Blackbeard’s Crew Incorporated of Hampton is on a mission to acquire and operate the Tall Ship “Adventure”, an authentic working reproduction of a 65 foot Colonial trade vessel and Blackbeard’s true flagship in Downtown Hampton, Virginia. Within the scope of our project goal is the creation of a viable Hampton Seaport Partnership between Blackbeard’s Crew, the Downtown Development Partnership and various entities within the city of Hampton such as Parks and Recreation and Tourism and Convention.
To serve as a focal point for tourism and economic development, to provide a visible link to Hampton’s rich maritime heritage as a continuous living history exhibit, and to provide an Interactive, educational outreach platform for children, adults, and families.
As Virginia grew from its precarious start in the early 17th century to a stable and growing, revenue-producing colony in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Hampton steadily grew into prominence as the most important seaport on the Mid-Atlantic coast.
In 1710, a customs house was established on Hampton Creek to serve the entire Lower James River District, which included both sides of the river as far north as Jamestown and as far east as the entrance to the York River. Records of the time indicate that trading vessels out of Hampton typically carried 30 to 40 tons of cargo and traded as far north as Boston, as far south as Barbados and as far east as Bermuda. In 1718, when Governor Spotswood sought to hire two sloops or small ships similar to the Tall Ship Adventure for use by the Royal Navy in their expedition to find and kill Blackbeard the pirate, he found them easily In Downtown Hampton.
It has now been 300 years since Blackbeard plundered and pillaged the Virginia coast and the Hampton River in his beloved sailing vessel, the “Adventure”. The fast, shallow draft “Bermuda” sloops, ketches and cutters were the mainstay of maritime commerce and a very common sight in the Hampton River from Blackbeard’s day through the War Between the States.
Each year the first weekend in June during the Hampton Blackbeard Pirate Festival we re-create that long-lost common sight of those marvelous sailing vessels. The ADVENTURE was a gift from Teach’s pirate mentor Benjamin Hornigold in 1717, the vessel armed with swivel guns and deck guns were on all of Blackbeard’s exploits.
The Tall Ship Adventure with approximately 14 gross tonnages will be a cutter rigged ketch, 36 to 39 feet long on deck (60 to 65 feet overall), 13 feet beam, and will draw 6 feet of water. Cold-molded wooden (Alaskan White Cedar & White Oak) construction throughout, and although the vessel will have the required modern accouterments such as a diesel engine, marine heads, stove, and other equipment, these will be situated out of sight below. The decks, rigging, sails, hold, and master’s cabin will be maintained to appear as authentic to the period as possible. Ultimately the Tall Ship Adventure will be USCG certified for passengers on the Chesapeake Bay and other inland and coastal waters.
The initial cost for the Blackbeard’s Crew Incorporated vessel, retrofitting, arming with the appropriate cannons and obtaining the required equipment including a ships dinghy will be approximately $35,000 with a six-month timeline to have the vessel in the water and tied up to the Hampton city docks. Most of the cosmetic retrofitting will then be accomplished with the boat floating and highly visible in the downtown Hampton area. The retrofitting work will be done by the members of Blackbeard’s Crew dressed in appropriate 18th-century Maritime attire in plain view for the general public to see and appreciate. This will give us the ability to not only work on the vessel but to provide 18th-century Maritime Living History education simultaneously.
In comparison, other organizations with similar projects have proposed budgets between $250,000 and over $1 million for ships only slightly larger than the proposed Tall Ship Adventure with projected timelines of more than a decade. In addition, the general public rarely has an opportunity to observe the restoration or retrofitting of these other projects.
Dockside in Hampton or in other ports of call, the Tall Ship Adventure would be available for public and private tours, school tours and educational programs, meetings and receptions, and as a film production set. While docked in Downtown Hampton, the vessels appearance itself will serve to provide a visual link to and generate interest in, Hampton’s maritime history and heritage.
Underway, the Tall Ship Adventure will serve as a floating ambassador representing Hampton and Virginia’s rich maritime history. The Adventure will be available to participate in maritime festivals, maritime parades, and film productions and to serve as a floating monument to those early mariners that help create our great state and country.
Both dockside and underway the Tall Ship Adventure will represent our local, state and national maritime history from the days of Blackbeard and the Golden Age of Piracy, through the height of the Virginia Navy protecting the Virginia colony, through the days of the American Revolution and continuing on past the War of 1812 into the American Civil War. The Tall Ship Adventure’s Gaff rigged Ketch British Cutter design span the overwhelming majority of our nation’s maritime history.
