Pirates of the Bahamas

If only the real pirates of the Bahamas were as handsome and clever as Capt. Jack Sparrow.

But, no. Most real pirates were thieves, murderers and outcasts (more Barbosa than Sparrow), definitely not people you’d want to invite to dinner, much less run into while enjoying the beauty of the Bahamas.

Because the Bahamas definitely did have its share of pirates. Pirates – and their “cousins” privateers and buccaneers – spent considerable time here between the late 1600s and the early 1700s.

Pirates found the Bahamas attractive due to the islands’ proximity to shipping lanes. The shallow waters and dangerous reefs also made the area appealing due to the fact that inexperienced skippers often ran aground and/or into reefs, thus making their ships easy pickins for the pirates. The Bahamas’ many islands and inlets also made for terrific pirate hiding places.

Nassau Bahamas, with its sheltered harbor, was a favorite with pirates, who would create “false lighthouses” to lure ships onto reefs. So successful were the pirates in looting and marooning Spanish galleons, that Spanish troops destroyed Nassau in 1695 in retaliation.

Nassau was soon enough rebuilt, but pirates once again made it their home. Such a nuisance were they that in 1718 King George 1 of England named Woodes Rogers (who was once a privateer himself) as the islands’ Royal Governor and ordered him to rid the Bahamas of the pirates once and for all. Woodes offered amnesty to any pirate who surrendered (and threatened to hang any who didn’t). Pirates and the English battled briefly, resulting in the surrender of 300 pirates (the rest escaped or fled).

Well known pirates of the Bahamas include Blackbeard (real name: Edward Teach), Calico Jack, Sir Henry Morgan, and Anne Bonny and Mary Read (they disguised themselves as men).

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