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Adventures of a Wayward Sailor
I am a poor, wayfaring stranger...
Ship geekery - future class plans 
8th-Nov-2006 02:03 pm
*** I've been transferring my research over to its own website. More up-to-date projects can be found here: ***

I realised a year or two ago that if I'm sick of all the fake pseudo-pirates in the SCA, the best thing I can do is to offer to teach a more period approach to the topic.
That said, I've been working on a class to that end, but the more I think about it the more I think it's gonna have to be a series of classes. I hope to teach them at GNEW next year. So far, I’ve come up with four separate classes designed towards a more accurate representation of the Late-Period English Maritime (specifically, pirate/privateer) persona. These are currently titled strictly by subject; please feel free to make witty suggestions.
Basic Piracy Overview – Myths & Legends
Point A to Point B - Navigation
Knots, Hulls, and Sails
Life at sea –Food, Drink, and Song

Myths and Legends Class
          Overview: What is and what isn’t period?
          Not Period: Frock coats, tricorner hats, rum, the title of “Captain” itself (commanders of vessels were usually referred to as the ship's master). Stereotypes of peg-legged, hook-handed men with lacy jabots, gold teeth & parrots.
          Why? Most of the modern notion of “the pirate” comes from 18th century practices mixed in with Victorian theater and sentimentalized popular culture.
          Where do these perceptions come from? Lots of the physical disfigurements simply come from the hard life at sea – limbs are lost in accidents or in combat; an eye can be lost through a misfiring weapon or through retinal damage from period navigational practices. The “pirate” dialect is a combination of the West Country British accents and the patois of the multicultural nature of crews. A British acquaintance of mine told me that he thinks the “arrgh” part of the “pirate” accent comes from the heavily-rolled R’s of the Cornish accent, as there were many Cornish sailors in the transatlantic fleets.
          Okay, then what *is* period? Sea dogs, galleons, Spanish treasure fleets, Drake & Ralegh, privateers. (more as I think of it)
          Context: English/Spanish tensions and rivalry, the race for colonies and resources, foreign policy & how that played out on the water. Letters of marque & their relative uselessness. Piracy/privateering in the English Channel and abroad. Two biggest North American hotspots for piracy: The West Indies, as the Spanish treasure fleets sailed for Spain, and the Spanish fishing fleets in Newfoundland.
          How does that apply? Small coastal raiders versus larger expeditions with letters of marque, local European small-time piracy vs serious overseas political privateering. Why be a pirate or privateer? Worldview & nationalist motivations.
          Not period: Again, frock coats, tricorner hats, jabots, anything you saw in Pirates of the Caribbean. The “Golden Age of Piracy” was 18th century, not SCA period.
          Period: Common sailors wore thrum caps/Monmouth caps, oiled leather overcoats, canvas doublets and breeches, cassocks, in addition to standard late period kit found ashore (wool and linen doublets, breeches, shirts, etc). Carry a deck knife, not a dagger. (Yes, I know there’s the old “I have to be ready to repel boarders!” excuse, but it’s not true. Most pirate vessels stalked their target for several days beforehand, acquiring information before attacking. For a neat review of mainly post-period tactics with some period stuff included, see Cindy Vallar’s site. Boarding cutlasses were issued on many ships at the onset of an attack, and stored along the rails. Think about it – you never want to be carrying anything that can snag in the rigging or otherwise impede movement. Leave your sword in the tent).
