19 November 2011

Of bones and art

Posted in Pirate life

  • One of the beauties of my frequent trips to Key West and St. Augustine is the menagerie of amazing individuals that cross my crooked path. I love meeting interesting people - especially those who have skill sets that I can only dream of.

    While touring the back of the house at the Green Parrot Bar with my partner John Vagnoni, I noticed a fairly large piece of artwork of a sculptured skull & crossbones mounted on a square of driftwood in our walk-in storage shed. The pirate motif was creatively accented by a flintlock pistol and doubloons. Obviously, it drew my attention.

    John started laughing as soon as I pointed to the piece. He said he knew I would dig it and began to describe its origin. The creator is an artist named David Wegman, who has numerous cool artworks scattered throughout the bar and is one of the three artists painting the new shutters at the GP store.

    John was chuckling and said that David had molded the skull and crossbones from the real bones of one of his buddies who was buried at sea somewhere in the Caribbean and magically washed up on land. The body was reclaimed by his buddies... after some means of identification, and buried in a makeshift grave after another celebratory sendoff. But a short time later, nature again brought the bones to the island's surface after a storm. This time, leaving nothing to Mother Nature, they decided to take the majority of their friend home. Ha!

    Since John informed me that Mr. Jolly Roger (or whoever's bones they were) was for sale, I had to meet David and confirm this crazy story.

  • 09 November 2011

    Take Action on Your Passion

    Posted in Pirate life

  • This blog post also appeared on PC's Drake Expedition Blog.

    My erratic, highly energized, enjoyable life after the Drake Expedition is exactly the same as it was before my trip to Portobello, Panama--except that during my frequent passages through the Philadelphia airport, strangers, including TSA personnel, will ask, "Pat did you find the body yet?"

    It used to be: "When you coming back to the Sixers?"

    Ha! You've got to love Philly folks.

    Speaking of the NBA, yesterday CNN.com ran the article, Former NBA team owner on his passion for dead pirates. The article was based on an entertaining interview I had with Emily Smith from CNN London regarding the Drake Expedition and our historic discovery of Drake's two scuttled ships.

    But the perspective that came across loud and clear was my firm belief that you should take action on your passion, even if others think your passion is off-the-wall.

  • 16 October 2011

    Drake's Expedition: The Adventure Begins

    Posted in Pirate life

  • Imagine pursuing your lifelong piratical obsession by attempting to locate the body of your most favorite pirate of all time. The man who has been dead since January 28, 1596. The man who torched the ground of St. Augustine, where you built the world's most outrageous pirate museum. The man who plundered Spain's New World empire, escaped the hangman's noose, and was knighted for his courageous adventures.

    I know the idea sounds impossible. But then again, so did the dream of a trainer becoming the owner of a professional sports franchise.

    To read the rest and follow Pat's adventure to find Drake and his ships in Portobello, Panana, check out PC's Drake Expedition.

  • 21 September 2011

    Today Books: Ahoy, mateys! Rule the 7 seas with ‘The Pirate Handbook’

    Posted in Pirate life

  • The following blog post is an excerpt from my article that appeared on September 21, 2011, on Today Books before my appearance on The Today Show, from 9 a.m. EST, Thursday, September 22. Read the entire article HERE.

    Pirates were by no means nice guys: they tortured captives and slay crews that resisted attack. But then again, civilization as we know it operated under different rules way back when.

    The Pirate HandbookDuring the Golden Age of Piracy (1680-1730), life for the common man was a daily struggle to simply survive against government or merchant ship tyranny, cruelty, and barely-existent wages. Under punishing and dangerous conditions, starving workers made one piece of eight (roughly 7 shillings) per month! Piracy offered escape from a difficult and painfully disparate life.

    Piracy was a democratic undertaking; pirates voted on most major decisions, including who would be their captain, where to sail next and if to attack another vessel. They also got their fair share of loot, whereas merchant ship captains often took 15 times more than their crews.

    Pirates had the first form of disability insurance: If they lost an arm or a leg in battle, they were handsomely compensated, and if they were killed, their families sometimes received payments, too.

