Oh, to be a pirate captain…
Captain Jack Sparrow had a ship – until it was taken. Captain, no Admiral, Barbossa had a ship and a rather large cabin with the crew sleeping on the lower decks. Pirate captains were lords of their ships, in control forever….
But were they?
In research for Her Eternal Rogue, I found interesting facts about pirates and their command structure. In many respects, they were the most democratic criminals on the seas.
Their ships – pirate ships may have started with the ships we view in Pirates of the Caribbean. The ships mostly were ‘taken’ on raids. One of the better places to steal them was off the African coast during the slave trade era. If pirates stole a slave ship, if it had natives bound for the slavery, they might release them but many sold them or allowed them to “take account” and become a fellow pirate.
The tall, stately ships like merchants or the British Navy used, could be taken. But once in pirate hands, the ships themselves were modified – they ‘flattened’ the top deck so no one was higher’ above the rest and left more open for maneuvers. The captain could take the largest cabin but it wasn’t just his alone most of the time. No one claimed one cabin as theirs alone – they often shared. The lower decks were opened to store more swag and bounties. Many pirates, after a successful raid, once on land, sold their wares and used the money on rum and women. The majority spent all their riches at once and thus had to go back to sea to raid another ship or coastal town.
If pirates stole a slave ship, if it had natives bound for the slavery, they might release them but many sold them or allowed them to “take account” and become a fellow pirate. The slave ship’s crew were either shipwrecked with no supplies, or allowed to become a pirate. The crew’s attitudes about their captain, if he was despised, the pirates had been known to help the man seek his redemption – by death.
In the world of piracy, a man – or woman – race held no meaning to rank. Anyone with the nerve, guts and fortitude, could be a pirate and perhaps rise through the ranks. As to status of captain, that role was taken by whoever could win the title. And it wasn’t a secure position. To be captain, you had to have the skills to lead, the ability to keep the peace of your crew, keep your crew (as pirates were not committed to a specific captain or ship – they went wherever they could make the large amounts of money).
In Her Eternal Rogue, Alexander remains captain because he is a vampire and his crew follows him, even though they fear him, due to his vampiric strength which aids them on successful raids.
From Her Eternal Rogue – Aboard The Lily….
“So,” the Scotsman began. “When will ye tell the lassie she’s gonnae home?”
Alexander looked at him hard and poured himself another glass. “I’ll not be goin’ close to any British port with a damaged ship…”
“Ach, I see,” the Scotsman speculated. “So, you thinkin’ about keepin’ her fer yerself, then?”
“No,” Alexander answered too quickly, downing a gulp. An absurd thought, he knew, but so tempting.
“Well,” Ian continued. “Wi’ her stayin’ here, that’ll leave many tae believe we’re cursed wi’ a woman onboard and no charges lifted.”
Alexander laughed. Cursed by having a woman onboard? He’d tell them about curses…
“Fine, put her in the aft cabin till we’re through with…”
“Capt’n, ye cannae be placin’ her there,” Ian scolded, sounding like a father reprimanding his son. “Be pirates on this ship, sair, and puttin’ her there is more or less tellin’ the boys she’s fer sharin’.”
“What would you have me do?” Alexander barked. When Ian didn’t respond, Alexander downed another gulp. “Keep her where she is?”
“Fine, then I’ll sleep in the aft cabin.”
“Capt’n,” Ian said quietly. “Ye cannae be doin’ that either.”
Alexander glared at the glass in front of him. Damn, the man was right. Pirate ships had no assigned quarters. Sleeping areas were open to all. But on The Lily, Alexander’s curse and the pirates’ fear of it, enabled him to claim the larger cabin exclusively. But he was furious at having to house the English aristocrat there. Too far below her station when he’d lived in England, he would have been denied access to her but here… He shook his head. He and his crew had a reward for her safe return, and he had to remember that. Ah yes, the reward. A clean slate—for the moment. A few months with no law in pursuit, leaving them open to rob whomever they wanted. A laugh but one both sides held for the British navy remained heavily occupied across the ocean with the French, too busy to chase every pirate on the seas.
Sharing quarters with her, being so close to her, was too dangerous for them both. Her body was designed to entice any man to wanton desires. A temptation he couldn’t ignore since he’d kissed her the first time he saw her. Truly decadent on his part, but piracy did allow deviations to any plan. He’d wanted to kiss those ruby lips, to invade her mouth and, as he’d plunged his tongue into her, she’d tasted sweet, like strawberries and cream. Everything about her made him want to bury himself deep inside her. He downed another mouthful of rum. He feared if he was alone with her for too long, he’d lose all his control. He’d never love her. The idea of him ever loving a woman had been squashed that night years ago. But lust remained…
No, he thought, she had to go and soon.