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The Inland Paddler: Yo-ho Yo-ho A Paddler’s Life for Me

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I love pirates. I blame Walt Disney and his Imagineers. They had me from the first time I plunged into the depths of their vision of New Orleans under siege aboard the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.  All it took was that log-flume drop as we passed under the bridge with the talking skull and crossbones …

“Dead. Men. Tell. No. TAAAALES.”

Silence.

Then WOOOOSH!!!

And suddenly you’re not in the peaceful, firefly lit Lousiana bayou where you started, but you’re in the Crescent City of the 1700’s with looting pirates and marauding bucaneers and everyone is singing “Yo-ho, yo-oh a pirate’s life for me!”

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It was romantic, it was a bit seedy (with lots of drunken pirates and the scene where the buxom red head in the fishnet stockings who seems to enjoy being auctioned off) but it was funny too. Pirates trapped in the prison trying to lure the key away from the pup, and the like. And pirate skeletons drinking rum whilst sitting on piles of pieces of eight and gold doubloons.

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It was ALWAYS our first stop in the Magic Kingdom.

Long before the movie with Johnny Depp as Captain Jack ever sashayed across the Big Screen, and the original ride re-vamped (and toned down) to tie-in with the films.

Pirates of the Caribbean was the last attraction at Disneyland that was supervised by Walt himself. It opened in 1967. I think I took that first ride on it just a year later.

So it’s no small wonder that I love Charleston, South Carolina, in large part because of its rich pirate history, and architecture that makes it easy to imagine what it might have been like in the 1600’s and 1700’s…during that Golden Age of Piracy.

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And tomorrow, I get to go on a real life -well, sort of – thrill ride of my own into swashbuckling territory.

This year marks my first run at the ChuckTown Showdown’s long Harbor Course,which will take us beyond the Battery and out into Charleston Harbor. You can just bet thoughts of showdowns between the garrisons charged with guarding the Holy City and the likes of Captain Charles Vane, Stede Bonney and that scaliwag Jack Rackham and his gal Anne Bonny will be dancing around in my head.

Avast me hearties!

The course takes around Shutes Folly Island – known now as Castle Pinckney for the Revolutionary War-era fort built there.  But during the Golden Age of Piracy, well…it was a place where dead men DID tell tales. Tales of warning, according to an article in the Moultrie News:

“As early as 1717, there is mention that it was used as a place to hang convicted pirates and legend has it that their bodies were left hanging from the gallows as a deterrent to others who might consider entering into acts of piracy.” Although more scholarly sources indicate most of the pirates were hung at White Point, the tip of the peninsula bordered by the Ashley and Cooper rivers that converge into the harbor. It’s where the Battery ends.  And it’s where Stede Bonnet, the Gentleman Pirate, who never had much luck, was eventually hanged, stayed swinging in the trees, his body eventually thrown into the marsh.

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Oooooooh!!!! I GET TO PADDLE RIGHT BY THAT!!!!

North Carolina’s favorite pirate, Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, once blockaded Charleston Harbor, not long before he was hunted down and lost his head up near Ocracoke.

My favorite pirate, though, one Anne Bonny got her start here in Chas. Hailing from County Cork, home of some my Irish ancestors, she ended up on a plantation owned by her mother’s lover, after the three of them fled Ireland to avoid scandal. Plantation life did not suit, and soon she was wed to a sometime-pirate and rumor has it she burned that plantation down when Stepdaddy disowned her. Soon enough she was in Nassau and carousing with Calico Jack Rackham, dressed as a man.  As I paddle around Castle Pickney, I’ll think about her leaving Charleston, and setting sail for the Bahamas, watching the plantation fires burning astern.

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What a colorful and rich history Charleston has, and it extends well beyond the pirate years.

But the pirate years, definitely the most fun!

Listen carefully and you just might hear me shouting “Strike yer colours you bloomin’ cockroaches! Surrender or by thunder we’ll burn this city to the ground! ARRRRRRGH!”

 

Psst! Avast there! It be too late to alter course, mateys. And there be plundering pirates lurkin’ in ev’ry cove, waitin’ to board. Sit closer together and keep your ruddy hands in board. That be the best way to repel boarders. And mark well me words, mateys: Dead men tell no tales! Ye come seekin’ adventure with salty old pirates, eh? Sure you’ve come to the proper place. But keep a weather eye open, mates, and hold on tight. With both hands, if you please. Thar be squalls ahead, and Davy Jones waiting for them what don’t obey.  – Pirates of the Carribean, Disneyland

Lisa
Lisa is managing editor of PaddleMonster.com and is an avid paddler of all the things - including sup, SurfSki, outrigger canoe and prone, though she especially enjoys paddle surfing and downwinding. She is a former journalist with more than 30 years experience in print and broadcast journalism and in government communications. She is a six-time Chattajack finisher, racing both sup and OC2. When not paddling, she is an outdoor instructor.

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