Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Military Through the Ages

Groups representing pirates/privateers were well represented at Jamestown's annual Military Through the Ages. The SEA Rats Atlantic, the Crew of the Archangel, and the York Privateers were all present and each won a ribbon in some category.

I have to admit, I wasn't among any of the groups. I was volunteering with the James Fort Militia. That did mean that I got to crew the largest piece of artillery on the field - Jamestown's saker which was fired this weekend for the first time in 11 years. It is a monster with a ten foot barrel. It was also the loudest piece, even after the Civil War group doubled the charge in their piece to try to match us.

Even though I was not there as a pirate, I could have been one of the Elizabethan Sea Dogs. They were at their peak in the 1580s and 1590s. When Elizabeth died in 1602, James established peace with Spain and forbid further attacks on Spanish shipping. The investors who had been financing the Sea Dogs looked for someplace else to put their money. Some of them invested in colonization in the hope that English colonies could provide the sort of profits that Spain was getting. Unfortunately for them, Virginia failed to make any profit until John Rolf bred a variety of tobacco that would grow in Virginia but tasted like the Spanish variety. By that point, the Virginia Company had failed and the King had seized the charter.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My New Blunderbuss

I bought a blunderbuss over the weekend. I wasn't really looking for one but it was a good price and it is not one of the India-made ones that most places are selling.

It has a steel rammer so it is probably meant as a circa 1800 coach gun rather than a circa 1700 ship's weapon. Outside of that, the details aren't far off. The barrel has been japaned or blued which was done to protect steel barrels at sea (the other option was to use a brass barrel). The barrel has a nice shape. It has been fired but not often. I can see a tiny bit of powder cake at the breech but outside of that, it's spotless. The fittings match the pistol kit I'm working on. The lock is unremarkable. It is small - more like a pistol lock - but it has a great spark.

This may end up being a loaner piece for crew on my boat. I still have my carbine and my new pistol. Still, a big-barreled gun gets people's attention. I will also probably use it at the Grand Encampement.

An episode of Lock and Load with R. Lee Ermey looked at shotguns. You can see the first part here. He gets to the blunderbuss at three minutes. The slow-motion footage of him firing a musket and the blunderbuss is great. It also shows the relative superiority of the blunderbuss at 20-feet which would be typical for fighting on board a ship.

UPDATE: The third time I tried the lock the frizzen broke. Fortunately I was able to buy a rifle frizzen over the Internet that was the same size and shape. That means that the original lock is probably a rifle lock.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What Happened to Pyratecon?

Pyratcon is just over a month away and the web site is still mostly blank. Is this event even going to happen this year?

I have to admit that I'm only wondering out of curiosity. I wasn't planning to go this year. Last year was too badly run and turning it over to a new team of people didn't inspire confidence - especially since last year was the first time some of them had been to the event.