Arts and Entertainment

Brotherhood of Oceanic Mercenaries come ashore for Port Orchard's Murder Mystery days

The Life of a Part-time Pirate.

Captain ‘Splinter’ McCormick earned his piratical moniker during a bloody battle whilst being held captive aboard a Royal Navy ship. More out of self-preservation than any loyalty to the crown or his captain, he loaded his gun with the only ammunition at his disposal — the shattered remains of the ship’s quarter deck — and near single-handedly took down the enemy.

“Firing these large shards of this splintered flaming wood at the quarter deck crew of the other ship, he was able to decimate that ship’s quarter deck, killing an officer of the ship and turning the tide of the battle,” said Steven Black, the man who invented Captain McCormick.

Though Captain ‘Splinter’ isn’t an actual or historical pirate, Black is somewhat of a scholar of piracy. He can easily ramble for more than an hour on the subject of “The Golden Age” and the historical piratical performance group he leads — Portland’s Brotherhood of Oceanic Mercenaries. He and the group — as Captain Splinter and the crew of the Emerald Rose — will be coming ashore in Port Orchard this weekend to put a little ‘boom’ in the town’s annual Murder Mystery days, Sept. 12-13.

The fourth annual event “for sleuths, mystery aficionados and especially pirate wanna-be’s” welcomes visitors — at $10 per person ages 12 and up, $5 for 12 and younger and $20 for families of three — to stroll through town interviewing suspects, investigating crime scenes and searching for clues in a dastardly who-dun-it. The Murder Mystery weekend also includes a pancake breakfast, costume contests, merchant booths, a Landlubber Dinghy Derby — a soap box derby with cars made to look like pirate ship dinghies — a Pirate Ball at Moondogs Too along with combat stunt shows and black powder cannon demonstrations from the BOOM pirates.

Though he won’t be firing off any flaming splintered shards of quarter deck, Captain ‘Splinter’ notes,

“All of our black powder weapons — pistols, blunderbusses, muskets, cannons — are all fully functioning replicas, though we don’t have any that are 400 years old.”

At last count, Splinter says, the Emerald Rose had 12 cannons and mortars in its battery, along with five blunderbusses, seven muskets and more than 70 small arms. The crew of the Emerald Rose was recently named the official black powder group for the Northern California Pirate Festival in Vallejo, Calif., and will also be firing its cannons at the Royal Navy during the culmination of the Portland Pirate Festival on Sept. 19.

“We decided what we’d do,” Black explained of BOOM’s mission, “instead of just standing around and saying ‘argh!’ — which we do very well — we would have live entertainment shows as well.”

Though not technically a reenactment troupe, since the BOOM pirates as well as their ship the Emerald Rose are all fictitious creations, the group strives for historical authenticity in its portrayal, and even offers historical presentations for all levels of school with a wealth of piratical knowledge and tidbits.

“The rise of piracy 400 years ago was pretty much the same as what’s happening in Somalia or any other place where there’s piracy,” Black explained. “It was a matter of economics and sociological stigma between haves and have nots ... while it was also an extreme risk ... the pirate’s life was a life of freedom.”

For Black, the pirate’s life is a an “advocation out of vocation,” he said. He works a day job as an independent legal support services contractor under the name Privateering Process Service.

Through years of theatrical training and involvement in renaissance fairs and the Society for Creative Anachronism, Black played many roles before that of Captain ‘Splinter.’

“When ‘Braveheart’ came out, everyone got in touch with their inner Scott, which was very cool,” he said, “much like the Disney movies of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ got everybody very much interested in piracy and the history of it.”

Black is a complete history buff.

He warns not to get into the realm of “don’t get me started.”

“I was very much into learning about the various pirates who sailed during The Golden Age and the sociological and political backgrounds of Europe that gave rise to it all,” Black said. “You think we have a bad economic deal today, pirates almost brought the western world to its knees economically because of all the theft and losses that were happening.”

Black even knows the little-known facts about how pirate ships of the Golden Age operated — surprisingly democratic — along with the privateering history which gave rise to the infamous trade and historical tidbits, anecdotes and plenty of sidenotes about the myriad of pirates who sailed the high seas.

“Captain William Kidd,” Black started, “he was actually a very, very successful privateer well before he went off on his voyage with the Adventure Galley and became the infamous pirate that he is now known as today... And actually that’s a very interesting story in pirate history... however, that’s a story for another day.”

For more on the Brotherhood, go to


Port Orchard’s Murder Mystery Weekend includes a whole host of events ranging from the actual investigation from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from noon-4 p.m. Sunday, along with a Marketfaire from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day along the Waterfront plus a childrens’ bounce house and Fight-a-Pirate lessons from the local Rogues and Wenches.

There will also be Pirate costume contests, one for adults at 1 p.m. Saturday, one for kids at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, a Pirate costume contest for pets following the kids and a Landlubbers’ Soap Box Dinghy race at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

The BOOM Pirates will be giving black powder cannon demonstrations at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day, along with a hand-to-hand combat stunt show at 12 p.m. Sunday.

Local businesses are getting in the spirit as well, as the Orchard Theater will host free showings of the classic film “The Goonies” at 2 p.m. each day while the local tavern Moondogs, Too will host a Pirate Ball starting at 6 p.m. Saturday. For more info, go to

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