Arrrg, How about a pirate fact?
Okay, so while people mostly think piracy was a long lasting criminal activity (and in fact was/is considering it does still happen today) It really had ebbs and flows, most marked by a particularly notorious pirate such as Blackbeard (AKA Edward Teach (1716)) or Anne Bonny (left)with Calico Jack (AKA Jack Rackham (1720)). But for the most part high seas piracy like depicted by Hollywood died out almost completely by 1815. At least in western waters.
It had about a 100 year run, but it wasn’t all the mid Atlantic high seas battles that you might think. Most piracy took place along the coast of Colonial America and South America, then later around the islands of the Bahamas.
Piracy continued on in the Indian Ocean, around Asia and along the Arabian Coast. (I mention this in my story if you catch it). But again mostly by the mid 19th century it was a dying thing.
Hollywood also likes to depict pirate ships as those big beautiful galleons (top). You know the ones with the high fore and aft castles blocking each end of the deck. But from my research most evidence points to the use of a sloop(bottom) or brig-sloop. The reason being speed.
Certainly during the times when pirate ships were actually being used and supplied by France (Napoleonic Wars), when the idea wasn’t just to steal “booty” but to disrupt even destroy British ships, the larger, better armed Galleons and Frigates were used. But as piracy became less a government enterprise and more the work of solo entrepreneurs it made more since to use the lighter but still well armed sloop.
If you think about it like the galleon being a slow moving cruise ship and the sloop as a speed boat, you can of course see the advantage of riding up to a ship, robing it blind and making a getaway in a fast little sea-craft. You’ll see in my story “The Pirate’s Daughter” that I did make the pirate ship a galleon but I created the ability to speed the ship up a bit. (You’ll have to read it to figure out how I did this).
As well, Piracy was becoming less profitable as Merchant ships were often escorted, rarely carried gold and silver (much harder to steal and find buyers for spices and silks, and you can read how that dynamic played out in my book The Pirate’s Ruin) and many of the larger ships were being turned into private or semi private passenger vessels.
Newer ships were also no longer the vulnerable wooded hulled ships.
As the Age of Sail became the Age of Steam, iron clad ships began gaining ground in the waters. Less vulnerable to cannon, not dependent on the flicked winds the new breed of ships drove piracy as we generally think of it out of business.
High Sea life was a dangerous and unpredictable way of life for all involved, be he (or she) pirate, merchant or navy. Even as one danger was chased from the waters other dangers appeared. The strength and endurance of the men who managed to earn the title Master and Commander of the salt waters of the world were men who stood above and beyond most of their time.
And with that I will leave you to either haul in your sheets and rest or raise sail and run.
Until next time READ ON!