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by Ian Fortey
Remember the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and how it made you want to buckle swash until you got carpal tunnel? And then remember the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and how you wanted to launch your eyeballs into a meat grinder? In a fantasy setting, the idea of pirates seems kind of cool, but the reality is that they still actually exist and are pretty much just giant jerks, terrorizing all manner of vessels on open waters. But sometimes, ordinary folks step up to these seafaring bandits and say, “Hey, you’re not going to Blackbeard us!”
A Guy Steals Boats Back From Pirates For A Living
When your name is Max Hardberger, you only have a handful of career options that can really do your name justice. You could be a gritty detective, an international super spy, or probably just a really crappy grillmaster. “No, Hardberger, I said I wanted mine medium rare. Dude, you suck at this.”
Alternatively, you could do what the real life Max Hardberger does and steal 10,000 tonne boats from pirates. For a living.
Hardberger never set out to be a pirate of pirates; the man has a law degree and has taught high school English and History. But he also liked life on the water and flying planes, so adventure has always kind of been in his cold, steely blood. And one day, when his ship was in port in Haiti, someone tried to steal it from him by way of bribing the courts for paperwork that said they had claim to the vessel. In a somewhat lawless industry, Hardberger wasn’t sure what to do, so he came up with the only option he could think of: steal it back.
He fed the would-be thieves booze until nighttime, eventually had them locked up, then quietly rolled out to sea. There was no way to petition the bribed (except with maybe more money), so he simply ninja’d his way into international waters where the law no longer applied and told his captives to get lost. He’s a gentleman, though, so he provided them with lifeboats.
We assume he threw in an action hero line like, “Sorry, looks like your ship has sailed!”
That experience gave him the idea to create a unique job for himself, one where he helps others retrieve their wrongly confiscated boats. But In this new profession, Hardberger is still a smart man, meaning he’s not rolling up on ships at sea with cannons blazing, even if that would be rad as hell. He understands the corrupt system, one where you can buy the right person, then point to a boat and say, “Mine!” Because in that system, the weird thing is that under Maritime Law, there’s not much you can do about it. All sales are final, even if the claim against the boat eventually turns out to be bogus. So Hardberger just plays the game.
Since getting that first ship back, Hardberger has been hired to reclaim numerous others all around the world, from Russia to Haiti to South America. He says he never uses violence and won’t take a job that he thinks would get anyone killed. But beyond that, if he needs to bribe guards, persuade them with booze, or hide out under the cover of a storm to avoid radar, he’s more than willing to do it.
Australia Will Hire You To Fight Pirates
Everything awesome in the world is definitely more awesome (yet definitely more deadly) when done in Australia. The entire continent is like the drunk college friend of the rest of the world, just waiting for someone to dare it to jump off a roof into a pool, or kiss that dinner plate-sized spider. Which is why it’s entirely unsurprising that Australia is where you can go be a soldier of fortune and earn $50,000 fighting pirates.
Assuming you’re sitting at home reading this, doing nothing with all of your heavy-weapons training, Special Forces background and Halo skills, the high-adventure world of maritime security could be the thing for you. Security on the high seas for merchant ships is an in-demand field since there’s always going to be someone shooting at you and trying to steal your buoys or jet-skis or whatever.
A typical, average day in Australia.
One article on the subject does note that being a marine mercenary is maybe not the most reliable job, because getting screwed on your pay is not unheard of. Of course, since one of the requirements for the position is your ability to handle a .50 caliber weapon, maybe you have more clout to negotiate your paycheck than most people.
There are all kinds of private security firms recruiting for this line of work, and Australia does make for a decent hub, given its proximity to a number of pirate-filled hotbeds in Asia and Africa. On the downside, you run the risk of being murdered to death on the ocean while protecting a cargo ship full of hot pants for koalas, so maybe it’s not a job for everyone.
Pirates Are Fought Off With Boiling Oil
Piracy is an old profession, and it’s mostly pictured in bizarrely romantic fashion for modern folk. From Johnny Depp to the Onion Knight to Patchy the Pirate, there’s a bit of an old-school fantasy to it all. Modern pirates who fire grenades at retirees on boats with cute names just don’t seem like they’re in the spirit of the thing. It would be way better if they could keep it old school, like the crew of the Philippine merchant ship MV Kudos 1 who went full medieval warfare to fight off a pirate attack.
Three pirate motor boats, which sounds so much less respectable than having actual pirate ships, attacked MV Kudos 1 off the coast of the Philippines. The crew pulled out some Game of Thrones tactics by heating up water and oil in the galley and dumping pots of it on the invaders, because if you do get an opportunity to save your life with boiling oil, you really should take it. Boiling water is bad enough, but oil burns hotter and is much harder to get off, so it’s an extra twist of the knife. But, you know, it was defending against piracy, so it’s cool.
“Have them hold some fish. We can knock out a battle and lunch at the same time.”
The boiling oil trick seemed to work and forced the pirates back to try to fight from a distance, and by the time reinforcements arrived, the scallywags had already fled the scene. Score one for the good guys, with their insanely violent self-defense.
A Restaurant Owner Is Turning Pirates Into Fishermen
There’s a good chance that if you’ve heard of pirates in the last decade or so, it was probably Somali pirates. Those guys’ reputation is just the worst, even for pirates. But they’re still human, with real problems and worries and dreams of puppies, just like the rest of us. Kiyoshi Kimura knew this, and he set out to address the piracy problem using the power of sushi.
Kimura owns Sushizanmai, a chain of Japanese sushi restaurants. He learned about Somali pirates and their penchant for hijacking, but figured that these poor, unskilled laborers with at least some knowledge of sailing could be trained to fish. So he did just that, and offered them some work along with fishing vessels to start hauling in that sweet, raw fish that we shove into our faceholes, smothered in soy sauce and wasabi. Now, they could make a kickass living pulling in tuna and not using rocket launchers to blow up merchant ships and people on cruises.
“You're taking fish from the ocean, so spiritually, you’re still sort of stealing.”
Naturally, Kimura didn't end the piracy all on his own, and it may never go away completely. Various militaries definitely play a part, escorting vessels along the coast where Somali pirates are most prolific. Still, the combination of the military scaring them off and Kimura offering them alternative income has proven to be extremely effective in reducing Somali pirate attacks from hundreds per year to barely any. Which could be bad news for the aforementioned independent pirate mercenary market, so long as the sushi industry doesn’t tank.
Like this article? Check out “5 Real Life Robin Hoods Who Made The World A Better Place” and “The 5 Most Badass Women In Spy History”.