                      Knots, Hulls, and Sails
          Not period: Schooners, huge aft-galleried galleons, anything you saw in Pirates of the Caribbean.
          Period: Galleons, pinnaces, carracks, naos, caravels, etc. Most period ships look surprisingly clunky and top-heavy to modern eyes. The Mayflower II is a reproduction of the standard generic late 16th/early 17th century English merchantman. See here for some really good line drawings of different period rigs.
          If you’re going to call yourself a sailor:
-         Overview of basic ship terminology, basic sail terminology
-         Explain standard pinrail diagram (maybe for MFII or just generic?)
-         Sailing terms & how they apply in period
Maritime skills you ought to know: This is a hard one to advise on, since it crosses over into the realm of hard sailing experience.
-         Knots
o       basic (bowline - John Smith's 1627 Seaman's Grammar is perhaps the first written reference to it, though probably much older; figure-eight, sheepshank, fisherman’s knot, sheet bend, reef knot, etc)
o       Advanced boat knots – monkey’s fist, turksheads, thump mats, etc. Not necessary, but they’re fun and impressive.
-         Learn a few stars, it’ll help the impression. At least be able to find north.
Point A to Point B – Navigation (Ideally, I’d teach this at night)
Not Period: Sextants, longitude
          Period: Sandglass, Nocturnal, Log-line, Quadrant, Chip log, Magnetic Compass, Astrolabe, Cross-staff, Back-staff (Davis Quadrant), Traverse board, Hand lead-line and deepsea line.
          Brief history of navigation: dead reckoning to celestial to magnetic, and the search for longitude. Compass variation: True virgins make dull company – add whisky / Can dead men vote twice at elections?
          Uses and techniques: as we go, depending on how many of the items I’ve got.
          Star overview: Go outside & point out some of the major navigational stars. Maybe make up some glow-in-the-dark star charts ahead of time, if I think about it. Bonus points if I can remember who taught that class on period astronomy a couple years ago…
Life at Sea – Food, drink, and song.
          Food & Drink:
          Not period: Rum!
          Period: Hope you like dried peas, salt meat, hardtack, dried fruit and oatmeal. Fish also eaten. Bonus: Water went rancid quickly, so beer was the standard issue beverage. Martin Frobisher’s men were issued the following provisions during his 1576 voyage: a half-kilogram of dry biscuit, four liters of beer (preferable to water, which went stale), a kilogram of salt meat, some dried peas, a quarter of a salted fish, and some butter, cheese, rice, oatmeal, raisins and nuts. Hope you like scurvy, too.
          Period recipes: Pease pottage, hardtack (Waiting to hear back from Plimoth’s foodways historians). Check my cookbooks for better ones. Make some up and pass out.
-         Shanties versus sea songs
-         Types of shanties
Period Shanties: John Dory, A-Roving, Golden Vanity
Period Sea Songs: Westron Wyndes, We be three poore mariners, To Portsmouth.
Non-period: Drunken Sailor, Blow the Man Down, pretty much anything you’ve ever heard them sing at the Ren Faires. Listen to the lyrics – anything mentioning engines, shipping lines, or most New World ports probably isn’t period. Most shanties date only to the 1800s.
          Do these sound interesting to anyone? Would you go to at least one of these?
8th-Nov-2006 08:09 pm (UTC)
I *heart* you. I have a class I haven't yet had a chance to teach: "Swash, Swash, Buckle, Buckle: The Well Dress'd Elizabethan Sailor." It focuses on clothing as presented in paintings and sketches of an assortment of men from Martin Frobisher to Sir Walter Raleigh to the common seaman.

