Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Showing posts with label Jennifer Bray-Weber. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jennifer Bray-Weber. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Ghost Ship Octavius

The vast oceans of our planet are equally wondrous and dangerous. There are so many unknowns out there on the endless horizon where the sea and sky meet. Even today, the ocean is a mysterious place. It is no wonder sailors are a superstitious lot, especially mariners of the past. And why not? Phenomena and strange sightings were not easily dismissed as they are now with our scientific knowledge and understanding. Still, there are inexplicable occurrences that happen routinely. Just in the last few decades there have been missing air and sea crafts in the Bermuda Triangle, the discovery of underwater crop circles and temple-like structures, and strange aquatic sounds loud enough to be heard on hydrophones between Greenland and the United Kingdom. The ocean is shrouded in secrets we have yet to unlock and fuels our imagination.

Visualize how scary it might be to come upon a ghost ship floating in the middle of nowhere. Now imagine finding something even more terrifying on board.

That is what happened in 1775 when the crew of a whaling ship discovered the Octavius.

The story begins fourteen years earlier. The Octavius left London, England bound for the Orient with a belly full of trade cargo, more than two dozen crewmen, the captain, and his wife and son. The trip was a success, landing on the Far Eastern shores the following year. With new freight, the three-masted schooner set out to return to England. But this time the captain made a fateful decision based on unseasonably warm. He plotted a course through the brutal, relatively uncharted Northern Passage. That was the last anyone had heard of the Octavius, the ship was declared lost at sea.

That is until the whaling ship Herald happened upon the vessel west of Greenland. No one was on the deck which prompted a boarding party to search the ship. Below deck, the found all twenty-eight crewmen frozen to death. In the captain’s quarters, the captain sat at his desk with his logbook in front of him, pen still in his hand. He was not alone. A woman and a young boy were wrapped in blankets upon the bunk.

The spooked boarding party high-tailed it off the schooner, but not before grabbing the logbook. Because the book was frozen solid, parts of the middle broke away from its binding as they fled. What pages were left was enough for the captain of the Herald to piece together the crew’s probable fate. The last position recorded in the book placed Octavius roughly 250 miles north of Alaska’s northernmost point. And the last entry was November 11, 1762—thirteen years earlier. It is speculated that Octavius had become trapped in the sea ice. At some point, the ice broke and the ship continued on its journey successfully through the passage, but without her passengers.

Fearing Octavius cursed, the Herald left her to drift, never to been seen again.


About the Author      


Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Talk Like A Pirate Day 2018

Ahoy, mates! For the past 23 years, September 19th marks International Talk Like A Pirate Day! Yes, there is such a thing. Read how it all started HERE.

How do you celebrate ITLAPD? Well, you can dress, talk, and act like a pirate, of course. Turns out there are boatloads of ways to get yer pirate on. Order around the scurvy landlubbers at work with the business end of yer cutlass. Drink rum at lunch declarin' it's a pirate life for you. Hang out the driver’s window of yer vehicle hollerin’ “move yer aft end!” You can even change your Facebook language to English Pirate (just go to your settings to easily make the switch). Aye, me hearties, there’s tomfoolery to be had.

Need help with yer buccaneer vernacular? Check out this spot-on, cheeky how-to video in proper pirate jargon.

And to help commemorate such a fine day, below is an excerpt to my latest pirate adventure The Righteous Side of Wicked, a Pirates of Britannia and Romancing the Pirate novel coming this December.

Enjoy this sample, ya horn swogglin' scurvy cur!

