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The Pirate Ship: Hot Rods of the Age of Sail


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As @maturin said.

 

Also,

Osprey - The Pirate Ship 1660 - 1730 Angus Konstam Illustrated by Tony Bryan
15701896174_87e20ef07a_o.jpg

The Osprey books are not exactly know for their historical accuracy; a point which they nicely demonstrate in the caption of the image linked by @Destraex: the 'sloop' Flying Dragon is actually a (two-topsail) schooner.

 

As for the romantic picture of pirates drawn in this thread I can only say it is just that: a romantic picture.

 

Cheers,

Brigand

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Except that the fastest ships of the day were naval frigates, and navies operated low-draft sloops and cutters in droves. The navy killed Blackbeard in a vessel pretty much identical to the one he was

Average Pirate Ships Osprey - The Pirate Ship 1660 - 1730 Angus Konstam Illustrated by Tony Bryan   Charles Vane's Ranger

The ships that pirates used to practice their deadly craft were unique in their own right when compared to standard navy and merchant vessels. Very rarely did pirates actually build their own ships fr

Modern Marvels was part of a better time when the History Channel aired actual history. Back when things like How It's Made and The Revolution were the norm (and The Revolution is even stretching it.) That's before the History channel became just another ratings beast and aired things like *shudders* Ancient Aliens and Pawn Stars for views.

Agreed, my friend's parents worked for them in the good old days.

 

 

Now, as far as additional cannon, merchants crews were not trained combat seamen, so whenever a merchantmen did have cannon, it was usually in minimal amounts. As far as the navy goes, Ships were built by design as well as by grade (SoLs were measured by the amount of guns it carried.) Even as Wind noted in The Queen Anne's Revenge, Blackbeard added over 20 extra guns to its armament.

Okay, but that doesn't make Queen Anne's Revenge at all unique. It just makes it an up-gunned merchant vessel. For most of the 16th and 17th centuries, the only definition of a naval vessel was a merchant ship with lots of guns added. And even in the late 18th century, you had people like John Paul Jones, who cut gunports in old indiamen and made them into heavy frigates. There's nothing 'piratey' about it.

 

 

 

And for extra sails, yes the navy did use stunsails, however, as noted in another post, they were not often utilizing all options available. They would only use some stunsails. (To avoid looking like "A white Elephant on the Sea" I will have to look for the post later) Pirates used all possible variations of stunsails and then some.

And here's where you start to just make things up, I'm sorry to say.

 

That's a pretty outlandish statement about stun'sls. Sailors (whether pirates or merchant mariners or man'o'war's men) rarely used many types and configurations of stun'sls because they just weren't useful. No one had any qualms about what their sailplan looked like. Basically, you are claiming that A) pirates have special knowledge about stun'sls compared to all other seamen, and B.), naval officers are fashionistas that are embarrassed by using certain sails for aesthetic reasons.

 

Oh, and here is your 'white elephant.' http://www.captainsclerk.info/archives/visual/FIRST%20WAR%20CRUISE%20%281812%29/Image43.gif

Not a pirate.

 

Stun'sls are incredibly delicate, temperamental and complicated things. You have to choose them very carefully depending on wind direction and strength. 90% of the time you are only going to use one or two stun'sls. If you use them when the wind is too strong, they will blow away and cause all sorts of chaos. If you use the wrong ones even in a light wind they will slow you down considerably by blanketing the more useful sails.

 

For cargo space, especially with naval vessels, the lower decks were separated and divided for different crew and officer quarters, as well as additional separations for cargo and Marines. Pirates would strip the lower decks down to the bear minimum, resulting in both extra space and speed.

 

No, not really. The gundeck and lower deck of a warship was one long undivided space, except for some light bulkheads aft for the officers. These bulkhead were removable and were always struck down in the hold during battle. And even down below the waterline in the hold, there was barely any space wasted with timbers that weren't crucial to the structure of the ship. You would just see an enormous pile of barrels, with very little that could be removed. This makes sense. Maximum carrying capacity is much more important to a merchant than a pirate, since a pirate typically only carries away the lightest and most valuable cargo, with no time in port to stow everything with the greatest thoroughness and efficiency.

