Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Deadliest Warrior - Pirate vs Knight

Some thoughts on Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior series Pirate vs Knight episode.

Before it started my opinion was that if the pirate didn't win then there was either something wrong with the show's format or with history. The knight wore armor and was armed with a crossbow and hand weapons. The pirate didn't wear armor but had three gunpowder-based weapons (blunderbuss, pistol, and grenado).

The results were what I expected. The pirate's pistol could not penetrate the knight's armor but his blunderbuss and grenado could. Armor at the time was tested by shooting it with a pistol. If it couldn't stop a pistol ball then it was sent back to be strengthened. I was impressed that the blunderbuss and grenado penetrated the armor.

The knight's hand weapons were equal to or better than the pirate's. The knight was fighting other people in armor so he needed extra cutting power. The pirate didn't have to deal with armored enemies so his hand weapons could not pierce armor.

The introduction of the heavy musket in the early 17th century made armor obsolete. For a while, armies tried making the armor thicker and eliminating lower leg pieces in order to lighten it but this was impractical. By the mid-17th century armies had pretty much given up on armor.

So, by the late 17th century, pirates did not wear armor but they carried the weapons that had made armor obsolete.

But what about ninjas? Last week they had a ninja face off against a Greek warrior. The warrior's armor and shield gave him the advantage against the ninja. Based on the weapons that the pirate and ninja used, the pirate would still win. His blunderbuss, grenado, and pistol were all either deadlier or had longer range than the ninja weapons. The ninja might have a small advantage in close-in fighting but it would be small.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Whitehall Progress

I'm making progress on getting the boat ready for sailing. While the boat is in good condition, there were still a lot of steps:

  • I had to put a tongue hinge on the trailer so that I could get it further into the garage, under the stronger joists.
  • Once there, I hung two chain hoists from the ceiling.
  • With those, I could properly sand the bottom.
  • I started with the centerboard. The part that I could see when it was on the trailer looked pretty corroded. It turned out that this was the worst part. Since the leading edge is always in the water when the centerboard is pulled back, that is the part that looked the worst. It was mainly paint bubbling off with some minor surface rust. I sanded this down to bare metal as much as I could. I primed it with a Rustolium for rusty surfaces. This is supposed to be stickier and should take care of any place I missed when sanding. I used two coats then put two coats of finish paint on.
I have the hull sanded down, ready for priming but I need warmer weather. In the meantime, I used some new line that I bought to redo the rigging.

The boat came with 1/4" line for rigging. This was too big for many of the gromets and the cleats. I repalced it with 3/16". This seems to be the right size.

I think that I have all of the thumb cleats figured out. I'm still wondering about a pair of blocks and cleats. They seem to be placed for the jib but there are also a pair of thimbles on the side that are more typical for the jib.

I have one piece of line with an attached bronze block left over. Possibly it is for dowsing the sail by raising the boom up to the mast. I will have to experiment with that.

I still have to get the boat turned around so that I can hoist it off of the trailer so that I can get the trailer weighed. Then I have to get the trailer licensed so that I can take the boat to the DNR to get a hull number so that I can get it licensed. I'd like to have it painted before going to the DNR but that depends on the weather.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pirates vs Ninjas

I was watching an episode on Ultimate Warrior on Spike TV and got inspired.

Ultimate Warrior is one of several shows that tries to use computer simulations to answer questions about who would win unlikely fights. Other variations have matched animals (lion vs tiger) and dinosaurs. This one takes different warriors, evaluates them, and predicts most likely winners. The episode that I watched matched a Roman gladiator against an Apache warrior. The Apache won.

So, pirate vs ninja - who would win?

This really depends on how you define the match up. Each has very different strengths and weaknesses.

In straight, hand-to-hand fighting between individuals, the ninja would win. Pirates were self-taught fighters. Ninjas were trained assassins. Also, the main time the two fought would probably be at a time and place of the ninja's choosing (probably at night when the pirate was drunk) giving him an advantage.

