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16th Century Pirate Ships

Fans of pirate culture, boats, and history are often curious to learn more about 16th century pirate ships.

16th Century Pirate Ships

Pirates were known for their large impressive boats from the 13th century onward and many of the specimens' people see today in museums and books date back to around the 16th century. The avid pirate enthusiast recognizes there are several kinds of pirate ships and that design changes took place over the centuries. Read on to learn more about 16th century pirate ships, including what kinds were popular and what they were made out of.

Why Were Pirate Ships Important?

Ships pirates sailed around the ocean were not just vessels to get individuals from one place to another. They were the ships that made it possible for pirates to take over other ships with force. These ships were equipped to pillage and plunder other vessels, while housing a big crew of pirates and storing lots of treasures and supplies.

A pirate ship was the key to a pirate’s success. Often, these were ships had been raided and retrofitted to perform to the standards of a pirate crew. Pirate ships made it possible to take large quantities of materials over large distances, all while controlling the sea trade and stealing supplies from other ships.

16th Century Pirate Ships

Many kinds of fascinating pirate ships are preserved as relics today and their history teaches a lot about pirating centuries ago. Several types of ships were used within the 16th century:

  • One of the most important 16th century pirate ships was the carmusal, which was a merchant ship. It could carry almost one thousand tons of cargo and had four sails. It was much like what we know as a galleon.
  • Another type of pirate ship was the caravel, which was important for pirates who needed to navigate difficult waters. These fast ships were actually very easy to maneuver. They could withstand strong winds in the opposite directions, which was key for sailing in a storm. These ships were the most popular of the shipping industry in Spain and were a lot like the galleon as well. Since they could not carry as much cargo as other ships, they were phased out during the end of the 16th century.

Caravels were important in the countries of Portugal and Spain during this time period with their use spreading throughout Europe. They might, in fact, be most famous for their use in the late 15th and early 16th century when Columbus sailed on the now famous caravels: the Nina and the Pinta, which were the ships that came to the New World in 1492. Caravels were very popular because they were less than 200 tons in size and therefore were smaller than the galleon. These 16th century ships were square rigged on the back and front masts of the ship.

Other Kinds of Pirate Ships of the 16th Century

You may have heard of the flyboat, which was a type of ship the Dutch used during the 16th century and onward. It could carry several hundred tons of cargo. One of its key characteristics was it had a flat bottom. Two masts on the flyboat were square rigged. The flyboat was used through the 19th century.

Towards the very end of the 16th century, the galleon became the most popular and famous ship. It could vary in size all the way up to 1,000 tonnage and could achieve speeds of 4 to 8 knots as it was being sailed. The galleon had three masts that were square rigged and were usually equipped with artillery like other ships.

The 16th century ships may have all varied, but they all served the similar purpose of carrying goods, treasure, and people back and forth across the Trans-Atlantic.