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The Pirates who Cruised The Caribbean

Written by: John Maguire

Sailing in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific Ocean near the Panama Canal area during the first decades of the 1700s would surely have placed you and your crew amidst pirates! This time in history is generally known as the Golden Age of Piracy and the Caribbean was a hotbed of activity. The Eastern Seaboard of America, Africa's west coast, and the Indian Ocean were also favored by pirates. After the War of the Spanish Succession ended, unemployed sailors spent their time in seaports around the world looking for jobs.

Famous Pirates

You may have heard of some pirate legends, such as Bartholomew Roberts and Blackbeard. The details of these pirates' lives are sketchy and what we do know about them was collected by victims and peers who encountered them on the high seas. Some details were also gathered by courtroom events and confessions. A common issue with the sources for piracy information was the accuracy of the information. Stories were often told, and they might have been true or they might have been fiction; often they turned out to be a combination of fact and fiction. Over time as these tales were told and retold, they were embellished to the point where they were almost unrecognizable from the original facts and events.

The Caribbean

The Caribbean includes many different colonies and islands that date back hundreds of years. Each region has its own characteristics, some inhabited and other areas barren and isolated. Some of the larger islands in the Caribbean have similar features as the mainland, while small islands formed by reefs are very quiet. Architecture in the Caribbean has several different influences, including English, French, Spanish, and Dutch. Spanish houses feature stucco walls, and Spanish cathedrals are baroque style. English homes may have stone, clay, or stucco walls, and they are usually tall and narrow. French homes may have wood shingle or Spanish tile roofs and stucco walls. The Dutch buildings have wood shingles and walls, and they are comparably small.

Antigua - The Islands of Antigua are lush and green, while the coastline is surrounded by coral reefs and shoals. Antigua was settled by the English as a colony in 1632, and it served as a re-supply depot as well as an agricultural center. Early in the 18th century, Antigua became an English naval base.

Aruba - Aruba is a dry and barren island situated west of Curacao. The Dutch settled Aruba in 1634, but then issues with natives created problems. Pirates gravitated to Aruba due to its tiny villages that were easy to control.

Barbados - Barbados is a low-lying island surrounded by reefs. The English settled Barbados in 1627, and then Dutch Jews began populating the island.

Belize - English loggers settled Belize in 1660, drawn to these shores by the trees. Mayan Indians populated the area as well.

Bermuda - This sandy island features a tropical rainforest, and after the English settled it in 1612, it became a stopping point for ships traveling between Europe and the Caribbean.

Bonaire - The Dutch settled Bonaire in 1634 as a part of the Curacao colony. A slave market was located in this area, making Bonaire a port for slave ships.

Caracas - Caracas is full of farmland and forests. An active trading post and sheltered harbor made Caracas a bustling settlement.

Cartagena - Cartagena is a part of New Granada, and it was settled in 1533. Many wealthy Spanish noblemen lived in Cartagena, and it's known for its sheltered harbor.

Cuba - Cuba is the biggest island in the Caribbean, and it features a wide array of vegetation and animal life. Fishing and farming are popular on Cuba, and it has several villages.

Havana - Located on Cuba's northern coast, Havana is only about 100 miles south of Florida. Havana was founded in 1515.

Santiago - On Cuba's southern coast, Santiago sits as a major development. Founded in 1514, Santiago was formerly Cuba's capital, and it's a bustling port city.

Cumana - Cumana was founded by the Spanish in 1503. While it's lacking ideal soil for many crops, growing tobacco in this region has been successful. The Spanish guard the pearl fishery off Cumana's coast carefully.

Curacao - Known as the Caribbean's greatest free port, Curacao may be the finest natural harbor in the region. The Spanish settled Curacao in 1527, but later the Dutch captured it.

Eleuthera - Also known as the Bahamas, Eleuthera was not officially colonized until the 1690s. Pirates had already discovered the many sheltered coves, which they used to ambush Spanish ships as they sailed through the Florida Straits.

Gran Granada - This small and rustic village features small ports and tiny fishing towns.

Grand Bahama - Known for its fisheries thanks to the deep coral reefs and shallows, Grand Bahama was settled in 1648 by the English.

Grenada - Green mountains and dense forests cover Grenada, and dangerous reefs are located off the shore. The French settled Grenada in 1650.

Guadeloupe - Guadeloupe was settled by the French in 1635, and it's a lot like the country of France. Native tribes lived in several villages, and these natives carried out many raids on French settlements.

Hispaniola - Hispaniola is the second biggest island in the Caribbean. Christopher Columbus' brother settled Hispaniola in 1496, and it's home to many native tribes.

Isabella - This town got its name from the queen of Spain. Pirate raids were common on Isabella.

Santo Domingo - Santo Domingo is situated on the southern coast of Hispaniola, and it was a major port. This settlement was the oldest in the New World.

Puerto de Plata - The bustling port at Puerto de Plata served as an important connection between Florida, Havana, and San Juan.

La Vega - Smugglers and buccaneers passed through La Vega often, because the settlement was known to be a clearinghouse for stolen goods.

Port-De-Paix - Situated on Hispaniola's north coast, Port-De-Paix was an important French settlement. This town had a reputation for its structure and laws.

Petit Grove - Pirates were not well received in Petit Grove, and the town was known for its floggings and other severe forms of punishment.

Port-Au-Prince - This quiet fishing and farming community also had little tolerance for pirates. Laws were strict and harsh in Port-au-Prince.

New Providence Island - By 1716, New Providence Island was a pirate haven. It was located on a busy trade route, and it also had meat from local animals as well as fruit and fresh water.

Nevis and St. Kitts - These two islands featured lush vegetation and strong economies. Alexander Hamilton was born on Nevis in 1757.

Panama - Three separate settlements make up Panama: Panama, Nombre De Dios, and Puerto Bello. Malaria from mosquitos is common in Panama. Panama - The City of Panama was founded in 1519, and it's located on the southern coast of an isthmus.

Nombre De Dios - Nombre De Dios is located on the northern coast of Panama.

Puerto Bello - The sheltered and fortified port in Puerto Bello was the location of many pirate attacks before it was properly fortified.

Port-Royal - Located on the island of Jamaica, Port-Royal has a deep harbor, mountains, and forests. Natives and escaped slaves make Port-Royal their home.

Saint Thomas - The Dutch settled Saint Thomas in 1657. Pirates eventually took over Saint Thomas, and it became known for its black market.

Tortuga - Tortuga means "Turtle Island," so named for its shape that looks like a big sea turtle. With only a single harbor on its southern coast, Tortuga was found to be a safe harbor by many sailors.

New Spain, New Granada, New Andalusia, and the Spanish Colonies - These Spanish colonies represented Spain's influence in this region. New Granada covers Central America, and the Spanish spent time in New Granada searching for native gold. Spanish nobles wanted to settle in New Andalusia, where they wanted to live peacefully.