The Nice Thing About Research - a Voyage to Nassau

Just look at that title - don't go thinking that I've been off on a jolly jaunt to the Bahamas with my dashing hero of a pirate, Captain Jesamiah Acorne, because, for all my wishful thinking (regarding jolly jaunts and my pirate) I haven't.

Traitor’s Knot : Amazon
A dear friend, and author (see last week's blog post about her book and Highwaymen) regularly visits Nassau and offered to supply me with some research information that I wanted for the next Sea Witch Voyage Gallows Wake. Although I have to be honest, it might be for the next-but-one, Jamaica Gold as, not having written Gallows Wake yet, I'm not entirely certain what will, or will not, be included.  Two hints though: Jesamiah finds himself aboard a Royal Navy Frigate, and the threat of the gallows looms... (I hope to have it written for early 2018 publication)

not yet written!
Anyway, I asked Cryssa for a few specifics because they are not easy to find via Google Wikipedia etc, and, bless her pirate boots, she came back with some fabulous information, which she generously said I could turn into a blog article. (The idea being a) gives me something to write about b) ensures I know where to find the info when I come to need it c) is a public way of saying thank you to Cryssa)

So, here's what she sent:

I’m a bit (a lot) shamefaced at the length of time that it’s taken me to write this up for you. You could have rafted to the Caribbean in less time.
I read Pirate Code while I was last down there and thought the bits you included about Nassau were very well done. I enjoyed it as much as Sea Witch which is the one thing a reader can ask for.

Now for Nassau.

December: the sun sets pretty quickly I find, no sooner than you realize the sun has set, it gets dark. I seem to remember the sun falling around 5 p.m and dark by 5.30. Sunrise is around 6.30 a.m. December is very unsettled weather because the cooler air comes down from the Florida coast and mixes with the warmer air from the south. It’s usual for it to be partly cloudy by noon (rather than clear blue skies), though the early morning seems to be more clear. There is always some heavy condensation or dew in the early morning that coats the windows and the chairs, etc. It can also be windy at this time and when the winds pick up they only die down after it rains. They can be windy for a few days in a row before the rain comes.

The half moon is very curious. Here it hangs on the side but there it lays on its back.

It’s hard to say what trees there would have been in the 18th century. I believe the palms were brought over from elsewhere. What is common along the natural coastline is a tree with soft needle like foliage. I wish I could name it but the people I asked had no clue. I can’t see Jesamiah fussing with botany though! It does remind me of an evergreen. Poincianas are also popular there but I’m not sure how far back they go. I get the sense they are native. I believe they lose some of their leaves in the winter.

There is a variety of sea gull that I’ve noticed only inhabits Paradise Island. It looks like a highwayman bandit as there is a dark band like a mask over the face. All the gulls around Nassau have black feet not yellow.

Grouper and conch are main staples down there. Yellow tailed snapper, red snapper, hog snapper are also well stocked. The island doesn’t have the soil for agriculture and they end up importing most of their food. The middle part of the island is higher than the rest of it but the elevation overall is not high. Blackbeard’s Tower, when it was still standing would have been the perfect place to see both approaches to the island.

Paradise Island used to be called Hogs Island because of the wild pigs that lived there. I believe most of these little islands were stocked with pigs, but now they are filled with high end yachts. This a brackish lake (fairly large) in the western part of the island and there are various streams and rivers that empty out into the water around Paradise Island (northern shoreline). It’s a bit sulphurous there and muddy and mucky with lots of ducks hanging out.

Nassau’s shoreline (the part that the hotels haven’t touched) tends to be both rocky and muddy. The rock is yellowish and pitted. The out islands (tiny Rose island, Harbour Island) are famous for their pink sand which isn’t what they have in Nassau.

July/August: By August, you’re getting into hurricane weather. July is hot but not completely unbearable because of the winds that blow in off the Caribbean. I’ve been in Florida during that same time (staying two blocks away from the beach) and the air felt like a closed oven. There is always humidity in Nassau but the shade does provide sufficient relief.

July is jelly fish season. I should know. I discovered them first hand - it’s not hard to get stung in the surf! When we were there in July, we noticed that it usually rained in the afternoon (around 2ish). The sky would go dark and violent as the storm came through, and then within a half-hour blew through. Sometimes there would be lightning. The sand flies are very annoying, they bite at ankles when you are on public beaches. If you see sting rays swimming close to shore, guaranteed there are sharks (sand sharks, tiger sharks) out there and most people prudently come in from the water. In July, I’ve seen warnings over lion fish (though it might have been December?)

