Fishing in Public

by “Tackle Box” Billy Kelley
by “Tackle Box” Billy Kelley

Pirate myths dispelled

Hey folks. Enjoying this fine weather, are we? Nothing like winter in Portland, hey? Before I get started on this column, I’d like to mention something: Fishing season is not over.

No. Believe it or not, if you’re brave enough to contend with this weather, you can go out fishing every day. Smelts, baby, smelts! They’re running right off the good ol’ Maine State Pier. Now, as always, you got to go with the tide. And it’s good to stay with the light. And you got to love smelts. It takes quite a few to make a meal.

OK, on with the show. I always promised I’d talk about pirates, and now I will.

What I can say about pirates is: discrepancies. So many myths. I don’t know if Hollywood starts these things or just our imaginations. Things like this — guess how many pirates walked the gangplank. None. That’s right, none. Whoever thought that one up was a real beaut. And you know how they all flew the ol’ skull & crossbones flag? Well, in reality they sailed under any flag they could make up. If they were attacking, say, a Spanish ship (which they did quite often), they would fly the flag of Spain just to fool them, to buy the little time it took to get next to them. And so forth with all the countries. Kept the tailor busy, alright.

Now, I use the Spanish as an example of pirates attacking — however, it really depended on whose eyes you’re looking through. English captains could get a thing called a letter of marque, which was cart blanche to nail them Spanish sons of bitches whatever the excuse. The English and Spanish were perpetually at war. Still might be, as far as I know.

And I must mention Sir Francis Drake. He was not only one of the biggest pirates, he was a big hero of England. Course, his biggest fame was defeating the Spanish Armada. He did this by sending a fire ship (a ship set on fire) into the Spanish fleet. Well, they scattered like the dickens, as a fire was a very scary thing in those days!

And here’s another myth debunked — you know how captains of pirate boats got picked? Believe it or not, they were elected. Yup. Pirate vessels were the most democratic of all boats. They’d elect all the officers. They would vote on everything that happens on the boat: how many lashes for a disciplinary infraction, what boat to hit the next day. That’s why so many guys would jump ship and join the pirates — they knew they’d be heading for a fair bunch of guys.

But I shouldn’t say “guys.” Two of the most infamous pirate captains were women. And, more than likely, they may have been part of the first threesome in pirate history. A gal named Anne Bonny and another gal by the name of Mary Read did their bit to start the sexual revolution. They both joined up with a pirate nicknamed Calico Jack. Not much is known about this relationship, though. Things like this were all hush-hush in those days, even like today. But talk about democratic! They ran the pirate ship 100%.

Another myth: all pirates were in the Caribbean Sea. Now, there was a lot of pirate biz down there, but their capitol was in a spot in Madagascar. Yeah, they’d come out on a raid and hit a ship and beat it back home for a spot called Forbidden Island. And, by the way, another myth shattered — there was no gambling aboard pirate ships. You see, they’d get in fights if they gambled, and no one wanted that. But they’d sure gamble on Madagascar.

The guy that ran that island was a real character. He actually sewed one guy’s lips together ’cause he wouldn’t stop bitching. Ha, ha. I kinda like that rule. People are still looking for buried treasure on that island.

So I hope I’ve dispelled a lot of myths about pirates you might’ve heard. But you know, I would’ve loved to be one.