The Untimely End of the Good Ship Whydah

The Whydah is the only pirate ship found off the Cape Cod coast. The Whydah, one of the most advanced ships of her day, started life as a slave ship. Centuries-old Cape Cod tradition has it that Sam Bellamy, her captain came to Cape Cod from England after the War of Spanish Succession leaving behind a wife and child. Here he met and fell in love with the beautiful 15 year old Maria Hallett.

Chatham MA Whydah

Her parents wanted something better for her than a footless sea man, however, and forbade the two to wed. Bellamy then took a crew to the West Indies to search for a sunken treasure ship-and a fortune with which to marry Maria. Treasure-hunting is, however, easier said than done. Legend has it that Bellamy turned pirate after the expedition failed, rather than return to his Maria with empty hands. During his absence Maria gave birth to their child who died soon thereafter. But Maria remained steadfast.


Like many pirates of the early 18th-century, he was motivated by a spirit of revolt against political, social, and economic oppression. He and his crew considered themselves rebels rather than robbers, and called themselves "Robin Hood's Men"--after the famous English outlaw of the Middle Ages.

This spirit is reflected in the pirates' "constitution"--known as "The Articles". These democratic rules included surprisingly modern elements of "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity".

Bellamy captured of The Whydah Galley, a homeward-bound English slaver off the coast of Cuba. It was the pinnacle of Bellamy's career. According to court testimony, this vessel had 20-30,000 pounds sterling in silver and gold aboard as well as ivory and indigo.

Given that an honest sailor's pay for a month was perhaps two pounds sterling, this was an immense fortune for the men in Bellamy's pirate fleet.

He transferred his command to the Whydah after her capture, giving the Whydah's former captain and crew his boat, The Sultana. He, of course, kept all of the Whydah's plunder. Bellamy continued his pirating ways. However, longing for Maria, he soon turned the bow of his new flagship northward.

Chatham MA Whydah

Almost within reach of Maria on April 26, 1717, Bellamy was sailing along the outer shore of Cape Cod at night when a storm sank the Whydah. The Whydah was top heavy and highly susceptible to the driving winds blowing her ever closer to the shore. Amid scenes of mayhem the Whydah capsized, breaking her back with a heart-rendering crack.

Bellamy was 29 years old and he and his men had taken over fifty ships in the span of a little more than a year. Only two men survived the natural holocaust. One was an Indian pilot who quickly disappeared into the mists of history, the other Thomas Davis, a Welsh carpenter, whose vivid account of the shipwreck was preserved and passed from generation to generation through Cape Cod folklore.

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