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Diosa De Cancion

St Augustine Pirate Gathering Weekend In Review

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I have just returned from the St. Augustine Pirate Gathering. While there were a few bumps in the road, I had a fantastic time with my pirate family, some I had not seen in MANY years, and found myself packing up Sunday wishing I could extend the trip to spend more time there. But reality returns and now here is my most likely long-winded weekend in review.

Drop Dead, Great Scott and I arrived at the Spanish Quarter on Thursday with about 45 minutes to spare before sunset. We rushed to get our tents up and get things ready for the night. The process went mostly pain-free thanks to the help of folks already on site. We did a little provisioning and then enjoyed time around the campfire with Sgt Johnson, Ivan and his bride, Turtle and Sharkbite. It was a peaceful evening of getting acquainted or reacquainted with a small group. Later that night, the Key West Contingency arrived including Scarlett Jai, Barnacle Beau, Wasabi and Mamasabi.

Friday was a workday. I was portraying Mary Read and talking about women pirates and pirate life as well as teaching a few period games. Ivan was doing Pirate Myths, Scarlett was teaching swordplay. Turtle was teaching survival basics with freshly made boucan and showing how you can make something useful out of most things around you. Sgt Johnson was showing off his encampment and talking weapons. John Thomas had a number of period game lessons underway. Beau was teaching about sea chanteys and how to haul in time with the music. There were gun and cannon demos, navigation and knots and some other pirate history offerings.

We had school children coming around, in small groups of 10-15 at a time, and I would give a 10-15 minute presentation before passing them on for the next demo. It was a very fun way to do a school day as the kids got more one on one time with each of us than in the typical assembly setting. It was a great way to do it!

This day went very well and before it was done, Drop Dead learned enough to start doing parts of my demo for me and Great Scott ended up doing a 'cooking' presentation around the fire for the kids!

Friday wound down with another wonderful evening around the campfire, this time with many more people in attendance, including Jamaica Rose, Michael Lampe and Tiger Lee, to name a few. There was also a lot of singing as folks wandered in with their instruments. I will admit, I napped through part of this evening… I was tired… what can I say.

When I did wake up, Drop Dead, Scott and I went on our own little ghost walk. We went around the fort and the Ancient City cemeteries. Scott even had his phone 'looking for ghosts'. Yes, there is an app for that! The weather was perfect and there is something nice and eerie about being alongside a wall that had been used for executions at the witching hour on a chilly night. All we were missing was a low rolling fogbank.

Saturday morning was cool (it was downright cold overnight, at least for this Floridian, but luckily I had a warm tent and lots of blankets) and it brought a change in venue for us. One of the unusual things about this festival is that it had two venues that were used at different times. The historical area in the Spanish Quarter was just in use Friday. Then everything moved to Francis Field, a large open field. I think the idea was to separate the period area from the rest of the fest. I was at first a little mixed on this concept. I initially wanted to be closer to the action and not have to go 5-6 blocks back and forth between locations to my campsite. That said, we wouldn't have been able to have our group fires at the field and enjoy the music and revelry all night as we did at the encampment... Since the evenings were some of my favorite times, I eventually decided that it is ok to have us split into the two locations…

The festival site was quite large. There were three full rows (and smaller side rows) of vendors for pirates of all styles - from cute and shiny 'bling' pirate toys and pieces to period vendors, as well as a booth where you could pay to be flogged… and right at the front of all of this was Bligemunky, setting the aural scene as you made your way into the site.

The first thing on the docket was the parade. I don't always hop to be in a parade, but when Drop Dead and Scott asked about it, I thought…well if I can get us on the Pirates Dinner Adventure Theater float, let's do it. I did NOT want to walk it. They were already staging at this point and the truck was moving across the field pulling the ship float as I went up to it. Keith, being the amazingly kind and accommodating guy he is, was quick to say yes when I asked if there was room on the ship, but he didn't have a ladder. It was still over at their performance site. Was this a problem for Keith? Of course not. God love this man, he dropped to the ground and made himself the step for us to use to get up on the float. There was a constant chorus of 'I'm Sorry!' as one of us would step on his back and hoist ourselves aboard. Somehow, an extra 6-7 people jumped in on the chance to get on the float and he had quite the parade of people literally walking all over him. I think we owe him a SUPER sized bottle of Advil!

