Pirate Ships > Sea Life

Sea Life

Background

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Background

The sea language is not soon learned, much less understood, being only proper to him that has served his apprenticeship: because that, a boisterous sea and stormy weather will make a man not bred on it so sick, that it bereaves him of legs and stomach and courage, so much as to fight with his meat. And in such weather, when he hears a seaman cry starboard, or larboard, or to bid alooff, or flat a sheet, or haul home a cluing, he thinks he hears a barbarous speech, which he conceives not the meaning of. ~ from the Naval Tracts of Sir William Monson. Monson, who was from a landed family in Lincolnshire, ran away to sea in 1585 at the age of 16. He saw service in a privateer as one of Queen Elizabeth's sea dogs and was a lieutenant in the Charles when she joined the English fleet against the Spanish Armada. Monson retired in the 1630s with the rank of Vice-Admiral and settled in to write his now famous tracts. He died in 1643.

Storms & Rogue Waves

Pirate Lifestyle - Maritime Lifestyle - Sinking Ships

Sinking Ships - The Sea (1877)

Pirates lived a very different lifestyle from many of the more land based people of the time. Being at sea for months on end, often stopping at remote inlets and islands to take on water and hunt food, pirates were away from civilization much of the time preying on their victims.

Pirate ships were often male only crews with the exception of 'Calico' Jack Rackham including Anne Bonny and Mary Read into his crew.

When pirates attacked a merchant ship their first act would be to raise the 'Jolly Roger', the pirates' flag. This would begin the psychological assault, informing the seamen that to oppose them would mean death. So many ships' captains would be prevented from mounting a bloody defense by the rest of the crew simply folding its arms and refusing to fight that Parliament decreed that to refuse to fight pirates was a crime punishable by death. For all their violent reputation, the pirates themselves would rather not to fight at all, and the chance of taking a ship cleanly was much preferred.

Once aboard, the crew of the ship were gathered together and their officers paraded before them. The crew were invited to speak out either in favour or against the captain and his staff: their testimony would decide the fate of the captain and his ship. Good or kind captains would find themselves not only still alive but often still in command of their ships at the end of the pirate attack and with the bulk of the cargo intact, minus any alcohol, fresh food, or gold and silver.

A bad or violent captain would, however, be lucky to escape with his life and what the pirates couldn't take or use would be burned with his ship. The final act before the pirates departed was to appeal for volunteers. Hardly a ship could be found without one or more potential pirates.

Pirate Ships

Types of Ships

Famous Pirate Ships

Building a Ship

Sailing a Ship

Naval Combat

Sources

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Secondary Sources