Triangular Trade made Piracy Golden

When European demand for the products from the Spanish Main and the Caribbean Islands soared in the 17th and 18th centuries, a very profitable system was set up to transport these goods back to England, Spain, France and The Netherlands.  The so called Triangular Trade took manufactured products such as cloth, iron and beer to Africa to be exchanged for slaves, which were then takes across the Atlantic and sold at tremendous profit.  The ships then loaded up with sugar, molasses and rum and headed back to Europe in a triangular circuit that took about a year to complete.

By the beginning of the 18th century all of this wealth, the slave ships coming in from Africa and the goods laden ships leaving for Europe, had become irresistible targets for looters and pirates.  The golden age of piracy was born, not due to grand efforts on the part of the pirates themselves, but because of the abundance of spoils and the ease of taking them.

Here’s some more reading material:

Pirates didn’t worry about Hurricanes

In the years from 1645 to 1715, which coincided with the golden age of piracy in the Caribbean, there was a lull in tropical storm activity.  Recent studies of examining the tree rings in the wood from 500 year old shipwrecks shows there were 75% fewer storms during that time period.

One wonders if the increasing number of hurricanes, which clearly made their trade more perilous, further encouraged the pirates of Nassau to accept the amnesty pardon offered by Woodes Rogers, the new governor of The Bahamas, when he arrived in 1718.

Here’s a link to the article:


The real Robinson Crusoe was a pirate

I just read a great article from the Smithsonian about Alexander Selkirk, the inspiration for Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe; click here to read it for yourself.  Not only does it tell the story of Selkirk, but it also provides a glimpse into what life aboard a real pirate ship might have been; here’s an exerpt from the article:

“Because pirates have been so romanticized by actors from Errol Flynn to Johnny Depp, it’s easy to overlook that the typical pirate ship stank of animals and excrement, that scurvy and yellow fever often killed so many that corpses were routinely dumped at sea, and that pirates often delighted in macabre torture.

Pirate prisoners would most likely have chosen to walk the plank—a practice more common in TV cartoons than in pirate history—rather than be subjected to sadists like Edward Low, who, in the 1720s, cut off a prisoner’s lips and broiled them in front of the hapless fellow, or those who practiced “woolding,” in which slender cords were twisted tightly around men’s heads in the hope of seeing their eyes burst from their sockets.

Consequently, when commercial shipowners or governments captured pirates, they were rarely shown mercy. Pirate expert David Cordingly, former curator of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, writes in Under the Black Flag that it was common practice in the British colonies to place the body of a captured pirate in a steel cage shaped like a man’s body and suspend it near the entrance to a port as a grisly warning to seamen.”

Read more:
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12!
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

An 18th Century Pirate’s Perspective

In researching the book I’m currently writing about the pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, I came across a great passage from “History of the Pyrates” printed in 1724 relating to whether capital punishment, specifically hanging, was a deterrent to becoming a pirate.  I cut and pasted it here because it is fun to read in the original format.

At Mary Read’s trial she was asked why she became a pirate where she would be “fure of dying an ignominious Death, if flie fhould be taken alive ?”

This is her recorded reply:

“-She anfwer’d, that as to hanging, fhe thought it no great Hardfhip, for, were it not for that, every cowardly Fellow would turn Pyrate, and To infeft the Seas, that Men of Courage muft ftarve : That if it was put to the Choice of the Pyrates, they would not have the punifliment lefs than Death, the Fear of which, kept fome daftardly Rogues honeft ^ that many of thofe who are now cheating the Widows and Orphans, and oppreifing their poor Neighbours, who have no Money to obtain Juftice, would then rob at Sea, and the Ocean would be crowded with Rogues, like the Land, and no Merchant would venture out ; fb that the Trade, in a little Time, would not be worth following.”

Mary Read was certainly a tough lady, and I believe her response was probably indicative of the attitudes of her compatriots at the time:  that the “trade” of being a pirate was only for the courageous.  Mary was well educated, raised as a boy, fought as a soldier in Queen Anne’s War, and had been quite law abiding, but readily accepted the pirate life when it became an option for her after she met Jack Rackham.

My writing studio

studio view studio desk

I find it necessary to be alone in a quiet environment in order to be productive as a writer. Here are a couple of pictures from my writing studio, which is just a couple of miles from our townhouse.   A bit too far to walk daily, but a pleasant bicycle ride.

I had wondered if the view might be a distraction from writing, but instead I find it helps with inspiration.  I can sit out on the balcony from time to time with a cup of coffee and allow my thoughts to develop into coherent sentences, then enter them into my computer.

Occasionally when out on the balcony, though, I do look down at the docks and realize how it could also be a short boat ride between the two places.   The optimal word there being ‘could’ however, because if I do buy a boat here it will be a sailboat, and the call of the open blue ocean would probably result in my not getting in to work at all.

Conclusion:  I have a perfect set up to generate 2-3 books per year, provided I ride my bike to the studio.


Gran Baha

kayaking 01Gran Baha, the location of Jack’s base in Pirates of the Bahamas, is actually Grand Bahama Island where I live and write from.  Gran Baha was the 18th century name of this island, originally named by the Spanish and, roughly translated, means “great shallows” because of the surrounding reefs which made it difficult to land on.  Knowing the passageways through the reefs enabled the pirates to come and go without having to be concerned about the authorities finding them.

In order to be able to effectively describe the island I’m required to do extensive research.  Here is a picture from yesterday where I am diligently researching the ocean swells for my next novel


Writing from Paradise

After a successful career as a research scientist, corporate manager and 25 years as an entrepreneur in the United States, in 2015 I cut loose and moved to the Bahamas to follow my passion, the life of a full time author.  I have several books already published in non-fiction, contemporary fiction and historical fiction, but I’m concentrating on the historical fiction niche going forward.

I find the study of history to be quite fascinating when contemplating what the motivations were of the people who were making it happen.  I believe that people haven’t changed over the millennia in terms of their desires, prejudices and biases, so we can easily identify with the characters from previous eras.  I perform thorough research to make sure the history is up to snuff, and then create characters that will put the reader inside the heads of the people of the time.  My storylines will then enable my readers to indulge themselves in the adventure and romance of a bygone time.

My previous historical works are Wolf at the Threshold, a historical romance between and Iceni princess and a Roman officer in first century Britain, and Pirates of the Bahamas, set here in The Bahamas in colonial times with a romance between Jack and Mary, the children of the pirates Anne Bonny , Mary Read and Jack Rackham.

My current projects are both the prequel to Pirates of the Bahamas, delving into the lives and times of Anne Bonny and Mary Read, and a sequel where the pirates begin to assist the growing American colonies.  This theme will continue over several books and the reader will learn how instrumental the free living pirates and privateers based in the Bahamas were to the independence of the colonies from Great Britain.