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Pirate Fest, June 2011 - Put-in-Bay, OH

Chapter 2nd. Learning about the proper way to cut fruit ('either bartend or cut fruit' is a motto we learned); getting picked up by the cannon barge for cannon firing duty and some other strange things that happened Friday; going back to the campsite and checking out the work everyone else had done there; finally seeing Richard's so-called "garage".

Michael and Mark Gist (who were now dressed in garb as well) decided it would be fun to see the barge/land battle and maybe get involved, so I tagged along. Always up for a pirate adventure, your ship's surgeon is. On the way there we spotted some girls in very short skirts doing goofy things on the stage. The stage is where the costume contest and some other Pirate Fest activities take place on Saturday. I stopped to photograph them. They spotted us and, of course, we had to be part of their shoot. It turns out they were vodka lollies (or something like that - OK, I just made that term up) who were spending the evening going around the bars promoting their product. The photographer was a professional who was apparently trying to get proof that they were all doing something productive and not just hanging around Put-in-Bay bars for the weekend. Wait...well, I guess that is productive in this case, although I'm not entirely sure how. I should note that this is exactly the sort of strange (and not un-wonderful) thing that happens to you at the P-i-B Pirate Fest. Honestly.

Vodka Girls Romping
Photo: Mission
Vodka Girls romping on the stage for their photographer
Vodka Girls and Us
Photo: Mission
Girls and us. I am trying to look menacing. Doesn't work, does it?

Bartender and Fruit
Photo: Mission
We couldn't find the barge when we reached the place where Mark thought it would be. Serindipitously, we happened to be right near the Boardwalk where Michael and I had been a few hours previously. Michael announced that he was going to go in and have a beer, which sounded like an excellent plan to me. (This is the real sort of planning we guys always have going on in the backs of our minds.) So we perched at the bar inside and ordered cold beers.

It was slow in the bar which allowed the bartender to talk with us. He explained that while it was pretty slow now, it would be crazy fun later. He maintained that professional bartender mein and didn't ask about our outfits, but you could tell he was interested. Instead, we talked about the drink special that contained oysters. (Seriously.) The bartender told us that they didn't actually have any oysters. "We leave it up there for the tourists," he explained, which didn't really explain it all. (Although I can't imagine there being a huge rush for a drink with oysters until everyone's better judgment had been drowned in alcohol. Then they're so distracted that they will likely forget the even ordered such a thing.)

In the middle of all this, a second bartender arrived and announced that she was opening up position two. (I think that's what she called it.) She started moving stuff around and then got really excited. "Who cut the fruit? They cut the damned fruit wrong!" She was apparently a little less invested in the professional bartender mein. Our bartender, more invested, offered to fix the fruit and cut it correctly. Now you may be wondering what must be done to properly cut fruit. I was. As it turns out, the edge was left on the orange and lime wedges which prevented them from being easily slid on the glass and that had to be sliced off. So even those of you who got distracted during the fish fly lecture have learned something, haven't you?

Cannon Barge and Pirate Motor Boat
Photo: Mission)
The Cannon Barge and the Mosquito
Cannon-fire erupted from outside and we all felt compelled to go see it (but not before finishing our beers.) We scrambled down the dock to where Michael thought he heard the shot coming from. There we stood at the end of the dock, watching as three bizarre craft cut across the water, firing their cannons, followed at a short distance by the Coast Guard.

The first craft was the Cannon Barge, which was being pushed by Ty and friends in a speedboat. The second craft was a small motorized fishing boat festooned with useless pirate paraphernalia, painted on jaws and a tatty black sail. We will henceforth refer to as the Mosquito. (In part because it had a pointy nose and a mean look and in part because it proved to be persistently annoying.) The third craft had a bit of a tugboat look to it, except there was a ginormous black cannon mounted to the roof. I'll refer to this as the Manly Boat for reasons I will not detail. (If that was a real cannon and they fired it, I suspect the whole craft would have shot backwards so rapidly it would leave a hole in the landscape behind it shaped just like the boat, Wile E. Coyote style.) Michael stuck out his thumb in what I suspect was to be a joke, but they really needed people to fire the cannon, so they agreed to pick Michael, Mark and I up from the docks to help fire the cannons.

The Mosquito and the Coast Guard
Photo: Mission
The Mosquito, followed by the Coast Guard
Giant Cannon Boat
Photo: Mission
The Manly Boat
Michael hitches us a ride
Photo: Mission
Michael hitching us a ride.

