lubber. Samuel Clemens, as an example, might be called a fresh water jack by the likes of Richard Henry Dana, Jr. or Joseph Conrad. Sorry, Mark Twain...

Fresh water seas are those that are so large, they essentially behave like the ocean. Probably the best example of these is the Great Lakes at the U.S. and Canada boarder. Superior, Michigan, Huron Erie and Ontario are all example of lakes that are just as vast - and potentially deadly - as any gulf we know.

A fresh breeze is a brisk and often sudden wind but can also refer to the way a ship is handled in known channels of wind, such as the trades or gulf stream. A fresh gale is just a more powerful form of a fresh breeze. When a ship begins to feel the push of a fresh breeze, she is said to freshen her way. Fresh way is also said of a man who picks up his stride or sets out at a run. Fresh way is slightly different, and refers to a ships increased speed through the water; she gathers fresh way, for instance, after completing a successful tack when her sails once again catch the wind.

One can freshen rigging by adjusting ropes or cable, thus relieving pressure points and potential failure on or of same. To freshen the hawse, for instance, means to relieve the part of the cable that has been repeatedly exposed to friction from the hawse hole. This is necessary in times when a ship sits at anchor for some days. The term freshen the nip follows this rule and essential refers to the same duty. It also has been used to essentially mean "the sun is over the yardarm" for those officers who are ready for a glass.

The ballast is freshened when it is raked and/or moved to better purpose. Fresh grub are new stores taken aboard. A fresh spell means new men to taking on a repetitious task such as turning the capstan. And finally, your mate might be fresh meaning not that he is a bit too friendly but that he is just this side of drunk. As the Admiral puts it delicately, "excited by drink."

So cheers mates and a Happy St. Pat's. Perhaps a Guinness rather than a grog is in order. Slainte!

Header: Merchant's Quay at Newry; photo from the National Library of Ireland via Naval Architecture

Friday, March 15, 2013

Booty: The Gentleman Sailor (and How to Be One)

The above poster, which I found over at the always surprising Mid-Century on tumblr, gives some concise and easy to follow rules for gentlemanly courtesy to ladies (click to enlarge and appreciate the captions - and the somewhat surprisingly short skirts.) Produced by the U.S. Navy during the World War II era, the gestures probably seem quaint to most of us now. They shouldn't. We lose something of our humanity when we cease to treat others with respect (and the ladies with their heads screwed on straight always respond to a bit of chivalry, mates). Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

People: The General and the Pirate

Tomorrow marks the 246th anniversary of the birth of the seventh President of the U.S.A.: Andrew Jackson. While, in our comically PC world, Jackson is now a "controversial" figure, I would happily stand by him on the floor of Congress or in battle. Much like my other favorite American leader, Theodore Roosevelt, Jackson "got shit done." It's really difficult to be PC and keep a country together.

Of course another Triple P favorite - Jean Laffite - figured into the life of then Major General Jackson when he offered his services to fight the British on Chalmette plane. Unfortunately, how and where these two fascinating characters met is lost to history. But there are still some erroneous suppositions in that regard that cling to the situation like toilet paper to a stiletto heel: if you look at them to closely, they're just embarrassing.

Take as an example the following quote from master historian H.E. Brands' biography Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times. The book is extremely well written and researched and, aside from the fatal flaw we're about to discuss, it is surely my favorite of the many modern biographies of Jackson. So it is doubly disappointing that Brands, like Winston Groom in Patriotic Fire, relies on the as yet unauthenticated "Journal of Jean Lafitte" for his discussions of the Baratarian leader.

Here is one such example, from page 271 of the first printing. The quotes are from the Journal and include a extremely self-satisfied tone on Laffite's part as well as a very specific reference to Dominique Youx being Laffite's brother:

(Laffite had a rather fanciful recollection of the events leading to Jackson's decision to accept the services of him and his men. "I could not waste any more time waiting for a chance that would put me face to face with General Jackson," he wrote many years later. "With a few officers of my staff, I came across the General at the northeast corner of Saint Philippe and Royal Streets. I explained to him that my conduct had been marked with a loyalty and a patriotism unequaled during the thirty-eight years that had passed since the declaration of American independence. I challenged the General to a duel, in reply to the unfounded and punishable insults directed upon us. In spite of the respect I had for his uniform, I must say that the general's intelligence seemed much inferior to mine. He refused to accept my challenge. I threatened to slap his face, but my eldest brother, Dominique Youx, intervened as a conciliator. Later the General received us in his office at 106 Royal Street." At this point in Laffite's story, Jackson saw the light and brought him on board.)