***

1730, Late October
Isle of Man, Irish Sea

“The devil is afoot.”
Coire might have laughed at the irony in Mr. Shaw’s remark had he not felt the same slick unease slithering up his spine.
Minutes ago, they had weighed anchor and slipped into the night on a hushed breeze, his ship’s belly full of contraband. That they were smuggling gunpowder and firearms hadn’t mattered. Coire and his crew had done countless nefarious deeds, commissioned by landowners, powerful men, and scheming governments. ’Twas what they were good at, a prosperous pirate’s life. But tonight, something was…different. Before the sun tucked under the blueing horizon as the men loaded the last of the hogsheads and smaller barrels, he had noticed the change in the wind. He couldn’t put a finger on it, but the foreboding was there, clinging like thick soot. Even now, the dark waves glittering from the light of the full moon were subdued despite the swift currents. Hardly a sound could be heard save the creak of Kelpie’s hull, a twist in her braces, or whisper of her shrouds. Or so it seemed.
“Best we not get in his way, then, eh, Mr. Shaw? He might find us worthy adversaries to engage.”
The haggard old sea dog’s bushy, graying brows rose as he slowly nodded in amused agreement. “That he may, capt’n. And a grand affair we’d give ’im.” Mr. Shaw cast one last weathered eye out to the darkness before leaving Coire at the railing. He recognized the look in his first mate’s gaze. ’Twas one of longing for warmer climates and friendlier ports. Or maybe Coire directed his own wish upon his interpretation. He wanted to return to the West Indies, resume his privateering ways. And he vowed he would do so…soon.
An unseasonal, low, wispy fog clung to the coastline. Up ahead, Coire could just make out the obscure outline of Peel Castle, the garrisoned administrative center, church, and prison of the west side of the island. Torchlight dotting the castle provided a guide to the open sea and the North Channel beyond.
It had been brazen coming to Man under the nose of the British for more gunpowder to add to their haul. Brazen, but necessary. He and his men would be paid a hefty sum to get the arms and ammunition to Scarba and into the hands of Jacobite rebels. And they had to do so ahead of planned attacks on key locations. Pockets heavy and lined with gold while aiding in the war against the British succession suited Coire just fine. Though he no longer claimed family there, or allegiance for that matter, Scotland was the home of his blood. She and her people deserved better than to be subjected to the whims of an English parliament and her abusive militias. But ’twasn’t his fight.
Kelpie passed the tidal island which the Peel Castle perched upon. More torchlight winked along the battlements. Odd so many lights would be burning at this late hour. A dark silhouette bobbed in the water between the ship and the shore. Was that…a skiff? As soon as he questioned his eyes his topman straddling a cross tree in the mast above him confirmed it.
“Boat, two points starboard bow,” the topman called down.
As the skiff neared, Coire grasped the rail and squinted hard, willing the thin gossamer veil of fog away. What kind of fool would be out in a tiny boat in the middle of the night?
Aw, hell. His imagination must have been running rampant. Was that a…? Could it be?
Mr. Shaw was once again by his side, along with Jonesy, Redd, and a few other crewmen, all wearing confused expressions.
“Do me deadlights deceive me? Is that a…woman?”
“’Twould appear so, Mr. Shaw.” Indeed, by the figure’s slight frame and long tendrils of hair lifting on the tender breeze, ’twas a female manning the oars.
That sinister unease lingering on the fringes of his conscious all evening suddenly pressed down upon him. Whatever this woman was about, whatever reason for her to be out in a rowboat in the middle of the night, it couldn’t be good.
The lass waved valiantly between pulls of the oars while trying to intercept the ship. Coire ordered the sails reefed before they rammed into her and a line thrown. ’Twasn’t long and the girl had a grip on the rope.
“Hello, there.” The woman’s words rushed out in her shortness of breath, yet she smiled. “A fine evening to ya. Permission to come aboard?”
“What are ye doing out here?” In no way was Coire going to blindly invite someone on board whilst he carried sensitive goods, especially a crazy lass paddling out to sea at midnight.
“Ah, well, ’tis a bit embarrassing, see. I was to rendezvous with a, um, friend on the bank. She swiped her shirtsleeve across her brow. Though the night air was cool, she’d be sweaty from the exertion. “I fell asleep waiting and the tide must have come in.”
A tryst, eh? She’d willingly admit to it? Coire wasna so quick to believe her story.
“Why is it then, lass, ye are rowing away from the shore instead of to it?”
“Please, sir. ’Tis a long way back and my arms are tired.” She glanced back toward the craggy shoreline and castle losing its shape in the thickening fog.
“Nay, ’tisn’t too far” he assured her. “I’m certain ye can make it.”
“Capt’n.” Jonesy frowned, worry pinching his brow. “Aren’t we gonna rescue the lady?”
“Rescue? The lady is hardly in distress.”  Not when he had caught a glimpse of two pistols shoved beneath her waistband. In fact, he was beginning to believe she intentionally set out to board his ship.
“I winna make it,” she called up.
“This is not a vessel ye wish to board, lass. That be a veritable truth. I advise ye to return from which ye came before yer journey back becomes overly taxing.”
Mr. Shaw’s jaws flapped, wrestling with the moral obligation of plucking the lass from the water and the problem she would pose if they did. “This ain’t right.”
“On many levels, I’m afraid,” Coire agreed. “We canna fish her out and go back to the wharf. ’Tis too dangerous and we must stay on schedule. We canna put the mission at risk.”
“Please, captain. Ye are the captain, aye?”
He nodded once. “I am.”
The woman’s grin was gone, replaced by a bothered moue. She flung another glance to the island. “There are sharks in these waters.”
“And ye are in a boat,” Coire pointed out.
“What if I sink?”
“Ye’ve a sturdy craft.” Persistent little fluff. “Let go of the rope or I shall cut it.” Coire drew his dirk and gripped the cord.
“But my boat is sinking.”
“I dinna—”
She tugged out a pistol, pointed it at the hull, and fired a shot. Bits of timber exploded. A puff of smoke and the echo of the blast snagged upon the breeze. Water flooded through the resulting hole.
“Shite! Are ya daft?” She was mad! Hell bent and mad!
“My boat is sinking.” Her calmness was unsettling as she tossed the spent pistol to the floorboards.
The lass had an unflinching composure given the speed her vessel took on water. And that she, herself, went to such lengths to board his ship was enough to set warning bells clanging loud between his ears.
“Drop a ladder!” Coire ordered.

He damned near growled at the sight of the girl standing ankle deep in the faltering skiff patiently waiting for the rope ladder. Her dangerous stunt reinforced why Coire did not trust women. They twisted and crooked circumstances to fit their fancy. Manipulating anyone to get what they wanted, even young impressionable men. Most especially young impressionable men.


***

If ye haven't signed up FOR MY NEWSLETTER for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways, what are you waiting for? Escape into a world full of adventure, rum, fearless pirates, spirited wenches, and swoon-worthy, steamy romance with the Romancing the Pirate series.