The barge pulled up to the dock with amazing agility, bumping right up to the place where Michael, Mark and I
Photo: Mission
The cannon barge and all her charges (so to speak).
were standing. No fuss, no worry. We jumped on, which I didn't get photos of because I was busy jumping and trying not to slip into the water. Then Ty pulled away from the dock, slick as snot. (There's a visual for you.)

There were four cannons and a mortar on board. Bob and his assistant were doing their best to load and fire the cannons quickly, but he was mighty glad of our help. I was assigned a beautiful brass cannon (seen in the foreground left in the photo at right.) Most of these cannon fired differently than others I had fired previously. On these, a shell was loaded into the touchhole after the cannon was loaded with its charge. It was fired by pulling a string attached to a hinged metal piece that flipped over into the shell, striking and firing it. Not being familiar with this, I was a little too gentle in pulling the string. Bob Gillmor, the owner of the cannon (and Gillmor Ordnance Ltd.) ordered me to pull it harder.

Mark Gist had a cannon with a fuse, which was more in line with what I was used to firing. He loaded his cannon, bummed the fuse off Bob and fired it. He must fired a dozen times. Michael was given a brass cannon like mine, although not quite as shiny. In all the re-enacting that Michael had done, he confided to me that he had never fired a cannon before because he was always busy firing hand weapons. I suspect he's been around the stuff so much that he had a pretty good idea how it all worked, however, and he comported himself well. Bob gave him some cursory instruction and he was soon firing his cannon with alacrity. However, he was not inducted in the ceremony of the stinky sponge, which I think we should all remember for the next event where the stinky sponge ceremony is going on when Michael is present. If you fire the cannon, you have to take the stinky sponge. (Well, I had to.)

Mark Firing His Cannon
Photo: Mission
Mark receiving instruction from Bob.
Michael and his Cannon
Photo: Mission
Bob helps Michael to worm and prepare his cannon
The boat pushing the barge
Photo: Mission
Captain Ty the Barge Pusher

Bob mistakenly Michael and his loud cannon
Photo: Mission
Michael's Loud Cannon.
loaded Michael's cannon with two charges on one of the firing rounds, which produced an ear-ringing explosion that reverberated all over Put-in-Bay. Bob clearly liked that, so he began to put two rounds in Michael's cannon every time (much to Michael's chagrin.) Since a cannon owner doesn't (normally) get to fire real projectiles, the key to cannon firing at an event is to startle as many people as humanly possible with the sound. From that point on, whenever the brass cannons were loaded with double charges they would kick backwards with such force that they jumped right out of the little wood enclosures designed to keep them from rolling backwards. Michael asked how Bob got such kick out of regular loads. Bob explained that he was using 3F powder, which amazed Michael. (Michael later explained to me that the more Fs in a gunpowder grain, the finer it was and the faster it burned - and the louder it was. Cannons normally use 1F powder.) Bob had lots of gunpowder available and he couldn't see wasting it, so we went through most of it.

Bob Firing the Cannon with a Stick
Photo: Mission
Bob manually firing what was my cannon.
You will now recall that I had been instructed to jerk the string with some spirit by Bob after my first lame effort. So on the second try, I decided that I would do the thing justice. I yanked that string with a sharp tug...and wound up with a handful of limp string. Yes, I broke the cannon! I pulled the string right off the hinged firing mechanism. Bob made a few futile efforts to fix it, but he was too excited to keep all the cannons firing to give it his full attention. So he told me he would fire it manually.

He did this with the cannon swabbing sponge, flicking it so that the hinged mechanism would strike the charge and fire the cannon. I offered to it, but he decided my touch was a little harsh after yanking the cannon string off. The Aluminum Cannon
Photo: Mission
Larry Herald and the Aluminum Cannon.
I resigned myself to worming and swabbing (cleaning out) the cannon and then loading it. I also got to play powder monkey for the other cannons, which was my first time doing that. (Not my proudest accomplishment, but I guess you take the new experiences where you can get them.)