    Pirate ships also had rules called Articles or the Code of Conduct that had to be signed by every crew member. These rules included no smoking below decks after sunset, lights out by eight, no women or boys aboard and no gambling, which often led to fights. Barbarians? Not these guys.

    In the beginning, colonies like England and France hired private sailors to raid and destroy the ships, forts, and townships of their enemies to undermine trade and seize cargo that would help feed their people and aid their nation's economies. With official backing from their government, these privateers and buccaneers were considered heroes in their own country. But with one stroke of a pen on a treaty parchment, sailors who continued to do what they did best for mother country were labeled "pirates."

    Thankfully, American colonists traded with pirates, striking a blow against Britain in a power struggle that culminated in the American Revolution.

    PIRATES WERE JUST MISUNDERSTOOD. How? Read the rest on The Today Books website!

  • 19 September 2011

    Drake's Expedition: Preparing for Bloodsuckers

    Posted in Pirate life

  • In January 1596, two ships of the famous privateer/pirate Sir Francis Drake, the Elizabeth and Delight, were lost off Portobelo, Panama. Somewhere they rest not far from their owner. And Pat Croce wants them found!

    I just finished taking typhoid fever pills--a day on followed by a day off for the past week as directed during an unusual medical consultation.

    At the suggestion of my personal doc, Brad Fenton, I made an appointment at University of Pennsylvania's Division of Travel Medicine to get the necessary inoculation required to travel to the harbor of Portobello in Panama. No one told me that I would end up being a Petri dish!

    MosquitoI got vaccination shots for yellow fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and tetanus. I also got a prescription for malaria pills that I had to take before, during, and after my latest adventure.

    During the "voodoo" visit, the practitioner told me that the malaria pills would prevent infected mosquitoes from sharing their disease with me and that they only bite at night. During the day, other insects transmit some bone-crushing disease or something crazy like that.

    OK, give me whatever you're selling.

    She smiled, held up a bottle with a spray nozzle attached to the top, and told me to spray all my clothes with this repellant before I pack them in my suitcase. But do it outside because it stinks. Sounds serious!

    After an hour of me imitating a pin cushion and her warning me of rabid dogs, snake bites, and the Central American version of Montezuma's Revenge, I went home, sharpened my scuba knife and drank a heaping helping of rum, the best pirate medicine!

    More to come on my Drake Expedition.

    The photo above is of an aedes aegytpi mosquito from la-ventana.com

  • 07 September 2011

    From Chronicle Books: The Most Lethal Pirate Weapon

    Posted in Pirate life

  • Pat Croce, a pirate born 300 years too late and author of The Pirate Handbook, guest posted on the Chronicle Books blog this week. Read on for devastating weapons and notorious.

    Leave a comment on the Chronicle Books blog letting them know who your favorite swashbuckling pirate is. They'll randomly select a commenter on Tuesday, September 13th, to receive a copy of
    The Pirate Handbook. Good luck!

    Pirates are only as strong and effective as their weaponry.



  • 01 September 2011

    Finding Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge

    Posted in Pirate life

  • Although we believed for some time that the remains of the shipwreck discovered at Beaufort Inlet, N.C. by my buddy Phil Masters in 1996 was the notorious Blackbeard's, it wasn't until yesterday that archaeologists confirmed the historic discovery.

    The 300-ton, 40-gun pirate flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge, was originally a French slave ship named the La Concorde when she was captured by Benjamin Hornigold near the island of Martinique. Hornigold awarded the beauty to one of his most courageous crew members, Edward Teach. And the rest is history!

    The long-term debate over the true identity of Blackbeard's ship was because there was no precise identification. No name tag! Whereas explorer Barry Clifford's discovery of pirate Samuel "Black Sam" Bellamy's Whydah in 1984 was easily confirmed by the discovery of the ship's bell, QAR had a bell dated 1705, but no name. (FYI, most pirate ships were stolen and renamed, so the ship's bell didn't always reflect the name of the pirate vessel.)

