Cruising Blackbeard’s Backyard

By Maria Brown | 2024 Summer Issue

Blackbeard, the notorious pirate, was perhaps not unlike you and me. He had to make a living. Life on the sea was the place to be. Safety of his vessel, health of his crew, and daily grog were essential. Ubiquitous challenges and frenzied battles made rewards even sweeter. 

Imagine how history might have shifted if Captain John Smith hit a deadhead at the mouth of the Chesapeake and sunk before reaching the future site of Jamestown! Or if Ponce de Leon crashed on the coral reefs off Florida. Hubris jettisons the hopes of many a sailor. But don‚Äôt we all want to be legends in our own minds ‚Äď at least for a day?

Similarities aside, most of us never clamped down on a cutlass between our teeth or fired a cannon for pay. Yet Blackbeard’s legend prevailed over centuries. The myth blew up without social media, and birthed a meme recognizable worldwide. Just ask Johnny Depp where he drew inspiration.

Clearly a paragon among pirates, Blackbeard’s bio merges fact and fiction. Few historians and source documents hone a credible, inclusive biography. So we enjoy the drama, the pirate memorabilia, and romantic yarns. Cruisers generally get a kick out of both fact and fiction. What better way to learn more about Blackbeard than planning a cruise through the waters he sailed? Lucky for us, there are well marked routes now to follow in Blackbeard’s wake.

Whether traveling with children or adults who never grew up, cruisers can plumb the North Carolina waters for Blackbeard‚Äôs ‚ÄúHaunts‚ÄĚ by visiting three delightful destinations: Beaufort, Ocracoke, and Bath. Each stop appeals in its own way. Easily explored in a week, the ‚ÄúPirate Trail‚ÄĚ covers approximately 170 nautical miles in a loop shaped like an upside down noose. Lacking Blackbeard‚Äôs GPS tracks,¬† there are indications of his routes on display at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort. This Museum is a superb starting point for chasing the legend in search of facts.

Click to read the rest of this story and see more great photos.

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