 

By throwing away cabin bulkheads, maybe the pirates could save a few hundred pounds in a vessel that weighs hundreds of tons. But they have dozens of tons of extra men and guns weighing them down already.

 

Where are you reading this stuff?

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The sources for this information come from the previously stated two video sources, as well as information from both here and here.

 

All four sources not the addition of more guns, the manipulation of rigging and sails for more speed, and the alteration of ship holds for more space (space for more men or cargo, this has been edited in the OP)

 

And for the "Overweight white elephant", well you should know, you said it yourself on this topic!

 

What they may not realize, is that those scenes of ships carrying stuns'sls on every spar, on every mast, are as rare historically as a white overweight elephant.

 

 

The argument was that smaller pirate ship would have done this to get as much speed as possible over their more powerful Naval counterparts

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The irony is that the true average pirate vessel throughout the ages is a small coastal craft of some sort packed full of desperate people attempting to overwhelm unwary or unable to resist merchants.

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All four sources not the addition of more guns, the manipulation of rigging and sails for more speed, and the alteration of ship holds for more space (space for more men or cargo, this has been edited in the OP)

 

While those are certainly things pirates did, it in no way makes pirate ships unique. It's a classic case of true facts used to construct a false argument. Everyone has to realize that pirates were nothing special. Every pirate was a merchant seaman or naval sailor up until the moment he turned pirate. Everyone wants more speed, or more cargo space, or more guns. And there's no super special piratey way of achieving these goals.

 

Pirates would often want to upgrade the rig of a conservative merchantman or add guns. But again, this is nothing particular to pirates. And it's a rather rare ship that allows for modifications to increase hold capacity. The best way to do this might conflict with the goal of carrying more guns.

 

 

The sources for this information come from the previously stated two video sources, as well as information from both here and here.

 

I didn't see any mention of stun'sls there.

 

 

And for the "Overweight white elephant", well you should know, you said it yourself on this topic!

 

 

The argument was that smaller pirate ship would have done this to get as much speed as possible over their more powerful Naval counterparts

 

There I was referring to the phenomenon of all the stun'sls being set simultaneously, not the fact that the ship carried them. Pretty much every warship would carry a full suit of stun'sls and many merchantmen would too.

It is true that certain types of stun'sls (main lower stun'sls, for instance) went out of fashion among warships towards the end of the 18th century. But by then there were no square-rigged pirate ships around anyhow.

 

Pay attention to what I'm saying about these sails. They are like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Too much or too little is equally bad. The amount of stun'sl you use has to be juuust right.

 

So if a smaller pirate ship sets ALL their stuns'ls when the man o' war sets only one or two, what is the likely result? The pirate's stuns'ls either blow away, or they blanket the more useful topsails and slow the ship down, allowing the naval vessel to catch up.

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I can't seem to find an internet version of my preferred source, which was the History Channel's Modern Marvels: Pirate Tech.

 

History channel = not to be trusted.

 

They way to often take stuff out of context, take a weakly supported theory and present it as fact, take one single case of something and present it as the norm or out ride invent thing.

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I didn't see any mention of stun'sls there.

...

 

There I was referring to the phenomenon of all the stun'sls being set simultaneously, not the fact that the ship carried them. Pretty much every warship would carry a full suit of stun'sls and many merchantmen would too.

It is true that certain types of stun'sls (main lower stun'sls, for instance) went out of fashion among warships towards the end of the 18th century. But by then there were no square-rigged pirate ships around anyhow.

 

Pay attention to what I'm saying about these sails. They are like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Too much or too little is equally bad. The amount of stun'sl you use has to be juuust right.

 

So if a smaller pirate ship sets ALL their stuns'ls when the man o' war sets only one or two, what is the likely result? The pirate's stuns'ls either blow away, or they blanket the more useful topsails and slow the ship down, allowing the naval vessel to catch up.

 

While all 4 sources do not make mention of studding sails explicitly, all make reference to A: the addition of more guns (via cutting out extra gun-ports in the hull) B: the utilization and exploitation of extra space for either cargo or crew, and C: the addition of extra sails for speed. (Though not explicitly studding sails)

 

My apologies for your studding sail reference then, I was under the impression that you were referring to a ship with all possible studding sails were being utilized. This is my mistake and misunderstanding for your reference. 