Happy International Talk Like A Pirate Day!
Fair winds and following seas, mates!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Jean Laffite - Virtuous Bad Boy

Jean Laffite (b. circa 1780 - d. circa 1823) was a French pirate, privateer, smuggler, spy, and, to many, a hero. He was described as handsome, clever, resourceful, gregarious and handy with gambling and women. Sounds like a fun guy to be around.

Not much is known of Laffite before he made his appearance in New Orleans with his older brother Pierre around 1805, just after Louisiana became a part of America. But the men, especially Jean, left their lasting marks.

Jean Laffite
The brothers began to make a name for themselves after the enactment of the Embargo Act of 1807. The embargo prohibited American merchant ships from trading in foreign ports, namely Britain and France, during the Napoleonic Wars. This greatly hurt New Orleans merchants who relied on trade. The enterprising Laffite brothers found a way to help the merchants while capitalizing nicely on the plight. Though a legitimate business, Pierre’s blacksmithing shop was also a front for a smuggling operation. Laffite established a surreptitious trading post on Barataria Island in Barataria Bay south of the city which was far from the U.S. naval squadron base patrolling the area. It wasn’t long before the port was booming.

But Jean decided being a broker wasn’t enough. The brothers purchased a schooner that was already operating without proper commissions and Jean used it to capture their first quarry in 1813—a ship carrying more than seventy slaves. Jean made quite a profit off the slaves and other cargo. He outfitted the ship and renamed it the Dorado. Dorado went on to capture several more ships, which Jean re-outfitted and renamed specifically to sail directly into New Orleans with legal cargo and illegal contraband.

In 1812 as the conflict ramped up between the U.S. and Britain, many letters of marque were being issued to private, armed ships authorizing them to attack and take cargo from other nations. For those issued in New Orleans, many captains generally worked for Laffite. Cargo captured from British ships were handed over to the American authorities while cargos from other countries were put up for sale through Laffite’s operations.

Maison Rouge, Galveston 2018
The government wasn’t keen on Laffite cutting into their income and determined to put an end to it. In the summer of 1812, Jean, Pierre, and more than two dozen of their men were arrested. They bonded out, but never showed for their trial. Jean turned his nose up at the revenue laws. Even under indictment, Laffite powered on with his smuggling operations, even holding auctions for his contraband. It has been documented that in November of 1813, the governor of Louisiana, William C.C. Claiborne, issued a bounty of $500 for Laffite. In response, Laffite issued a similar reward for Claiborne. Neither were cashed in.

Jean’s exploits were well known, even to the British who were increasing their presence in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1814, the British offered money, British citizenship, and land grants to Laffite if he aided them in fighting the Americans and General Andrew Jackson in New Orleans. The ultimatum: Help fell the city so the British could control the Mississippi and cripple the United States or risk being attacked and Barataria destroyed by the Royal Navy. Laffite was, like, nah. He, instead, turned over the information to the Americans. Crafty as he was, he extended his expertise of the swampy land surrounding New Orleans as well as the much-needed additional troops numbering around 3,000. This in exchange for a pardon for himself, his brother, and his men. General Jackson accepted his help and Laffite was credited with helping defeat the British and save New Orleans. Without Laffite and his followers, New Orleans may have fallen. The Laffite brothers and all who served under them were granted full pardons

Maison Rouge, Galveston 2018
Despite the pardons and recognition, the Laffites continued their smuggling, piratical business. And in they took on a new role—spies. In late 1815 Jean and Pierre pledged their service to Spain, agreeing to pass along Mexican revolutionary activities during the Mexican War for Independence. Jean would travel to Galveston where revolutionaries frequented and send word back to Pierre.

When the U.S. squadron ran Jean out of Barataria in 1817 he moved his operations to Galveston. Laffite took over the island and named the colony Campeche. He built his headquarters, painted red, to face the harbor and named the building Maison Rouge. Jean found much success in Galveston and the islanders benefited from the bounty. Laffite even married and had a son.

All good things come to an end. When one of his ships attacked an American merchant, the U.S. responded with orders to remove Laffite from the gulf. Laffite abandoned the island in 1821, but not before his men burned the settlement, including Maison Rouge, to the ground.

Lafitte continued pirating off the coast of Cuba, Venezuela, and Honduras until he died. His death is disputed. He either died by illness on Isla Mujeres off the Yucatan Peninsula or from a fatal battle wound and is buried at sea in the Gulf of Honduras, depending on the source read. 

One additional note on Jean's piracy that perhaps highlights his character. It had been reported numerously that Jean treated the crew and passengers of captured ships politely and released them unharmed.

Jean Laffite’s exploits had made him a legend, has captured our imagination, and, to some, is a romantic figure.

About the Author      

Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Navigation During the Age of Sail

Back in the days of sail, seamen didn’t have the state of the art satellite-based navigational systems, also known as global position systems (GPS), to cross the seas. They relied on mariner knowledge, the horizon, the stars, the currents, and nautical instruments to help plot their courses and guide them on their journeys.

Here is an alphabetical list of some of those tools. 

Astrolabe - ancient inclinometer which calculates the altitude of the sun and stars to determine
Astrolabe, cross staff, and sextant
latitude. Elaborate astrolabes have etchings of how the sky looks at any given time or season. Moving components to what the user sees will tell them their location, as well as the date and time. For sailors, the astrolabe was a much simpler graduated ring with an alidade and often made of brass for longevity at sea.

