Sea Captains and Pirates

Captain Hook, Captain Jack Sparrow, Captain Blackbeard, to name but a few pirates, might have been given the title of captain, but what about legitimate sea captains? Discover what distinguishes a legal sea captain from a pirate captain.

Legitimate Captains

When someone is in charge of heading the operation of a ship, he is then usually referred to as the “captain”. However, technically speaking, the rank of captain is non-existent in the Royal Navy. The ranks actually given are: post-captain, master & commander, or lieutenant. Each of these has his own duties and responsibilities depending on the type of ships or vessels from which they earned their rankings. For instance, a sloop regardless the number of masts it has, is headed by a master & commander while a ship that is rated one to six has a leader called a post- captain.

Sea Captains in Times of War

During times of war, a post captain can be given positions like commodore, flag-captain and captain-of-the-fleet. On the other hand, those smaller size vessels are ruled by a lieutenant. Someone whose task is leading and managing any ship is aptly called the captain of the ship. Even a pirate vessel has its captain who strategically commands it through intense sea chasing and battles. His words are the authority when it comes to manipulating and maneuvering the ship to gain control and advantage over enemies, but most decisions regarding management of the pirate ship is surprisingly done through a democratic process. “Master” is a rank given to the captain-like figure aboard any merchant ship with his subordinates calling him “sir”.


How did one become a captain?

Captains earned their rankings through different ways. A pirate ship captain is voted by the majority of the special council created by the ship’s crew and is singled out for his overall skills in controlling the affairs of the ship and its men. Furthermore, he must have the capabilities and expertise in capturing treasure ships in the smartest of ways, retaining the glory of the said seized ships to fully maximize its benefits. Certain ships are headed by assigned naval officers while the services of a master is hired and utilized by ship owners to lead their merchant vessels on its ocean journeys.

How did pirate captains differ from naval captains?

A pirate ship set-up is a bit different from the usual ships headed by masters and naval captains. The latter have complete supervision and control regarding all matters concerning their vessels while a pirate ship captain has his hand only during battles and chases. Pirate captains were treated much the same as all crew members of the pirate ship without special rights and privileges; however, he was given a more sizeable share of the loot as a recognition for a job well done in heading the piracy act. No one can question his power during heated battles at the sea and anyone who dares to defy him can be shot to death. He also makes the decision regarding prisoner’s treatment and can put the axe to anyone with ill behaviour.