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Gentlemen of Fortune

Pirate Living History 1680-1725

Finding and Joining a Pirate Group

A lot of folks write to us (you can click on the e-mail link at the bottom of this page) and want to know what they need to get started and where they can find a group.. My reply is that you first have to ask yourself, "what kind of piratey things do I want to do?"

We can break it all down into three basic types of groups. While we all hate categorization (and I know that there are lots of grey areas) most of the "different" groups are really just variations of these three. I would like to say also that I am casting no dispersions on any of these categories as they all have their place under the big tent of Piracy Interests.

Pirates come Ashore

Members of the Pirate Brethren Photo:L Slater

Authentic Pirate Living History

This is probably the smallest sized group of the bunch, and maybe the newest to the scene as well. Its primarily made up of folks that have come from other re-enacting periods and are used to authenticity "standards" or they are individuals that have had an epiphany over their puffy shirt, bucket boots, or striped lycra stockings and wanted to find out more. This group strives to portray the men and women who lived during the golden age as accurately as possible, and are constantly researching and improving their "kit" to meet that end. Well, at least that is the goal.

Does this mean that everyone who claims to be authentic is 100% accurate? The obvious answer is "no". But the point is that they should be trying to improve as their research increases their knowledge of the period. Its a lot harder than you would think for someone to take off their pirate utility belt (you know, that thing around their waist where their drinking mug, Crocodile Dundee knife, shrunken heads, bull whip, and Oriental Trading Company pirate jewelry hang) and put on a sailor short jacket.

To those "outside" this group, the authentic re-enactors may seem a little extreme. The hardcore of this group, find delight in fabrics, metal content, manufacturing processes, and often, hand stitching. This has led them to be known by others as "thread counters," or more derogatorily, "stitch nazis". This is a shame, as its probably more of a reflection of how a select few in the group share their knowledge than on the group as a whole.

Authentic re-enactments are those that try to be a mini time travel experience, where you create (here is the "acting" in re-enacting) situations that could have happened almost 300 years ago and act out "your part". The number of these Authentic re-enactments or Living History events is on the rise as more people are ratcheting up their casual interest in Piracy to pursue a more realistic experience.

Pirate Entertainers

This is a broad group that is filled with Street Artist (those that perform impromptu street theater at festivals/events), Musicians and/or Vocal groups, Actors and Actresses, and lastly, Pirate Impersonators (this includes Jack Sparrow look a-likes).

Pirate entertains kids

Pyrates of the Coast at Charity Event

If you Google "pirate groups", you will find a lot of groups in this category, and I bet there is one in your area. These folks include professional (that is, they get paid for their services) and amateur performers alike. Their credo is "to entertain the public" and they often use any means or device to meet that end.

Many of them depend on this to put food on their table, and as such, they may be more concerned with playing to playing to and dressing for "the crowd" than to historical accuracy. There are groups like Pyrates of the Coast that cover the spectrum from doing film work in the Caribbean, to reading stories to terminal ill children in hospitals.

While I may have a good understanding of piracy in a historical context, I don't hold a candle to these folks as far as living the life and giving back to the community... Well Done Sirs!

Did I mention that some of these groups get paid to be pirates? What a great gig!

I personally find it interesting that part of this group can rival the authentic group in their stitch counting when it comes to accurately portraying on screen pirate heroes such as Jack Sparrow.

Fantasy Pirates

Pirate like thing

Shiver Me Timbers!

The largest group of all is those that some (except themselves) call "Fantasy Pirates". This group's main goal is "to have a good time" and be around other pirate enthusiast (which is what we all want to do really) its just that they don't want to delve too deep in the waters of historical accuracy.

These groups primarily ply the waters of ren-faires or other SCA type events. Normally, you won't find a better bunch of folks to hang out with at an event and they are a generous and welcoming bunch. Often, they have a Pirate Entertainment element of their group which allows you to satisfy two needs at once.

Their Modus Operandi is capturing the "Spirit of Piracy" from sources such as Treasure Island and the latest Hollywood pirate blockbusters. Its more of a question of "what pirates should have done" than what pirates really did. Which manifests itself often in Black Biker clothing and numerous skull jewelry. There mantra is, "As long as something looks "piratey" its good enough for us, now pass the rum!".

This is where you will find most of the hot pirate chicks as well.... go figure.

Now this is painting with a broad brush, and there is some crossover as well. You will find a lot of Fantasy Pirate Entertainers in your search, and if its your bag, you are in luck.

Despite their different approaches, all the groups can work alongside each other to make events successful. For me personally, if I never have to do another "perform for the public" type event, (otherwise known as the Dog and Pony Shows) I couldn't be happier. So I am glad as all get-out that there are groups who thrive on that stuff. I say, have at it, if it floats your pirate boat.

If you are interested in the hobby as a whole, you may want to explore the groups in your area as well as the types of events that are available to you. We have listed a few groups in our pirate roll call page (which I will roll out soon) and encourage you to check them out.