When thinking about pirates, it is easy to picture them as only villainous and greedy men who raid and steal. True, they had their moment of these behaviors, but let’s also keep in mind that they were mere seamen and in many ways, they were not that much different than sailors or navy men. By examining their daily lives-diet, duties, leisure, and weapons-one will realize how simple and common they were.
In many ways, a pirate’s diet was similar to that of the average person, with the exception of a few oddities. For example, in the Caribbean, pirates caught turtles and kept them on their ships for food in the event that their meat spoiled. Generally, though, pirates ate many types of seafood such as dolphin and albacore tuna, complimented by exotic fruits like pineapples and papayas. And like anyone, pirates had their favorite dishes, one of the main ones being salamagundi, which combined fish, turtle, and meat with wine, oil, and herbs.
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To accompany the food was a wide assortment of beverages, many of them being alcoholic, as that was what pirates enjoyed! One of the favorite pirate drinks was bamboo, consisting of rum, water, sugar, and nutmeg. Another popular drink was runfustian, which blended raw eggs, gin, sherry, beer, and sugar together in a tasty concoction. Pirates also drank other alcohol regularly including brandy and port. For those on a pirate ship, they were all entitled to the same food and drink luxury which was a contrast to navy ships where only captains and officers were privileged to culinary fineries.
When not plundering and ransacking other ships or lands, pirates attended to daily duties on board their ships. Much of their time was spent doing ship repair and maintenance with tasks comprising of patching sails and fixing leaks and holes. Seam rubbers, needles, and pickers were used to accomplish these things. To ensure the ship was water tight, tar soaked rope was placed in the seams of the vessel with pitch. Every so often, pirates would move their ship to a hidden cove to remove worms that created holes in the hull and cleaned out the barnacles that were slowing the ship’s speed.
In the midst of all the busyness of their duties, pirates managed to find time for recreational activities. These activities included card games and dice, creating songs and dances, and carving. Much to the dismay of the pirates’ desires, gambling was not permitted because it had the risk of disunifying the crew through useless arguments. However, when a ship came ashore, pirates would go wild and squander their treasure on gambling, drinks, and women. In the times where the usual ship activities started to grow old, pirates would do mock trials for entertainment, recreating the trials they had seen from being captured. These trials could sometimes get pretty intense.
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While pirates were ordinary seamen for the most part, let’s not forget that they were also warriors on the high seas. Although pirates preferred to have a bloodless battle, they developed an assortment of weapons to use and often, they were better armed than their opponents. In the realm of firearms, pirates commonly used pistols, muskets, and blunderbusses. Swords and axes were also popular among pirate weaponry. The most common pirate sword was the cutlass, a heavy and crude single-edged sword. In addition, grenades, stinkpots, pikes, and halberds were other weapon options available. It was with these weapons that pirates were able to gain victories.
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