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Famous Pirate Ships

After watching Pirates of the Caribbean, did you wonder what famous pirate ships actually existed? Do you know what kinds of ships were used by pirates and who some of the more famous pirate captains were? Let’s take a look at the world of pirates.

Pirate Ship

The Age of Pirates

Piracy has been around ever since there were sailing vessels. Piracy is robbery and violence committed at sea. Piracy is not the same thing as privateering, which is a lawful attack on an enemy’s treasure ship that is sanctioned by the government. England issued “letters of marque” to pirates that allowed them to plunder enemy ships. Privateering often led to piracy, and as a result it was outlawed in the 19th century. Pirates were most numerous and active in the 1700s and the early 1800s. Pirates in the Mediterranean were called “corsairs” and those in the Caribbean were called “buccaneers”.

Four of the main types of famous pirate ships were the sloop, schooner, brigantine, and frigate. The sloop was a small ship with a single mast that could carry around 75 pirates. Schooners were also small ships like the sloop, but had two or more masts. Brigantines could carry 100 pirates and had two masts with the forward one being squared-rigged. This meant the spars (wooden or metal poles) were perpendicular to the mast. The largest of the pirate ships would be a frigate, which could carry around 190 pirates.

Famous Pirate Ships

Following is a list of some of the more famous pirate ships and their captains:

  • Queen Anne's Revenge - Edward Teach “Blackbeard”
  • Adventure Galley - Captain Kidd
  • The Revenge - Captain John Gow
  • The William - John Rackham “Calico Jack”, Anne Bonney and Mary Reade
  • Fancy, Pearl, Victory - Edward England
  • Fancy - Henry Every “Long Ben”
  • Royal James - Ignatius Pell
  • Royal Fortune, Great Fortune & Great Ranger - Bartholomew Roberts “Black Bart”
  • Liberty and the Amity - Thomas Tew
  • Delivery - George Lowther Delivery
  • The Rising Sun - William Moody
  • The Ranger - Charles Vane
  • Jacob, Neptune & Margaret - Samuel Burgess

The Pirate Code of Conduct

Even pirates needed rules, and the code of conduct was an agreement between the captain and the crew. Captains were elected and could lose privileges if they abused their authority. Here are some of the provisions that may have been included in a typical code of conduct.

  1. Voting rights: On most ships, every man had an equal vote.
  2. Sharing bounty: Treasure and loot was shared fairly, with punishments for cheating or robbing. Captains and crew members with certain jobs, like physicians, got more.
  3. Gambling: Gambling was not allowed.
  4. Weapons: Men were required to clean and maintain their guns.
  5. Lights at night: There was a certain time when all lights were put out.
  6. Crew composition: No boys or women were allowed aboard ship.
  7. Desertion: Deserting the ship or your quarters during battle was punishable by death or marooning.
  8. Fighting: No fighting between shipmates on board. Any disputes were handled on shore.
  9. Compensation: If a pirate was severely injured in battle, he received monetary compensation for his injury.
  10. Musicians: There were rules on when they were on duty and when they were expected to play.

Fact or Fiction

Many of the most commonly held beliefs about pirates are myths or did not happen as often believed:

  • Pirates rarely made anyone walk the plank. Pirates didn’t have time for that kind of ceremony and usually took care of things quicker, like just throwing someone overboard.
  • Pirates drank a lot of alcohol because adding alcohol to water preserved it. Water with rum added is called grog.
  • As for pierced ears, there are two explanations. One is the belief that it improved eyesight. Another is that a gold earring or ring could pay for the wearer’s funeral.
  • Pirate captains usually did not wear brightly colored clothing. They dressed more like English gentlemen.
  • Having a treasure map where “X” marks the spot is purely fictional. It first appeared in Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, Treasure Island.