One of the cannon was cast aluminum with a two steel shafts fitted inside the barrel to give it strength for firing. It was painted black to look like a normal cast iron cannon as you can see at right. While aluminum is not a period-correct metal, it does make it a lot easier to move the cannons around. (This is particularly important when trying to get one of those beasts off a little floating barge onto land up a wooden ramp as I later learned.) Someone asked Bob if that didn't make the cannon too weak to fire. "We tested for that," he explained. "We decided to try to blow the barrel up by completely filling the thing with charges." I am guessing we are talking about 6 or 8 charges in that little cannon. "Then we blocked traffic on the nearby roads and we fired it. People heard it from 5 miles away!" See what I mean about wanting to startle as many people as humanly possible with the noise?

After all that cannon fire, we pulled into a dock to unload the cannon. We had to get them off the barge so that barge owner Larry could take some cement pilings out to a work site the next morning. (He's the guy in the striped shirt and red bandana.) As Ty explained to me, "...we refer to that particular barge as the party barge. When we were younger me, their sons, and some of our other friends used to anchor it off the shore by North Bass. That was before we all went out and grew up!" Yes, even in the fun paradise that is Put-in-Bay the party barge must do some work.

Unloading the Cannon Barge
Photo: Mission
Off-loading those heavy cannons.
Barge Owner's Wife
Photo: Mission
Kathy Herald
Cannon Crew
Photo: Mission
Hero shot of the Friday Cannon Crew

As soon as we had arranged the planks that were to serve as the cannon ramp, a woman in an orange-striped sweater appeared from the house across the street offering to bring us drinks. I thought this was neat, but sort of odd until I figured out that the dock was apparently right in front of the barge owner's house. Seeing a bunch of pirates hanging around tugging cannons off a barge, tourists started coming around asking for photos of us. I told them they could only get it for the price of a reciprocal photo taken using my camera. (Pirate Fest is a must for reciprocal photos.)

Unfortunately for the merry Mercury band, the landing put us about a mile from the campsite. This meant we had to walk quite a distance through the downtown park to get back. We had forgotten about the Put-in-Bay tourists, which made the walk back entertaining. Outside of a bar called the Roundhouse The Roundhouse Bar, Put-in-Bay
Photo: Mission
The Roundhouse Bar. Round and red...like the buckets...see?
(seen at left) we were accosted by a couple of very enthusiastic (by which I mean drunk) girls, one of whom had a red bucket on her head. Readers of last year's Pirate Fest Put-in-Bay Journal will recall some rather striking of photos of Michael posing with two young ladies wearing such red buckets on their heads. Sensing a story, I had to ask. "The beers come in these buckets," was the answer, as if that explained everything. Twice I asked the bucketed girl why she had the bucket on her head, but I never got a straight answer.

I have a theory that it's a protective measure. This is why the bucket handle isn't around her chin. (Soldiers know never to put a chin strap on if there's the chance of a bomb or a double-loaded 3F cannon going off because if the helmet is hit, you don't want the dent impacting your skull. That might require trepanation.) Don't like that explanation? I have another theory that it's a sort of mating call. Anyone wearing a red bucket that formerly contained a number of beers on their head must be signaling that they're drunk enough to consider all offers. (Like peacocks, except all the red bucket-heads I have seen so far have been female where as the signaling peacocks are male. Hmm. So much for that theory.)

They really wanted picture with the pirates, so they bartered with Michael to get them. (The counter-offer? Why, a reciprocal photo. Why? What were you thinking it was?) They didn't want a photo with your author because they thought I looked like a pilgrim. So the bucket-girl posed with a suitably sardonic Michael and then they both wanted to pose with Mark, presumably because he looked like their idea of a real pirate.

Bucket Girls Negotiating
Photo: Mission
Bucket girls negotiate with Michael
Bucket Girl with Michael
Photo: Mission
Bucket Girl with Michael
Bucket Girls and Mark
Photo: Mission
Bucket Girls and Mark (A leg lift?)

Closer to camp we encountered a group of young girls who were sitting around on a picnic table in the park. They started out asking us why we were dressed like that. Ah, the flower of young womanhood, curious and learning. Then they asked me why I was dressed like a pilgrim. Ah, the bratty youth of today, mean-spirited and nasty. (At that moment, people telling me I looked like a pilgrim officially replaced last year's most annoying questions. (Which were all "Arrrrr!" jokes.)) Michael tried to explain that my hat was a planter's hat which would have been worn by pirates, but this lot would have none of it. The declared that Mark Gist was the only one who looked like a real pirate and got up to talk to him. Fortunately we met a nice family with several other, more intelligent girls who wanted to pose with Michael and I. After that, we were all eager to get back to camp and find out what was going on for dinner.

