The Truth about Pirates

The romanticization of the role that pirates have played throughout history is natural. The idea of sailing the seven seas on a wooden pirate galleon, above the law and answerable only to your captain (whose wayward view of life is as freedom loving as yours) seems attractive. That is, until you consider the reality of the life pirates lived.

While most pirates had good sea-legs (and those who didn’t at the beginning, soon became accustomed to the movement of the pirate ship or face the plank), sea-sickness during particularly bad weather was common. The smell alone of one seasick pirate would be enough to set the rest hanging over the edge of the boat.

The smell of sick mates was not the only odor to accompany pirates on their adventures around the globe. Dirty bodies abound on pirate ships! Fresh water was a precious resource that wouldn’t be wasted on personal hygiene and salt water would irritate the skin and cause the chafing of clothes against the skin.

High Risk
The risk of maiming, losing an eye and other battle wounds were clear disadvantages of being a pirate, not to mention the high death rate, either in battle or by the hangman’s noose.

Basic Food
Far from gourmet, the food options aboard a pirate ship were limited – arriving to port was a special yet risky treat to appease the appetite. Fresh produce would only last a few weeks at most, and dried food was the staple diet once livestock ran out.

Owing to lack of hygiene, deficiencies in vitamin C and other nutrients found in fresh fruit and vegetables, avoidable ailments were rife aboard pirate ships.

Democratic Tyranny
Believe it or not, pirates of the golden age were advocates of democracy, voting on various aspects of pirate life, the captain only having absolute authority during battle. Otherwise, authority was divided up and key positions voted upon.

Accepted Homosexuality
Homosexuality was common aboard pirate ships and history even reports cases of the first type of gay marriage or civil unions which entitled two men to have shared rights over property, which was particularly important in the event of death.