Pirates and Hurricane Recovery on Ocracoke


Little known fact – While many think pirates only know how to plunder and pillage, we also know how to pick up friends in need.

Last weekend, those friends were the owners of Blackbeard’s Lodge on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.

Background – Every year the Blackbeard Pirate Jamboree is held on Ocracoke Island. It’s to commemorate Blackbeard’s last stand against Leftenant Maynard, right off the coast of the island.  Blackbeard’s Lodge has been our host, making sure the pirates had a roof over their head and a bed to rest on during the festival.

This year, Hurricane Matthew decided to change things. The Hurricane flooded the island, with nearly two feet of water in some buildings. The damage to the island, as well as the performers and attendees in other parts of North Carolina and down the East Coast, caused the organizers to make the difficult decision to cancel the festival.

While many of our pirate brethren were still dealing with their own hurricane problems, thanks to the organizational prowess of Captain Ben Bunn of the Ada Mae,  15 of us were rallied together to spend the weekend we had hoping to be at the festival, to help out at the lodge.

For those of you having a tough time figuring out who those scallywags are in their regular clothing , above you are seeing:

Top Row: Jeffrey Noel, Dallas Williams, Chip Stevens, Michelle Murillo, Ben Bunn and Joshua Byers. Second Row: Helena Stevens (standing), Mike Barnthouse (sitting), Laura Noel (sitting). Third Row: Kyle Gurney (standing), Jo Cannon (sitting), John Collamore (sitting). Bottom Row: James Byers (standing), Carl Cannon (sitting), JP Jordaans (sitting).

The Mission

The first day revolved mostly around removing damaged items. The piles of appliances and furniture were almost a block long. The picture below doesn’t do it justice, as this was after many passers-by scavenged from the pile.

img_7293In addition to clearing out the water-logged items , the crew got together and started repairs on the walkways that had been damaged or destroyed. At the front of the building, a team was working on the main walkway.


Out back, the secondary team was working on some destroyed walkways.  However, do note in this picture that it seems there are four supervisors as poor Josh is working his backside off. Someone said it reminded them of a Department of Transportation scene…


Here are a few more work pics …


Photo montage by Sea Scout Ship 530


Photo montage by Sea Scout Ship 530


Lunches were encampment-esque – with Leanne sorting out meals that we could all munch on under the canopy of trees near the lodge.


And before we were done, we ‘left our mark’.  One of the planks in the new front walkway bears the signatures of the crew.



At some point there was an impromptu game of “Whose Line Is It Anyway – Props Edition” using items from the trash pile.


Madonna?img_7143Dutch as a recently neutered dog.


The Celebration

Once the day’s work was over, we had a chance to dress up and take on the town…


…and we had reinforcements as the Motley Tones had been invited down to the island to do a little entertaining in the evening. They are such a joy to listen to and play with!!



Capt Ben Bunn (a.k.a. Capt Ben Crooked) took the stage for a few moments to recite his original mermaid poem. If you haven’t heard it, chase the man down and ask him to give you a recitation! It’s fabulous!

img_7255And what’s a tavern scene without a little gambling? The only thing I will mention here is that while you see only gents playing in this picture, at different times throughout the evening, Leanne, Natasha and I were the fourth player. In all but one game, the women won!



As hard as we worked during the days, we played equally hard each night. I can truly say I have not laughed so hard in years. Luckily, Chip always had the solution for my laughter headaches ‘How about another drink?” And my response, which became my nickname for the weekend, “Sure, I’ll have another.”

My other fond memory came Saturday night after we walked back to the lodge from Ocracoke Bar and Grille.  I needed help untying my stays. I was with a pair of Sea Scout leaders and an Eagle Scout. This should not be a problem, right? Many minutes, and tears of laughter later, JP, Chip and Kyle were still completely confused at how the stays worked and JP was starting to draw a knife to cut the lacing, when someone finally got the ribbon untied.

Remembering Blackbeard

Sunday Morning, tradition was upheld. One of the final events of the Pirate Jamboree every year is the memorial service. This year, even though the hurricane had thwarted the festival, we did not let it stop the memorial service.

It was off the coast of Ocracoke, in November 1718, that Blackbeard waged his final battle, and lost. The Sunday service is to remember all of those who died in that final battle.

