Song of the Day: This is Shangri-La by Mother Love Bone
Long before Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl sailed onto the silver screen, I had a great interest in pirates. From Peter Pan, to the Goonies, to Erroll Flynn, to Russell Crowe, and of course Johnny and the POTC gang, these tall sea-worthy tales tickled my fancy. Frankly, I’m a sucker for most epics and adventures. Call it my love for history, especially world events and eras surrounded by legends and fantasy. Much history is based on the writings of those who lived through those times gone by. Mystery and intrigue sometimes abounds as generation after generation retells their stories. Fact or fiction, I adore them.
Recently, I attended an exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It was a history lesson I simply couldn’t wait to see . . .no, experience.
Arrgh! The engagement gives visitors a glimpse of the life of a pirate through artifacts recovered from the only known pirate shipwreck, the Whydah. The Whydah, captained by Sam Bellamy, aka Black Sam, met her end in 1717, capsizing in a terrible Nor’easter. More than two centuries later, in the summer of 1984, the ship was found by undersea salvor, Barry Clifford.
The Whydah’s captain, himself, is someone an author could easily model as a redemptive hero or inspiration for a romance novel. Bellamy arrived in Cape Cod from England around 1714. He met a young woman named Maria Hallett and together they fell madly in love. But he was a penniless sailor and her wealthy family denied him her hand. To win their favor, he set out to seek his fortune by the quickest means – he joined a pirate crew. With a strong will and expertise in his craft, it wasn’t long before Bellamy was made captain. His reign of terror in the Caribbean began and he captured some 50 ships, including a fine slave ship on her maiden voyage, the Whydah. He chased after the Whydah for three days. Without ever shooting his shipboard guns, the Whydah surrendered and Bellamy took the prize for his own. Now laden with riches, Bellamy charted his course north, back to his love, Maria. But as he reached Cape Cod, the terrible storm raged. Just a mere 500 feet or so from the shores of Cape Cod, the Whydah broke apart, taking all but two of the 146 men on board, including Bellamy.
Exciting tales and a colorful crew, counting a 9-year old spitfire named John, make fodder for an author like me.
After a short film, the exhibit opened to a magnificent display of the Whydah’s bell encased in a glass column filled with seawater. I was so taken aback by the bell, my breath caught, my heart raced, and, I admit, I had tears in my eyes. It was as if the bell was sacred. I was that moved. Other artifacts on display were weapons (canons, pistols, and grenades), table settings, buttons, buckles, surgical tools, rigging pieces, navigational tools, and even a lead “shoot” that made up the pissdale, the toilet positioned at the bow or stern of the ship.
No pirate ship is complete without treasure. Hot damn! You could even touch it! Silver and gold coins, gold ingots and real pieces of eight. I did a lot of giggling while my fingers grazed the treasure.
Since I’ve done extensive research on pirates, most of the information at the exhibit I was familiar. Yet, I learned a few new things and took the opportunity to absorb myself in a world I am passionate about. And, I was quite proud of myself when I proved to my DH that I can indeed tie several different sailors’ knots.
So why am I telling you all this? I really believe when you are enthusiastic about something, be it a time, place, character or theme, it comes out in your voice, style and overall storytelling. Immerse yourself in what moves you. You may learn something new. You may be newly inspired. You may giggle until you almost pee in your britches.
Have you ever experienced something that influenced you on a deep level and invigorated you to write? I’d love to hear from you.