 

History channel = not to be trusted.

 

They way to often take stuff out of context, take a weakly supported theory and present it as fact, take one single case of something and present it as the norm or out ride invent thing.

 

Once more, Modern Marvels finds itself in The History channel's "hayday" if you will. I would most certainly not use any of its current shows as sources, mostly because they are outlandishly geared to garner more views rather than be documentaries as Modern Marvels, How it's Made, and Engineering an Empire were.

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While all 4 sources do not make mention of studding sails explicitly, all make reference to A: the addition of more guns (via cutting out extra gun-ports in the hull) B: the utilization and exploitation of extra space for either cargo or crew, and C: the addition of extra sails for speed. (Though not explicitly studding sails)

 

Yes, pirates would capture merchant ships and convert them into improvised warships.  This did not make them better or different than warships, save possibly being less capable since not originally built to that purpose.

 

There is nothing that could be done to a ship to make it carry more cargo, more guns and more men.  You would have to give up some of one to increase another.  If a pirate or privateer wants to carry more men to be able to overwhelm merchants and crew prizes, that would come at the expense of cargo space.  Likewise, more guns = less cargo.

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Yes, pirates would capture merchant ships and convert them into improvised warships.  This did not make them better or different than warships, save possibly being less capable since not originally built to that purpose.

 

There is nothing that could be done to a ship to make it carry more cargo, more guns and more men.  You would have to give up some of one to increase another.  If a pirate or privateer wants to carry more men to be able to overwhelm merchants and crew prizes, that would come at the expense of cargo space.  Likewise, more guns = less cargo.

 

The modification of the ship was to enhance space, whether it be for more cargo or more crew (if not one, then the other as the space could serve both purposes). I have said this in the OP and other times thereafter:

B: the utilization and exploitation of extra space for either cargo or crew

...

This meant carving out their own vessel in order to carry as much cargo and/or crew as possible

 

As for guns, the addition could take place where there could be no crew quarters, such as the top deck (if extra space allowed), or a lower gundeck. 

 

The point is this: there were ships that were built to serve a general purpose. Merchants were build to carry large amounts of cargo while carrying few or no armament, thus the need for the addition of guns for a pirate who wishes to use said merchantmen for pirating purposes. Warships focused on heavy firepower, slightly on speed, and less on cargo carrying capacity. Should a pirate ever get there hands on a navy vessel (which was unlikely) the change to lighter guns and the modification of the lower decks for whatever extra space could be found.

 

The likeliness that a pirate got their hands on a military-grade vessel was extremely rare, so the conversion of merchant ships was the most common practice.

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History channel = not to be trusted.

 

WHAT?!?!  Are you saying I can't trust Vikings, the true legend of Ragnar Lothbrok based on the written oral histories of Northumberland monks? Or that Knights Templar discovered Minnesota? Zheng He built the Bimini Road? Titanic sank because of an Egyptian curse? This is all untrue?

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The modification of the ship was to enhance space, whether it be for more cargo or more crew (if not one, then the other as the space could serve both purposes). I have said this in the OP and other times thereafter:

 

As for guns, the addition could take place where there could be no crew quarters, such as the top deck (if extra space allowed), or a lower gundeck. 

 

The point is this: there were ships that were built to serve a general purpose. Merchants were build to carry large amounts of cargo while carrying few or no armament, thus the need for the addition of guns for a pirate who wishes to use said merchantmen for pirating purposes. Warships focused on heavy firepower, slightly on speed, and less on cargo carrying capacity. Should a pirate ever get there hands on a navy vessel (which was unlikely) the change to lighter guns and the modification of the lower decks for whatever extra space could be found.

 

The likeliness that a pirate got their hands on a military-grade vessel was extremely rare, so the conversion of merchant ships was the most common practice.

 

Listen - the stability of the ships are very tin ice , at the sail ships is even more then a problem , every single shift(up or down , right or left , fore or aft , add or remove ) of the cargo create problems , adding sails its changing the stability of the ship in negative direction you move your metacentric height upward that create decreasing stability , you remove your ballast to create more cargo space-> again you rise your GM again , lowering your GM in your pointed cases is adding guns at lower decks , but that create other problems , is the deck is capable to hold weight of these guns - basically these are half decks not full decks and don't have the same endurance of the pressure as the full deck you need to limit the weight of the cargo on these decks and once again the GM going down and create over stability -> again bad for the ship , these modification that you read are made on docks for privaters by ship builders . I presume you have no idea how many ships are lost because the bad stability .