Backstaff - users of this instrument have their backs to the sun and marks the angle of the sun by measuring its shadow with the help of three vanes—horizon vane, sight vane, and shadow vane.

Compass - one of the oldest nautical tools is comprised of a magnetic lodestone which uses the earth’s magnetic field. The compass, showing the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west), always points north. Handy when there is nothing on the horizon but water and more water.

Lead line
Chronometer - a timepiece used to establish longitude and/or an exact measurement of time that evolved from counter-oscillating beams and springs to a beating balance wheel.

Cross staff - the basic predecessor of the backstaff to determine latitude.  Users faced the sun, or Polaris (the North Star), to measure its angle to the horizon by sliding a cross piece up and down the main staff marked with measurements.

Lead line - a long rope with a lead weight at the end and knotted at various lengths used to measure depth. The lead weight also had a hollowed bottom filled with tallow or animal fat. This sticky substance would bring up the make-up of the seabed (sandy, rocky, clay, shells, pebbles) providing important information on anchoring or piloting a ship.

Nocturnal
Log line - a long rope on a spool with a board (log) at the end used to measure a vessel’s speed. Knots were tied along the rope at six feet intervals. Six feet equaled one fathom. When the log line is thrown overboard, the number of knots passing over the railing in thirty seconds were counted, thus giving the sailors a rough estimate of how fast they were going in knots—the nautical measurement much like how fast a car goes in miles per hour.

Nocturnal - based on the time of year to ascertain the time of night using the location of the stars such as Polaris, Ursa Minor, and Ursa Major. It uses a set of dials—months, hours, and the location of stars—and has a pointer. Important when calculating tides.

Quadrant - measures at 90o angles how high the sun or Polaris is above the horizon. To use, sight in on the right side of the edge of the angle. The plumb bob (a weight tied to a rope) will cross the scale along the bottom to give the angular height of the celestial body.

Traverse board
Reflecting circle - a circular instrument which uses mirrors to measure the angular distance between two diverging objects sat once. Mostly used for finding longitude.

Sextant - measures the angle between a celestial object and the horizon to determine latitudes and longitudes. This instrument, which can be used day or night, is the culmination of its navigational predecessors and, due to its precision, has been used well into the twentieth century.

Telescope - also called a spyglass or “bring ’em near”, an optical tool that uses lenses or mirrors to make distance object appear closer

Traverse board - a wooden board with holes and pegs used to record the ship’s speed and direction during a given watch (the shift which crewmen worked). At the end of each watch, the navigator collected the information and figure up the vessel’s progress and projected track.

All these instruments aided mariners in creating one of their most valued navigational tools, their sea charts. Daunting, isn't it? Thank goodness for today's GPS.

About the Author                                                


Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Rachel Wall - The American-born Female Pirate

Rachel Schmidt was born in Carlisle, in the Province of Pennsylvania, around 1760. At the age of sixteen, her family visited Harrisburg. She wasn’t much for farmland, but she loved the waterfront. And so she was drawn to the docks along the Susquehanna River. It was there she was harassed and attacked by a group of girls. A man by the name of George Wall, a fisherman that had been a privateer during the Revolutionary War, came to her rescue. It wasn’t long before she fell in love and eloped with her hero.

The couple moved to Boston where Rachel took a job as a servant. George was gone for stretches of time as he worked on a fishing boat. Life was rough and the lure of easy money had become too much. George had a taste for plunder and he convinced her to join him in piracy.

Together they devised a plan. George, Rachel, and several cohorts borrowed a schooner and set out to make a living off fishing. That is until the weather turned stormy. Then they set a unique trap. They dropped anchor off the Massachusetts coast in the Isle of Shoals to weather the squalls and then set their boat adrift feigning trouble. Once they spotted a passing ship, Rachel would stand on the deck send distress signals, luring would-be saviors to a ghastly fate. They boarded the vessels, killed the sailors, and pillaged everything of value. The aiding ship was then sunk, a tactic which made it appear as if the sailors perished at sea during the storm.

Their trickery worked well for many months between 1781 through 1782. Some reports estimate they took twelve boats, killed up to twenty-four crewmen, and amassed about $6,000 worth of loot.

But like all good things, it came to an end. The sea is an unpredictable mistress. And whether by surprise or faulty seafaring calculations, a particularly nasty tempest waylaid the little band of pirates. George and another crewman were washed overboard and their vessel had been badly battered.  Rachel and the rest of the survivors were picked up and returned to Boston.

Now widowed, Rachel returned to working as a servant. Her story didn’t end there. She’d become accustomed to the wealth of pirating. While she no longer prowled the coastline, she did return to stealing, although on a smaller scale as a petty thief along the docks. Seven years later, she attempted to snatch a bonnet off seventeen-year-old Margaret Bender’s head and reportedly tried to rip out the girl’s tongue. She was caught and arrested.

Rachel’s request to be tried as a pirate was denied. At her trial, while she confessed to piracy and theft, she maintained her innocence that she had never killed a man. This did not sway the judge and she was found guilty. On October 8, 1789, she was hung.

Rachel Wall was purportedly the first American-born female pirate and the decidedly last woman to be hanged in Massachusetts. And over a bonnet!

About the Author                                                


Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pirates Ships - What’s in a Name?

