Famous Pirate Ships
For most pirates, their ships could be any floating vessel. However, the best ships were fast and quick for easy attack and easier evasion of capture. Therefore, they were not too large and bulky but big enough for a fair sized crew and lots of fire power. Although some pirates who started off as privateers were given a swift ship and crew by their sponsoring government, most pirates obtained an able vessel the old fashioned way - by stealing it. They then customized it for their nefarious purposes by:
- removing extraneous structures such as forecastles, upper structures, and cabins for extra speed.
- removing interior bulk heads for more crew space and guns.
- changing the mast and sail arrangement
- adding more gun ports greater fire power in battle.
The work did not stop there as ships require regular maintenance. And in every job field there are those who are great organizing the mundane maintenance required for every job and well.... those who are less capable. To keep a vessel in top condition required regular repairs, hence the need for a carpenter on board and also the need for regular careening which involved running aground in a shallow inlet so that the exposed hull could be scraped of barnacles and other debris. It was a dangerous time as enemy ships could choose this vulnerability as a time to attack. A number of vessel types were favourites among pirates for various reasons.
Favourite Pirate ShipsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Favourite Ships Used by Pirates
- It was one of the favourite boats of Caribbean and Atlantic Pirates of the late 1600's.
- With a large bowsprit, it could be altered easily for various sail combinations.
- It was 30 to 60 feet long and could reach a top speed of 10 knots.
- It could accommodate 20 to 70 men and up to 15 cannons.
- It was easily maneuverable for lightning swift attacks, avoiding broadside hits and out running pursuit.
- Its draft was only 8 feet which meant it could find safety in shallow inlets where larger warships could not venture.
- This two-masted ship was also a favourite of Caribbean and Atlantic Pirates.
- It too had terrific speed, awesome maneuverability and good gun capacity.
- It could accommodate up to 75 crew.
- It had an even shallower draft of only 5 feet which meant it could venture even farther inland to divide the spoils although the smaller hold meant smaller treasure could be stored.
- It could accommodate more than 100 men and 12 guns.
- This ship was a favourite in the Mediterranean and earlier versions allowed for the use of oars in low wind conditions.
- This ship was also a shallow draft, two-mast vessel.
- It had a number of square and fore/aft-rigged sail combination possibilities which gave it excellent maneuverability and speed.
- Because it was heavier, longer and had more room, it was a favourite choice for long battles.
- It ranged from about. 90 to 115 ft. long, from 24 to 30 ft. broad, and its hold was 12 to 18 ft. in depth.
- A variation of this ancient vessel was used by the Barbary Corsairs in the Mediterranean in the 1500's.
- The main sailing power came from up to 30 oars manned by several men each below deck.
- Sails provided only secondary propulsion power.
- Several cannons were available in the bow for assaults in addition to over 100 pirates.
- Used by pirates in the far east for many centuries.
- It had a very high stern and flat bow.
- It was also a wide ship with adjustable rudder height.
- It ranged in size from 45 to 100 feet and could hold several heavy guns.
- "As an engine for carrying man and his commerce upon the high and stormy seas as well as on the vast inland waterways, it is doubtful if any class of vessel is more suited or better adapted to its purpose than the Chinese junk, and it is certain that for flatness of sail and handiness, the Chinese rig is unsurpassed." (H. Warington Smith)
Blackbeard and Queen Anne's Revenge
- Edward Teach or Blackbeard as his mates knew him, captured a French slave ship in 1717 called the Concorde.
- This ship was a frigate, a type of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries and was a speedy ship.
- Adding 26 guns to the vessel, Blackbeard boasted 40 guns in total on his vessel.
- It became one of the most powerful vessels in American waters.
- Blackbeard attacked the Port of Charleston in May of 1718 and looted 5 merchant vessels.
- He ran the vessel ashore on Topsail Inlet, be it by accident or on purpose to kill off some of his crew and retain a greater share of the loot.
- Regardless, the ship suffered extensive damage to its hull and had to be abandoned.
- In 1997, off the coast of Beaufort, North Carolina, marine archaeologists discovered the wreck and treasure has been recovered ever since.
- The ship is lying in 20 feet of water and is heavily guarded by Coast Guard and law enforcement security.
- The salvagers have donated the entire find to the state of North Carolina.
- It promises to be one of the richest maritime archaeological find of this century.
Captain Kidd and the Adventure Galley
- Captain William Kidd, a Scottish sailor was given the Adventure Galley as part of a plan by New York Colonel Robert Livingston to reduce pirate attacks against British Ships sailing the East Indies.
- Kidd`s mandate was to hunt pirates and enemy French ships and steal their treasure and goods.
- The three-mast, 287 ton Galley was provided with 34 guns and 23 oars to aid the mission even in calm winds.
- Kidd found pirate hunting harder than imagined and as he had agreed to payback the investment made if he brought back no treasure he resorted to attacking allied vessels.
- When the Adventure Galley`s hull rotted due to poor maintenance, Kidd abandoned the ship in Madagascar in 1698.
- He had hoped to receive a pardon from Livingston but when he was returned to London he was tried and found guilty of piracy and executed in 1701.
Bartholomew Roberts and the Royal Fortune
- A number of ships captained by Black Bart were named the Royal Fortune.
- The first Royal Fortune resulted from the capture of a French brigantine near Newfoundland in July 1720.
- He added 26 cannons to the ship and took her to the Caribbean.
- A short while later, he captured a French warship for the Martinique governor and renamed it the Royal Fortune making it his new flagship.
- In West Africa, he captured the Onslow and renamed her the Royal Fortune.
- On February 10, 1722, the last Royal Fortune sank after an attack by the British warship HMS Swallow.
- Black Bart was a fancy dresser and was probably the most successful pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy.
- Over 400 ships off the West Africa coast, Canada and the Caribbean were captured by him between 1719 and 1722.
Allen, Scott. 6 Famous Pirate Ships. Mental Floss. April 27, 2009.
Bartholomew Roberts. Charleston Pirates. 2003
Recovery of Blackbeard Ship "Queen Anne's Revenge in Beaufort, NC. Historic Beaufort, North Carolina. 1999- 2009.
The Pirate's Realm: Pirate Ships, Pirate Ship Pictures, 2003-2010.
Pirates and their Ships: Test your Knowledge
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