 

P.S. You can trust me about the ship stability - that is my profession.

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I never made mention of the removal of ballasts. While I understand that a ship of sail is very volatile, pirates, as former sailors themselves knew this, and would make these modifications with this in mind. As seasoned sailors they knew how to take care of their ships (careening camps for ship maintenance as well as refitting were for this very purpose)

 

And I can only imagine the number of ships lost at sea due to improper calibration. However, what I a showing is that time and time again, it is shown that extra guns are added, sails are re-rigged and added for greater speed, and space is expanded via the removal of all things deemed nonessential to the needs of a pirate vessel:

 

"Pirate ships usually carried far more crew than ordinary ships of a similar size. This meant they could easily outnumber their victims. Pirates altered their ships so that they could carry far more cannon than merchant ships of the same size." - National Maritime Museaum

 

 

WHAT?!?!  Are you saying I can't trust Vikings, the true legend of Ragnar Lothbrok based on the written oral histories of Northumberland monks? Or that Knights Templar discovered Minnesota? Zheng He built the Bimini Road? Titanic sank because of an Egyptian curse? This is all untrue?

 

Must I seriously repeat myself again?...

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Let's not forget about the ships of the Barbary Corsairs! They were a particular nuisance to American trade in the Mediterranean after the US declared independence and could no longer depend on British protection on the sea. Enough so that the US offered tribute to the Barbary states though apparently Algiers kept harassing them anyway.

 

Polacres and Xebecs were especially potent pirate vessels because they carried a lot of crew for handling the large lateens and were some of the fastest vessels around. Though they had difficulty with oceanic voyages. 

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"Pirate ships usually carried far more crew than ordinary ships of a similar size. This meant they could easily outnumber their victims. Pirates altered their ships so that they could carry far more cannon than merchant ships of the same size."National Maritime Museaum

Merchant ships very rarely (if ever) carried a full complement of guns and had small crews for their size. For example, you might have an Indiaman pierced for 56 guns on two decks, but it carries just 26 guns (and small ones for its size), not even one full gundeck and with just 125 crew. Sometimes the empty gunports would be planked over, other times left to provide ventilation.

 

If you press that vessel into navy service (as happened many times during periods of emergency) then you simply arm every gunport with suitable sized guns and give her a crew of 350 and you have a pretty good stand-in for a 4th rate. Privateers might do similarly if they could not afford a purpose built ship.

 

That's all pirates would be doing, opening up empty or uncut gunports and arming them to turn a merchant vessel into a makeshift warship, nothing special because everyone else did it, even the bigger trading companies sometimes when they needed escorts.

 

If pirates did get hold of a real warship (pretty rare occurrence) they'd just keep it, no need to make modifications because its already better than any normal pirate ship.

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Only if you don't do it seriously.

Apologies. As stated before, Modern Marvels finds itself in The History channel's "hayday" if you will. During a time when actual histories and documentaries such as Modern MarvelsHow it's Made, and Engineering an Empire were aired.

 

Merchant ships very rarely (if ever) carried a full complement of guns and had small crews for their size. For example, you might have an Indiaman pierced for 56 guns on two decks, but it carries just 26 guns (and small ones for its size), not even one full gundeck and with just 125 crew. Sometimes the empty gunports would be planked over, other times left to provide ventilation.

 

If you press that vessel into navy service (as happened many times during periods of emergency) then you simply arm every gunport with suitable sized guns and give her a crew of 350 and you have a pretty good stand-in for a 4th rate. Privateers might do similarly if they could not afford a purpose built ship.

 

That's all pirates would be doing, opening up empty or uncut gunports and arming them to turn a merchant vessel into a makeshift warship, nothing special because everyone else did it, even the bigger trading companies sometimes when they needed escorts.

 

If pirates did get hold of a real warship (pretty rare occurrence) they'd just keep it, no need to make modifications because its already better than any normal pirate ship.