On the other hand, put them 100 yards apart in broad daylight with a sober pirate and things change. Many pirates started out as buccaneers, hunting wild cattle. They were very good shots. A pirate could get off a couple of well-aimed shots at a ninja before the ninja could get within reach. There are things that the ninja could do to avoid being shot but they would slow him down, giving the pirate time for more shots. A ninja with a bow would have a chance but arrows are not as disabling as gunshot wounds.

What about a ship full of pirates vs a ship full of ninjas. Again, the pirates have the advantage. European ships and cannons were the best in the world. Pirates boarding a ship full of ninjas would still have an advantage. Ninjas had a variety of weapons but few of them worked against a large organized force. Those that did were as likely to hinder the ninjas as pirates. The weapons favored by pirates worked well against a massed enemy in cramped spaces. The two-handed sword that ninjas used needed space to swing or you would hit a comrade. Cutlasses were short and heavy to overcome that problem. The ninjas would still be better trained but a pistol or blunderbuss goes a log way in nullifying that advantage. That's after a swivel gun or two decimated the ninjas before the pirates boarded.

Just to be fair, there is also the possibility of a group of ninjas boarding a ship at night. The ninjas would have the advantage here since the pirates would be disorganized and probably drunk.

In general, though, cultures with guns tended to triumph over cultures with hand weapons.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


While attending PyrateCon, I had a conversation with the guys from Flying Canoe Traders about period-correct pirate clothing. I think that he and I were the only ones at the event wearing slops and he commented that I wasn't wearing them correctly - i.e. over breeches (neither was he). Here is their position on wearing slops:
The slops were made to be worn over your regular pants and protect them.
This is why it is made longer and much baggier then the French Fly or the Drop Front. Most slop did not have pockets, they were just opening so you could access to your real pocket: just like a women shirt giving access to her pocket. On the original pair, the waistband had only one pewter button. When we initially copied that, I found out that wearing it was uncomfortable because the waist was folding itself in two at the button and caused some pressure and it was uncomfortable at the waist.

Doing this hobby, we often cheat and I am the first one to admit that I do sometimes. The slops were design to be worn over a pair of pants that gives you a waist support and comfort so even if the original slops would have folded in two, it would not have pinched my belly, because my breaches would have protected me…our ancestors were so clever.
But when I wear my slops, I wear them alone, I've decided to put a button at the waist level and provided them whit a functional pockets. Beside that, only there was still one difference between my pair and the museum one: the museum one had 4 hand made round buttons holes on the back for adjustment, mine is machine made and plate.
I have a lot of respect for Flying Canoe and wear one on their sleeved waistcoats as part of my pirate clothing but I am going to respectfully disagree with their interpretation of slops.

Note - Sometime in the mid-17th century, navy ships began carrying sets of clothing that sailors could buy as they needed new clothes. These were also called slops. I am only referring to the wide, open breeches.

Before I start, I will agree that some land-based trades did wear overbreeches to keep their good clothing clean. I part company with them when they carry this practice on to the water. Sailors and fishermen get wet and I no one has suggested that slops were waterproof. This eliminates the advantage of wearing something over your clothes.

Flying Canoe gives the next argument against wearing slops over breeches - it isn't comfortable. It also is not practical. I discovered the reason for slops years ago when involved in filming a National Geographic special on John Smith mapping the Chesapeake. I waded ashore in my regular 17th century breeches and ended up with a gallon or two caught in each leg. Canvas breeches that are open at the bottom will not hold water and will dry faster than wool. The tighter breeches of the late-17th and 18th centuries would not capture as much water but neither would they be as practical as slops. Also, breeches worn under slops would take hours to dry. On a ship, they probably would never dry.

All of this is is just speculation. Fashion sometimes has people wearing strange things (I saw a lot of women in stiletto-heeled sandals in the French Quarter). What does the historic record say?

Cindy Vallar examines pirate clothing from Chaucer into the 18th century. She refers to slops protecting the sailor's underclothes.

