Monday, February 9, 2015

A Pirate's True Love

“What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?”
“You’d think it would be ‘R’ but it’s the ‘C’ they love…"  This week, pirates and the only thing they love more than stolen gold. The sea that sustains them.

The one thing that pirates needed more than anything was salt water to sail on. In fact the very definition of ‘pirate’ is that of a sea-going robber. The sea comes first. After many famous pirates won gold and treasure enough to make them rich for life, they could not resist the lure of the open ocean. It’s the reason so few pirates successfully retired.

What makes the sea call so strongly?

You might ask that question of anyone. The sounds, smell and sight of water are ingrained in the human psyche. When shown pictures of places – be they urban, rural or wilderness, humans consistently rate their beauty and desirability higher if water is shown.  The sound of waves lapping on the shore is packaged onto CD’s and sold as a sleep-aid. As a species we simply love water.

Some people believe that we get this before we’re even born. The sounds of a mother’s blood, rushing through her veins, the gurgle of her stomach, these are the first sounds and unborn child hears. And the first sensation it feels is the gently floating, rocking feeling of being supported in fluid as mother walks and moves.

It may be hard to tie these gentle images to, say, Blackbeard. But it’s a fact that, after he had amassed his stolen fortune, Blackbeard established himself as a gentlemen, bought a house etc. and then he risked it all… fatally… to return to sailing. His desire to spend time in a boat was his undoing, and brought him death in an increasingly civilized world.

Some scientists, however, believe that the love of the ocean is even more primal than pre-birth memories. They cite the fact that the mineral makeup of the human body is almost exactly that of the sea. And the fetus, in its very early stages, goes through a period when it has gills and a tail. They think that we’re programmed from the beginning of out earliest ancestors to want to live near water.

And, in fact, even in the current age, an estimated 80% of the world’s population lives within 80 miles of a coastline.

The pirate captain Stede Bonnet may have been mad. But his particular madness showed itself in a desire to run away to sea… not to some foreign land where his upper-middle-class riches would have done him some good, and his family name would have been useful. No, Bonnet ran away to sea, in spite of knowing nothing about sailing or navigation. The sea had called him.

There’s a story of a sailor who, tired of the hardships of his previous life, took up his small bag of possessions, slung an oar over his shoulder, and began to walk inland.  The story goes that, when someone asked him, “What’s that great long piece of wood you’re carrying around?” the sailor knew that he was far enough inland that he was safe from the sea’s call.

The sea has inspired innumerable songs of love and longing. People who have never hauled on a ship’s rigging in their lives sing and enjoy sea shanties, and the sea has figures in love songs from the pirate’s day to the present. The sea is the rocking, rolling lover who called the sailor from his home and family, no matter how much he may wish to be safe and dry.

“Oh a landsman’s life is all his own, he can go or he can stay
But when the sea is in your blood, when She calls you much obey.”
Goes one old song.

The sea is a woman. Most cultures agree on this (sorry, Poseidon). It comes from the changeable nature of the ocean, no doubt. One minute it can be fair, gentle and kind, and a moment later a squall develops out of nowhere and the sailors are fighting for their lives. Very much like a woman’s temper. The men who sail her have no idea what’s going on, just as men don’t understand their wives and sweethearts. But the love and the endless attraction is still there.

I’ll end with one of my favorite images of a retired pirate. Billy Bones, from Treasure Island, who sailed with Flint and amassed a small fortune. To retire, he chooses the Admiral Benbow Inn, an impoverished place that is still close to the water. Billy is afraid his old shipmates will hunt him down, but he still can’t be away from his true love. Every day he goes out alone, to look at the sea. It’s all he wants.

If you want to give your pirate-loving significant other a unique Valentin's gift, order a copy of "Gentlemen and Fortune" or "Bloody Seas" by TS Rhodes!


  1. The sea has also been the inspiration for many works of art.


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