 

"Initially, since the East India company had a monopoly on trade with India and China, the East Indiamen were built to carry as much cargo as possible, rather than for speed of sailing." - East Indiamen

 

We have to remember the purpose of each type of ship. Doing so will show us how each type of ship was unique in its own way, be it design, armament or otherwise:

Merchants were designed to carry large amounts of cargo, sometimes with the ability to mount guns. The large size of heavy merchantmen would mean that they were not very fast. When utilized for warfare, the ability to carry large amounts of cargo would be lost (as added heavy guns means added weight, which throws off the overall balance of the ship which one gentleman pointed out earlier)

Warships were designed to be stout and heavily armed. The term "Walls of Wood" is given for a reason: warships were often designed with heavy planking to counter massive amounts of cannon damage that would be received when up against a similar naval ship. They also fight with the intent to sink, so the guns that are carried are usually very heavy (as heavy as can be supported by the type of ship). Durability and overwhelming firepower was the purpose of a Naval vessel, as it would need to survive against similar ships, and be employed in more static strategies, such as line fights or blockades, which require a ship to be not unlike a wall.

A pirate ship on the other hand did not want to sink its prey, so lighter cannons were utilized (thus making room and weight fro extra light cannon). When faced with a superior naval vessel, a pirate preferred to run, usually to shallows where a ship such as a sloop (the favorite of pirates or a brigantine, with their low draughts, would be able to maneuver, unlike larger and heavier armed navy vessels with deeper draughts. The focus of the pirate ship was excessive speed to surprise and outrun enemies, Cannons were not utilized to sink, but to disable. Because pirates had little to no means of constructing their own ships, they had to utilize what they could capture, and refitting ships in this way was how they went about doing it.

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Except that the fastest ships of the day were naval frigates, and navies operated low-draft sloops and cutters in droves. The navy killed Blackbeard in a vessel pretty much identical to the one he was commanded.

And some merchantmen sacrificed speed for capacity, but many more were indistinguishable from naval craft to the modern eye.

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Sincerely. I would like to see a Xebec for pirates. I will use it all the time. Fast boat, good leakage power, powerful, with his maneuvers take the stern is very easy. I would like to see it for the Pirates.

 

The 'problem' with Xebecs is that most people's idea of this ships capabilities are based on earlier games and, as a result, are flawed.

 

Lateen rigged vessels require a lot of crew and -because the lateen yard needs to be lowered to the deck, moved to the other side of the mast and rehoisted- changing tack takes a lot more time than with either square or fore-and-aft rigged vessels. Since many video games just show an animation with the sail clipping the mast, many people got the idea that it is on-par with just about any other rig, which it is not.

 

The good thing about the lateen rig is that it looks spectacular, is able to handle a wide variety of changes in the wind (very useful in the Meditireanean) and can sail close to the wind (yet, not closer than 18th century fore-and-afters).

 

Cheers,

Brigand

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You know, I think I'll just exsperiment with what works in Open Sea release and later in full release. If i can only use a Sloop or Brig to pirate my weasly black guts out with, so be it, if its a frigate I'll do it. Heck if its viable to go Pirating in the HMS Victory, I would do it (tho that would be rather unlikely). Anyway your all arguing about exactly what pirate ships where, and to be honnest no ship was the same, the "famous" pirates you read about, all had diffrent ships with wildly diffrent layouts. Realistically I think pirate vessals will be anything from the starting sloop to the point where speed and manuverability are traded for firepower and armor. This games idea of pirate vessals should be based off whats viable, not whats allowed.

 

Besides that, no pirates ever built a ship, they stole them. The game should function the same, steal a galleon if you want. Just dont exspect to catch anything with it.

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if there were any pirates packing warships, like real millitary grade warships.. it would have to be privateers (as they basicly were mercenaries).

privateers would run full crews, for actually taking(as in taking a price ship, and this required a full crew about the same as a normal warship) or looting ships (mostly merchants) but also enough firepower to take out escort ships, or smaller/single warships.

 

the true pirate, like the pirate pirate, would use mostly very small ships, just enough firepower to take out sails and such, and fast enough stay way clear of anything that was millitary.

afterall, military ships were not worth very much compared to the risk for your average pirate. for privateers the military ships were worth more as a price ship.

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