A Day in the Life of a Pirate
To write my Rogues of the Sea trilogy I did quite a fair bit of research about pirates. So I wrote a little piece about a typical day in the life of a buccaneer for the lovely folks at RT Book Reviews. The trouble was that as I wrote it, Alex Savege, the hero of Captured by a Rogue Lord, kept adding his observations. Here I offer you the result: my summary, with a rakish earl’s commentary on the life of a pirate.
A pirate’s day follows the sun, commencing at dawn when he stows his hammock. This is no great hardship, as he often sleeps fore in the sea-tossed gundeck where the bow’s pitch is severe, jammed between crewmates who haven’t bathed in weeks.
Lord Savege: What a remarkably wretched arrangement. A gentleman never rises before noon, unless inspired to an earlier rising by the lady whose perfumed bed he shares. If she is especially good, he’ll rise again.
Breakfast is a weevil-infested biscuit and strip of salted meat washed down with thrice-brewed tea.
Lord Savege: A cup of strong coffee and a perusal of The Times satisfies those needs not already satisfied by the lady left abed.
A pirate lives a hard life: the sea is a punishing mistress, his captain an even harsher taskmaster. Before noon he may find himself on his knees scrubbing the deck with a holystone, calking the planks, guarding the powder magazine lamp against errant sparks (a dull yet hazardous duty), greasing the running rigging with slush, or repairing lines. His cheeks are leathery, his hands rough, and his soul often weary.
Lord Savege: A man’s labors ought not to extend beyond the effort put forth at faro or whist, and the yet more gratifying task of coaxing a lady out of her silk and muslin. Only one activity should ever take him to his knees.
When the breeze blows fair and the hull carves a following sea, a pirate may find a moment to pipe a tune, whittle a scrap of driftwood, or sing a shanty of lost love.
Lord Savege: Ah, the entertainments of men bereft of the society of ladies. Though it’s true that the apron-led fellow who invented the tedium of afternoon calls probably had ten daughters to marry off.
A merchant ship is spotted! A pirate leaps to his task with the excitement of a child and the greed of a thief. Guns blast, pistols crack, steel stings, no innocents are spared, and finally the prize is taken. The master divides the spoils — rum, Madeira, port wine, fresh clothing, and above all gold.
Lord Savege: A man’s fortune should be gotten through land and lineage and has but one purpose, to be spent at the card table.
[Pardon me, Alex. I know for a fact that there are a number of orphans and war widows who enjoy the benefit of your fortune.]
Lord Savege: [arching a brow] I haven’t the foggiest notion what you can mean.
A pirate never hoards his swag but spends it liberally in port on the delights prohibited aboard ship: strong drink and loose women. But since he is a scabrous sort, of low morals and mean temper, maidenly landlubbers are advised to steer clear of him at such a time.
Lord Savege: A shipmaster that cannot keep his crew in hand should be keelhauled. Neither the sea nor maidens are playthings.
[Take care, Alex. You are, I think, revealing too much of your true character now.]
Lord Savege: [eyes glimmering] I daresay.
A pirate ends his day as it began, alone in his hammock, floating upon the deep blue sea.
Lord Savege: It seems a remarkably incommodious existence. Why ever would a man choose it?
Perhaps if a lady encouraged him to it? A particular lady?
Lord Savege: [smiling] Perhaps for that lady, he would.