The word pyrate, more modernly spelled with an “i” rather than a “y”, conjures up images of peg legs, hooked arms, and eye patches. One can easily imagine how pyrates of yore lost leg, limb, and eye while engaged in the act of plundering, but often misunderstood is the reason for the eye patch.
Peter Pan obviously had better swashbuckling skills than the fictitious Captain Hook, (whose arm he chopped off and fed to the crocodile), but what about those poor souls wearing the eye patches? Possibly, they were better swordsmen than even Peter Pan and did not really have an eye poked out during a sword fight at all.
Hanging out with my modern-day, philanthropic pyrate friends is not only entertaining but educational, as well. It was my friend, Capt. John Swallow, who set me straight on the myth of the pyrate’s eye patch. Turns out, the eye patch was really a trick of the trade, so to speak.
The necessity of quick changes in navigation, rigging, or fighting to defend their ships sometimes required a quick descent below deck. Because the human eye takes about five minutes to fully adjust to darkness, the savvy pyrates used the eye patch to cut that time down by several minutes. By wearing the eye patch in the bright light of day above deck, one eye was always pre-conditioned to the darkness. Just a quick switch of the patch from one eye to the other, and the pyrates could more readily see in the darkness below deck.
Pretty nifty, right? And if you’re not that easily convinced and can’t find hard history to back up this explanation, then maybe the findings of the TV show “Myth Busters” will convince you. The hosts put it to the test and found that the pyrates definitely had the right idea.
Sans the eye patches, Capt. John Swallow and Quarter Master Seika Hellbound, are best known in the city of New Orleans as founders of NOLA Pyrate Week, held at the end of March each year. With a focus on history, culture, and passing a good time, there’s very little swashbuckling among the pyrates who attend the week-long event.
It was my pleasure to meet Capt. John Swallow about three years ago when he brought a crew of pyrates down from the big city to take a wetland tour and learn more about the vanishing wetlands which their philanthropic efforts would help support. Funds raised during the week were donated to wetland restoration through the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program.
Touting the slogan “Back to da bayou” this year, the final day of NOLA Pyrate week expanded to the banks of Bayou Terrebonne. Pyrates from Canada, New Orleans, and Lafayette descended on downtown Houma with swords, sea chanteys, and sea wenches.
On what was probably the prettiest Saturday this spring, a small group of local artists hawked their wares around a beautiful fountain not far from the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum as part of the activities.
And then there was the entertainment! I had no clue there were so many sea chanteys, ballads, and just good ole Irish pub songs. These pyrates from Lafayette, better known as The Whiskey Bay Rovers, regaled us with harmonies throughout the day, as well as a little of their own brand of pirate debauchery!
One o’the Rovers just happens to have a lovely girlfriend who is versed in the art of belly dance. Oh, and I’m sure she keeps him in line with that little dancing accessory she has on her head!
As most of you know, Bayou Fabio was scheduled to have already made his debut appearance on Swamp People before now. Well, he was also slated to make his first TV celebrity appearance at this event. Having met him on last year’s trip down the bayou, Capt. Swallow and Q.M. Hellbound thought his presence would be a welcome addition to the events of the day.
In spite of the fact that there was a much larger event going on about three blocks away, complete with a barbecue cook-off and live electric bands from noon until, we still managed to pass our own good time, bayou-pyrate style!
It is the hope of the pyrates and those who supported the first annual Houma Pyrate Day, that next year this will be a stand-alone event possibly being held at Houma’s downtown marina. So, if ye are so inclined, mark your calendars for the last week of March, or the first Saturday in April in preparation.
Otherwise, spring has definitely sprung down the bayou. I hope to be on the water more in the near future and can bring you photos of how our bayou spring is shaping up. Before you know it, the dewberries will be ripe, and it will be time for cobbler, jellies, and jams. Which reminds me, I have a cobbler to bake this morning for my first bayou ladies’ luncheon.
(PS Thanks to my pyrate friend D.F. for the pyrate rendering of my photo!)