Pirate Ships

What Are the Types of Pirate Ships? (Famous Pirate Ships)

Pirate ships are small and have ample working space and living quarters for the crew. They are more like a schooner or a sloop, with high speed and plenty of space. The North American and Caribbean pirate ships were in fact close to the schooner, small to navigate and hide. 

It is, however, argued that any ship can be a pirate as long as it has pirates. The typical pirate ships that sailed during the Golden Age of Piracy are; Schooner, Brigantine, Caravel, Frigate, Dutch Flute, Galleon, Junk, Meka, Merchant, Naval Sloop, Sloop, Naval Snow, and others.

Pirate Ship From the Golden Age

Pirate Ship From the Golden Age

The Golden Age is believed to have been between the late 1600 and early 1700. Piracy became popular due to the expansion of colonization and the migration of people from different countries. The Golden Age Pirates used small and fast ships known as sloops. 

The size of the Sloop was about 100 tons and could accommodate 75 men and 24 small cannons. The size and speed of the Sloop made it easy to sail in the Atlantic and capture other large and slower ships. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the pirates invented the schooner and brigantine, which had more capacity than Sloop. The Bermuda sloop became popular in the 18th century whose origin was the Bermuda Island. 

The pirates would rob people of jewels, gold, and silver. Their main targets were ships and sometimes coastal towns. Some pirates were murderers, and they indicated this by flying the ‘Jolly Roger’ flag, which had a picture of a skull and crossbones. 

The famous pirates during the Golden Age were; Bartholomew Roberts, Edward Teach (black beard), Henry Morgan, and William Kidd. These dangerous pirates owned large ships.

 Kidd possessed the Adventure Galley, 287 tons with a carrying capacity of 150 men and 34 cannons. The other pirates made attacks, captured vessels and later renamed them. 

Pirates were not as noble as the movies make them seem. They were primarily racists who were active participants in most slave trades. Some pirates practiced democracy and elected their captains democratically, but that didn’t make them good people. 

While at sea, the pirates’ diet consisted of bitter water, spoiled meat, and hardtack. They spend many months at sea, and most of their food is usually infested with weevils. 

Types of Pirate Ships

What Are The Types of Pirate Ships?

During the Golden Age, there were different pirate ships, but not all were used for piracy. Many pirate ships were stolen and renovated to fit the pirate’s way of life. Here are the different types of pirate ships:


Sloops were the most common pirate ships which originated from the Caribbean. These ships were small and fast, convenient enough to capture merchant ships. Their small size also made it possible for them to sail through shallow waters without getting damaged. The shallow draft was advantageous because the ship could hide in shallower waters and attack when not seen.


Schooners came from the Caribbean and Atlantic and were slightly larger than sloops. It could easily fit about 100 men. Schooners were very strong and durable to withstand the waves, and just like sloops, they had shallow hulls. They had the same advantage as the sloops.


Brigantine was popular in the Mediterranean. They had two masts; a square-rigged foremast and a square main topsail. The ship’s size ranged from 30-150 tons, which carried 125 men and 16-to 20 cannons. 


The Spanish built galleons to transport cargo. They had two to three square-rigged masts and were slow. The ships had a capacity of about 400 men and more than 70 cannons. 


Brigs were larger ships which were famous in the Navy. They had two masts and could carry up to 150 men and 24 cannons. Pirates rigged the ship to increase speed and maneuverability.


Frigates were warships which were fast and medium-sized. They had three masts and were used by the Navy to hunt pirates. The carrying capacity of the frigates was 200 men and 40 cannons. 

Important Performance Indicators of Pirate Ships

For a ship to be an ideal pirate ship, it had to have the following performance features:

  • Speed

For the pirates to capture the merchants, their ships had to be fast. It also had to be flexible to catch any wind and escape at high speed.

  • Capacity

A pirate ship has to have a large carrying capacity to carry many men and cannons for the mission possible. Extra space also meant they could take as much as they could from the merchants. 

  • Firepower

Any extra space in the ship is used to carry extra guns. They used to swap heavier cannons for lighter ones to create more space and prevent the ship from sinking.

  • Hull

The pirate ships had shallow drafts to make it easier to maneuver through the shallow waters and escape from larger ships.

Famous Pirate Ships

What are the Famous Pirate Ships?

Adventure Galley

The pirates used the ship to prevent and stop British Pirate attacks in the East Indies. The captain of the Adventure Galley was William Kidd, who was later executed after he was found guilty of pirate attacks. 

The Queen Anne’s Revenge Pirate Ship

The French owned the ship, and it was captured and renamed by Blackbeard in 1717. The Queen Anne’s Revenge Ship became the most famous ship but was damaged after hitting a sandbar (some say it was intentional).

Bartholomew Roberts’ Royal Fortune

Bartholomew captured a French brigantine, upgraded and renamed it Royal Fortune. The ship was attacked by a British warship and sank, killing Roberts.


Pirate ships were acquired by stealing from the merchants and modified to suit their performance. They would change the rigging to increase the vessel’s speed and restructured cargo spaces to accommodate more men and cannons. Any ship could be a pirate ship as long as it had the suitable space, speed, capacity and firepower. Fictional pirate movies show some elements of what the pirate ships looked like. You can watch the movie Pirates of the Caribbean movies and get a glimpse of the pirate life. 

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