Beaches - Cable Beach is just west of Nassau and tends to be somewhat sheltered so that even when it is very windy, you can still safely swim. There isn’t a big undertow there. Goodman’s Bay, which is beside Cable Beach is very shallow. The sand in the water is somewhat spongy.

Paradise Island is the best looking beach, but it can be very dangerous. It’s completely exposed and when the weather is windy and unsettled (no matter the season), you could have six foot waves. You’ll get the roar of the waves crashing there. In Cable Beach, not as much.

Along the west end of the island there are caves but I haven’t explored those. The southern end of the island has fewer beaches. It’s rockier there and has more places to snorkel. It looks a bit rougher too.

I’ve revisited the Pirate museum and have a few pictures, one being a map of Fort Nassau at the time of Woodes Rogers.


Legend has it that 'Blackbeard's Tower' was where he would keep watch on shipping coming in and out of harbour. It is unlikely to have been Blackbeard's - but it was a watch tower!

The tower' is situated on a ridge five miles east of Fort Montagu on the island of New Providence, Nassau. The tower was used as a lookout point, giving commanding views over the sea. Today, the ruins are nothing more than crumbling masonry, and it is not easy to find, as the site is tucked away in an overgrown location and not visible from the road.

It is highly unlikely that Blackbeard himself had anything to do with the tower - it was more likely to be a military installation to keep watch for the Spanish, who raided Nassau several times. 
I wonder if Governor Woodes Rogers was responsible for its building?

There's nothing to say the place wasn't connected with Blackbeard though...!

photos: Cryssa Bazos

This is the view from the base
of the tower facing north.
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Thank you Cryssa - expect some of the above information in one of the next Voyages!

a few more photos of NASSAU 
My thanks to José Bográn for these photos! 

approaching Nassau - sunset 

 Nassau Harbour
View from the cannon mount at Fort Fincastle (c 1793).

Cannon mount at Fort Fincastle. 
These are replicas, the original weaponry was sent back to England.

View of the other end of Fort Fincastle. 
Fun fact: the castle was shaped to look as a seagoing ship.

View from the bottom of the Queen’s Staircase. 
Carved by slaves in the 18th Century 
(after Jesamiah's time)

Market stalls at the bottom of Queen’s Staircase

I have more Behind the Scenes 
photos of all my books

Highwaymen: Pirates of the Road

 .... my guest this week: Cryssa Bazos

 Rogues, pirates and scoundrels. Why are we so fascinated by them?  Is it the sense of adventure or living vicariously through those who are not confined by rules? Since you’re following Helen’s blog, you know all about pirates, so I’m here instead to wax poetic about a different type of pirate, one that ruled the dark byways and wooded trails—the highwayman.

Also called highpads and knights of the road, highwaymen have seized the public’s imagination for nearly four hundred years. They’ve been celebrated for their cunning and daring, often considered the aristocrats of the criminal world; a cut above the common criminal.

Attribution: British Library via Visual Hunt [Public Domain]
Before engaging in their nefarious profession, it was not uncommon for many of these highwaymen to have been reasonably educated and employed in influential households, so they knew a thing or two on how to converse with polite society.

While the 18th century experienced a golden age for highwaymen, similar to pirates (who hasn’t heard of Dick Turpin?), the public’s fascination with these rogues goes back even further, to the 17th century, and there were a surprising number of infamous ones, including Captain Hind, Charles Duvall, and the Wicked Lady, highway(woman) Katherine Ferrers.

Attribution: The British Library via Visual Hunt [Public Domain]
The 17th century was a time of political turmoil not just in England - the Thirty Years War, War of the Three Kingdoms, specifically the English Civil War. Even during the latter part of the century, when the English crown changed hands peacefully through the Glorious Revolution, you had the ousted Jacobites to contend with. After the English Civil War, many Royalist soldiers couldn’t return to their sequestered estates and found themselves bankrupt. For these men, highway robbery was a matter of survival; for others, it was a way to avenge themselves against an enemy who had executed their king.
Attribution: NPG D29229; James Hind published
by John Scott (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) 
A highwayman who became famous for harassing Roundheads was Captain James Hind. Though Hind had been engaged in highway robbery with the Bishop Allen gang before the war, he gained notoriety for his activities during the war. Hind became a bit of a folk hero - charming, witty, entertaining his “clients” in exchange for relieving them of their purses. He couldn’t resist harassing barristers, tax collectors and pompous wealthy merchants, so you can appreciate why the masses loved this guy. There were even stories of him taking pity on the destitute by giving them back some of his “earnings”.

