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The Pirates of the British Virgin Islands

Though the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie was produced in other nations, filmmakers could have done a lot worse than shooting the Hollywood hit in the British Virgin Islands.

Truth be known, there isn’t a more apropos spot for a pirate flick than this archipelago. Its relationship with pirates, buccaneers, privateers and freebooters (bet you didn’t know that was another name for pirates) is not only legendary, it’s fact. The main channel separating Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands, from some of its sister islands was not only named for a well-known pirate but its nickname, Freebooters’ Gangway, is a nod to the depredations of local pirates. So, whenever filming begins on the next instalment of the blockbuster movie franchise, maybe it should actually be called “Pirates of the BVI.”

Consider these tidbits.

Even if you didn’t know what a Freebooters was, you certainly are aware of a very famous one, Francis Drake. That aforementioned channel is called Sir Francis Drake Channel. Don’t be fooled by the classy title — whether you were a pirate or a patriot was often a matter of perspective.

At one end of Drake Channel you’ll find a couple of green hilly islands named Great Thatch and Little Thatch.

Again, don’t be fooled by that either; “thatch” wasn’t that nice stuff that adds charm to English country cottages.

Thatch was a reference to a man, who was also known as Teach. Teach, in turn, was better recognized as Blackbeard. Just east of here, at a popular anchorage called Soper’s Hole, Blackbeard himself frequently lay in wait.

He certainly crossed Drake Channel more than once. Maybe he went over to Norman Island (named after a local pirate) and anchored in the Bight, looking for treasure from a Spanish galleon that was wrecked off that spot. Maybe he searched for ransom in Treasure Caves, or maybe he just dropped the hook around the corner in Privateer Bay.

Norman is no ordinary island when it comes to pirate lore. In fact, it is believed by many that this slice of paradise inspired “Treasure Island.”

Although you’re not guaranteed a pirate sighting, you’ve got a darn good chance of seeing one when you visit the British Virgin Islands.

Book a charter with Adventure Charters and laze off the beach on Deadman’s Bay. See that island just off shore? Fifteen men and a bottle of rum once hung out there — before attempting a swim to shore and inspiring this bay’s name in the process.

Head over to Jost Van Dyke and Soggy Dollar bar. Jost is named for yet one more pirate. You might not be pillaging on this pristine beach but you’ll certainly be carousing at its favourite drinking establishment. Like so many other places in the British Virgin Islands you’ll settle in for a while and catch yourself practicing how you say, “Yarrr.”

Top Photo: It’s a safe and friendly paradise now, but the British Virgin Islands were once notorious for the number of pirates who ravaged its waters. (Sharon Matthews Stevens for