as of current

hello I am here to explain everything I am able to comprehend about Caribbean trade routes and the logistics of pirate settlements.

[description: This is a map of the Caribbean islands (Greater and Lesser Antilles) and the Spanish Main (all that coastal stuff, ie the Spanish colonial mainlands) with numbers explaining different bits]

1) Up here north of this map were winds called “prevailing westerlies.” You had to catch the prevailing westerlies if you wanted to get back to Europe. I do not know why they were called westerlies when they in fact blow in a clockwise circle around the Atlantic Ocean. They do not seem like any-direction-lies, but this is I guess why I am not a geographer. See #6 for why you could not just sail between the Lesser Antilles to get out of the Caribbean, which seems like it would be much simpler.

2) New Providence Island! (ie Nassau) This was a great place for a pirate island because it was close to the passage between Cuba and Florida that Spanish ships from Mexico had to use if they wanted to get to the prevailing westerlies (#1), which they did. It’s also not far from the Windward Passage (#3), another potential route for ships heading back to Europe. It had a large harbor that was too shallow for most warships, and it had lots of yummy green turtles for pirates to gobble.

3) the Windward Passage! If ships were coming up from the coast of South America (see #7), this was a good and easy place for them to pass through the Antilles to get to the prevailing westerlies. It was therefore an excellent place for pirate ships to hang out. That teeeeny wee little island right to the west of my number 3 box? North of Haiti? That’s Tortuga! Pirates liked it there, and you can see why.

4) Port Royal! It’s not the same thing as Kingston; it’s a wee skinny spit of land in the Kingston Harbor. It is right between wealthy, wealthy Cartagena (#7) and the Windward Passage (#3), so a nice place for pirates to hang out. A bunch of it sank under the sea after an earthquake in 1692. Charles Vane and Jack Rackham were both hanged at Port Royal. :(

5) Mona Passage. You could sail your ship through this to get to the westerlies to the north, but trade ships did not love doing that. The Mona Passage had lots of unpredictable currents and was very dangerous. I’m marking it so you won’t say “hey but why didn’t they sail between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico?” They did sometimes. It was just more dangerous as a passage, and harder to get to anyway because you’d be sailing against the northeast trade winds.

6) Sailing between these small eastern islands (the Lesser Antilles) was a great way to get TO the Caribbean and the Spanish Main, if you caught the northeast trade winds. It was not a good way to get BACK, because you’d be sailing against the wind. Plus once you got out past the Lesser Antilles, you’d be stuck! No prevailing westerlies to swoosh you back to England or Spain with all your lovely sugar and gold.

7) Cartagena was one of the important Spanish ports; it exported a bunch of like Peruvian silver I think. I’m pointing it out mainly so you can see some of the places the Spanish were sailing from and why the Windward Passage would have been such a handy way to get out back to Spain (if it hadn’t been for those pesky pirates).

8) Over off east of this map were more Mexican cities. The Spanish also sailed from there. I mention this for the same reason I mentioned Cartagena (#7); ie so you can see why New Providence Island was such a good island for pirating until Woodes Rogers ruined everything.

9) A section of water you apparently could not sail through to get from Mexico to the lovely, convenient Gulf Stream (current) and the lovely, convenient prevailing westerlies (wind). If you wanted to get from Mexico out back to Spain, you had to THIS IS TRUE sail up to the mouth of the Mississippi (YES, south of New ORLEANS, I know, I find it insane also), and then around the coast of Florida. This route would spit you out, as you can see, right close to Nassau. Handy for pirates, no?

Every masterpiece I’d write again
You’ll always be my porcelain
I crossed my heart
But I stuttered too
So truth or dare
Was I good to you
Haven’t had enough of you all to myself
Still right beside you
In sickness and health
For ever after
You will be my home
And there’s no place like home

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7

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