    BlackbeardYears ago, Phil introduced me to David Moore, archaeologist and curator at the North Carolina Maritime Museum. No one, and I mean no one, knows more about Blackbeard than David. (Obviously, we're kindred spirits.)

    Get more info about the N.C. Maritime Museum's Blackbeard exhibit

    And David has always believed the find to be Blackbeard's flagship. Why? The location. The number of cannons found. The size of the anchors. The age of the artifacts. And the fact that there is no historical evidence of any other large vessel like QAR in the neighborhood!

    Read the National Geographic article: Blackbeard's ship confirmed off North Carolina

  • 15 August 2011

    When dreams come true... and then some

    Posted in Pirate life

  • I love big dreamers.

    And the only thing better than a person with an amazing dream is a person who does the impossible to achieve that dream. Last week, I had the rare opportunity to experience my buddy's dream with the dreamer himself!

    It took over a dozen years, thousands of sleepless hours, millions of dollars, tons of supporters, and endless lobbying to make Joe Weatherby's dream come true.

  • 08 August 2011

    The door to exploration and adventure

    Posted in Pirate life

  • I had a meeting in Washington, D.C. this week. No, it had nothing to do with the debacle over our country's debt ceiling. But it had everything to do with raising my ceiling for exploration!

    Blackness of Space

    Australian explorer Mike McDowell was scheduled to attend a board meeting for one of his companies, Adventure Space, which sends people who can afford a multiple-million dollar seat into space.

    Mike and I have been corresponding for several months because one of his other companies has a joint venture with a Panamanian company that owns the concession or exploratory rights for an area I want to explore.

    Need I say that piratical history and artifacts are involved?

    Over a California Cab and an Australian Shiraz, I interrogated Mike on his evolution into a world-class explorer. It was like interviewing professional athletes on the NBA on NBC show again.

    I was amazed to learn that his first gig after college was in Antarctica, where he has a company that leads expeditions. Mike has visited over 140 countries, working tours in Brazil (to pay his way) to developing business interests, that also include sending people to the depths of the world's oceans in Russian Mir submarines.

    I felt like my visiting incredible sites, like the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal, was nothing compared to his adventurous pursuits.

    I asked Mike the secret to his success in the world of exploration. His answer: I'm willing to walk through the door. Wow!

    How many of us dream great dreams and plan great plans and see great opportunities, but are not willing to get up and walk through the door? You never know what's behind that door or how many other doors are ajar behind that door, if you don't take the first step through the door.

    BTW, you know I wouldn't have left that enjoyable evening without asking Mike to allow me to walk through my chosen door with him! And the answer was, "Yes!"


    Photo of the Blackness of Space at 100,000 ft. from the Oklahoma State University Astro Project courtesy Adventure Space.

  • 21 July 2011

    Hack's Atlas

    Posted in Pirate life

  • Who doesn't love a surprise? Today, for me, was Christmas in July.

    I've been working with a maritime researcher in London named Trevor. Trevor combs The National Archives, British Library, National Maritime Museum, public records, and a handful of university libraries for rare nuggets of information gleaned from centuries-old data, for an adventure/expedition I'd like to undertake.

    I can't share details or some other pirate freak might attempt to beat me to the plunder! But here's more on the surprise...

  • 06 July 2011

    What business students and entrepreneurs can learn from pirates

    Posted in Pirate life

  • Anyone who knows me knows I have a strong fascination with pirates. More like fanaticism some would say. But I wouldn't say all pirates. I'm talking 16th to early 18th century pirates.

    Starting in 1567 with my favorite "privateer" Sir Francis Drake's first excursion to New Spain (Mexico), to the "buccaneer" Sir Henry Morgan' s amazing escape after plundering Maricaibo, to the relative end of the Golden Age of Piracy in 1722 with the death of the "pirate" Black Bart Roberts, and the adventures of all "rogues" in-between, these Brethren of the Coast have provided me with memorable lessons in history, geography, and science, not to mention management, negotiation, and entrepreneurship.

