Monthly Archives: September 2011

Going on the Account: RED JENNY Twenty Eight

Part Twenty Eight of RED JENNY AND THE PIRATES OF BUFFALO in now up, and may be read here.


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Going on the Account: If You Want to See Them Again…

Word hit the wires today that the Johansen family of Denmark were ransomed.  Seven months and three million dollars later, a family with kids between the ages of 12 and 16 are finally on their way home.

Admittedly, it’s a better fate than what befell the Scott and Jean Adam, but that’s rather small comfort in the aggregate.

Disregard any such romance about being taken by pirates you might have heard about or read.  Unlike tales along the lines of this one, being a hostage is a lot like being in an armed conflict, with long periods of boredom punctuated by seconds of terror, except that hostages don’t get to shoot back.  It’s a horrible existence that I have yet to hear anyone say in recalling their captivity, “Oh yeah, totally dug it.”  And being held for seven months for a young kid about the age of my son just does not sound like a great source of fond childhood memories, sorry.

Which makes the whole issue of kidnapping as an activity for pirates to pursue difficult to justify.  Yes, a reaction like mine from the victims’ loved ones shows how viable a tactic it is, in that ransoms are more likely to come quickly for people than cargo.  But even putting aside the pure economics, the hidden costs should make one pause:  The raw visceral reaction toward hostage takers that makes them more likely to pay up also makes them more likely to go after them when the business is over.

When piracy moves away from being economics by other means and becomes personal, the emotions get in the way.  A good example is what happened to the crew that took the SV Quest almost immediately after the incident went south.  And if there’s no immediate resolution, there can be a festering revenge to worry about, as the Sicilian pirates learned after Julius Caesar’s ransom was paid.

And sometimes, he reaction you’re looking for to get that quick payday just isn’t there, as an incident with a certain red haired person can demonstrate…


(What, you thought I was going to link to here and here through here?  What kind of opportunist SOB do you take me for…?)

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Going on the Account: Sailing Into Far Away Ports

Just got back from a few days away in Salem.  (For those who like to read RED JENNY a little ahead of the official announcement, I didn’t get back until late last night and not online until this morning, hence the delay.)  And yes, there was fun to be had that ties in with everything here…


One of the high points of the venture was a visit to the New England Pirate Museum.  While Salem, Massachusetts is best known for the events of 1692 and the long legacy thereof, she also has a colorful maritime history that does indeed involve the Sweet Trade.  Many of the tales told by the guide that took us through the recreations staged on sets in wax were quite engaging and gave a strong sense of the character of the pursuit therein.  Tales of Dixie Bull and Jack Quelch amidst these sets were delivered in an entertaining manner that helped give the listeners a good sense of the life of a pirate and the world in which they sailed.

(My only little quibble was in calling Thomas Tew a “New England pirate;”  local pride and evidence that most of Tew’s booty and support were based here in New York makes me claim him for this side.  And since as of this writing you’ve already got the upper hand, a little generosity might not be that hard to offer…?)


If the fine work these folks at the New England Pirate Museum don’t convince you of Salem’s claims to fame amongst those in the Sweet Trade, a few rangers at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site can cite the large amount of booty that enabled the port to come to prominence as she did, along with her trade.  Yes, if pressed, they will admit that eighty percent of this was under letter of marque, but as we’ve noted here before, getting a license to do search and seizure is just legitimized piracy, so big diff…

Also of interest to anyone looking at Salem’s maritime history is the Friendship of Salem, an active East Indiaman replica that makes forays out with volunteers to visit other harbors.  (I’m still kicking myself that she managed to pull into port here last month and I managed to miss that event…)  Having been aboard her and seen how she would have been armed to fend off attackers (which the original did while sailing in Asian waters), that had she been seized and taken on the account that the Friendship would have proven to be a rather formidable raider…


(As an aside, during my time up north there was a piece cited about the potential for a new war in the South China Sea, where the Friendship of Salem plied her trade.  Love how these coincidences keep popping up…)


The short takeaway from all this is, I would heartily recommend a visit to Salem if you have a chance.  The maritime history is worth exploring, and the New England Pirate Museum makes for a good diversion after you’ve gone to visit her two sister museums and debated with folks there the whole “Is Salem the model for Lovecraft’s Arkham?” question.  (The answer to that seems to depend on whether the polled can answer, “Who is H.P. Lovecraft?”…)


Longer term, having seen the care and approach to how the warm, friendly locals care for their piratical legacy, it makes me consider what I can do here as far as our local history goes.  This could be the genesis of a side project; I don’t like to promise things too early on, but if it does come to a form of fruition, this is the seed wherefrom it came…

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Going on the Account: RED JENNY Twenty Seven

Part Twenty Seven of RED JENNY AND THE PIRATES OF BUFFALO in now up, and may be read here.

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