All the little missteps in that paragraph aside, it is truly disheartening to see a businessman as intelligent and capable as Laffite reduced to the role of megalomaniacal chihuahua yipping at the heels of a great mastiff. In fact, Jackson and Laffite were equals in their own way but Laffite had a good deal more to lose if the discussion had gone south, including potentially his freedom. Hollow words and face slapping of superiors were rarely the tack of the Laffite brothers... or Dominique Youx for that matter.

Happy Birthday, Andrew Jackson. You'll always be my favorite President just as the Laffites will always top my list of pirate. For what ever that's worth: Huzzah!

Header: Major General Andrew Jackson by Samuel L. Waldo via American Gallery

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

History: Inquisition of the Galleys

Galley slavery has been a high seas reality since ancient times. Everyone from war captives to convicts and heretics have been used by both navies and pirates as labor to move ships along the water. The lives and futures of these unfortunate men were usually bleak. Though galley sentences might be limited, few survived their ordeal and those who did were either denied release or so broken by their experience that they were left few options for the future.

In Europe, France and Spain were particularly attached to condemning criminals to galley service. Under Philip II of Spain (reigned 1554 to 1598), the policy was taken to the New World under the so called "Inquisition of the Galleys." Major Arthur Griffiths describes Philip's policy in his book In Spanish Prisons:

Philip wished to extend the sway of the Inquisition and planned a naval tribunal to take cognisance of heresy afloat. He created the Inquisition of the Galleys, or, as it was afterwards styled, of the Army and the Navy. In every sea port a commissary general visited the shipping to search for prohibited books and make sure of the orthodoxy of crews and passengers.

Those unfortunate enough to be deemed "unorthodox" would be brought before a local tribunal. Conviction was often a foregone conclusion and the captive would be forced into the "celebration" of an auto de fe; literally "act of faith."

Griffiths goes on to quote the memoir of a Seville goldsmith named Carcel who was swept up by the Inquisition, or so he claimed. In describing his own auto de fe, Carcel speaks of his own punishment:

My offense, I found, was having spoken bitterly of the Inquisition, and having called a crucifix a mere bit of cut ivory. I was therefore declared excommunicated, my goods confiscated by the king, I was banished Spain and condemned to the Havana galleys for five years...

It appears that Carcel survived his ordeal having been able to write his remembrances down. Most of those condemned as Carcel were not so lucky given the miserable conditions and potential violence from war and piratical attack that they faced on a daily basis.

Griffiths finally notes that the Inquisition of the Galleys fell out of favor after Philip II's death. Considered an impediment to "business on the High Seas" it "fell into disuse" and was, by the mid-17th century, given no more than lip service in the New World.

Header: Convicts on a galley's benches; exhibit from the Barcelona Maritime Museum via Wikipedia

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Seafaring Sunday: Unhappy Nuptials

March 10, 1787: Horatio Nelson marries Frances Nisbet at Montpelier Estate on the Island of Nevis. Prince William Henry gave the bride away. Nelson wrote to his friend William Locker shortly after that he was "morally certain [Fanny] will continue to make me a happy man for the rest of my days." In matters of the heart, however, Nelson proved a poor prognosticator.

Header: Fanny Nelson by an anonymous artist of the British School c 1800 via Wikipedia

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Lap

Today's word swings widely at sea. From superstitions about weather to naval uniforms to the building of iron vessels, lap plays a little part in them all.

In shipbuilding, lap over revers to the carlings of masts which Admiral Smyth explains clearly in The Sailors Word Book:

Pieces of timber about five inches square, lying fore and aft, along from one beam to another. On and athwart these the ledges rest, whereon the planks of the deck and other portions of carpentry are made fast.

