The Whydah and the Witch

Cape Cod—Wellfleet, MA

I’ve spent the past two years contemplating this beach. It is the wreck site of the Whydah Gally, the ship captained and wrecked by the pirate Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy, who mistakenly trapped the ship to the shores of Wellfleet during a category 1 hurricane because he wanted to meet his lover Maria Hallet, the “Witch of Wellfleet”. Bellamy did not know, but Maria waited for his return in a fishing shack on the high cliffs overlooking the soft, sandy seashore.

There were two survivors and the lovers’ reunion exists only in legend. The Whydah was swallowed by trecherous sandbar and lost for 265 years. She was unearthed in 1984, buried under 20 feet of sand and water only 50 feet from shore.

When I first heard the story at the Salem Pirate museum about seven years ago, they told me that the ocean floor was covered in gold dust from the nearly three hundred year old coins churned apart by sand; an over-exaggeration, maybe, but enchanting nonetheless.

I have been to Cape Cod several times, but never to the town of Wellfleet, the harbor, or Marconi Beach. Seeing this world in person was like walking through a dream.

These are Maria’s cliffs. The cliffs of Wellfleet where the colonial Witch walked.

This is the whaling harbor—off-shore boats, long irons and lances: Blows, men! Blows!

Somewhere across—the Great Island where the tavern was hidden in those woods.

Those woods. All of Massachusetts is the same forest.

Those woods hid the tavern with ales and candles and pirate dreams.

There was the burying ground and the cemetery and the cemetery

(which one was the one where Sam met Maria?)

These are Maria’s cliffs, where she lived alone in these brambles, pine cones, purple flowers that look like bells. The soft,salty sand and wave-streaked palisades—giant sandcastle walls.

These are Maria’s cliffs where she saw Sam Bellamy return to her.

This is where Sam Bellamy returned. The wind, the waves and the Whydah brought him home.

These waters are still hurricane waters. Careful with seals and sharks and storms.

This is where the Whydah sank, her jewels spilling out of the lightning snap of a wooden belly.

This is where the Whydah rests.

Pirate dreams. Buried treasure. Buried.


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