Park Girls Arguing with Michael
Photo: Mission
Park Girls Arguing with Michael
Park Girls Ally with Mark
Photo: Mission
Park Girls Allied with Mark
Other Park Girls Pose with Michael & Mission
Photo: Mission
More Reasonable Park Girls Posing

We arrived back in camp from our little cannon-blasting exercise ready for some chow. Unfortunately, chow was not yet in the offing. In the mean time, the third crew had arrived, bring Mary Diamond and Cheeky/Bess/Lisa/Bob and any other aliases she might have. Mary was one of the first people to advise me on my chosen role as ship's surgeon. Her dad had even made my wooden medicine chest for me. I was delighted to see here. Since her traveling costume looked so formal (and since it was getting a bit nippy), I bummed one of Michael's coats from him - the brown one with all the buttons so I could match. (I would look in a dark green version of this, don't you think? On the other hand, with the red waistcoat, I'd look like one of Santa's elves.) The brown coat was to be a feature of the adventure for the entire rest of this chapter. (That's sort of like foreshadowing, but not done very well at all.) I hadn't seen Mary for well over year and I liked to think she came out for this event because I asked her to. Glove
Photo: Um.
All you need is Glove.
(I also like to tell myself that I am a great writer, so you can gather what you will from that.)

We chatted and caught up. Since I had brought some 15 year old Glenfiddich, I thought now would be a good time to sample and share. Everything was going quite well until Shannon got out The Glove. I don't exactly know why he got out The Glove (or even why I am capitalizing the The Glove's name) but if I can carry a clyster syringe into battle, Shannon is certainly entitled to have The Glove in camp. This doesn't mean I particularly want to be around for any activities involving it, though. (I might get drafted into helping out or something, what with me being the ship's surgeon an all. So I decided it would be a good time to exit, stage right. Luckily Richard came to my rescue. I had wanted to see Richard's amazing Put-in-Bay garage ever since M.A. d'Dogge had described it last year and now seemed like the opportune moment.

Mary Diamond and Her Servant Bess in Camp
Photo: Mission
Merchant Mary Diamond and her servant Bess in camp.
Mission and Donna in Coats
Photo: Mission
Mission and Mary in finery
Shannon presenting Michael with the glove
Photo: Mission
Shannon shows Michael The Glove

Richard's Garden
Photo: Mission
The monkey in one of Richard's garden.
Richard's "two car garage" as he described it, was actually more of a pole barn. A large pole barn. It did happen to contain two cars (one of which was a Model A truck and the other was another antique car of some sort I don't recall. They took up about 1/20th of the building's space. He has a large workbench area and a wonderful selection of whiskies and bourbons in a bar from the 1900s in there. (Collecting and sampling bourbon is one of his hobbies as I have mentioned previously.) There are two rooms built off to the side inside the garage and these contain collectibles he got from his grandparents and parents. He has a G scale train set that I believe is from his own youth. On one of the flat bed cars is mounted a model of an AC Bulldog Mack truck. Regular readers will recall my recounting of my fascination of this vehicle, which cemented my fascination with Richard and his garage.

Among the many, many other things in the garage was a large framed photograph in a place of honor of his grandfather that sincerely wish I could have photographed and put here in the Journal. Alas, my camera died before we even entered the Richard in Pirate Garb
Photo: Mission
Richard. B-b-b-b-b-bad to the bone.
building while I was taking that all important photo of the monkey in one of Richard's several gardens outside. He told me it was from the orient. He told me where, but I can't recall it. It would make sense if it was from China. Among his other endeavors, Richard goes around the world purchasing cigars to stock his walk-in humidor and provide to local cigar sellers around Put-in-Bay. The Chinese Cigar Ambassador magazine even made him an editor. You can find one of Richard's articles from their magazine here. It was a splendid tour and I am really sorry my camera battery died before I could show you some of the wonders contained in Richard's garage. I tried to organize a return trip on Sunday to get some shots, but it didn't quite come off due to everyone else's schedule.

Richard gave me a shot of some excellent rare Japanese Brandy, which nestled nicely with the 15 year old scotch and then called a taxi to take us back to the campsite. (He didn't want to drink and drive. We picked up at least two loads of excited (by which I mean "going to get drunk") girls along the way. All I can say is that I really wish I had thought to bring a spare battery with me.

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