Now I hear that watching a parade is fun, but let me tell you, being on the Pirate's Dinner Adventure float was WAY more fun. The crew is a lively bunch of talented and quick-witted improv actors, so there was absolutely no opportunity for a wise crack that was allowed to pass untaken. Then there were trees and power lines… Their float is a ship, complete with two tall masts. Unfortunately when you combine that with a city's low hanging lines and a tree canopy, it gets a little dicey. The masts had to be folded down (essentially on top of us across the deck) with pirates holding them at varying angles to clear the threats. At one point the line was low enough that Treasure had to continuously turn the ships wheel as we moved forward to get it around the line. That line then went on to snag the flag on the back of the ship and she had to beat it free before it took out the flag, the line or both. She also bravely faced an onslaught of attacks by at least two trees that chose to grab on to her red locks as she perched on the top corner of the deck. Once all the hazards had been cleared we were able to stand the masts back up and it became the 'after hours improv show' as Cutthroat Jack discussed the difficulties in placing the rod in place to secure the mast and the toy balls that were in the way… let's just say this portion of the conversation is censored from this review, but it was a comedy routine that by the time it was over left me with a splitting headache from laughing so hard that I thought my head would burst.

As a side note, they also do a heck of a show, both the abbreviated one they put on at the site as well as the full dinner show they perform in Orlando. If you haven't been, go! They also have the Treasure Tavern, but that is a going to be a separate review…

Once we returned to the festival grounds, it was time for more socializing. There were new people showing up by the hour and I spotted Captain Bloody Sam Rackham of the Cursed Few and his lovely bride Ann, Del McRea and Maelstrom. I also had a chat with Robin StGraves, who I had not seen in many years, and checked in with the members of Rusty Cutlass, and celebrated the return of Michael Noles, Artist Extraordinaire and musician who had been away from piracy for a little while, Mike and Kat from Pirates of the Treasure Coast and Gumbatz and his wife Kerry. I also got to meet Pierre the 'py-rat' owned by Jamaica Rose. There were many more people that I saw during this time…let's just say many hugs went around. I also got P'd on by Thighbiter from the Brigands and got to enjoy one of their sets. It was a pleasure to see them again. They really are phenomenal!

The Saturday Evening Bash

As I made my way to the festival grounds for the evening, it was a beautiful star-lit night. It was also a little chilly, but with the number of bodies packed in the tent, it was nice and cozy warm. I am not sure where all these pirates came from! It was quite the task to find a table and chairs, but we did. The Brigands were in full force making sweet music, and some of the not so sweet naughty music they make as well. If there were the space to do it, I would have likely gotten up and danced again as I did at the Southern Pirate Festival, but it seems everyone else had that idea and packed the floor so I chose to stay to the side and not step on anyone.

There were parts of this evening that could have gone a little smoother. The big complaints I heard related to the bash dinner were that the food was 1 ½ hours late and the food ran out with 60-70 people left to be served. Now, when this happens everyone impacted generally gets mad. And understandably! You're hungry, you've been running around all day and you've been waiting for this dinner to be served only to find out it's run out. But, as we all know, there are multiple sides to every story... From what I have been told, a last minute drop out by the caterer lead to the situation, and the event organizers worked to pick up the ball to try and make sure there was a meal, which was no small undertaking with the massive number of pirates in attendance. I was not a part of that planning process so I can't comment on how it all happened, but what I can discuss is how the situation was dealt with.

Once the food ran out, there was a promise of a refund to those who did not get to eat. Now, the ticket price was not just for the food, but also the entertainment and the rest of the fun involved in the evening. But, the offer was to refund the ticket price in its entirety to those who did not get served. I thought that was a good response to the situation. At that point, there was nothing to do about the meal… the food was gone. Additionally, those who were unhappy with the food they did receive also were talked to about monetary compensation.

While sure, there may have been a damper put on part of the evening because of the food problems, I found the joy of the evening being in seeing everyone together and having a fantastic time with my pirate family, with music, dancing and general merriment under a cool, clear North Florida night sky.

Following the bash many of us headed to the Taberna De Gallo. If you haven't been, it is a rustic, period tavern in the Spanish Quarter district of St Augustine and manned by period correct staff. It's lit by candlelight and has a small inside bar and a larger outside seating area of wooden tables and benches. It's a fantastic little period tavern that's been going strong since 1734. Rusty Cutlass was scheduled to play a set.

