Friday, April 27, 2018

X Marks the Spot

It seems like a no-brainer, writing about sailing and NOT mentioning pirates or pirate maps.
a tower from Jean Lafitte's fort on Tortoa

Research shows that there are no existing pirate maps with an X on it.
Disappointing, I know.
But think about it.
Putting an X on a map marking your chest of gold doubloons is the modern day equivalent of pre-loading all your passwords into your money apps then leaving your phone lying around without a fingerprint unlock.

Yet, pirate bounty is real.
Thanks to a whole lot of bad weather, shallow water and some unscrupulous harbormasters who liked to move channel markers to enable the crashing of Spanish boats full of gold and jewels.
Apparently the Spanish enjoyed cruising around the Caribbean with their finiest finery on board...watching a show, having an endless buffet, taking short of boat excursions...

But, I digress.

X marking the spot on a treasure map has its history in the British Army, where soldiers would place a paper with a large black X over the heart of those to be executed.
Efficient, but not very romantic.

We have Robert Louis Stevenson to thank for the romance. It was in his book Treasure Island that the Pirate map with a large X became the dream of kids and adults alike.
And Mr. Stevenson had great inspiration.
'Treasure Island'
In 1750 the Spanish vessel Nuestra Senora de Gudalupe took shelter from a storm in North Carolina. The crew mutinied and stole the treasure of 55 chests of silver. Some of the treasure was taken to St. Croix. The rest was taken to Norman Island in the BVI.
Residents of Tortola got wind of the loot and made for the island, just a short 5 nautical mile row from Road Town.
The Lt Govenor got wind of this, as Lt Governor's do, and made a deal granting 1/3 of the treasure to the citizens for its return.
Most was foolishly returned.
But not all...

In 1915, a fisherman from Tortola took shelter in a cove on the West coast of the island. All through the night his little boat was bashed into the walls of the cave. The next morning he awoke to discover many large rocks in his boat and on the wall of the cave a chest full of doubloons...

No actual documentation of this find exists. No legal 'treasure trove' was ever filed.
But, shortly after this storm the fisherman and his family quit fishing, moved to St. Thomas and opened up several small shops.
Presumably to accomadate all those Spanish cruisers...

Now, here's the great part.
Norman Island does exhist.
It is part of the chain of islands in the British Virgin Island chain.
Norman is not inhabited, except by several goats. It does boast two restaurants as well as a replica schooner in the cove which serves adult beverages and is known for is piratey tradition of jumping topless from its top deck.
Pirates Bight
Pirates Bight and the Club are right on the beach.
Not very safe from pirates but easily accessed by hungry snorkelers.

Our snorkling expidition stopped there for lunch.
Which was delicious – Roti and Conch Fritters and a Painkiller.
Roti - a yummy meat and veggie pie

conch fritters and painkiller
And then the piracy happened.

Not knowing what the situation would be when we left our room, we decided Rob would leave the credit cards stowed and just take some cash.
Which was enough for our lunch, but not for a tip...

Thankfully, the 70 year old divers found it rather hysterical when I sweetly, laughingly suggested that they create a disturbance while Rob and I made a run for it.
Because you know,

The plaque on Jean Lafitte's tower.

*Here are the links to both Pirates Bight and Willie T.
(A 'bight' is an large indentaion in a coastline.)

*The nice 70 year old couple on our snorkeling trip were kind enough to lend us a couple bucks which we repaid to them at dinner that evening with a hearty thank-ee.
They offered their help anytime, and requested to let them know where we would traveling as we looked like trouble....
I have a feeling they will be placing a HUGE X on that spot...

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. For more entries click here:


  1. What a clever choice for "X" and I love all the pirate stuff - but I think I'd go for the restaurant and food rather than searching for treasure (loved your banking PIN reference - very true)

    Leanne |
    X for Xcellence in your efforts

    1. It’s much easier to find yummy food, no doubt!

  2. As someone who has a pirate ship quite literally in her back yard, I LOVED this post! We spent last winter on Antigua. This winter, it'll be St. Vincent. Now we have more places to explore!

    1. How wonderful! Absolutely explore the BVI if you get a chance!

  3. Nice!


  4. I had no idea that Robert Louis Stevenson started the "X marks the spot" tradition. And to think, people think authors aren't powerful? Think again! I love visiting "X" posts to see how people handle that letter and this was a good one. Anything with pirates is good.... Alana

    1. Thank you! As they say, the pen is mightier...


Got a Hairnet sighting? Other weirdness?