This detail is new to me:
Canvas clothes were made from old sails and were usually greased and tarred prior to wearing them to make them waterproof.
She also quotes
Edward Barlow, a mariner of the 1600s, wrote, "…half awake and half asleep, with one shoe on and the other off, not having time to put it on: always sleeping in our clothes for readiness."
This is in conflict with the idea of sailors having overclothes that they would take off when off-duty.

Gentlemen of Fortune has a 1720s woodcut of a Dutch sailor who is wearing slops with no indication that there is anything underneath.

On the way home from PyrateCon, I happened to find an article in X Marks the Spot, the Archaeology of Pirates. It mentioned a 1740s fan in the possession of Colonial Williamsburg which shows sailors and soldiers. It mentions that sailors were very conservative and slow to change clothing styles. They were still wearing short coats and loose breeches at a time that the soldiers were wearing the more stylish long coats and tight breeches. It also has a woodcut of a 1780s ship's cook who is wearing slops with nothing else showing beneath.

The web site for the HMS Richmond also says that slops were worn over clothing but does not cite a source.

The US Navy's history of naval uniforms says this about what sailors wore during the Revolutionary War.
The American Revolutionary sailor fared little better. He participated in a Navy that was built from scratch. Meager funds and the scarcity of a manufacturing complex concentrated attention on procuring ships and ammunition. There was no money for uniforms. The peak strength of the Continental Navy during these times consisted of about 30 ships and 3,000 men. (Most sailors, on the other hand, preferred the life of the privateer. It was lucrative and appealing enough to attract over 2,000 ships.) Thus, naval uniforms under these parsimonious conditions were non-descript, consisting of pantaloons often tied at the knee or knee breeches, a jumper or shirt, neckerchief, short waisted jacket and low crowned hats. The short trousers were practical so as not to interfere with a man's work in the rigging of his ship. Most sailors went barefoot. A kerchief or bandana was worn either as a sweat band or as a simple closure for the collar.

Monday, April 6, 2009

PyrateCon 2009

PyrateCon 2009 has come and gone. Here's my wrap up:

First, any excuse to run around the French Quarter of New Orleans in costume is a good one. The weather was very good which was fortunate since most of the convention was moved outside.

We rode the shuttle from the airport with some people from the TCN (Theatrical Combat Network). They were a lot of fun.

As for the convention itself... we left the event wondering exactly what we got for our admission. The vendors were either set up on Bourbon Street or in a courtyard. No one was checking wristbands for the ones in the courtyard. The lectures were also in the courtyard. As far as we could tell, there were no events that required a wristband. The main thing that your admission got you was a discount on drinks at the local bars. Admission also allowed you to book a room in the hotel but even with the discount this was an expensive hotel. We got a better rate elsewhere.

We only saw two lectures, both by the TCN. The first was on historic pirates. The time of the lecture was changed at the last minute and the person who was supposed to speak didn't get the message. The TCN members who tried to give the lecture in her place didn't really know much about the subject (but they were good-natured about it). Even at that, they were late in starting and were taking up someone else's slot. I have no idea what happened to this speaker.

There may have been other lectures but we went through the courtyard area several times and we didn't see any signs of them.

TCN's specialty is on stage combat and their lecture on this was really good.

The schedule said that there would be lectures on all three days. We later heard that the Sunday lectures were cancelled.

The schedule also indicated that performances would be going on continuously on the stage. We saw a few performances but most of the time the stage was empty and the PA system was playing.

No celebrities. Last year they had people from Pirates of the Caribbean and the TV show, Pirate Master.

One of the big events was the wench auction but there was very little space around the stage to see what was going on.

On the other hand, the other big event was the parade and this was run much better than last year.

If we go again we will be looking very closely at the schedule to see if it is worth paying admission. I realize that the event was probably costly and that someone has to pay for it but I also object to paying for what amounts to a free street fair.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Apple Pirates

This story is about pirated iPhone applications but the graphic is so good I had to link to it.