Thus, the mast carlings are said to lap over or upon the deck because they are necessarily deep. Laps proper are the ends of a carling that support an unusual heft. Admiral Smyth gives the example of the capstan step.

Lap jointing refers to the overlapping plates of iron on a vessel. This form of shipbuilding is similar to the old wooden fashion known as clincher or clinker building.

We've all read of the wave "lapping" at the shore or some other solid surface but at sea, lapping often refers to thin ice. Indicating the way the ice slowly builds as the temperature descends, these layers of overlapping ice can be an extreme danger to ships and men, trapping or even crushing vessels in their stealthy grasp.

The word lapel (lapelle) was once as important to naval uniforms as the more modern epaulette. The golden fringed epaulette came into use in European navies during the late 18th and early 19th century. Prior to that, a white lapelle was used in uniform making to indicate the rank of lieutenant. Admiral Smyth quotes what he calls "the brackish poet, in the craven midshipman's lament":

If I had in my country staid,
I then had learnt some useful trade,
And scorned the white lapelle.

In northern seas women who claimed a certain talent for weather-witchery were sometimes dubbed Lapland Witches. Apparently the women of this Finish tribe were more than capable of bringing fair weather - but at a price. One was considered an ignorant gob among his mates if he bought weather for coin.

Famously, the dish known as lap's course is said to be one of the oldest savory dishes served to any working ship's foc's'l men. It developed into the more familiar lobscouse, a stew of salted meat, potatoes, onions, spices and ship's biscuit for thickening that warmed the heart and stuck to the ribs of many a hungry seamen throughout history.

And so, an end to lap. I chose this word today because it is my youngest daughter's fourteenth birthday today. Like any mother who loves her children, I now see a beautiful young lady but remember a very little redhead who used to like to sit on my lap and listen to me sing...

Happy Saturday, Brethren; fair winds, following sails and full tankards to you all!

Header: Beach Scene by Gustav Courbet c 1874 via Old Paint

Friday, March 8, 2013

Booty: Eternal Beauty is a Ship

Today I want to share with the Brethren one of my new favorite haunts on the Interwebs where I can get a daily fix of beautiful ships, boats and oceanic majesty even if I can't quite get down to the sea. Naval Architecture on tumblr offers up a nice dose of gorgeousness on a consistent basis. As an example, the beautiful picture above of U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle at dock. Words don't compare.

Click over and see all there is to take in; you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

History: Instructions for Privateers

On May 2nd of 1780 the Continental Congress of the fledgling U.S.A. did something that hadn't been done by what they would have termed a "civilized nation" for close to 400 years: they issued instructions to the captains and commanders of private armed vessels carrying Continental letters of marque. This essential act of congress would be referred to in evaluating the conduct of U.S. privateers until the Civil War with only one small amendment in 1781.

The document, which you can view in high resolution at the Library of Congress website, is thoughtful and specific. There is very little "wiggle room", so to say, as there would be in a straight letter of mark - for instance this one issued during the War of 1812. The instructions include guidelines for the taking of enemy ships (only Britain is mentioned here), the treatment of persons aboard those ships, the libeling of ship and cargo and other issues of conduct.

Of particular interest here is the treatment of passengers aboard captured ships. From Article VI:

If you, or any of your officers or crew, shall, in cold blood, kill or maim, or by torture or otherwise, cruelly, inhumanly, and contrary to common usage and the practice of civilized nations in war, treat any person or persons surprized in the ship or vessel you shall take, the offender shall be severely punished.

That's a key factor that should, in theory, separate a privateer from a pirate. Aside from the proper legal libel of any captured vessel and it's cargo, the mistreatment of so called prisoners marked the rogue vs. the gentleman sailor.

The amendment of 1781 changed the following piece of Article I which excepted the capture of:

...ships or vessels, along with their cargoes, belonging to any inhabitant or inhabitants of Bermuda...

At the time the U.S. held, albeit very shakily, the capital of Bermuda, New Providence, and probably had aspirations of including the islands as a future state. Also excepted:

... such other ships or vessels bringing persons with intent to settle and reside withing the United States...