One of my favourite Captain Hind stories involves a bailiff, an innkeeper and a usurer. Once in Warwickshire, Hind came upon a disturbance in front of a public house which blocked traffic. The innkeeper owed £20 to the usurer, but because business was poor, he couldn’t repay the debt on time, and the officials had come to arrest him and seize what they could.

Hind felt sorry for the man. He settled the bond, paid the innkeeper’s debt and the bailiff’s fees from his own funds. Everyone was happy - the bailiffs toddled off and the usurer left the innkeeper in peace. The man’s goods had been saved.

The grateful innkeeper invited Hind to be his guest for as long as he desired, but Hind excused himself, claiming he had a matter to attend first. Hind rode after the usurer, and when they were far enough away from the town, held him up. Not only did Hind retrieve the £20 he had given to settle the bond, he stole another £20. Later than night, Hind returned to the innkeeper and gave him the cancelled bond along with £5, saying, “he had good luck by lending his money to honest men.”
[Helen says: 'I'm laughing here - what a wonderful man!']

When the English Civil War broke out, Captain Hind chose the King (rather surprising considering he lived outside the law). He fought as a Foot soldier under William Compton, the Governor of Banbury, and received his commission from him at Colchester during the second Civil War.

The legend of Captain Hind grew into the 18th century, until he became a Royalist beacon of resistance, robbing the Roundheads and leaving good Royalists unmolested. In particular, he targeted the regicides, those responsible for the King’s trial and execution. He out-sermoned Hugh Peters, robbed the King’s judge, John Bradshaw, and nearly succeeded in holding up Oliver Cromwell’s coach. All tall tales, but the public ate them up.

His service record, however, was rooted in fact, not myth. After King Charles I was executed, Hind left England and travelled to The Hague, where the new king, Charles II, lived in exile. Curiously, he stayed a few days before sailing for Ireland on a ship that carried the “king’s effects.” Cromwell’s men were engaged in fierce fighting in Ireland, and it’s possible that the ship carried supplies, and very likely dispatches for King Charles II’s supporters. Hind spent several months there fighting with the Royalists, and when Charles made an alliance with the Scots to support him against the English Parliament, Hind followed him to Scotland where he pledged him his sword.

A year later, Hind with the King’s army, returned to England. The King got as far as Worcester before being penned in at all sides by Cromwell’s army. On September 3, 1651, the final battle of the Civil War was fought.

It was a disaster, with Royalists fleeing for their lives. Being an enterprising fellow and an expert at finding hidden trails, Hind managed to escape and made it back to London, where he lived incognito for five weeks until he was caught.

Hind was never tried for highway robbery. Instead, Parliament wanted him for treason, for they believed that he had been responsible for the King’s escape from Worcester. Eventually, Hind was found guilty and was hanged, drawn and quartered. His last words on the scaffold were a reaffirmation of his loyalty to the King.

Attribution: Captain James Hind, via Visual Hunt
Captain Hind, highwayman, rogue and keen wit remained an unrepentant Royalist to the very end.

About Traitor’s Knot
England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor's Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

Praise for Traitor's Knot

"A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story. Five stars." Elizabeth St. John, bestselling author of The Lady of the Tower

“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” – Carol McGrath, bestselling author of The Handfasted Wife

“Cryssa Bazos is equally at home writing battle scenes as writing romance, and the pace keeps the reader turning the pages.” - Deborah Swift, bestselling author of The Gilded Lily.

Cryssa Bazos is a member of the Romantic Novelist Association, the Historical Novel Society, the Writers' Community of Durham Region and the Battle of Worcester Society. Her articles and short stories have been featured in various publications, both in Canada and the UK. She is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors site and blogs as the 17th Century Enthusiast. 

Her debut novel, Traitor's Knot, was placed 3rd in Romance for the Ages in 2016 (Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance).

Social media and buy link:

Twitter: @CryssaBazos

Traitor’s Knot is available through Amazon.

 And as an extra bonus: Loreena McKennitt The Highwayman ...