Pirates who have lost their lives –

Edward Blackbeard Teach , Captain

Phillip Morton, gunner

Owen Roberts, carpenter

Garret Gibbons, bosun

John Phillips, sail maker

John husk, common sailor

Joseph Curtis , common sailor

Joseph Brooks Sr , common sailor

Thomas Miller, common sailor

Nathaniel Jackson, common sailor

Unknown white mariner, common sailor

Unknown black mariner, common sailor


His Majesty’s men killed –

Mr Edmund Hyde, midshipman

Mr Allen Arlington, coxswain

9 unknown royal navy sailors

One part of the service is to put a wreath in the water and let it float out to sea. Since we hadn’t brought a wreath along, I took a bit of the flora and fauna from the lodge and created one.


I am very proud of how it came out.


At precisely 10am, we began a procession from Blackbeard’s Lodge through the streets out Ocracoke and out to Springer’s Point.



Photo by Connie Leinbach


While the procession looked pretty good from the front, from my vantage point in the back, I realized that pirates can’t stand in lines very well.



Nonetheless, we made it to the service.

It was a lovely, intimate service with just the reenactors and the islanders who walked out with us.


Photo by Connie Leinbach


At the end of the ceremony, the wreath was placed in the water and the waves slowly moved it down the shore, losing a flower here and there, leaving a trail of them along the beach as it moved. It was quite beautiful.


Photo By John Collamore


Our weekend was also recorded much more officially than on this blog, in an article by Connie Leinbach with the Ocracoke Observer. Thanks so much for taking the time to write about us, Connie!

Here’s a link to her article:

Pirates rally to help the island

Something to be Thankful For

As I wrapped up the weekend on Ocracoke, I gave Chip a big hug and thanked him for my weekend.

He looked at me puzzled, “I’m the one who is thankful to you all for coming here to help us.”

“But,” I said, “by coming here this weekend I have had the most positive experience of this year.”

While there was work to be done, it never felt like work. Instead, it was time to get to better know some of the great people I have worked with over the years. And at the end, we had also accomplished doing a little bit to help our friends after a nasty hurricane. Win-win!!

As performers know, we are often so busy at events that we don’t have a chance to talk to one another more than just a few moments in passing. But by working on projects as a team, we spent hours together getting to have real conversations, as we worked, and really got a chance to enjoy one another’s company.  This weekend was truly priceless!

Thank you so much to Capt. Ben Bunn of the Ada Mae for organizing this gathering. And thank you to the Island of Ocracoke for again treating a bunch of crazy pirates like family!

The Road To Ocracoke

And now side jaunt # 1-

On my way to Ocracoke, I made a stop in Beaufort, NC to see the lovely Zatara Delavega! She was my ‘hotel’ for a night on this trip,  and before I left I had added a new piece of art to my collection. I love silhouette pieces and this was one of her completed works that needed to come home with me!!


There’s another one that was in progress that was already stunning which I will also be adding to my collection in the future! I can’t wait!!!

The Road Home from Ocracoke

Side Jaunt #2

If you didn’t know,  Wasabi and Mammasabi have relocated from a boat in Key West to a cute little home in Mayesville, South Carolina.  It also happened to be the 1/2 way point of my drive back to Florida, so I asked her if she minded if I check into the M&M(what they call their home) Manor for the night . I knew Momma and Poppa Ratzi would also be there, as they were helping with a little post-hurricane clean up, so I was excited to have a chance to see them all. Little did I know that I was showing up to a Battery B / Florida Keys Pirate reunion! Jake, Amy, Anne Marie and DB were also there.!!


Also, unbeknownst to me, they had also decided on holding Thanksgiving dinner, three weeks early. So Jake and Wasabi fried up a turkey…


And a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner was had!


What a joyous reunion!

As  I make my final trek towards home, I find myself feeling so very, very, rich in life, overflowing  wonderful experiences and unbelievably friends and family!

And I leave you with a mango lamp. Just because.


One comment on “Pirates and Hurricane Recovery on Ocracoke
  1. GREAT “shots and lines!” MIchelle, you are the best. We all look forward to getting together again next year. Thanks again for all you did to make this event so much FUN.

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