Future prospects could very well include individual or group charters, corporate team-building sails, school trips and educational programs, sail training cruises, and scouting programs.
The Tall Ship Adventure will be staffed and crewed by volunteer members of the Blackbeard’s Crew Incorporated of Hampton. During times of public operation, the crew will be dressed in proper 18th-century Maritime attire which will augment the vessels visual impact. Even though the intent of the project is to primarily highlight maritime history between 1650 and 1730, the Tall Ship Adventure’s design and appearance will encompass many timelines of history.
Upon completion of the project, the members of Blackbeard’s Crew will develop the ability to adapt appropriate attire for any historical timeline the vessel is called upon to portray. This ability will be invaluable given the close proximity of Fort Monroe, Fort Wool (Fort Calhoun), Jamestown and Yorktown.
Educate the public as to the contribution of ordinary seamen to transatlantic trade and North American colonization during the period 1650 to 1730.
Educate the public as to the impact of piracy upon the economic cycle of transatlantic trade during the Golden Age of Piracy.
Educate the public as to the impact of man’s activities upon the North Atlantic Oceans’ and the Chesapeake Bay environment since North American colonization began.
Employ living history interpretation as a primary method to educate the public by accurately portraying the lifestyle, manner of dress and speech, common knowledge and skills, weapons, tools, and crew organization of both pirates and ordinary seamen both afloat and ashore during the Golden Age of Piracy.
Provide realistic portrayals of pirates and other seamen so the public, especially children, may readily see them in contrast to pirates and seamen typically portrayed in the movie industry.
Promote the city of Hampton and the former County of Elizabeth City Virginia’s rich maritime history and that history’s relevance to the creation and success of America.
Blackbeard’s Crew Incorporated membership is comprised exclusively of extremely talented unpaid volunteers that are dedicated to the preservation of history. No one from the rank-and-file member to the very top of the organization draws a salary of any kind. The membership devotes hundreds of hours of their time a year in addition to spending hundreds of dollars a year of their own money to ensure the success of our organization’s mission. A portion of the membership essentially volunteers full time without a salary and contributes thousands of dollars a year to ensure the success of the organization.
Promoting Hampton’s History:
As a mechanism to promote Hampton’s rich history, the members of Blackbeard’s Crew created the event known as the Hampton Blackbeard Pirate Festival as part of the OpSail2000 celebration. Since the year 2000, the membership of Blackbeard’s Crew has worked diligently not only to keep the event alive but to grow the event into the finest and highest quality living history event in the country.
Throughout the year the membership of Blackbeard’s crew travels to many jurisdictions for attendance at living history events. During these other events, it gives Blackbeard’s Crew an opportunity to highlight and advertise the Hampton Blackbeard Pirate Festival in addition to highlighting and promoting Hampton’s phenomenal history.
During these other events, our members perform talent scout duties within the living history arena for recruitment of other living history groups, musical groups and period vendors for performances at the Hampton Festival. In addition, we have an opportunity to distribute printed material advertising Hampton.
The members of Blackbeard’s Crew throughout the year also participate in local events including but not limited to supporting the goals and objectives of the city of Hampton, Parks and Recreation, Tourism and Convention and the Downtown Hampton Development Partnership. Blackbeard’s Crew in the past is also provided reenactors and crew physical assets in support of educational activities with the Virginia Air and Space Center such as their home school program along with special events sponsored by the Hampton History Museum.
The members of Blackbeard’s Crew currently has the ability to enter into virtually any venue and establish a full 18th-century Maritime encampment offering a wide range of living history education and entertainment. This includes but definitely not limited to period cooking, medicine, hygiene, colonial games, rope making, 18th Century Shipboard Life to include rigging, sails, weapons, and artillery. We also have a 22 foot historically accurate gaff-rigged sloop sailing vessel to use onshore as the centerpiece for the encampment or afloat to participate in small boat skirmishes. This gives us the ability to demonstrate and educate the inner workings of sail-powered vessels, navigation and simple machines such as block and tackle another rigging with the public safety on shore.
With the addition of the Tall Ship “Adventure”, the members of Blackbeard’s Crew will soon have the ability to offer a maritime venue the full living history educational experience of having a full 18th-century encampment on shore along with a historic heavily armed privateer vessel afloat.