As “locals”, we get the luxury of using the Local Flavor app for deals on tickets to get into different places. Most of the time, it’s 2 for 1 deals. This was the case for the pirate museum. We enjoy a lot of things pirate, hence our travel trailer. We named it the “Satisfaction” after a ship that belonged to Captain Morgan. We are contemplating naming our next travel trailer (hopefully one that we will have for many years to come) “Davy Jones’ Locker”. The museum is loaded with factual and fictional pirates, a lot of which have a significant tie to St. Augustine.
As you enter the museum, you will see examples of navigation tools used by the pirate (and others’) ships in the 1500’s and 1600’s. You’ll learn about cartographers, who were very talented individuals who made maps of the land and waterways. You’ll see examples of pirate weapons and surgical tools like those used to cauterize wounds.
Rogue’s Tavern, a popular pirate hangout, made some interesting mixed drinks, like Blackbeard’s favorite, the “Kill Devil”, consisting of rum and gunpowder. Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles never met in real life, but they both did horrible raiding to St. Augustine that left marks on its history. Drake burned everything to the ground in St. Augustine in 1586. He was sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth to raid Spanish ships. Drake was known as “El Draque”, or, “The Dragon”, one of St. Augustine’s most hated pirates.
Robert Searles is the reason the fort Castillo San Marco is built out of coquina after his 1668 raid, where he kidnapped and killed every St. Augustinian that wasn’t “pure blood”.
Andrew Ranson made a unique name for himself after he survived the garrote rope broke at his execution. He was protected the rest of his days by friars who said the rope breaking was an “act of God”. He ended up helping Castillo defeat the English.
Thomas Bell died before they could hang him at the gallows at Castillo, where he would’ve been put on display. They would hang pirates and put them on display outside the fort for other ships to see they did not take kindly to acts of piracy.
Henry Jennings captured a St. Augustine fort and took the largest Spanish treasure, making him the richest pirate in history.
Nicholas De Grammont may be the reason the Castillo was finished in 1690 without interruption, but his fate was doomed after he raided the city when his ships got caught in a hurricane.
Louis Aury captures Amelia Island and made himself governor.
Each captain had a set of rules known as the “Articles of Piracy”. If the contract was broken, it usually meant death. There are examples of different sailor knots and a replica of a cannon that you can test fire. There is also an example of how pirates told time, the hourglass. There are examples of several pirate flags, but there only 2 still in existence. The most popular is the Jolly Roger. In French, it was “Jolie Rouge”, which means “Pretty Red”, which is the color the flag used to be. Now, it’s black with the skull and crossbones, likely from what gravestones had on them.
There is a replica of a chest belonging to Captain William Kidd. You can see an example of the classic book “Bucaniers of America” by Alexander Esquemelin, read by Blackbeard himself. There are replicas of different types of gallows that the pirates would be “hanged by the neck until dead, dead, dead”
Democracy was a big part of the life on a pirate ship. They voted on the captain. Treasure was divided up equally among the crew except the Quarter Master and the Captain’s shares that were higher. They took up donations and gave money to crew members and their families who were disabled.
The oldest wanted poster dates back to 1696, and you can see it framed in the museum. Henry Every is another pirate that is historically represented. Charles Gibbs came up with the famous phrase, “Dead mean tell no tales”.
Most people have heard of Calico Jack, since his flag in particular is the one most widely recognized. When we fly ours, we are reminded of his 2 shipmates, the pirate women that were saved by proclaiming their bellies so they wouldn’t go to the gallows. These 2 women are Mary Read and Anne Bonny. They held their own out on the high seas as pirates. Anne Bonnie was Calico Jack’s girlfriend, but she was not pleased with him getting caught. Her last words to him were, “Had you fought like a man, you need not be hanged like a dog”.
Other pirates and/or flags represented are John Dalton, Edward Low, Black Bart, and Samuel Tully. There are examples and historic research listed about different forms of torture and punishment from the pirate era. There are skull and crossbones stickers on drawers that you can pull out and mark what’s in them on a treasure map. When you have filled it out, give it to the personnel at the end of your tour for your very own piece of pirate treasure.
Take 5 minutes to sit in a room to listen to an interactive ship ride with some famous pirates close to Port Royal, Jamaica. Touch a 400 year old chest. Read about Henry Morgan and Blackbeard as you look at many types of pirate treasure. See for yourself, the only remaining real pirate treasure chest that belonged to Thomas Tew.
After strolling through history, check out the displays of movie and TV pirates. They have memorabilia from Peter Blood, Long John Silver, Morgan the Pirate, and the Goonies. They have Captain Hook’s hook on display. (You can see the alligator Tik-Tok that swallowed Captain Hook’s hand on display at the Alligator Farm). Take a gander at Captain Jack Sparrow’s sword and Captain Balbosa’s guns from Pirates of the Caribbean.
This little gem of a museum is the perfect way to spend a couple hours of your trip in downtown St. Augustine. It’s in the perfect location, directly across from the Castillo San Marcos fort, the city gates, and the Colonial Quarter (the latter of which we still have to visit). If you’re interested in history or pirates, or even St. Augustine, this is worth a look-see while you’re here.