Pirate Ships > Types of Pirate Ships
Types of Pirate Ships
A sloop was an extremely common pirate ship. Sloops were fast ships, designed to easily traverse the Atlantic and carry goods and cargo and an increased rate. This also made them ideal for pirates using them to capture a larger, more slower ship.
A sloop was a sail boat with a single mast and a fore-and-aft rig. A sloop was generally considered a ship with one sail, where a ship of the same size with two sails was a cutter. The Bermuda sloop was the most popular kind of sloop in the 18th century. A maritime economy on the island of Bermuda with its close proximity to the Caribbean ideal situated it to ship building. An example of a sloop was the one Stede Bonnet had made for him on the island of Barbados and named the Revenge.
See Bermudian Sloop
A brigantine is a two masted sailboat and the second most popular ship of the time. These ships were durable and could withstand the waves of the Atlantic and with two major sails they would not have to sacrifice speed either. Brigantines were good for having a larger crew, and thus more room for weapons such as cannons, mortars and storage space as well.
Having a larger crew meant having to need more supplies, more water, more resources in general. This took up valuable space on a ship that was also expected to take on additional cargo as well. This required pirate ships to be much more durable than the average ship as they not only dished out broadside attacks but received them as well.
A brigantine was a perfect ship for pirates because it allowed a pirate to mount at least a dozen cannons and hold a larger crew. This meant more men and more swords to lend to the fight and often merchants would stand down upon seeing the Jolly Roger flown and a screaming and wild crew ready to board and give no quarter.
Warships are brutal machines. Designed to carry only weapons, soldiers, ammunition and holding a massive battery of cannons these ships were designed to do one thing; destroy other ships. However carrying that massive amount of armaments and weight also left these ships slow and bulky compared to frigates and brigantines.
These ships were also designed to withstand a punishment. With reinforced sides these ships could take broadsides much better than their agile counterparts. Warships usually belong to the Imperial Navy or a chartered company. These were classified into different categories based on their designs but the principle ones were called the British Man-o-War and the Spanish Galleon.
A frigate was a much larger upgrade over the average brigantine ship. These ships were sometimes called "ship of the line" and was a warship that was built for speed and maneuverability. Frigates sometimes had either one or two gun decks which would often equate to a devastating amount of cannons. The British Admiralty defined a frigate as having at least 28 cannons on board.
Frigates had three masts and were full rigged to match. These ships were often used for patrolling and escort of merchant vessels. This made them perfect for pirates to use in robbing ships as they were heavily armed warships capable of keeping chase with nearly any other ship. Combined with devastating weapons like mortars and chain shot, and a frigate was able to take down nearly any ship its size or bigger.
A good example of a frigate is Blackbeard's ship the Queen Anne's Revenge. This ship was originally called the Concorde and was seized with Stede Bonnet's sloop, the Revenge. Rumored to have over 40 cannons onboard, his pirate ship was one of the most feared vessel along the Atlantic seaboard and the West Indies. It was to be a match for any would be opponent.
A British Man-o-War or man-of-war was a ship designed with one purpose in mind. Bring order to the British trade empire and become the principle economic power in the New World. These ships were designed to root out and destroy the Spanish and pirates alike, more often than not succeeded. Many a pirate including Bartholomew Roberts and Blackbeard lost their lives at the hand of a British warship captain.
The British man-of-war was designed by Sir John Hawkins and had three main masts each with three to four sails. These ships could reach lengths of over 200 feet long and support a battery of up to 124 cannons. The layout was four at the bow, eight at the stern and 56 on each broadside. This meant three decks on some ships and had a maximum sailing speed of eight to nine knots. In comparison a sloop may sail at 13 knots. These ships were slow and bulky, however when they got hit you with a successful broadside it was game over.
You know who captured a British man of war? Bartholomew Roberts of course. Nicknamed the Royal Fortune, this ship allowed Bartholomew Roberts and his crew of 272 to sail around the world and raid Portuguese and African merchants with impunity until his death at the hands of pirate hunters in 1722.
See Spanish Galleon
Spanish Galleons were designed to be either battleships or treasure ships. The treasure fleet was an annual trip that a fleet of Spanish ships took around the Spanish Main to collect the plundered treasures and gold from the Inca and Aztec Empires. They took the same principle route every year and were required to hold enormous weight and thus had to be constructed to withstand the long journey.
The same construction also served well for creating warships that could hold as many cannons as the English man-o-wars could. When pirates sighted a Spanish galleon they often knew it was loaded with treasure and loot and would begin pursuit immediately. Some pirates including Charles Vane lost captaincy of their ship due to failing to chase and fight a treasure laden galleon.
See French Warship
See Merchant Ship
Merchant ships were the primary source of revenue for pirates. When a merchant ship was spotted alone along the Atlantic the pirates would quietly approach and when they were within earshot raise the Jolly Roger and fire a warning shot indicating the ship to surrender. If there was no surrender there was often no quarter.
Merchant ships in addition to carrying cargo like valuables, important persons, gold they also more often than not had mundane loads. Sometimes there was wine or rum which the pirates would drink, and sugar-cane, tobacco, indigo, and cotton which the pirates could sell next time they stopped off into a pirate haven. This was often how the pirates made their money because merchants would get the goods cheaply and the pirates would spend their loot in the town partying in bars and gambling. It was a win win for the town and also for the pirates.
See Slave Ship
A slave ship was a fast ship that had to be custom designed to fit its human cargo. Since slaves at the time were treated merely as cargo, they were chained to the inside of the boat with little room for movement The conditions were atrocious and many died. Therefore in order to increase profits, slave ships had to be faster than the average ship in order to traverse the Atlantic quickly.
Pirate captain Samuel Bellamy captured the slave ship the Whydah, a state of the art ship that could travel across the Atlantic at 13 knots. This made the ship very effective for being able to chase pirates and have the guns to back up their demands. This ship was the reason for his rapid success and the number one pirates of all time.
Types of Ships
- Types of Pirate Ships
- Bermudian Sloop
- Merchant Ship
- Slave Ship