New people were a welcome commodity for the new nation. Despite this, the commanders are instructed to search these vessels and, should the man in command prove hesitant or false in his description of his ship's intent, seizure is implied to be permissible.

All in all the document, which is handsomely preserved, is a commendable attempt at keeping U.S. privateers from slipping into the habits of piracy. Over all, it seems to have had the intended effect.

Header: USS Revenge via Wikipedia ~ she is flying the famous "Don't Tread on Me" flag favored by U.S. privateers during the Revolution

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tools of the Trade: Stanger's Fever

In a rush this morning (not a Benjamin Rush, thankfully...) so here's one from the archives circa August 2011:

The yellow jack was indeed a killer: it was difficult to fix upon any satisfactory figure, though he had heard well-authenticated accounts of a mortality amounting to eighty in a hundred. ~ from The Commodore by Patrick O'Brian.

This is just a bit of the musings that go through Doctor Stephen Maturin's mind upon realizing that he has contracted yellow fever off the coast of West Africa. The disease, which we now know is transmitted like malaria by mosquitoes, was the scourge of tropical areas all over the world. To this day there are pockets of swampy land that still harbor the deadly aedes mosquito and travelers to certain parts of the globe are advised to get vaccinated before leaving home.

In the Great Age of Sail, it was people from out of town, so to say, that tended to contract yellow fever. Locals often suffered a milder form of the disease, which did not reach the so called "toxic state" in childhood, thus building up a relative immunity. This meant that sailors from Northern shores would find themselves sick after spending time in places like the Gulf of Mexico, the West Indies, the Indian Ocean or, as O'Brian notes, the African Coast. Maturin's figures are generally accurate; mortality among sufferers was about 80% over all.

Symptoms follow a fairly recognizable path, with the patient experiencing a fever as high as 103 degrees and all the accompanying miseries: head and body aches, chills and loss of appetite. The toxic phase was experienced when internal organs began to shut down. Stomach bleeding let to the tell-tale "black vomit" along with bleeding from the nose, mouth and sometimes even the eyes. The skin and eyes took on a yellow hue as the liver and kidneys ceased to function. General lividity of the skin ensued and the patient suffered temperatures as high as 106. In these cases, death was a virtual certainty.

In the 17th and most of the 18th century the disease was treated like any other fever. A sufferer was put to bed, or in the case of a sick berth aboard ship strapped into a hammock, and given clean bedclothes whenever possible. Bathing with a cloth dipped in cool water and vinegar was often recommended with the head and hair being included in the process. Sometimes the patient was wrapped in woolen blankets and put near a fire to help "sweat out" the fever. Quiet and calm around the sick person was always thought best. Unfortunately, so was bleeding.

In the late 18th century, the rise of the medical profession pushed aside the homey, comforting remedies of mothers and wives and began aggressive treatment for yellow fever. One of the most famous proponents of hitting the fever hard was Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Rush was a physician in Philadelphia when the famous epidemic of the summer and fall of 1793 hit the city. While other doctors were prescribing barley water and Peruvian bark (quinine), along with the cooling baths mentioned above, Rush was vigorously removing liters of blood. He also prescribed purges to induce vomiting and diarrhea as soon as the fever came on.

Though Rush's proactive treatment may have appealed to the idea of "doing something" that the sick and their loved ones frequently harbor, it was in fact something akin to a death sentence to his patients. The aggressive bleeding combined with regular purging took out the much needed fluids that would have helped the patient battle the disease. While Rush blamed any patient's death on his not being called soon enough, other physicians in Philadelphia grumbled that Rush was as fatal as the disease.

Well into the 19th century, people from cooler climates blamed yellow fever on the hot, humid "miasmas" common to more southern latitudes. The yellow jack, as it was frequently called in the American South and the Caribbean, became known as the Stranger's Fever in Britain and the northern U.S. While the British never seem to have developed a specific prejudice in this regard, people in the United States definitely did. By the 1820s the Stranger's Fever was considered to be just another example of how filthy and backward the South really was. Forgetting the horrors suffered in Philadelphia, the northern states imagined themselves capable of keeping their cities clean and avoiding pestilential disease.

