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Pirates arrr-rive in Havre de Grace

PiracyMuseumsBars and ClubsDining and DrinkingExecutive Branch

The grounds of the Susquehanna Museum at the Lock House were the scene Saturday of cannons going off, pirate duels and all-around dangerous-looking characters singing songs of swashbuckling and seafaring.

It was all in good fun, though, as families from throughout Central Maryland made their way through the pirate encampment.

The encampment was one of a series of pirate-themed attractions in Havre de Grace for the Pirate Fest Weekend, the annual fundraiser for the Susquehanna Museum.

Marquette Jones, of Millersville in Anne Arundel County, snapped a picture of her 4-year-old twin sons, Andrew and Matthew, posing with a re-enactor dressed in bright red pirate garb.

Like many other children at Pirate Fest Saturday, the Jones brothers had their own pirate accouterments, such a red head bandanna and plastic cutlasses.

"We've been enjoying ourselves," Marquette Jones said.

Madelynn, 5, and Asher Van Patten, 3, of Elkridge in Howard County, were dressed from head to toe in pirate gear, and carried small spyglasses.

"They ride on boats and they say, 'Arrgh!,' " Madelynn exclaimed when asked what her favorite things about pirates were.

Pirate Fest Weekend began Friday and ended Sunday afternoon.

Events included the pirate encampment at the Lock House Saturday and Sunday, a Friday evening Pirate Pub Crawl among downtown Havre de Grace bars and restaurants, a Pirate 5K run Saturday morning and the Pirate Gala Saturday night along the Susquehanna River at the Lock House.

Visitors to the encampment could see small cannons being fired, pirate skirmishes and duels, a children's scavenger hunt, a costume contest for children, readings of pirate adventures and performances by the Silver Spring group Scales and Crosstones, a play on the well-known "skull and crossbones" pirate symbol.

This year was the second appearance by Scales and Crosstones at Pirate Fest.

Member Caroline Boulden, who went by the pirate name of Saber Tompson, praised organizers for their commitment to historical accuracy and putting on a pirate event that is family-friendly.

She said bringing in children allowed the next generation to get "hooked" on pirate lore.

"This is a fun way of getting kids interested in history," Boulden said.

Re-enactor Dallas Valley of Silver Spring stood behind a table laden with weapons and munitions of the Colonial and Revolutionary War era that were used by pirates.

Iris Daugherty, 7, of Havre de Grace, learned from Valley about the different types of shot pirates placed in their cannons.

"I got to see the pirates fight, but it was fake, but I thought it was real," Iris said, recalling pirate skirmishes.

She gathered under a vendor tent with her mother, Jessica, and 2-year-old-brother Dane.

"He thinks the pirates and the cannons are the coolest thing," Daugherty said of her son.

She said Pirate Fest was "one of the best" local events for children.

"That's why we love Havre de Grace," she said. "They always have something going on, and it's usually kid-friendly."

Pirates on the Bay

Valley noted the term piracy refers to any act of theft on the water, that "pirates are merely thieves on water."

Piracy continues on the world's oceans today, with the most well-known incidents being carried out by Somali pirates seizing vessels moving past their coastline.

"What you see celebrated here today, it's the golden age of piracy," Valley explained.

Piracy was common in the Americas during the 1600s and 1700s, and pirates known as privateers were often employed to harass ships by colonial governors or nations such as England, France, Spain and others which were ferociously competing for territories in North America and the Caribbean.

"There was piracy in Maryland," Valley said. "Edward Teach, better know as Blackbeard, was known to come up the Chesapeake."

Catholic and Protestant colonists would often act as pirates against each other in the Bay, he said, and said actions in the so-called Oyster Wars of the late 19th century could be considered piracy.

The Oyster Wars occurred in the lower Chesapeake Bay, when volunteers acting under the authorization of Virginia's then-Gov. William E. Cameron boarded boats equipped with guns and attacked and captured several oyster dredgers allegedly operating illegally in Virginia's waters, according to the web page of The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va.

"There was piracy in the Bay, on the waters," Valley said.

Ciera Fisher, director of the Susquehanna Museum, said "the first recorded act of piracy in Maryland" took place on Garrett Island, "right across from us."

Fisher pointed out the wooded island in the middle of the river, visible from the grounds of the Lock House and crossed by the Route 40 Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge and the CSX railroad bridge from Havre de Grace.

In 1635, Maryland and Virginia colonial officials were competing to secure islands in the Chesapeake, with the Native American inhabitants serving as allies of both sides.

Virginia official William Claiborne had secured Kent Island in the mid-Chesapeake, and one of his agents, and his brother-in-law, John Butler, led the capture of a Maryland ship and its cargo near Garrett Island in the upper Chesapeake that year, detained the captain and the crew and brought them back to Kent Island.

The account of the Garrett Island attack was detailed in the book "Pirates of Maryland: Plunder and High Adventure in the Chesapeake Bay," by Mark P. Donnelly and Daniel Diehl.

"This seizure was the first documented act of 'Pyracie' on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay," the authors wrote.

Fisher said that event, plus "pirates being popular, especially after Pirates of the Caribbean [movie franchise]," led organizers to choose the pirate theme for the fundraiser.

Organizers 'delighted'

Each Pirate Fest Weekend event is run by a chairperson, and the weekend has been put together by a committee of volunteers and museum board members.

Terri Dezell, chair of the pirate encampment, said organizers were "delighted" that the weather cooperated Saturday after heavy rains Friday.

"We're very delighted with, not only the weather, but also the families who have come today to visit," she said.

Dezell said organizers met their attendance goals for the pub crawl and 5K race, with 175 taking part on the pub crawl and about 480 in the race.

She said attendance for the pub crawl was higher than last year's.

"[We're] very appreciative of the bars and restaurants here in town that helped us with that," she said.

Dezell also thanked the re-enactors for their contributions.

"We're extremely appreciative of our pirate re-enactors, because without them, there is no Pirate Fest," she said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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