Jump to content
Game-Labs Forum

What did Captains have to deal with?

Recommended Posts

The purpose of this thread is simply to list all know problems a Captain may have had to deal with during the age of sail. It could be privateer Captain, Pirate Captain etc.


Since The age of sail isn't my forte my examples are rather basic but;

Mutinee, Supply shortages, Colds perhaps and so on.


I would like you guys to be as specific as you want from heavy wind to Hurricane George (if they named them back them). The idea is to create a realistic list that we might approach and then alter later on as we see fit for playability. For example, Captains may have to worry about like wood rot as somebody could post here but later on when we are compiling what we want from this list, we could take that out or leave it in if voted for.


I know that there are general suggestion threads and this is not a suggestion thread yet but I would like to use the information presented here to create a more specific suggestion thread for what people might want in concerns of what they would have to deal with while sailing.


If this thread is in the wrong area or is innappropriate for some reason feel free to move/delete but again it is not a suggestion thread but meant to be used for historical understanding of what captains had to deal with.

Link to post
Share on other sites

A lot of great responses here, though I think Navy ships paid their crew in lump at the end of the voyage.


I'll repeat a few of the above:

  1. Mutiny
  2. Stores
    1. Water (overall supply and spoilage, restocked by making landfall and watering or storing rainwater)
    2. Food (overall supply and spoilage - to include expected spoilage and unexpected spoilage of stores that were incorrectly stored or transferred from another ship that hadn't used them)
    3. Spare Spars, masts, cordage, tar, oil, paint, etc.
    4. Spare sailcloth
    5. Liquor or Beer (VERY closely tied to morale)
    6. Anti-scorbutics to prevent scurvy.
    7. Gunpowder and ammunition - The Navy didn't give you a lot of either.  Captains that wanted to practice their crews had to buy their own, and it was costly, especially in larger ships.
  3. Officer Competence
  4. Crew Competence
  5. Crime, both among the crew and the officers.
  6. Enemy ships.
  7. Fire - Reaching the wrong part of the ship, a fire could result in a spectacular fireball.
    1. Accidental - Naked lights, smoking, etc.
    2. Combat related
  8. Sickness
    1. Tropical vs. Nontropical
    2. Port related (poxes, measles, STDs, etc)
    3. Scurvy (see anti-scobutics above)
  9. Injury
    1. Weather Related - a serious blow/storm or large waves would cause a lot of broken bones/contusions, etc.
    2. Combat Related
  10. Navigational Hazards
    1. Reefs and shoals - both uncharted and charted - see recent incident involving Team Vestas Wind in the Volvo Ocean Race (
      - Some foul language)
    2. Ice in the high southern/northern latitudes
    3. Other Vessels causing a collision
    4. Lee Shores - Since you can't beat upwind very well in a square rigger, it's possible to be blown into a situation you can't sail out of and smash yourself upon the rocks.
  11. Weather - No satellites and just a barometer means you can't just sail around the weather.
    1. Heavy Winds
    2. Heavy Waves
    3. Ice (too much destabilizes the ship, and if it's cold enough, even the waves themselves will build ice on the ship)
    4. Lightning - Some ships had lightning rods, some didn't.  Lightning could bring a mast down, set off cannon, start a fire or even destroy the metal bits that retain the rudder (the pintles and whatnot).
  12. Contrary Winds - Square Riggers generally do not make a lot of progress upwind, a bad wind direction could keep you in sight but out of reach of your destination for days or weeks, or blow you so far off station that it will take weeks to get back to where you wanted to be.
  13. Loss of Rudder - Whether due to action, a grounding, or whatnot, a rudderless ship was completely at the mercy of the wind, and no satellite phone to call for help.
  14. Loose Cannon - A cannon that broke free of its breechings could fall through the bottom, or go right out of the side of the ship, creating a large hole.
  15. Rotten wood in the ship.
  16. Poor ship construction (some yards were known for their complete lack of quality)
  17. Buildup of weed on the bottom in warmer climates - could greatly slow down the ship and had to be removed by either beaching the vessel or putting into drydock.
  18. Loading of the ship - improper load balancing could have an extremely negative effect on speed, and ships with heavier loads were slower than those with lighter loads.
  19. The Natives! - Some of them are cannibals.  Mind where you land to resupply or ask directions.
  20. Local Government - It's possible the locals don't like you.  If you badly need supplies or repairs, this could cost you dearly - if, of course, they don't try to seize your ship.
  21. Politics.  The Admiral doesn't like you?  That sucks, enjoy crap duties and no hope of promotion for a very, long, time.  Incidentally, that bloody Admiral gets a pretty good share of your prize money.
  22. The Prize Court - Took a prize did you?  In order to actually be awarded money for it (and that includes any specie that may have been on board), the Prize Court must receive, and then condemn the prize as a lawful capture.  See Politics above - powerful enemies could create interference to reduce or remove your award.
  23. Being Beached - Lose your command, or get promoted, and there isn't a ship available?  Hope you can live on half pay on the beach.
  24. Debtors Prison - Took a prize, spent the money, and got sued by the ship's owners and are found to have taken it illegally?  Hope you can dodge the tipstaffs, or you're going to be cooling your heels in a sponging house for a very long time.
  25. Uniforms - Captains were expected to supply their own uniforms out of their own pocket, same with the various pennants that they were required to fly (Post Captain, Commodore, etc).  This could get quite expensive in the higher ranks.
  26. Keeping Table - The Captain was expected to host the Officers of the Gun Room, and other Captains (when they encountered other ships and had time) to dinner.  That dinner should be better than hard tack and salt beef/pork.  Most often, this meant that the Captain needed to spend money on his own personal provisions, including fine wines and liquors/spirits to provide as lush a dinner as possible.  It was quite possible to go through multiple cases of various alcohols at a serious dinner.  Also, see Politics - conducting a fine dinner was a good way to generate good will amongst one's peers and superiors.
  27. Furnishings for Quarters - The great cabin, sleeping areas, etc needed nicer furnishings.  Anything more than the very basics were supplied out of the Captain's pocket.  (Captain James)
  28. Finer equipment for the ship - Basic equipment was provided by the Stores board.  Upgrades, such as sights for the cannon, extra cannon (nicer chasers, etc), better/prettier rigging, gold leaf or various colored paints/blacking, etc for the ship, matching uniforms for boat crews or Officers, were all bought out of the Captain's pocket.
  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...