Here at the Bayfront Marin House, we love our guests!
We’re headed into high season, and the town is filling up with visitors–it’s great to see all the bustle and activity. And with the increase of tourists, so comes an increase in beautiful days–we’ve been in the mid-70s for about two weeks now!
But St. Augustine has not always been happy to see visitors. At least, not all visitors.
In 1668, the pirate Robert Searle and his men captured a Spanish ship off the coast of Havana. The ship was filled with supplies for the early settlers of St. Augustine (then called San Augustin).
The pirates didn’t kill the crew (at least not then), but instead made them stand at the rail of the ship as they sailed into the Matanzas Bay–waving and reassuring the townspeople who had gathered to welcome them.
The Spanish harbor pilot, whose job it was to guide the ship safely in, went out to the ship. He and his crew were immediately surrounded. The boat stayed in the harbor. The next day a second, smaller ship came into the harbor, but that didn’t concern the townspeople, as they had been expecting a second supply ship.
Because everything seemed normal, the Governor sent all the garrison soldiers home to go to sleep.
That night, more than 100 pirates slipped into San Augustin. These were not pirates like Johnny Depp–these were frightening and blood thirsty attackers. Searles’ sack lasted 20 hours and left 60 residents dead. They looted government buildings, churches, and private homes. They set the town on fire. At the end, the pirates took 70 prisoners, and held them for ransom, asking for water, meat, and wood. The Governor said he would agree to their demands, provided that the pirates give the townspeople much-needed flour in addition to the captives.
The exchange was eventually made, and six days after the sack, the pirates left the Matanzas Bay.
The attack convinced Spain that a fortress was needed to protect the city, and they issued the settlers money to build the Castillo de San Marcos, which still guards the north end of the city today.
You can always tour the fort during your stay, but if you are here on March 2nd and 3rd you can actually see a reenactment of the 1668 sack.
During the day, you can see the Spanish encampment at the Fountain of Youth (free with paid admission). Authentic reenactors will host drills and demonstrations throughout the day.
At 4:30 on Friday, the call to arms of Spanish soldiers will begin at the Plaza. The skirmish will continue up St. George Street and will end at the city gates. Reenactors will be depicting Native Americans, soldiers, pirates and townspeople. The sack is a favorite event each March–with visitors cheering on the townspeople and booing the pirates!
For more information, visit www.searlesbucs.com, and if pirate stories are your jam, make sure you spend some time in our city’s pirate museum. It includes all kinds of authentic pirate gear–from chests to guns to the only known Black Jack pirate flag–and, if real pirates are a little too scary for you, there’s even a room dedicated to the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise. With a life size cut out of Johnny Depp.