Pirates were pretty good at brand recognition. No, really. Consider the following. Pirates didn’t attack prey haphazardly. Despite popular belief instilled by books and movies, pirates would rather use scare tactics and nasty reputations than engage in a sea battle. Battles used valuable resources such as
ammunition. Crewmen could be hurt or killed. The prize could be damaged or sunk, defeating the purpose of plundering goods, stealing treasure, or seizing the ship for their own. So when they sailed upon a quarry, it was preferred the victim surrender before no quarter was given.

The first indication a pirate ship was closing in would be their colors. The flags pirates hoisted were recognizable, often red or black and depicting skulls, bones, blood, swords, and even an hourglass, a warning to their prey time was running out. When a Jolly Roger snapped in the wind, there was no question the ship claimed no country and that danger was on the horizon.

It would only make sense that pirates would also use branding with the names they chose for their ships.

Sam Bellamy's flagship

While some pirates never bothered with renaming the ships they seized, most christened their newly acquired vessels with names that held meaning. Many ships were named according to their profession—adventure, fancy, ranger, fortune. Some monikers were meant to boost fear—revenge, delivery, rover, triumph. Others made political statements. It has been suggested that Edward Teach (1680-1718), famously known as Blackbeard, was a Jacobite sympathizer and had named his flagship Queen Anne’s Revenge in support of England’s deposed Queen Anne.

Here is a list of other notable pirates and the ships they captained.

  • Jeanne de Clisson (1300-1359) - The Black Fleet, Revenge
  • Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596) - Golden Hind
  • Peter Easton (1570-1620) - Happy Adventure
  • Henry Morgan (1635-1688) - Satisfaction
  • William Kidd (1645-1701) - Adventure Galley, Adventure Prize
  • Thomas Tew (1649-1695) - Amity
  • Laurens DeGraaf (1653-1704), Anne Dieu-Le-Veut (1661-1710) - Tigre, Francesca, Fortune renamed Neptune
  • Henry Avery (1659-1699) - Fancy
  • Charles Vane (1680-1721) - Lark, Ranger
  • Benjamin Hornigold (1680-1719) - Ranger
  • Richard Worley (?-1718) - New York’s Revenge

    The Golden Hind (replica)
  • William Moody (?-1719) - Rising Sun
  • Robert Sample (?-1719) - Flying King
  • Bartholomew Roberts aka Black Bart (1682-1722) - Royal Rover, Fortune, Good Fortune, Great Ranger, Little Ranger
  • Edward England (1685-1721) - Royal James, Fancy, Ranger
  • Jack Rackham aka Calico Jack (1682-1720), Mary Read(1685-1721), Anne Bonny (1697-possibly 1782) - William
  • Stede Bonnet (1688-1718) - Revenge renamed Royal James
  • Sam Bellamy aka Black Sam (1689-1717) - Whydah Galley
  • George Lowther (?-1723) - Delivery
  • Christopher Condent (1690s-1770) - The Flying Dragon
  • Edward “Ned” Low (1690-1724) - Rebecca, Fancy, Rose Pink, Merry Christmas
  • John Gow (1695-1725) - Fortune
  • Ching Shih (1775-1844) - a whole fleet called the Red Flag Fleet
  • Jean Lafitte (1780-1823) - Dorada 
It’s interesting to note how many ships possessed the same or similar names. Is that because of brand recognition? Possibly. No sense in changing what works. Huzzah! 

About the Author                                                


Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hardtack – Vital Vittles of the Sea

Pirates spent long weeks, months, and even years at sea. Not only was the ship outfitted with plenty of rope and canvas, arms and gunpowder, carpentry tools and wood, navigational equipment, and cooking utensils, but the essential stores of food and drink. The business of feeding the ship’s crew was a serious one. Oftentimes, the length of the voyage was governed by how much food and drink could be carried on board. There would be no crossing an ocean if there was only enough room for two weeks of provisions. All food and drink were carefully rationed. Anyone caught with more than their fair share faced punishment. Yup, serious business.

When a ship set sail, it was usually well-stocked with live hens for eggs and sometimes goats for milk. There was also items such as salted pork, beef, and fish, rounds of cheese, dried potatoes, corn, vinegary cabbage, spices, ale and more. Aye, pirates ate like kings. Better than their sailor counterparts in the navies. But the fresh or perishable food did not last long. Even water went bad. The humid, dank conditions hastened spoiling and bred insects. Feasts could turn into famine. Malnutrition, disease, and starvation were very real concerns for seafarers. Ports of call weren’t always close and ships to plunder not always on the horizon. But when a ship was spotted, they were often just as prized for their food supply as a Spanish galleon sailing low from treasure. Have you ever met a hangry pirate? *shivers*

One staple found on a pirate ship was sea biscuits. Sea biscuits, more commonly known as hardtack (but also called pilot bread, ship biscuit, sheet iron, molar breakers, among other endearments), are hard, dry, heavy, crackers that were inexpensive to make, filled the stomach, and provided some measure of sustenance. To make them more edible, they were dipped in ale, coffee, soups, water, or fried in animal fat when possible. These bricks, when kept dry, can last years. YEARS! This was why they were a must-have for sea voyages, during military warfare, and lengthy land migrations. Never mind those weevils. Given the storage, they eventually found their way into the hard tack. Pirates just knocked the biscuit on a solid surface and waited for the bugs to crawl out before eating. Ewww. But it was either that or starve.

