Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
September 14, 2013
In case you didn't realize it, International Talk Like a Pirate Day (talklikeapirate.com) is on deck for Thursday. There's not much time to refresh your knowledge of pirate lingo before everyone is blathering about grog like scurvy bilge rats on Facebook and other social-media sites.
In Florida, it's hard to find a more pirate-friendly, day-trip destination than Fernandina Beach, a tantalizingly slow-moving destination north of Jacksonville on the Atlantic coast. Although the present wave of buccaneer mania traces its roots to the popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise, Fernandina Beach was all about pirates before pirates were cool.
The Fernandina Beach Pirates Club (fernandinapirates.com) has been around for almost 40 years. The organization is involved with civic and charitable projects, but the members also spend a fair amount of time strolling Fernandina's downtown business district on weekend afternoons, handing out beads and spouting "Aye!" and other authentic pirate greetings.
At least in wardrobe, the pirate club embraces the legacy of Fernandina's history.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the destination was a safe harbor for pirates. The port is among the deepest on the southeast coast of the United States, once allowing pirate galleons to enter even at low tide.
Famed pirates Louis-Michel Aury, Captain Kidd, Jean Lafitte and Jose Gaspar have all inspired tales tied to Fernandina Beach. In one of the most popular legends, a buried treasure is guarded by ghosts.
Both the pirates and the ghosts must have taken the day off on my recent weekday visit, but I was able to find a trolley tour for an informative two-hour excursion that included the historic homes of the Silk Stocking District and the Old Town site where Fernandina became the last Spanish city platted in the Western Hemisphere in 1811.
The $15 trolley tour also stopped at Burbank Sport Nets, a family business that has been making trawling nets for the shrimping industry in Fernandina Beach since 1915. The company is now among the nation's largest distributors of nets for batting cages and backstops for college and professional baseball teams.
Shrimp is on the menu at eateries such as Salty Pelican, with its harbor view.
It's a good spot to eat like a pirate.
Copyright © 2015, Orlando Sentinel