Meanwhile, men at sea continued to experience yellow fever into the 20th century. Even after the discovery and partial eradication of the aedes mosquito which occurred in large part thanks to efforts begun during the building of the Panama Canal, some areas of the world continue to experience infection. Modern scientists worry about two possible scenarios that could bring the killer back with a vengeance: global warming and biological warfare. Perhaps it's best that none of us forget about warm bedding and barley waters quite yet. Better still: get vaccinated.

Header: Nuns nursing yellow fever patients in Philadelphia, 1793 via Dipity's timeline of the epidemic

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lady Pirates: "She was of a Fierce Temper"

The life of Anne Bonny, famous lady pirate who disappeared into a misty past after living through a sensational trial and giving birth in jail, has been hashed and rehashed. But it never hurts to hear from a contemporary source, no matter how familiar the story. Here, then is Captain Johnson aka Daniel Defoe's short but engaging description of Mistress Bonny from his A General History of the Pyrates:

She was of a fierce and courageous Temper, wherefore, when she lay under Condemnation, several Stories were reported of her much to her Disadvantage, as that she had kill'd an English Servant-Maid once in her Passion with a Case-Knife, while she look'd after her Father's House; but upon further Enquiry, I found this Story to be groundless: It was certain she was so robust, that once, when a young Fellow would have him with her, against her Will, she beat him so, that he lay ill of it a considerable Time.

While she lived with her Father, she was look'd upon as one that would be a good Fortune, wherefore it was thought her Father excepted a good Match for her; but she spoil'd all, for without his Consent, she marries a young Fellow, who belong'd to the Sea, and was not worth a Groat; which provoked her Father to such a Degree, that her turn'd her out of Doors, upon which the young Fellow, who married her, finding himself disappointed in his Expectation, shipped himself and Wife, for the Island of Providence, expecting Employment there.

Here she became acquainted with Rackam the Pyrate, who making Courtship to her, soon found Means of withdrawing her Affections from her Husband, so that she consented to elope from him, and go to Sea with Rackam in Men's Cloaths: She was as good as her Word, and after she had been at Sea some Time, she proved with Child, and beginning to grow big, Rackam landed her on the Island of Cuba; and recommending her there to some Friends of his, they took Care of her, till she was brought to Bed: When she was up and well again, he sent for her to bear him Company.

The King's Proclamation being out, for pardoning of Pyrates, he took the Benefit of it, and surrender'd; afterwards being sent upon the privateer Account, he return'd to his old Trade, as has been already hinted in the Story of Mary Read. In all the Expeditions, Anne Bonny bore him Company, and when any Business was to be done in their Way, no Body was more forward or courageous than she, and particularly when they were taken; she and Mary Read, with one more, were all the Persons that durst keep the Deck, as has been before hinted.

Her Father was known to a great many Gentlemen Planters of Jamaica, who dealt with him, and among whom he had a good Reputation; and some of them, who had been in Carolina, remember'd to have seen her in his House; wherefore they were inclined to shew her Favour, but the Action of leaving her Husband was an ugly Circumstance against her. The Day that Rackam was executed, by special Favour, he was admitted to see her; but all the Comfort she gave him, was, that she was sorry to see him there, but if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang'd like a Dog.

She was continued in Prison, to the Time of her lying in, and afterwards reprieved from Time to Time; but what is become of her since, we cannot tell; only this we know, that she was not executed.

Header: Pirates Abroad by Don Maitz

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Seafaring Sunday: What's in a Name

March 3, 1819: An Act of the U.S. Congress legislates the naming of navy ships:

Ships of the first class for states, of the second class for rivers, and of the third class for cities and towns.

This form of naming began before the legislation, at least to some degree, as can be noted by the name of the great frigate pictured above.

