November 4, 2014

Ocracoke is taken over by bands of pirates
for a jamboree weekend....WITH SLIDE SHOW


Perhaps Michelle Montanaro described the whole mystique of Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree on Ocracoke best when she talked about why she was part of Blackbeard’s Pirate Crew encampment.

“I get to be a pirate,” said the newbie pirate crew member matter-of-factly on Saturday, Nov. 1, the second day of the three-day event. 

She and her husband, Andrew, were participating in their first living-history encampment.

“They teach you about life back then,” she said about the group, noting that the couple handcrafted their own authentic outfits. “It’s interesting figuring out what they did back then,” she said.

“Back then” is the early 1700s and is the time period Blackbeard’s Pirate Crew of Hampton, Va., celebrates by participating in pirate festivals all summer long.

The crew was camped on the lawn of the Wahab House, owned by Chip and Helena Stevens in Ocracoke village, along with the Sea Scouts, a group of seafaring Boy Scouts from Mechanicsville, Va.

The Sea Scouts were the militia—providing fire power for the land-based pirates during the “Battle at Ocracoke” on Silver Lake.

Because of the threat of high wind and rain Saturday afternoon, organizers of the event combined the morning “invasion” and the afternoon three-ship battle into one cannon-firing, gun-shooting battle, said Chip Stevens, treasurer of the jamboree, a committee under the auspices of the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association.

Blackbeard’s Pirate Crew was one of several "professional" pirate crews hired to recreate life in the 1700s on Ocracoke Island, the site where Blackbeard was killed Nov. 22, 1718.
Other groups included the Ada Mae, a skipjack and her crew associated with the nonprofit Carolina Coastal Classroom in New Bern; the Shadow Players, a stage combat group from Greenville; Capt. Horatio Sinbad and the Meka II; The Motley Tones minstrels; the Beaufort Oars and the sloop The Ranger, and author-historian Kevin Duffus, who on Oct. 25 was named North Carolina Historian of the Year.

 "We're very happy with the outcome given the circumstances we were dealt with," said Daphne Bennink, event committee chairwoman. "Our hope was to maintain the schedule through 3 p.m. Saturday and we were able to do so." 

Rain and wind started hitting the island around 3:30 p.m.

Organizers on Friday night rearranged Saturday's schedule to combine the two-ship battle around 11 a.m. before the severe weather was scheduled to move in.  

Activities scheduled in the afternoon outside at Books to be Red were moved into the Deepwater Theater next door, and the Saturday evening finale with the Shadow Players and the Bawdy Beer Garden was moved to the Ocracoke Community Center.

But for most of a sunny Saturday, pirates and visitors roamed the village streets.

“Y’all got the Beaufort (Pirate Invasion) event beat,” noted Matthew Whaley, who attended for the first time with three other friends form Swansboro.

Zena and Mike Glass of Richmond, Va., who were also attending the event for the first time, made it an anniversary occasion.

“This is awesome,” Zena said. “Everyone’s so friendly.”

Jackie Creviston of Seattle, Wash., watched the Motley Tones at the Live Oak Beer Garden before the rain came. She happened upon the festival while traveling the country in an RV and visiting the Outer Banks for the first time.

“I’m extremely impressed,” she said. “I’m blown away by the costumes.”

The Sea Scouts, a division of the Boy Scouts aged 14 to 21, weary from the “battle” earlier in the day, were roasting stew and a pumpkin over a fire at their encampment.

“That’s what they did in the old days,” said James Byers, an adult chaperone, as he tended the pumpkin resting on the hot coals.

“We are a group of farmers and fishermen who defend the town against the pirates,” said James Persinger, 21, Mechanicsville, Va., dubbed “Pitch Pole,” one of the youthful militia.

In the main encampment, “Mr. Archer,” Tony Dziadul of Gloucester, Va., was working on his rope making for the crew. He also is the “press gang master.”

“I press unwary seamen into service,” he said, noting that his wife, Elena, who was at first not that interested is now an eager member of the crew. “It grows on you.”

The event opened Friday evening in the Ocracoke Community Center with a game-show format history lesson of "fact or fiction" about Blackbeard, conducted by Duffus, who is the author of "The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate," which sifts through the myths and facts about arguably the most famous pirate in history.

On the island to film the entire weekend was Carl White, director of the syndicated show "Life in the Carolinas."  White said the segment on the Pirate Jamboree will air sometime in January.

"Kevin is the reason I'm here," White said before the game show began, explaining that he had met Duffus during the Historian of the Year awards and Duffus encouraged him to come to Ocracoke for the weekend.  

White ended up being on one of the two teams of the "game show."

Laura Noel, or "Madame Grace," events master for Blackbeard's Pirate Crew, the living history group camped on the Wahab House lawn, said on Sunday after the lunch with the Pirates at Howard's Pub that the entire weekend was "absolutely fabulous."

Noel and the crew also commemorated the founder of their group, the late Captain Pernell Taylor, who died in April, during the memorial ceremony Sunday morning at the dock of the Wahab House for Blackbeard and his crew.

"He would be honored that we went to such great lengths to give him a proper send-off," she continued about Taylor, for whom the group posted a commemorative poster at their campsite.

Captain Ben Bunn, captain of the skipjack the Ada Mae, which was one of the boats in the Saturday battle, said that even the weather made the event fantastic.

"That's no challenge for a bunch of pirates," he said, laughing.

Bennink was happy with the turnout for the weekend.

"The turnout was great, as well as the overall level of enjoyment for the visitors and pirates alike," she said. "Ocracoke will continue to be special in the lives of past and present-day pirates.”


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