Wish we were closer together-- this could make a hell of an event theme.
8th-Nov-2006 08:17 pm (UTC)
No kidding! There's a maritime-themed EKU up in Nova Scotia over Thanksgiving... I'm seriously considering going.
9th-Nov-2006 04:40 am (UTC)
I would totally go to any class called "swash swash buckle buckle" though if I did I think I would be expecting swordings....though that may be due to a stage combat skit I did now that I think about it...
8th-Nov-2006 08:20 pm (UTC)
purely out of curiosity what is your opinion of Patrick O'Brien and the Master and Commander stuff.. I think that is later, but it does include a fair amount of pirates.. and how do the new world pirates/privateers like our good friend John Paul Jones fit into this picture?

8th-Nov-2006 08:28 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm talking about the period 1500-1625ish, so JPJ is way out of the picture and Master & Commander even further out. However, I love O'Brian's work - it's the most accurate depiction of period life at sea I've ever seen in maritime fiction.
8th-Nov-2006 08:38 pm (UTC) - I really love the Aubrey-Maturin books..
I guess that was more my first question that I didn't state *grin* what period are you talking about? (which you have now answered)

what is the general time scale for piracy? in terms of a general begining, heyday, decline... ?

8th-Nov-2006 09:42 pm (UTC) - Re: I really love the Aubrey-Maturin books..
The "Golden Age" is usually considered circa 1690-1730, though these dates are really soft. Piracy's always been going on, but "piracy" as we think of it really got started in the English vs Spanish raids of the 1500s, when English raiders did their best to harass the treasure fleets coming home from Spanish colonies. Colonial governors in the Caribbean often used hired privateers to supplement their navies as the 17th century ended. Piracy really started to get cracked down on as the British imperial powers solidified their act in traditionally lawless waters in the Americas. It's still around today, though, mostly in waters that have become lawless again such as the African coast, China Sea and Indian Ocean, and parts of the Caribbean.
8th-Nov-2006 10:25 pm (UTC)
I'd totally be all over that class. Heck, i'd do research and help you teach it! i have an "obnoxious" pirate persona that's currently totally out of whack with what's period, but that's mostly because of garb price limitations.
8th-Nov-2006 11:20 pm (UTC)
"Price limitations" - do you purchase your kit or sew your own?

And while I may rant about the fake pirates, I place a *huge* difference between the folks who actually know their stuff but don't show it and the folks who haven't a clue and couldn't care less, 'cause hey man, they're PIRATES! You've been to sea. I'll automatically cut you slack. :)
8th-Nov-2006 11:28 pm (UTC)
Most of what i've accumulated are Salvation Army and Goodwill finds. I've sewn a few things for myself, the newest (and my favorite at the moment) is a Viking tunic dress. ^_^ But my sewing machine is spaztic and i usually end up swearing at it more than getting anything done, and nice fabric is spendy when you have to drive an hour to the nearest Joann's and are a well endowed woman with Huge Tracts of Land. i was seriously drooling over that wool sale you posted a while back...

i'm a privateer (we have a letter of Marque from the English crown) partly because sailing is something i know and partly because i can wear clothes from anywhere we've sailed to. *eg*
9th-Nov-2006 12:41 am (UTC)
I thought Pirates of the Caribbean was a documentary.


Seriously, pirate has become the new ninja in the SCA. Any attempt at realism would be appreciated, and under attended. Well, I'd go.
9th-Nov-2006 01:22 am (UTC)
I'd be glad to see you. Seriously, you seem to have dropped off the face of the earth. Are you feeling any better? I heard you've got the Death-Plague, too, or at least another variant of it.
9th-Nov-2006 02:26 am (UTC)
Considering I seem to be someone you are sick of... Er... my "interests", I'll try not to take that personally... Er... I mean, sure I'd go! ;-) I applaud your efforts in actually DOING something to "fix" things that bother you. Be honest though, I'm betting your average "Fake pseudo pirate" knows at LEAST as much seamanship as your average "Fake pseudo Viking". (Viking was the term for those who went raiding, Norse was the culture. Vikings were sailors too, some would say the penultimate pirates actually.) Perhaps you could open it up to the Viking personas as well? I should point out however that not everyone on board a ship was required to know seamanship, some of us were say... musicians, or doctors... Though you might be suprised what skills we might have picked up. (Ruadh... what are you doing with that rope...) Maybe go over the Holy Pirates of Malta (Confiscate a Cargo for Crist!) and their opponents the Barbary Corsairs (Ram a ship for Allah!)? I mean there's a really good period example of piracy. Is the focus going to be mainly on the English Privateer/pirates or would we be going into the Dutch, French, and *Gasp* even SPANISH as well? (Yeah on "talk like a Pirate" day I speak french just to screw with people) I'd learned that the Virgins were just Timid, not True, but either way... BRING ON THE WHISKY!!! (Which I notice you spelled without an "E" so we're talking SCOTCH and that *IS* period! Heh! but not while actually navigating...) On that subject however... Ok, you can get me to go to classes,You can get me to wear elizabethan, you can even get me to *gasp* do research, but I'm not giving up the *RUM*!! As long as Baron Harold can run around with Satan's scrotum sweat... I mean... "Screech", the rest of us should be allowed our rum of choice. Myths and legends, ships and knot tying, booze (of whichever allotment) and songs, what's not to like? Throw in women (Grace O'Mally and Lady Killigrew were contemporary with Elizabeth too) and it sounds like a pretty good party to me... Oh speaking of that, should we bring our own subject to practice the knots on?
9th-Nov-2006 08:28 pm (UTC)
I don't even know where to begin on this one, so let me just start by saying I love you in the most platonic way possible. :)

