By 1660, the English had established themselves in Jamaica and begun treating the Cayman Islands as natural appendages of the larger territory. However, apart from small settlements on Grand Cayman and Little Cayman, most of the three islands were left untouched. This was ideal for pirates, since Cayman also lay astride the route of treasure galleons returning to Spain, laden with gold and silver from the New World.
This promise of capturing Spanish treasure ships on their way home from the Caribbean soon attracted the attention of a motley crowd of buccaneers, pirates and freebooters. The ‘Golden Age’ of piracy spanned from the 1650s to the 1730s and Cayman’s most notorious pirate was Edward Teach, otherwise known as Blackbeard, who frequented the area from 1713 to his death on the 22nd of November 1718.
Despite the celebration of Pirates Fest (Cayman’s National Festival), which runs for seven weeks from the middle of October each year, the piratical part of Cayman history is downplayed in favour of district heritage days. However, some of the biggest names in buccaneering circles, including Lowther, Lowe, Morgan and Blackbeard, prowled the coasts of the Cayman Islands.
According to Neville Williams’ ‘A History of the Cayman Islands’, the abundance of fresh water, turtle meat and wood made Cayman an ideal landing spot. Furthermore, the Islands offered pirate captains the possibility of finding crews to man captured vessels and a quiet location away from the authorities where pirates could hide their loot and careen and repair their vessels.
However, this pirate’s haven only lasted for about 110 years; by the 1730s, the scourge of the buccaneers had been largely tamed, if not discouraged by the growing population. If curious to learn more about its swashbuckling history, there’s a great article on Explore Cayman that further explains Cayman Pirates Week.