Knowing that the biscuit was such a big part of a pirate’s diet, I just had to try some for myself. There are many slightly varying recipes but they all have the same basics—flour, salt, and water. Below is the recipe I used. With pictures! Huzzah! 

Hard Tack

Tools:

Bowl
Rolling pin
Cookie sheet
Knife
Something to make holes with – skewer, nail, dowel
  

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup water
  




















Directions:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix flour and salt together.
Add water and knead into dough. Add more water or flour as needed to get the right consistency.

 




















Use a rolling pin to flatten and shape in a ½ thick square.
Cut into 9 smaller squares.




















Use any implement to poke holes into squares to allow even baking.
Bake for 30 minutes. Be careful not to burn them.




















As I’m making these things, I’m reminded of the doughy Christmas ornaments we used to make as kids. Now I’m certain these things will taste gross. But you know what? It wasn’t bad at all. The hardtack tasted like, well, unleavened bread dough. It would taste even better dipped in soup or drizzled with honey.


So why would you want to make hardtack today? To impress your pirate friends, of course. Never hurts to be prepared for an apocalypse, either.

 

About the Author                                                


Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.



Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Pirate Time

One might think time would be irrelevant for pirates and sailors. Let’s face it, there is nothing but water as far as the eye can see. Sailing ships are dependent on winds and currents. The sun comes up on the sea’s horizon and it goes down on the sea’s horizon. A three-hour tour might take three months instead. Sure, time is relative. (I’m not talking about physics because my eyes would most certainly glaze over and I’ll be hitting the rum bottle hard in a matter of minutes.) Time is relative for pirates in that they live by measures of time. Think work shifts, high and low tides, or how fast they can load and reload shipboard guns. Heck, even whether they could chase a quarry or escape a man of war was calibrated in their ways. How fast they could be might have been the difference between life and death. Yup, time was marked and adhered to.

Here are some key terms of time and how they were used by pirates and seamen alike.

Tide. When referencing time, a tide is calculated from high tide to high tide and roughly twelve and a half hours.  Salty Sam had been in his cups at the tavern for a tide before he staggered back to the docks.

Tide’s time. This is like a tide only it’s multiplied by a specified number of tides. It would take the Rissa six tide’s time to reach Port Royal. Meaning it would take the ship a little more than three days to reach its destination.

Fortnight. Two weeks or fourteen days. It had been a fortnight before a passing ship rescued Billy off that deserted spit of land.

Glass. This one sometimes confuses landlubbers. A glass is one hour or increments of sixty minutes, not how fast you can guzzle a beverage. If our guest does not present herself to me in five minutes’ glass, I’ll have her thrown overboard.

Half-glass. You guessed it, half an hour. Jack spent a half-glass in the company of that sharp-tongued wench.

Shipboard days are divided into shifts, or watches. There are seven watches in a twenty-four hour period.

  • middle watch — midnight to 4 a.m.
  • morning watch — 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.
  • forenoon watch — 8 a.m. to noon
  • afternoon watch — noon to 4 p.m.
  • first dog watch — 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • second dog watch — 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • first watch — 8 p.m. to midnight


Notice the dog watches are shorter than the other watches. This allows for all crewmen to have the time for traditional evening meal.

All watches are marked by the ring of the ship’s bell every half hour. At the start of the watch, the bell rings once. Another bell would be added each half hour. By the time a watch is over (and when both dog watches are combined) the ship’s bell would ring eight times. As an example, depending on the watch and time of day, four bells could mean 2 a.m., 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m.

When writing about pirates, I make a conscious effort to weave authenticity of shipboard life into my stories. It’s both fun and educating! Below is an excerpt and example from The Siren’s Song.


