Captain Sean David Nau


Captain Sean David Nau


Sean David Nau, aka Francois L'Olonnais, was one of the most ruthless and barbaric pirates ever to sail under the Jolly Roger. Born in France, he was sent, while still a child, as an indentured servant to the French island of Martinique in the West Indies. After completing his term of servitude L'Olonnais moved onto the island of Hispaniola and joined the buccaneers there. These free spirits subsisted on the dried flesh of the wild cattle they hunted.
L'Olonnais signed on as a sailor and acted with such ability and courage that the governor of Tortuga Island, Monsieur de la Place, gave him the command of a vessel and sent him out to seek his fortune. At first the young buccaneer was very successful, and he captured many Spanish ships. But his unusually ferocious treatment of prisoners earned him a reputation for cruelty that has never been surpassed. At the height of these early successes his ship was wrecked by a storm off the Yucatan. Most of his crew managed to get ashore, where they were immediately attacked by a group of Spaniards. L'Olonnais was the only one to survive. The cunning captain escaped by smearing blood and sand all over his face and body and hiding himself among his fallen comrades on the beach.
Disguised as a Spaniard, he entered the city of Campeche, which was alit with bonfires in celebration of the news that their dreaded enemy had finally been killed. Meeting with some French slaves, L'Olonnais contrived a plan to escape by canoe. Under the cover of nightfall the small band crept out of the fortified town eventually returning to Tortuga, a pirate stronghold of the time. Here the entrepreneurial young captain stole a small vessel and, started out once again ''on the account,'' plundering a small village in Cuba called de Los Cagos.
When the governor of Havana received word of the notorious and apparently resurrected pirate's arrival, he sent a well-armed ship to take him with orders to hang all the crew with the exception of L'Olonnais, who was to be brought back to Havana alive and in chains. But L'Olonnais out maneuvered his pursuers. He boarded the Spanish vessel and with his able gang of cutthroats murdered the entire crew with the exception of one poor soul who was sent back to the governor bearing word that in the future L'Olonnais would kill any Spaniard with whom he came in contact. Joining with the famous freebooter Michel de Basco, L'Olonnais soon organized a more ambitious expedition, consisting of a fleet of eight vessels and 400 men. Sailing to the Gulf of Venezuela in 1667, they destroyed the fort that guarded its entrance. Next they sailed to the port of Maracaibo where they found that all the inhabitants had fled in terror.
The pirates tracked down many of the refugees who were hiding in the nearby woods. There L'Olonnais killed large numbers of them in an attempt to force them to disclose the hiding places of their treasures. Their next move was to march upon the town of Gibraltar, which was gallantly defended by the Spanish, who, after suffering the loss of 500 Killed, eventually surrendered. For weeks the inhabitants of this town lived a waking nightmare. Rape, murder, and pillage were daily occurrences. Finally, to the great relief of the miserable inhabitants, L'Olonnais sailed away with cargo holds of booty to Corso Island, a rendezvous of the French buccaneers.
Here they divided the profits of their enterprise, which amounted to the vast sum of 260,000 pieces of eight, as well as large stocks of silverplate, silk and jewels. A share was also allotted to the next of kin of those who had died, and extra shares were given to those who had lost either an eye or a limb, in accordance with the company's articles.
By now the name L'Olonnais had become infamous up and down the coast of the Spanish Main. Never satisfied, L'Olonnais began planning an even more daring expedition. Drawn by rumors of great wealth he set out for the coast of Nicaragua. Here he continued his reign of terror, committing the most atrocious acts of violence on the Spanish inhabitants. One story graphically illustrates how the term bloodthirsty became indissolubly linked with the word pirate.
During an attack on the town San Pedros, the pirates were ambushed and many of them killed. The tide of the battle eventually turned and the Spaniards were forced to take flight. Most of the captured Spaniards were killed but a few were kept alive to be questioned by L'Olonnais in order to find an alternate and undefended route to the town. Frustrated with the prisoners' silence, L'Olonnais drew his cutlass and with it cut open the chest of one of the Spaniards. He then pulled out his still beating heart and began to gnaw and bite at it like a ravenous wolf, saying to the other prisoners, ''I will serve you all alike if you show me not another way.'' Shortly after this, perhaps fearing reprisals or maybe just finally questioning the sanity of their captain, many of his crew broke away and sailed off on their own, not so much a mutiny as a wholesale defection.
L'Olonnais sailed for the coast of Honduras and ran his vessel on a sand bank and lost her. Stranded on the Las Pertas Islands, he needed six months to build and outfit another vessel. L'Olonnais had plans to sail for Cartagena but never realized them. He was caught by the native Indians, and as described by the writer Esquemelin, ''Here suddenly his ill-fortune assailed him, which of a long time had been reserved for him as a punishment due to the multitude of horrible crimes, which in his horrible and licentious life he had committed. For God Almighty, the time of His divine justice now already come, had appointed the Indians of Darien to be the instruments and the executioners thereof.'' These ''Instruments of God,'' having captured L'Olonnais, tore him in pieces alive, throwing his body limb by limb into the fire and his ashes into the air so that ''no trace nor memory might remain of such an infamous inhuman creature.'' It has been said that had L'Olonnais lived in the present day he would certainly have been confined to an asylum for the mentally ill.

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