The year 1717 began very well for a pirate named Sam Bellamy. He and his men had been prowling the waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Their prey was ships traveling between the Caribbean islands and England—ships laden with gold and silver and silk and spices. Bellamy had 145 men in his crew and a fleet of five stolen ships. Their best ship was the Whydah, which Bellamy and the crew had recently taken from English slave traders. The ship was big, fast, and sturdy. Terrified ship captains surrendered quickly when they saw the Whydah on their tails, its black flag raised, its huge cannons ready to fire. They expected Bellamy and his men to steal their ships and kill them all.
But Bellamy wasn’t a murderer. He was a thief, and a very successful one. In just one year, Bellamy and his men had looted more than 50 ships. By April 1717, the Whydah was filled with plundered treasures, including 180 bags of gold and silver coins. It was time to head to their hideaway: an island off the coast of Maine. There, they would divide up their booty and head their separate ways.