The ship’s bell struck and Gilly counted the rings. It was time to pay her debt to the captain. Two bells. Her chest tightened. Mixed emotions churned in her stomach. Four bells. She wanted to kiss him, didn’t she? Of course she did. Six bells. Was she supposed to go to him? Where would he be waiting? In his cabin? She glanced at Willie and Henri. They didn’t seem to know of her quandary. She couldn’t ask them for an opinion. How mortifying to think of it. Seven bells. Would she be good at it, good enough for him? How would she compare to others he had kissed? Eight bells. Lord help her, she surely was going to faint.
She’d been tallying the bells as they struck every half hour all throughout the watch.
Before the final peal of the bell faded into the winds, Captain Drake appeared at the top of the ladder. Time slowed as he glided toward her. She slid off her perch and met him halfway.
“Eight bells, milady.”
“I’m ready,” she said. Closing her eyes, she puckered, waiting for his lips to descend upon her. Waiting to inhale his delicious musk. Waiting for his hands to roam across her back and his fingers to thread through her hair. Waiting. Why hadn’t he kissed her yet?
“What’s the lass doin’?” Henri asked. “Is she alright?”
“Maybe the heat’s done gotten to her,” Willie answered.
She popped open one eye. Gone was the captain’s mask of steely austerity. His amusement beamed brighter than the unforgiving sun. The heat couldn’t compare to her swill of embarrassment. Sweat beaded on her brow and she wished with all her heart she could disappear. Why didn’t he kiss her? How idiotic she must look. She huffed, angry now. Mustering up a scrap of dignity, she confronted the cur.
“What’s wrong? Why won’t you kiss me?” She propped her hands on her hips. “Have you gone back on our accord?”
His smug laugh indicated he had not. “I never renege on a deal, Miss McCoy.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You have misinterpreted the terms. Our agreement stated that you kiss me. Not the other way around.”
“Oh.” Won’t death spare me this humiliation?
She was helpless. She had never kissed a man, only been kissed. This changed everything. It simply was not proper. Come now, Gilly. You haven’t been proper since the day Hyde laid eyes upon you. And besides, you want to kiss him.
“All right, Captain Drake. I shall play by your rules.”
She rose to her tiptoes and, quick as a rabbit dashing into a briar patch, she pecked him on his mouth.
“There,” she said. “It’s done. I kissed you.” She grinned a self-satisfied smile. “Come back at the next eight bells. I shall be ready.”
“Uh-uh. Not quite, lass. That’s not at all how I want you to kiss me.”
“A kiss is a kiss.”
“Nay, lass. That is how you kiss a codfish.”
She gasped and her hand flew to her bosom at the insult. “And just how am I supposed to kiss you, Captain? There were no stipulations on the manner of kiss.”
“Kiss me as you did last night.”
She poked him in his chest. “You kissed me.”
“At first, yes. But then you lost your chaste modesty and your voracious appetite took over.”
If she could get her hands on his cutlass, she would end her suffering. Gilly glanced over her shoulder. Both Henri and Willie quickly, but not quickly enough, became occupied, pretending miserably not to have been listening in on their exchange. Henri fiddled with his vest pocket and Willie tapped at the compass he kept fixed to his wheel.
“You need not let shamefulness get the better of you, Miss McCoy. You’ve nothing to be embarrassed about,” Captain Drake said.
She frowned. He did not make things any easier by calling her on her discomfiture.
“Well? I’m waiting.”
What a wicked, wicked man. The only way to wipe that smirk from his face was to give him the best kiss he ever had in his wretched life.
Gilly grabbed the back of his neck with both hands and smothered his lips. Long and hard, she pressed against him. He tensed under her grip. His arms reached out, as if to hold her. But he didn’t. Nevertheless, she felt his smile. And that pleased her.
She broke free of him. Excitement coursed through her veins. Liberation was hers. She could do that again. Eight more times, in fact.
“’Twas a very nice start,” he said. “Now don’t look so troubled. I am happy with your kiss. It is my hope that you will work yourself up to last night’s performance.”

Want more?

About the Author                                                
Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.






Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Twelve Pirate Days of Christmas

Let’s get into the holiday spirit, shall we? I give you a remake of a favorite classic Christmas carol. Sing along with me!

The Twelve Days of a Pirate Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, a pirate gave to me
A fine ship to sail the deep blue sea.

On the second day of Christmas, a pirate gave to me
Two treasure maps
And a fine ship to sail the deep blue sea.

On the third day of Christmas, a pirate gave to me
Three black flags,
Two treasure maps
And a fine ship to sail the deep blue sea.

On the fourth day of Christmas, a pirate gave to me
Four bags of loot,
Three black flags,
Two treasure maps
And a fine ship to sail the deep blue sea.

On the fifth day of Christmas, a pirate gave to me
Fiiive golden rings,
Four bags of loot,
Three black flags,
Two treasure maps
And a fine ship to sail the deep blue sea.

On the sixth day of Christmas, a pirate gave to me
Six swords a-crossing,
Fiiive golden rings,
Four bags of loot,
Three black flags,
Two treasure maps
And a fine ship to sail the deep blue sea.

On the seventh day of Christmas, a pirate gave to me
Seven sirens singing,
Six swords a-crossing,
Fiiive golden rings,
Four bags of loot,
Three black flags,
Two treasure maps
And a fine ship to sail the deep blue sea.

On the eighth day of Christmas, a pirate gave to me
Eight anchors weighing,
Seven sirens singing,
Six swords a-crossing,
Fiiive golden rings,
Four bags of loot,
Three black flags,
Two treasure maps
And a fine ship to sail the deep blue sea.

On the ninth day of Christmas, a pirate gave to me
Nine sails a-flapping,
Eight anchors weighing,
Seven sirens singing,
Six swords a-crossing,
Fiiive golden rings,
Four bags of loot,
Three black flags,
Two treasure maps
And a fine ship to sail the deep blue sea.

On the tenth day of Christmas, a pirate gave to me
Ten guns a-firing,
Nine sails a-flapping,
Eight anchors weighing,
Seven sirens singing,
Six swords a-crossing,
Fiiive golden rings,
Four bags of loot,
Three black flags,
Two treasure maps
And a fine ship to sail the deep blue sea.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, a pirate gave to me
Eleven loyal crewmen,
Ten guns a-firing,
Nine sails a-flapping,
Eight anchors weighing,
Seven sirens singing,
Six swords a-crossing,
Fiiive golden rings,
Four bags of loot,
Three black flags,
Two treasure maps
And a fine ship to sail the deep blue sea.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, a pirate gave to me
Twelve full kegs of rum,
Eleven loyal crewmen,
Ten guns a-firing,
Nine sails a-flapping,
Eight anchors weighing,
Seven sirens singing,
Six swords a-crossing,
Fiiive golden rings,
Four bags of loot,
Three black flags,
Two treasure maps
And a fine ship to sail the deep blue sea.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New year!