When I arrived they were not quite ready so Barnacle Beau decided to play a few and asked me to join in. Gumbatz jumped in, Scarlett came and joined and before long, we had the whole area singing along to a number of nautical favorites. I can only assume that's what it would have been like when everyone hit the taverns on shore leave in days of old. One person starts a song and everyone just joins in and soon there are a hundred people or so in the midst of a grand sing-along.

When the Rusty Cutlass gents came in I was able to sit back and enjoy a little social time and music. My time at the Taberna was spent with Drop Dead, Great Scott, Gumbatz, Keith, TJ and Nathan and a surprise visit from Toby the Great… a name he is being given because he doesn't have an official pirate name and Scarlett and I think he is, indeed, great and you all should just take our word for it!

Once things started to wind down there… and the pirates I was with had effectively made some mundane guy angry who thought his girlfriend was trying to run off with a pirate (which she was - but it was not the pirates fault. They were just sitting there. She was the one hitting on them and buying them drinks…) we headed back to the living history encampment where there was a bonfire and the 'after party'.

Rusty Cutlass came out as well as did a number of other musicians and there was merriment throughout the night. Remember that headache I mentioned earlier? It came back as the craziness ensued with the Pirate's Dinner Adventure guys and our own little group of cut-ups. I actually had a constant battle with the too-much-laughter triggered headache. Fighting on my side of the battle was Gumbatz who would use acupressure on pressure points in my hand and neck to make the headache pain subside…and as soon as it was gone Drop Dead or Melissa (Sgt Johnson's wife) would come up and say as many things as they could to get me laughing again so the headache would return…what loving friends I have.

And for all of you who enjoyed the evening with us at the fire – I am sure you will agree, it is amazing the level of enjoyment one can get off of just rocking on a bench with the sweet sounds of music in the cool night air. Perhaps it's the heat in the air and feel of that simple yet turgid piece of wood beneath you that just does it. Something about it feels just right and you want to ride those moments as long as you can!

The music continued until around 5 am… I turned in at 4 and listened from my tent, lulled to sleep by the melodies.

Unfortunately I don't sleep in. My radio hours make me wake up early and I was wide awake just a couple of hours after falling asleep. So, I started sorting my things and had the bulk of my stuff packed up by 9. I then meandered over to the festival site to see what was happening. Breakfast was being served, but it was mostly quiet as few people were up yet and those that were seemed to be running on autopilot after a long night.

I started making the rounds to say my goodbyes and got to catch another of the Pirate's Dinner folks shows and a final set of the Brigands before doing a little work, getting interviewed for a Florida Travel pirate themed article on my Mary Read presentations, then a final pack up and quiet drive home.

A big thank you goes out to Mia and her staff of non-stop working folks who made this a reality. While I never go into any festival with major expectations, as they are all different and you don't know what will happen until you get there, this was one of the largest groupings of pirates I have seen in some time. It truly lived up to its name as the Pirate Gathering!

Another important note is that even though there were some things that went wrong, and there ALWAYS are at any festival, there was no major drama from the folks in charge. They dealt with any issues professionally and, in my experience, always tried to be very accommodating and helpful.

I had a wonderful time, and am ready to put it on my calendar for next year.

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What a great time at the Pirate Gathering. It was great seeing everyone again at, as Caribbean Pearl put it, Mini PiP. I had the pleasure of driving Powderkeg up to St. A to meet up with Michael and Jamaica. His stories were amazing. Everyone should get to know him - a huge resource of information on cannons and gunpowder. Love him! Now I want one of his cannons. :)

Fortunately, they will be Cyren's and my guest for Thanksgiving so maybe I can talk him into bringing one of his cannons off so we can rack it off on the beach and demonstrate them to you all on video.

The rest of the festival was great... good friends, good beer, lots of time jamming with other musicians and singing my favorites over with the Pirates of the Treasure Coast folks and in the tent. Never even managed to make it over to the period camping - just too much to see and do on the field. Perhaps next year. But got to meet some of my favorite campers on the field, including Jeff and Melissa. Good seeing them again.

Thanks to the organizers, especially Mia and gang. Well done and a big "five cutlasses up" as a rating. Beween the Gathering, Stuart, Searle's, John Levique, Ft. Myers, Amelia Island and of course, Key West, Florida is certainly a great place to be for pirootin'.

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