Questions about Pirate Strategies

The pirate strategies that were common during the golden age of pirates were not as methodical as they would be today. However, there was method to their madness and many pirates were successful because they stuck to their own strategies and pirate lore. Take a look below at some of the most popular pirate strategies of the golden age of pirates.

Why did pirates prefer not to steal on land?

You might think that hungry pirates could have easily satisfied their needs for food if they applied their criminal ways on solid ground. There were certainly more opportunities, people and properties to victimize on land than at sea. However, pirate looters favored the waters rather than land stealing, and there are reasons for it. One that tops the list is that, being at sea they could easily evade arrest and were able to become lost on the horizon. Remember that the world’s seas and oceans are three times larger than land. It’s big and wide, which means a lot of space to run away from the authorities. Pirates were seldom are seen on land, only when they needed something like water or spare parts for their broken ship. It’s the sea, which they considered home and a venue for all their illicit activities.

Why were galleon ships their favorite victims?

The pirates of the Golden age of pirates were looters, and they would always go for the prized ships full of treasures or commodities. Galleon ships were rich ships and capturing one was like finding a diamond, a real treasure for pirates. Capturing a galleon could bring them a lot of gold or supplies for their stealing operations. It took a slow approach to successfully capture a galleon ship, taking weeks for pirates to get near, but when they did, commandeering it would surely come next. Rather than taking the ship itself, however, pirates were more likely to steal what they needed (wanted) and leave the ship afloat.

How did pirates create the element of surprise for would be victims? 

The most common, but very effective way that pirate strategies would surprise their victims was by using a false flag. Pirates would raise up a flag that mimics the flag being flown by the target ship, or a flag or a known ally. Seeing the flag makes the captain of the victims and his crew feel comfortable knowing it’s not an enemy or a pirate ship. The effect is that the ship may begin to slow down which gives a chance for the pirate ship to catch up with its target. Another strategy was to fool the merchant galleon into thinking that the pirate’s needed help by raising a flag that signals an emergency or distress. Like a good Samaritan, the merchant ship would come to rescue and it will be the right time for the pirates to launch their attack.

How do pirates cause fear in the hearts of their target to drive them to surrender?

The first of the pirate strategies once the pirate ship had caught up with its target was to suddenly change the false flag to show their pirate true colors. A move highly feared for it connotes death or at the very least, tells the target ship to surrender. Pirates would then position themselves at the front of the ship as if readying for an all out war with weapons and arsenals in full display. Some of the pirates would even raise their guns while chanting the sounds of death. Firing of pistols and lots of terrifying noise many be heard. These actions would make the target ship’s crew quiver in fear upon the sights of these ruthless bandits with tremendous firepower. It’s like announcing that they will soon be pulverized into ashes with cannons, guns and sharp knives.

Did pirates kill their prisoners?

Pirates would follow some simple guidelines on how to treat their captives. Generally, most victim ships would accept surrender, which generally meant that prisons were not killed (this was good publicity for the future to promote early surrender by other ships), but if there was resistance the whole strategy could change. For example, if the target ship began to fight back, an all out shooting war can start. When the pirates are pushed to their limit, the chances of surrender become dimmer. Much more, if they have to climb aboard the target ship in order to take it by battle, time for surrendering with your life in tact may have elapsed. In these cases, most of the ship’s occupants would be killed, leaving a few to tell the tale and spread word about how unforgiving the the pirates were. Often, prisoners of the target ship or useful members of the crew like the map reader, surgeon or carpenter would be take captive and forced to join the pirate crew to increase their numbers.

What happened to the captain?

Pirates also had a policy when it came to the captain of the target ship. It was very likely in most cases that the Captain would be killed, unless he surrendered immediately, when there was a chance that his life be spared. Being the leader of the ship, the captain is accountable for any resistance given by his men. He’s the most guilty in the eyes of every pirate because his words are considered the law that must not be broken. If the policy of the pirates says that everyone must be killed when they board the ship, then the captain’s head must go first. If not, the reason can be: to make him as an example and will be executed in a way that can send warnings to those who are still alive.

How did pirates board their target ship? 

The pirate ships had small boats that can launch attack anytime using splinter groups. These boats would make their way to the sides of the target ship. While doing this, the main pirate ship would keep their guns blazing to make the enemy crew keep their heads down so the attackers aboard the small boats can pass freely. When they are already near, the pirates must make a decision on where to board the ship. This is critical for their safety because doing it in the ship’s waist can get them on the firing end where bullets are traversing from the ship’s front and back. The best way is to board it in the bow or stern, or both. As soon as the pirates get onto the ship, they must act fast in getting their captives and killing those who fight back. Time is crucial since the quicker they capture the ship can mean less casualties on their part.

Grappling was another pirate strategy for boarding the target ship. The main pirate ship would get close enough for them to throw grappling hooks onto the ship During this time, they had to maintain enough firepower to prevent the other ship’s crew from cutting the ropes and removing the the hooks. When they have pulled the ship close enough, they will board it. In these cases, it is very likely that all pirate personnel will join in to ensure fast capturing of the ship. They’ll strategically do it with most pirates attacking from the ship’s bow and stern.