History’s most fearsome buccaneers often made their stopovers in safe harbors around the Caribbean, the coasts of Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico. They took breaks after a round of looting escapades in the wide sea areas, stayed in some makeshift coves away from the crowds and the authorities that hunted them or made small ports their pirate strongholds.
Let us take a review of 5 of the greatest pirate strongholds in history
Port Royal, Jamaica
Port Royal, Jamaica became a safe haven and pirate stronghold protecting many lawless elements during the late 17th and 18th centuries, dubbed as “The Golden Age of Piracy,” when privateering, prostitution and piracy was at its highest peak. This little island was offered by its governors to pirates and privateers as a hideout in exchange for protection from Spanish Conquistadores. Ship captains from the British and French had permission from the crown to disrupt Spanish ships operating in the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean. Welsh commander, Sir Henry Morgan, was perhaps one of the most famous pirate/privateers to “protect” Port Royal. He also used the port for his base from where he successfully targeted Spanish strongholds at Portobello, Cartagena and Panama City.
The rocky island of Tortuga was once a chief fortress for some ill-intended adventurers, thieves and escaped convicts who targeted Spanish treasure ships in search of bigger booty. The outlaws who took Tortuga as their pirate stronghold were French raiders who were monickered buccaneers after a method they use in processing meats called “boucaner.” They originated from Hispaniola (Haiti) and made their transfer in Tortuga around 1630 after the arrival of Spanish settlers. They made a lot of money out of piracy, and so, to support their operations, they made Tortuga into a more solidified fortress. A former military engineer, Jean le Vasseur even built a 24- gun mansion called Fort de Rocher that stands as a watch tower to monitor intruder’s activities around its harbors.
New Providence, Bahamas
The Bahamian Island of New Providence was the nestling place for some number of the swashbuckling marauders. Sat at the heart of the most often voyaged trade lanes between Europe and the West Indies, its strategic location left it at the center of shipping commerce, and a crucial pirate stronghold. Its capital of Nassau was a safe harbor for pirates who needed to make repairs and pick up supplies. By the 1710s, most of the Caribbean’s dangerous thieves were often seen in its bars and brothels. The likes of Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet and Charles Vane continually wreaked havoc on ships in the area.
St. Mary’s Island, Madagascar
Although the Caribbean had the reputation as a lair for peg-legged buccaneers and proud sea commanders, the most established pirates made their living in the vast Indian Ocean. European and Asian shipping were the main targets of these looting operations and the nearby African island of Madagascar was used as the base operations of a well equipped group of marauders. Madagascar became home to several other pirate fortresses, most notable of these was St. Mary’s island. With a population of around 1,500, this island was a crucial source of supplies for flamboyant pirates like Captain Kidd, Thomas Tew and Henry Every.
Clew Bay, Ireland
A generally tranquil island, no one will ever think that the west coast of Ireland would be prime pirate territory. The rough shores of Clew Bay were a pirate stronghold for one of history’s most feared lady buccaneers, Grace O’ Malley. She led a lawless band of pirates and controlled the seas with much power and intimidation. She defied the government of local chieftains and rose as a competent commander. In fact, she ordered hundreds of men and approximately 20 ships for different attacks on opposing merchant ships. She called the shots at Rockfleet Castle, which became her base of operations, a force to reckon with.