Everyone loves a good pirate story, and in Newfoundland, I have heard many.
The first time I was out on the water in Trinity Bay my local fisherman-turned-guide spared no time filling me in on the various tales of trials and tribulations of the English, Spanish, and French merchants that fished the shores of Newfoundland in the 17th century.
With great cargo came great cash and great conflict. The various Monarchs hired henchmen to protect their assets (read fish), bully local fishermen, and attack their opponents. These henchmen did not have much job security, and when laid off would find themselves floating in an ocean with a loyal crew, a fleet of ships of their own, surrounded by boats carrying valuable cargo. These men would become some of the world’s most successful pirates.
Peter Easton is among the most successful pirate in Newfoundland history, spending years sacking many ships, avoiding capture, and even succeeding in recruiting other talented sailors to the pirating profession. Perhaps Jack Sparrow was inspired by Easton’s interesting hair.
Easton’s most successful score was in the Azores when he captured three heavily laden Spanish vessels and stole a loot with a modern value of $50 million. Leaving him to comfortably retire in the south of France.
Pirates are such a large part of Newfoundland history that various towns are named after pirate ships, including Easton’s flagship the Happy Adventure.
Even Newfoundland’s famous rum, Screech, is tied to the pirate history. The story goes that the rum was brought back to Newfoundland from the Caribbean in barrels of molasses, giving the dark drink it’s distinctive flavour. The barrels would follow the seasons with the pirates who would head to Newfoundland in the Spring to take advantage of the summer fishing boats, and returning to the warmer waters of the Caribbean for the winter.
In Newfoundland every town has stories of pirates, tales of ship wrecks and lost wealth, and rumors of stashed treasure buried just out of reach. Join us this summer to discover, explore, and learn more about Newfoundland’s pirating history. Perhaps one day we’ll be lucky enough to strike gold!
Until next time,
The Skerwinkles xox