  • 21 June 2011

    Finding Captain Morgan’s HMS Oxford

    Posted in Pirate life

  • June 21, 2011

    Four years ago today, I was in Haiti pursuing an elusive dream that we now hope is within our reach.

    This week, Bob Cembrola and I spoke once again about our mutual interest in finding and salvaging the remains of Captain Henry Morgan's flagship, the 34-gun HMS Oxford, off of Haitian waters.

  • 10 June 2011

    Blackbeard--the first of 6

    Posted in Pirate life

  • June 10, 2011

    I want to thank everyone who attended my Blackbeard book signing at the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. (See gallery HERE.)

    Book SigningMy enthusiastic staff set the stage under a brilliant Florida sun in the museum's courtyard, under a decorated tent where I was bookended by Captain Mayhem and Blackbeard himself. Our pirates not only looked the part, they also made sure all attendees - young and old - felt they were with the real deal. (They had to be hot as hell in their full attire!)

    I chose Blackbeard as the first in a series on six famous pirates I plan to write. The histories, as in Blackbeard, will be thoroughly researched and extremely accurate, although I do take creative license with dialogue and inserting "kid" scenes to add to entertainment value.

    Right now I'm working on book #2 on Sir Francis Drake. These two guys are my favoriteBook Signing 2 historical characters. One demonstrates the definitive pirate lifestyle and the use of psychological warfare well before his time. And the other was a stone-cold navigational hero, achieved mostly through piratical pursuits. It's truly amazing what Drake accomplished in the 16th century... and the plunder he amassed!

  • 22 May 2011

    In memory of Captain Kidd

    Posted in Pirate life

  • May 23, 2011

    The month of May brings to mind two historical pirate events that helped change history:

    During the week of May 22nd in 1718, the notorious Blackbeard, with his pirate flotilla of four ships and about 400 crew members, blockaded the colonial town of Charleston (Charles Towne), South Carolina. This ballsy move marked the very beginning of the end of the Golden Age of Piracy. (I visited the harbor in Charleston last week; if only the waters could talk.)

    Before Blackbeard terrorized Charleston, colonials along the eastern seaboard embraced the chance to purchase pirates' contraband. But when shipping was halted briefly during this week, Blackbeard became Public Enemy #1 and British Royal Navy vessels were engaged in the hunt.

    The other event occurred 310 years ago on May 23rd at Execution Dock in England...

  • 12 May 2011

    A toast to perfect gold

    Posted in Pirate life

  • May 12, 2011

    What a wild lunch!

    Pat with gold chaliceYesterday my executive director, Cindy Stavely, and I had the opportunity to dine with Jim Sinclair, an acclaimed marine archaeologist, and Keith Webb, a very successful historic shipwreck explorer. The stories these adventurers shared with us should be on National Geographic or the History Channel!

    Keith operates Blue Water Ventures and has loaned the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum several hundred pearls that he recovered from the Spanish wreck of the Santa Margarita. The museum's Shipwreck Island exhibition continues to swell with rare treasures, but what Keith brought to lunch yesterday makes the pearls look like my grandkids' marbles!

  • Pirate of the Month

    He was captured by the Spaniards in Italy and forced to serve them while chained to their galley.

    Read More

    Birthday Parties

    Did you know?

    • In 1684, the pirate Andrew Ranson was found guilty of piracy and sentenced to death by garrote. The rope around his neck broke and the town's friar believed his near-death experience was a miracle and demanded he be spared.

    • The pirate motto for going into battle was "iron and lead first, followed by steel." Start with cannon and musket fire and proceed to close fighting with cutlasses and boarding axes.

    • Pirates had workman's comp! Each captain took care of the injured by compensating crewmen for being maimed or losing a limb. And each captain had his own "rates:" loss of right arm, 600 pieces; left arm, 500 pieces; right leg, 500, etc.

    • The Castillo de San Marcos was built immediately after Captain Robert Searles sacked St. Augustine, Florida in 1668. Sir Francis Drake razed the city 82 years earlier.


    What Pirate Would You Want to Pillage With?