About the Author                                                
Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum - What Pirates Drank


As with any rogue worth his salt, pirates loved to drink, especially rum. Why is that? Well, besides the fact that it warms the belly, boosts courage, instills camaraderie when sharing with mates, and tastes yummy, there was a practical reason, too. Rum and other alcoholic beverages had a long shelf life, essential for long voyages at sea.

Being at sea for long stretches of time was problematic for seamen diets, both in what they ate and drank. Health problems and sometimes death were common due to improper nutrition, contaminated food, and spoiled drink.

A man needs water to survive. Freshwater, also known as sweet water, was a precious commodity because stagnant water soured in their casks. The hotter the temperature, the faster the water soured. Think slime in the ice machine. Gross! Rainwater would be collected, but it could be weeks or months before a ship saw a raincloud. So to make the water more palatable, alcohol like rum was added. The mixture was called grog and was rationed out to crewmen daily.

Other common drinks pirates had in their mugs included ale, wine, brandy, and sometimes tea, though tea, along with chocolate and coffee, was often used as a commodity to sell or trade in port.

Pirates were quite creative in their spirit concoctions.

Bumboo was an alcoholic beverage of rum, sugar, lemon and lime juices, and nutmeg. Drink this, mate, and you may stave off a bout of scurvy.

Arrack was made from fermented fruits, grain, and sugar cane.

Toke was liquor made from fermented honey. I’m not entirely convinced that these drinks were sweet to taste.

Black strap consisted of rum, lots of molasses and chowder beer, which is a fermented brew of water, molasses, and black spruce tree pitch. My stomach hurts just thinking about this drink.

Punch was anything goes. It was a medley of liquors, rum, wine, fruit juice, that was sweetened with honey or sugar and often spiced with nutmeg. I’d give it a shot.

Kill-Devil rum included booze, beer, and raw eggs. Eww!

Hangman’s Blood, a potent medley of various strong liquors, could knock even the most hardened fellow on his arse. It was probably best not to smoke while drinking this mixture for fear of igniting. Whoosh!

Pine drink was a sweet alcoholic drink of fermented pineapple juice.

A steamy escape! Get your copy HERE.
Tobacco rum had, you guessed it, rum mixed with tobacco. The tobacco gave the rum a smoky, earthy flavor. If the tobacco was stale, the rum would also be a bit bitter.

Another odd liquor blend had nabbed my inspiration. Indulge me for a moment. In The Siren’s Song,  the 3rd full-length novel in my Romancing the Pirate series, pirate Captain Thayer Drake’s rum drinking is one battle he can’t seem to win. Perhaps Gilly, the beautiful songstress he saved from drowning, will help him kick the habit. But not after one particularly exasperating evening with her. Instead, he hits the bottle harder than usual, stirring gunpowder into his rum. Gunpowder rum? Yes, pirates did do this. Gunpowder contains saltpeter which was believed to deaden sexual desires. It was also thought to inspire courage and aggression before heading off into battle.

Oh yes, pirates loved their sauce. Perhaps it was pirate Richard Hains who said it best with this sentiment. “A life without liberty is not worth living. But a life with liberty and no beer mug ain’t much better.” Hear! Hear!

About the Author                                                
Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.





Tuesday, October 10, 2017

St. Elmo's Fire - Phenomenon at Sea

Everything is in flames, the sky with lightning, the water with luminous particles, and even the very masts are pointed with a blue flame.
Charles Darwin, 1832 

What Charles Darwin witnessed was St. Elmo’s Fire. But what is it? And why did sailors, who are generally superstitious, believe it was a good omen?

St. Elmo’s fire is a meteorological phenomenon that happens when there is a strong electrical field in the air, like during thunderstorms or volcanic eruptions. It is plasma, or ionized air, that sparks off pointed objects, sharp corners, or metal edges,  and emits a blue or purplish glow. Scientifically, it is a corona discharge. As defined by Wikipedia, the discharge occurs “when one of two conducting surfaces (such as electrodes) of differing voltages has a pointed shape, resulting in a highly concentrated electric field at its tip that ionizes the air (or other gas) around it”.

How did St. Elmo’s fire get its name? It’s named after the patron saint of sailors, St. Erasmus, a bishop in Formia, Italy. During the persecution of Christians, legends say he was captured, imprisoned, tortured, miraculously healed, and escaped, several times over. Despite the dangers and threat of certain death, Erasmus continued to preach, convert pagans to Christianity, and conduct baptisms. He met with a grizzly end (and martyrdom) after being captured again in the Roman province of Illyria. His abdomen had been slit open, his intestines were pulled from his body, and slowly wound around a windlass—the winch-like device used for raising a ship’s anchor.

Another legend states that the Christian martyr once continued to preach after a lightning bolt struck the ground beside him. This lead to sailors believing that St. Elmo was appearing to them during storms. The phenomenon often happens near the end of a storm and was considered a good sign calmer weather was ahead. And thus why sailors weren’t frightened of the blue flames or glowing balls around the masts and yardarms. The saint was present, he’d protect them.

St. Elmos’ fire isn’t just a nautical weather event. The electrical discharge can be seen most anywhere there is a pointed object. Think steeples, radio towers, leading edges of aircraft, even on the horns of cattle. Crazy!

Here is a video that helps to understand how it works and what it looks like.


About the Author                                                
Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.