Sailor, Buccaneer, Pirate
There is little documentation of Charles Vane's early career. The one
exploit that comes down to us tells of the wreck of a Spanish galleon in the
early eighteenth century in shallow water off the coast of Florida. While
many other pirates fought over the site, the Spanish sent in some warships.
The warships drove off the pirates. Conserving his resources, Vane waited
for the Spanish to recover the riches from the wreck then waylaid the
recovering ship, taking one of the richest prizes in pirate history. Vane
came to prominence at the time when Woodes Rogers assumed the post of
governor of New Providence, July 1718. Vane was one of the few pirates then
operating out of that haven that was willing to stand up to Rogers and
unwilling to accept the British pardon.
Vane stalled Rogers' arrival in New Providence by setting a ship afire and
sending it into the British frigate Rose. The next day Vane raised all sail
and escaped the harbor with a ship full of plunder. Vane ranged freely for
much of the next three years. At one point he had built a fleet of three
ships. There was some dissension in the ranks as a small portion of his
crew, led by a pirate named Yeats, took a prize ship and escaped to
Charleston where they surrendered and accepted the British pardon.
One of the notorious events of Vane's career seems to have been an extended
(from mid-September to early October 1718) binge with Blackbeard's crew at
Ocracoke Inlet in North Carolina. Vane and his crew continued to range north
as far as Long Island. At one point off New Jersey, Vane's small fleet ran
into a French warship and being a prudent leader Vane decided to retreat.
Led by John Rackham, the crew voted Vane out as captain and cast him and a
small contingent loyal to him out in an unarmed sloop. Undaunted, Vane
rebuilt his fleet of ships and fame to a greater height over the next three
Not long afterward a hurricane in the Bay of Honduras stranded him, as the
sole survivor of his ship, on a tiny island where he survived on fish and
bananas. After a while a Jamaican sloop captained by Vane's once friend
Holiford, now reformed, stops at the island. Knowing his past friend too
well, Holiford refuses to take Vane on board for fear of having him turn his
crew against him and 'run away with my ship apirating'. Not long after
another ship picked up Vane, not knowing his reputation, but before Vane
could return to pirating he was recognized and taken to Port Royal, where he
was turned over to the authorities. Vane a pirate who had twice risen to the
heights of piracy was hanged within the week.
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