Header: USS Chesapeake c 1812 by F. Muller c 1900 via Wikipedia

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Clothes

The clothes make the man, or so we're told, but at sea words that would indicate things used for covering the body human to a lubber mean something very different. Here's a handy list from Peter H. Spectre's The Mariner's Book of Days 2013:

Apron ~ a strengthening timber behind the stempost.
Belly band ~ a band of canvas across a sail to prevent it from "bellying" - or stretching - from the force of the wind.
Bibbs ~ mast brackets that support the trestle-trees; also called hounds.
Bonnet ~ a piece of sailcloth attached to the foot of a sail to temporarily increase sail area.
Boot-top ~ band of paint defining the waterline of a hull.
Breeching ~ a backstay.
Buckler ~ a shaped piece of wood for caulking the hawseholes.
Cap ~ a fitting at the head of a mast or the end of a spar.
Cape ~ a pormontory.
Clasp ~ a hook that clasps a ring, or a stay, or a rope.
Collar knot ~ a knot used to fit shrouds to a mast.
Dress ~ to bedeck a ship with flags, pennants and bunting.
Earings ~ small pieces of line attached to cringles in a sail to be used when reefing [I can always tell this one from the ear adornment by the spelling; it is also part of that sailor's jargon meaning "from head to toe"; "from clew to earing."]
Girdle ~ a piece of rope passed around anything; also, a plank fastened over the wales of a wooden vessel.
Hood ~ a covering over gear, scuttle, or companion; also, the last plank of a complete strake in wooden shipbuilding.
Jacket ~ the outer layer of a double-planked hull.
Jumper ~ a rope used to prevent unwanted movement of a mast, spar or boom.
Mast coat ~ a gasket used to waterproof the opening where a mast penetrates the deck.
Quilting ~ a jacket of canvas, leather or rope to protect a bottle from breaking.
Skirts ~ the main body of a sail.
Slip ~ to let something go on purpose - i.e., to slip the anchor; also a launching way; also a space for mooring a vessel.
Strap ~ an iron bar for working a capstan; also, a metal band around a block.
Suit ~ a set of sails.

Finally, clothes may make the man but it seems this aphorism is proven doubly so in the case of Captain Oliver Hazard Perry, the Hero of Lake Erie from the War of 1812 whose famous flag hangs just to my right as I write. Thanks to my dear mate Captain Swallow, it is a constant reminder to go forward, be brave and never mind maneuvers: always go at them!

Header: Captain Oliver Hazard Perry by Edward L. Mooney c 1839 via Wikipedia

Friday, March 1, 2013

Booty: From Far off Shores

Over at the wonderful blog of the USS Constitution Museum, last Wednesday's post told of the wartime letters of a sailors wife at home namely Abigail Chew. Abigail was married to Constitution's purser, Thomas J. Chew, who saw action in the Atlantic and Mediterranean during the War of 1812. What the post offers of their letters shows two people who are very much endeared to one another and who have that wonderful style of writing that is both personal and fluent, and that is almost completely lost in our current milieu: "C U L8R" etc. *sigh*

What caught my eye, aside from that, was the lovely set of jewelry shown above and currently on display at the museum. Known once upon a time - in Abigail's day for instance - as a parure, such sets usually included a necklace, earrings, a pair of bracelets and either a brooch or a diadem. It may be that the set above had all those things at one time or that it came to Abigail just as it is shown. The cameo jewelry is made of coral, a very popular choice in the first two decades of the 19th century on both sides of the Atlantic. Also of note are the screw-backed earrings. By this time, particularly in conservative areas of the U.S. such as New England, piercing of the ears was on the decline. Screw-backed earrings would continue in favor through the Victorian era and even make a short comeback in the 1940s and '50s. I remember my mother having more than one pair.

This lovely set was acquired by Thomas somewhere in the Mediterranean, and may very well have ended up in his hands as proper booty. Foreign sailors were a popular target for the selling of stolen goods by local thieves and pirates in many ports around the world. It's almost certain that Thomas purchased this beautiful gift for his wife, but how the seller came to have it is open to quite a bit of speculation.

Click over to Log Lines and enjoy their fascinating posts that make the history and the people of USS Constitution live on. I'll wager you'll enjoy the site as much as I do. Happy Friday!