Hollywood and popular culture tend to portray pirates as handsome swashbucklers or fun-loving scalawags.
Truth is, these men (and women) weren't always about "yo-ho-ho" and a bottle of fun.
In fact, they were often ragged, disease-carrying human beings with rotten teeth. They were capable of brutal, casual violence and when they ransacked ships, they took not only treasure but supplies of fresh food and water, medicine, soap and clean clothing.
Nevertheless, this colorful breed of sailor continues to fascinate. Learn more about them now that a traveling exhibit has dropped anchor at the Dunedin Historical Museum.
"Pirates: Menace & Mayhem" features graphic panels and artifacts on loan from the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West. Private collectors have also contributed to the exhibition.
The show shares the history and lore of the Golden Age of Piracy through displays of weapons, navigational apparatuses, flogging whips, rum bottles, maps and other relics.
Feast your eyes on "pieces of eight," bars of gold, doubloons and gemstones — not the real thing, mind you, because the museum wants to keep any modern-day pirates at bay.
"I want to stress that all the coins, gold, jewelry and gems are reproductions, but all the other artifacts are real," said Vinnie Luisi, the museum's executive director.
The exhibition, on tap until the end of February, also features information on Caladesi Island's pirate connection and a display of memorabilia from Tampa's Gasparilla Festival.
Children will enjoy pirate play by dressing up in costumes, reading books, playing computer games and making their own pirate flag.
They'll see that not every day was about adventure, plunder and gold.
"Life onboard a pirate ship was often tedious," Luisi said. "Days were spent cleaning and repairing the sails, swabbing the deck and maintaining the rat-infested ship. Spare time was filled by drinking rum and wine. Often they had to go for a while without fresh water, so alcohol was their alternative."
Amputation was a way of life as injured limbs, often the result of combat, were sawed off by the ship's surgeon — or cook. Missing body parts were replaced or covered with eye patches, hooks and peg legs. Scurvy, dysentery and other diseases were common among the ranks.
Treasure was often squandered on drink, women, gambling and other vices.
Despite their flaws, these thieves of the high seas did have a code of honor. Those who disobeyed were subject to marooning, hangings and floggings.
The ship was run as a democracy with each sailor having the right to vote on things such as share of the loot and disposing of the captain.
Some were privateers authorized by a government or private entity to attack foreign ships.
The infamous Captain Kidd started out as a pirate hunter but was later tried and hanged for piracy. (The rope broke the first time, so he was hanged twice.) His corpse was placed inside a metal cage, or gibbet, and displayed along the shoreline of the River Thames to serve as a warning to other pirates.
A replica of the device is on display.
This show is rated "Aaarrr!" for family fun.