It’s very easy to romanticize or idealize the life of a pirate; films such as “the Pirates of the Caribbean” make it almost unavoidable, in fact. But the reality of life for pirates was a little different in many ways; some good, some bad.
Pirates were quite modern in many ways, including the ways in which they governed their crews. Captains were elected and supported by a host of superior crew members, such as the quarter master, and all officers had a say in important decisions. In fact a captain only ever had absolute power while in battle!
Tolerant and Forward Thinking
Pirates also practised religious tolerance, accepted homosexuality and gay relationships ( as well as having a form of gay marriage called matelotage) and were less restrictive towards the women that managed to gain places among a crew! They even had a form of health care – injured pirates were guaranteed some compensatory money to help them set up a new life for themselves!
The life of a pirate was hard and, frankly, unhygienic
Washing was pretty much a no starter as fresh water was a highly precious commodity, especially on long voyages, and salt water would leave a residue on the skin which would irritate and cause chafing! This, combined with sea-sickness during rough weather and a huge shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables meant that illness, malnutrition and avoidable diseases like dysentery were rife on board a ship.
Low Life Expectancy
The life expectancy of a pirate was also very low; death due to illness, injury or execution was very common. This is without even considering the fact that many pirates lost limbs, teeth and even their senses, such as hearing or sight, in the line of duty. As it turns out, life on the seas was tough!