Who’d be a pirate?

Very often people think about the life that Hollywood shows pirates as having and think that such adventure and fun would be great, and no doubt it would but the truth is far from the glamour shown on the big screen.

For a start most pirates didn’t choose piracy, per se, they just had no other options. It was, for them, a matter of basic survival and it was a very dangerous way of life. After a few months on a voyage sanitation would be poor, disease would be rife, food stores would be low and the duties they were expected to fulfil never got any easier.

Far from being fearsome warriors most pirates would be ex land-workers and fishermen who had never seen or used weapons until they joined a pirate crew. Neither would they have time to practice as bullets and gunpowder were precious resources and injuries of any kind could be fatal on a ship. Unless they were ex-navy or army most pirates would only become proficient with weapons after surviving a few real life battles in the line of duty.

So, as you can imagine, it was not all that common for pirates to attack and attempt to capture ships unless they had superior firepower. This was unlikely because they favoured lightly armored, highly manoeuvrable ships that could close distance and allow them to board a ship rapidly plundering valuables before making a speedy escape. A responsible pirate captain wouldn’t risk his ship and crew unless he felt sure of a victory, or had no choice at all.

This meant that the “average” pirate career could contain between 1 and 10 ship captures depending upon the calibre of the ship they sailed on and the capability of the crew that manned it. Some pirates, like “Black Bart”, were renowned for a high number of captures (Bart supposedly captured 50), but most were happy to leave the ships and just abscond with the cargo they held.

You see the life of a pirate was far from easy and it wasn’t always that profitable, either.