1720: Charles Vane, an unsinkable pirate

On this date in 1720, Charles Vane’s resilient pirate career finally came to the end of a noose.

Like his onetime lieutenant Calico Jack Rackham, Vane plundered the American coast and the Caribbean during the twilight heyday of the buccaneer.

The man had a gift. From 1716 to late in 1718, Vane looted dextrously, even boldly spurning a royal pardon the better to keep his loot and mounting a flamboyant escape from the armada subsequent sent to detain him.

If he had a weakness, it was not as a mariner but as a manager. A notoriously tyrannous captain, Vane saw one aide turn on him and escape with a ship and a second — the aforementioned Rackham — mount a seaborne coup after Vane judiciously refused to engage a larger French man-o-war.

Nothing daunted by the loss of his command, Vane set about rebuilding his fortunes by resuming the conquest of prizes. Little could he see that the day of piracy was fast drawing to a close, and his own hourglass running faster still.

For all the catastrophes visited on him by his confederates, it required the connivance of nature to do him in. Early in 1720, a hurricane obliterated his ship (and most of his crew); tough old Vane managed to wash up on a deserted island* … but was recognized by his “rescuers” and delivered up to the British governor of Jamaica, who strung him up within the week.

* Straight out of piracy central casting, no? Would you also believe his crew had a renowned “pirate party” rendezvous with Blackbeard’s?

On this day..