Well, let’s start with their injury insurance program. What, you say? Pirates didn’t have insurance back then. Ah ha, but they did…not much of one, but they did. If a pirate lost his eye or a finger in battle, he would get an extra one hundred pieces of eight for the loss. But if you really wanted to make out with the insurance program – you had to lose your “right arm”. In doing so, you’d be compensated with a big whopping six hundred pieces of eight! Now that should last you a life time shouldn’t it?
Just so you know; a piece of eight was worth about one American dollar. They called it a piece of eight because an eight piece was worth eight reals. A reals is equal to about twelve and a half cents. You could cut this coin into eight pieces to make a reals, hence the name Piece of Eight.
If the pirate lost his right leg or left arm all he got was five hundred pieces of eight…now I don’t know about you guys…but I’m just as attached to my left arm as I am to my right. I wouldn’t be happy with this arrangement. Maybe that’s because I’m ambidextrous, so I would consider my left arm as priceless as my right one. I don’t know, but I sure wouldn’t be happy with only six hundred dollars compensation, so you can imagine how much screamin’ I’d be doin’ if the Captain offered me five. And I’d have to argue the worth of my right leg…I think it’s even more valuable than my right arm…I need legs to walk. I can manage with one arm but one leg…I don’t know about that. Have you ever tried your balance on a peg?
And get this! Your left leg was only worth four hundred pieces of eight! Man, they really had something against the left side of your body back then! Well, that got me curious Irish brain a thinkin’ and me research showed it was because the custom was “by law” you could only use your left hand to clean up “whip your butt” after the business…and since they didn’t believe in washing your hands afterwards, you weren’t allowed to eat with the left hand either. Nor were you allowed to talk or blow on hot soup at a dinner table because bad breath was offensive while others were trying to eat.
Not sure I’d want to eat after hearing this.
Most pirates suffered with Trench Mouth because they ate from wooden trenchers that were considered “washed” when you ran a piece of bread over the wood to clean off any residue seen to the eye. The unwashed wooden plates were then stacked until the next meal…during which time cockroaches and worms would have their dinner from the trenchers, leaving bacteria that caused Trench Mouth. Well, isn’t that nice!
Yeah, I’m going on a permanent diet! Especially after reading pirates usually ate very salty rancid meats and stale bread, which was so moldy it was slimy.
Isn’t that appetizing to think about? Who suggested I write this article…he should be flogged at this point!
When the preserved meats and bread became too uneatable, it is told they’d capture the rats scurrying aboard the ship and eat those. And on a good day, if you were lucky, the quartermaster of the ship would allow someone to fish for shark to eat….not bad when you think the shark really was the only food that was fresh and actually safe to eat.
But what I found most interesting is the role of the Captain…we’ve romanticized it so much, most of us believe his role was one of power and authority. It really wasn’t. The Captain of a pirate ship actually had fewer rights than his crew. Oh, he got the main stateroom to sleep in BUT his crew could come in there whenever they pleased, eat his food and drink his wine with few objections from the Captain. They could come in ranting and cussing at him and there was really little he could do about it….mutiny was always a danger waiting to happen and that was never a good thing for a Captain.
Really, the only time a Captain had any control of his crew was during a pursuit for bounty, running from attackers and while overtaking another ship. BUT BEWARE all that cussing at him in frustration and taking of the Captain’s food and wine during good times could come back at you.
During or after a battle the Captain could murder you. As long as he was smart enough to claim you had refuse to follow his orders. No crew member during times of attack, chase or defense, were allowed to disregard a Captain’s orders…if they did, the Captain had the power to shoot, stab, stake, or strike the offender.
The only other thing a Captain was actually in charge of was the fate of any captives. The captured ship and its contents were in the hands of the crew, not the Captain. Based on what I’ve researched, it would seem the Quartermaster had more power than a Captain. It was his job to settled arguments and take care of things on a daily basis. Hummmm, so why would anyone want to be a Captain of a pirate ship?
After thinking about all these true facts of a pirates life….would you really want to be a wench captured by a sexy…SEXY meaning, unwashed, trench mouthed, worm eating, sexually transmitted diseased ridden, usually poor, drunken, quarrelsome and powerless Captain of a pirate ship?
Ah…let me think on this…nope! No time warp jumping for me back to those days…I’m staying right here where I can romanticize a pirates life instead of giving the honest facts of their horrible existence. It makes me wonder how humanity survived long enough to make it into the future.
So, what say you? Do you want to be a pirate captured wench?
ROTFLOL – I can’t wait to hear these answers!
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