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Cape Fear pirates invade the NC Maritime Museum! Southport free family attractions

Posted By ShoutCarolina,Date: 02.01.2010

“My life, my lover, my lady, is the sea”

The NC Maritime Museum at Southport provides a kid-friendly exhibit featuring the life, legends and artifacts of famous 18th century pirates that once roamed the North Carolina Coast. Admission is Free.

Stede Bonnet pirate flag replica

Gangsters of the Sea or Smart Career Choice?

Life on a naval ship was notoriously bad in the 17 and 18th centuries. Cramped conditions, spoiled food and bad weather were the norm on any sea voyage. Extremely harsh discipline - usually flogging - was applied freely by military officers for most ridiculous offenses. Life on land was not much better. At the time the majority of Europe lived in poverty as virtual slaves to a small aristocracy.

So what’s a seaman to do? Take the hint from Pirate Captain Bartholomew Roberts, who put it best:

“In honest service there is thin rations, low wages and hard labor; in piracy, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it at worst, is only a sour look or two at choking. No a merry life and a short one shall be my motto.”

Stede Bonnet - Officer and Gentleman Pirate…

One of the most notorious and peculiar pirates along the Carolina Coast was Stede Bonnet.
Once Revenge now Royal James Stede Bonnet signature ship
Born into Barbados aristocracy, he was militia major and rich plantation owner in the early 1700s.

Legend has it, he turned to piracy to escape boredom and a nagging wife!

Unlike most professional pirates, Stede Bonnet bought his one ship, a 50 tons 10-guns sloop he named Revenge. He even paid generous wages to his crew!

Stede Bonnet joined forces out of necessity with Blackbeard, the most feared and cruel pirate in the area. Together they raided ships and terrorized merchants for almost a year. Their biggest capture was Concord a 500 ton French slave ship, that soon become Queen’s Ann Revenge.
The battle between Henry and Royal James ships

After partying ways on not so friendly terms, Stede Bonnet gained pardon from the North Carolina Governor. But the “gentleman” pirate soon returned to privateering as Captain Thomas leading the ship Royal James. His tenure will be short lived.

Sent by South Carolina Governor Robert Johnson, Col. William Rhett defeats and captures Bonnet after a six hours battle along the Cape Fear River. He is brought to Charleston to face punishment.

But wait, there is more! Bonnet and two other crewmen escape to Sullivan’s Island. After a short manhunt Col. Rhett catches Bonnet once again.
This time it was for good. In the winter of 1718 he is tried and hanged on the Charleston Battery.

The “Pirate” Price is Right!

How much could you get for losing a body part in a battle? Hint: it pays to be right…
• Eye $96
• Finger $96
• Left arm $482
• Right arm $579
• Left leg $386
• Right leg $482


Pirate Code of Conduct?

Who knew pirates had rules and regulations? That’s right there were 10 golden rules dealing with everything from bounty sharing to settling quarrels to when to turn the lights off and where you’re allowed to drink!

Rules of conduct aboard a pirate ship

There are so many other things to enjoy at the museum:

A 2,000 year old Indian canoe, a 200 lbs pile Civil War Blockade torpedo, recovered artifacts from the 1878 “City of Houston” shipwreck, an 8 foot whale jaw bone and hundreds of shark teeth. My favorite was an exquisite collection of 39 handmade wooden models spanning the entire naval world history!

The NC Maritime Museum is located downtown on Main Street and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9AM to 5PM.

More fun things to do near Wilmington for under $10

Play with the largest, museum quality, miniature trains layout model in the Southeast at the NC Railroad Museum ($7adults, $6 seniors and military, $3 children 2-12)

• Reach for the stars, be a doctor, acrobat, artist, outdoor enthusiast or archaeologist at the Wilmington Children’s Museum ($8 admission)

• See amazing, exotic and enormous marine creatures at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher ($8 adults, $7 seniors, $6 children 6-17, 5 and under FREE. If you plan to take the Southport - Fort Fisher ferry, the fare for cars is $5 one way. I highly recommend it, it’s a fun and relaxing experience.)

I’ve Got Me Eye On Ye Booty!

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    2 Responses to “Cape Fear pirates invade the NC Maritime Museum! Southport free family attractions”

    1. » Admire incredible handmade wooden ship models at NC Maritime Museum in Southport »South Carolina Family Attractions, Free, Affordable and Fun Things To Do Says:

      [...] bonus, you can see a plethora of Civil War artifacts, learn about legendary Pirates that once ruled these waters and laugh at the futile attempts to turn the city into a mega railroad [...]

    2. Free walking tour of historic Southport, half an hour between Wilmington and Sunset Beach « Shout About South Carolina Travel, Family Attractions and Free Things to Do Says:

      [...] visit to Southport must include a stop at the NC Maritime Museum (free admission) and a family fun ferry boat ride to Fort Fisher ($5 per car one way) and the [...]

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