This class is designed towards Late Period English maritime personas, since it's both what I know best and it's the current pop-culture flavor of pirate.

Haha, and while I acknowledge your irrational hatred of Screech (even if your description of it *did* make me laugh so hard I dropped my coffee), I'll admit even I still like my rum. Hey, I said I was just going to offer *alternatives* to non-period practice, not that I was going to enforce them. ;)

Re: knots... I'm not touching that. What you do in your own tent is your own business. Though I bet I know a few knots that would make even *you* blink... ;)
9th-Nov-2006 04:39 am (UTC)
I had forgotten the compass variation mnemonics
and out of curiosity when is rum period for...I had toyed with a priate persona when I was still considering being a part of the SCA and determined that none of the "fun stuff" was period and gave it up
9th-Nov-2006 03:26 pm (UTC)
The SCA's great for some people, but just not the right cup of tea for others. I forget when rum started to be manufactured in large quantities, but I think it wasn't until the later 17th c and 18th centuries.
9th-Nov-2006 05:54 pm (UTC)
well I'm sure it was being made in the late 1600's but the oldest commercial company making rum that I could find was "Mount Gay" at 1703 Though "Captain Morgan's" claims that the good captain actually did have a rum distillery on his lands and that's why they chose the name.
10th-Nov-2006 12:41 am (UTC) - Period Pirates
Someone is teaching a class at the East Kingdom University this Saturday called "Period Pirates"

"Period Pirates

A basic discussion of what it means to create and portray accurate nautical personae within the SCA Time Frame. Do's and Don'ts, as well as common misconceptions will be discussed, with plenty of time for Questions and Answers

Instructor: Captain Alias"

Also, I think you should mention "Bald Grace O'Malley" or Gráinne Ni Mháille, since she rocked.
10th-Nov-2006 12:51 am (UTC) - Re: Period Pirates
That'd probably be Elias Gedney. I've been trying for *years* to get in touch with that man...
14th-Nov-2006 02:58 am (UTC)
I'd not only attend those, I'd help, if need be. For the food and drink one, you'd totally have to make some hardtack-the demonstration alone would be fun. And insert rice bits to demo the whack.
9th-May-2013 03:21 am (UTC) - Handouts?
Hello! Do you happen to have handouts for these classes? I'd love to see them as a person with an English maritime persona, but who hasn't done a ton of research. :) If you do, can you email them to me at jacob dot a dot tessler at gmail dot com?
9th-May-2013 02:26 pm (UTC) - Re: Handouts?
Hi! I didn't use handouts beyond the outlines you see here, unfortunately. But I'm willing to answer questions you might have. I assume you got here from my Wordpress site:

I've got a couple of maritime research projects up there.
10th-May-2013 02:33 am (UTC) - Ship Geekery and Piratism
Wish I was anywhere near you, I'd certainly attend these classes! There is a large contingent of "pirates" here in Trimaris, closely related to the rapier community. And though I'm not a pirate in any form, I've been in love with sailing ships all my life.

Are you sure you don't have any handouts? (^^ hopeful puppy eyebrows ^^)
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