I didn’t run. My hands trembled, my chest tightened and my lungs seeped shallow puffs of irregular breath. I had just committed an act of piracy. I knew legal definitions could be tricky. I was afraid that if I ran, it would have changed my crime from “robbery” to “thievery” and to be a pirate, I had to commit an act of robbery on the high seas. So I clenched my fist around my prize, turned, took three brisk steps and stopped, just to verify to myself that I was not running. Then I continued across the deck, down the stairs and back to my cabin. No one followed. I had done it. I was officially a pirate.
What is a pirate and how do you really become one?
According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, piracy is: “any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State.” (italics mine)
To become I pirate, I boarded Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas and while on the high seas I committed an act of depredation. I knew we were on on the “high seas” (international waters) because the casino was open. They can only operate outside the jurisdiction of individual nations. I chose robbery as my “act of depredation” and targeted a passenger of the ship. Now this is where it gets tough. “Robbery” is defined as taking the private property of another by force or intimidation using or threatening to use a weapon. So a grab-and-run is not “robbery.” Sneaking something out from under someone’s nose or picking a pocket is not “robbery.” This piracy thing is hard core. This gave me pause. I’m a nice person. Wasn’t there some way to nicely become a pirate? But everything I thought of just watered it down to the point it no longer met the definition of piracy and I was determined to be a pirate.
Not quite a pirate…
I was already a sea-dog. I honestly don’t remember learning how to swim. I learned so young, in the arms of a mother who was a strong swimmer, graceful diver, and a life-guard. I was already a sailor. I learned from my father on his sloop, Scheherazade (named after the story-telling queen in 1001 Arabian Nights.) I was already a captain. Having taken Scheherazade out on my own and teaching others how to sail. I was already a buccaneer, having enjoyed many beach barbecues. I was even already a smuggler having lain in supplies of Canadian beer then sailing back to the USA across Lake Erie without bothering customs officials. (I will neither confirm nor deny any part I may have played in the Cuban cigars given to my father, brother-in-law, and son-in-law over the years.) But the title “pirate” always eluded me.
A crime needs a victim
I steeled my courage. and secreted my blade in my pocket. It was the seam ripper from my travel sewing kit. I walked through the casino, just to satisfy myself that it was open and we were in international waters. Then I went up to the lido deck in the dark. It was windy. Not many people came up there this late. Most people passed through in couples or groups on their way to somewhere else. Twice I followed men across the deck, but did not have the courage to execute my plan. I was practicing targeting a victim. I purposely did not “go all the way” to get used to the process. If it didn’t feel good, I didn’t have to do it. Then I saw him, the man that would make me a pirate.
What is the life of a pirate without a little romance?
He was a 20-something, happily drunk young man. I was at least 10 years older. He actually came to me, a little unsteady, but he looked like he might ask me to have a drink with him. He asked me what I was doing all by myself. I looked up flirting with this kid, “Becoming a pirate.”
“How do you do that exactly?”
“I have to rob someone at sea.”
He was kind of cute, fumbling for something witty to say. While he fumbled for words, I fumbled for my seam ripper and brought it up between our faces with the plastic cap still on. He looked at it, confused and a little cross-eyed.
I uncapped the tiny forked blade.
“A button cutter” I said, wedging the blade between his shirt pocket and the button that held it closed. I had to use more force than I thought to cut through the thread but with a twist, it was in my hand. I had robbed him of his button on the high seas! I brandished the tiny seam-ripper again. I might have even said “arr!”
How would he react? I could get into a lot of trouble for this. In spite of the negligible value of the button, I did just assault a cruise ship passenger. But there was no going back. I had crossed the line into piracy. “Don’t run!” I told myself.
“Aren’t you going to rape and pillage me too?” he asked.
I knew then, I had gotten away with it and I smiled. “Maybe some other time.”
Yes, I am a pirate.
I put that button on a charm bracelet. It’s my pirate treasure, my booty. It’s more precious to me than gold doubloons. It’s not just a button. It’s proof of my brazen piratical nerve. And as Anaïs Nin said, “One’s horizon shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
Read ~ Write ~ Wander
(The picture of me snorkeling was taken by my daughter, Madalyne Smith. The picture of me and my father was taken by my daughter Emily Pearch. Pictures of me sailing were taken by my husband Wayne “Dearest” Hilbert.)
Note, to any government officials monitoring this blog: The statute of limitations has long since run out on any alleged illegal activity that may have been referenced in this yarn. … just sayin’.