Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
January 29, 2011
In my younger days, I worked as a boat pilot at Walt Disney World, so it's impossible for me to look at any depiction of the high seas and not think of stormy nights navigating a launch on the open waters of some man-made lake.
The sensation surfaced again last week on my road trip to the newly opened Pirate & Treasure Museum, across from the Castillo de San Marcos fort in St. Augustine. In December, the museum relocated from its original location in Key West, a move that ought to generate a new, captive audience of youngsters bused into the historic city on school field trips.
St. Augustine, of course, has its own share of pirate lore, most notably the saga of English pirate Sir Francis Drake, who led 2,000 of his men in a raid that leveled the city in the late 16th century.
In 1668, Jamaican-based pirate Robert Searle captured a Spanish ship and sailed into St. Augustine for a raid that inspired the Spanish to build the massive fort that now sits across the street from the museum.
Inside the relatively compact but attractive attraction, there's more than a nod to that history. In the Rogue's Tavern, visitors can gander at the stories of a dozen famous pirates in one of eight electronic books stationed at a heavy wooden table in the center of the room. On the walls, glass cases contain artifacts, including a display on Drake's raid.
History can be dry, but the museum dresses it up with some style.
"Are you tired of spoiled meat and weevil-infested hard tack?" inquires one of the tavern signs.
And the gross-out factor in these tales can be high:
Captain Kidd, for instance, was unlucky until the end, strung up twice at his execution because the noose snapped under his weight. Thomas Tew, the Rhode Island Pirate, was killed by a cannonball to the gut that disemboweled him. In another room, Blackbeard's disembodied head tells his story.
As another sign points out: "Piracy was a very dangerous calling."
You can shoot a cannon and look at the sword used by Johnny Depp in the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean." Exhibits can be covered in an hour.
Admission: $11.99 adults, $6.99 children. Visit thepiratemuseum.com for details.
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