Swab the Deck

I was surrounded by pirates. At first I thought it simply the predictable cultural reaction to a media blitz by the movie companies. But then I considered the ocean beating against the sand just a few hundred yards away and decided that pirates were a logical tourist gimmick for a coastal town. Blaming the movies or consumer culture reveals my jaded So Cal sensibilities-- for Hatteras and the surrounding islands have a very legitimate history of piracy that has nothing to do with theme park rides or t-shirts.

Edward Teach was one of the most notorious pirates to plunder along the Eastern seaboard. His long braided dark beard earned him the moniker Blackbeard and, according to the “museum” at a local pirate gift shop, he was a sturdy fellow who carried plenty of pistols and travelled in the company of the Devil himself (such tall tales may have served as the inspiration for Ahab’s shadowy companions a little over a century later). It was on the shores of Ocracoke that Blackbeard would fall to a cadre of soldiers dispatched be the governor of Virginia to end the pirate’s raping and robbing along the Outer Banks. If ever there was a locality in America that deserved to capitalize on the pirate mythos its the communities separated from the American mainland by the Pamlico Sound.

The world is a very different place than when Teach led raiding parties off the Queen Anne’s Revenge. While many in my generation dress up like scurvy dogs and attend themed taverns for their grog I’m quite honest with myself about the roll I might have played aboard a pirate vessel. On July 4th I spent two hours in the blistering sun scrubbing years of accumulated filth off the wooden slats of my back deck. It may not be as glamorous as swinging from the rigging or engaging in a skirmish with cutlass brandished high, but let’s face it, slippery wooden planks would have been as great a liability to pirates in the 1700’s as they are to party guests in the twenty-first century.

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