Throughout history, pirates have captured the imagination of people all over the world with their daring exploits and infamous reputations. One of the key components of a pirate’s life was their ship, which served as their home, transport, and weapon against adversaries.
With this in mind, we will take a look at some of the most famous pirate ships that have ever sailed the high seas, exploring their history, reasons for notoriety, and the legendary pirates who commanded them.
1. Queen Anne’s Revenge
The Ship of the Dreaded Blackbeard
Perhaps one of the most famous pirate ships in history, the Queen Anne’s Revenge was the flagship of the notorious pirate Edward “Blackbeard” Teach.
In November 1717, Blackbeard captured a massive French ship called La Concorde, which was used to transport enslaved people. He refitted the ship, mounting 40 cannons on board, and renamed her Queen Anne’s Revenge.
Dominating the Caribbean and Eastern Coast
With a 40-cannon warship, Blackbeard ruled the Caribbean and the eastern coast of North America, striking fear into the hearts of sailors and merchants alike. In 1718, the Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground and was abandoned by Blackbeard and his crew.
In 1996, searchers found a sunken ship they believe to be the Queen Anne’s Revenge in the waters off North Carolina. Some items recovered from the wreckage, including a bell and an anchor, are on display in local museums.
2. The Adventure Galley
Privateer Turned Pirate
Originally intended to halt attacks against British ships in the East Indies, the Adventure Galley was captained by Scottish sailor William Kidd.
When hunting down pirates and enemy French ships proved too difficult, he decided to turn on allied ships instead. Kidd eventually abandoned the ship and hoped for leniency upon return to London but was found guilty of piracy and executed.
The Rise and Fall of Captain Kidd
In 1696, Captain William Kidd was a rising star in seafaring circles, having captured a large French prize while sailing as a privateer.
He later married a wealthy heiress and convinced some wealthy friends to fund a privateering expedition. He outfitted the Adventure Galley, a 34-gun monster, and went into the business of hunting French vessels and pirates.
However, after a series of misfortunes and being forced to turn pirate, Kidd hoped to clear his name by returning to New York and turning himself in, but he was hanged anyway.
3. Royal Fortune
Black Bart’s Flagship
Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts was one of the most successful pirates of all time, capturing and looting hundreds of ships over a three-year career. He went through several flagships during this time, and he tended to name them all Royal Fortune.
The largest Royal Fortune was a 40-cannon behemoth manned by 157 men, capable of going toe-to-toe with any Royal Navy ship of the time.
The End of Black Bart
Roberts was aboard this Royal Fortune when he was killed in battle against the British warship Swallow in February 1722.
With the death of its captain, the legacy of the Royal Fortune and Black Bart came to an end, but their tales would live on in pirate lore for centuries to come.
4. The Whydah
From Slave Ship to Pirate Vessel
The Whydah was originally built as a slave ship and set sail from London in 1715 to capture African slaves. In February 1717, pirate Sam Bellamy captured the Whydah, a large British ship used to transport enslaved people, and repurposed her as a pirate vessel, mounting 28 cannons on board.
For a short while, Bellamy and his crew terrorized Atlantic shipping lanes with their new acquisition.
The Tragic Fate of the Whydah
The pirate Whydah did not last long, however: it was caught up in a horrendous storm off Cape Cod in April 1717, barely two months after Bellamy first captured her.
The wreck of the Whydah was discovered in 1984, and thousands of artifacts have been recovered, including the ship’s bell. Many of the artifacts are on display in a museum in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
5. The Fancy
A Pirate’s Fortune
In 1694, Henry Avery, an officer onboard the English ship Charles II, led a mutiny and took control of the vessel. Renaming her the Fancy, Avery and his fellow mutineers went pirate and sailed to the Indian Ocean.
In July 1695, they captured the Ganj-i-Sawai, the treasure ship of the Grand Moghul of India, resulting in one of the largest scores ever made by pirates.
The Disappearance of Avery and the Fancy
Avery sailed back to the Caribbean, where he sold off most of the treasure. He then disappeared from history but not from popular legend, leaving the fate of the Fancy and its captain shrouded in mystery.
6. The Flying Dutchman
The Legendary Ghost Ship
The Flying Dutchman is a legendary pirate ship that has captured the imagination of people for centuries.
In European nautical folklore, the Flying Dutchman is a ghost ship destined to sail forever, and its appearance to sailors is believed to herald impending doom.
The Origins of the Tale
There are numerous variations of the tale of the Flying Dutchman, with some attributing the ship’s eternal voyage to a curse placed upon its captain, while others suggest the vessel is the result of a deal with the devil.
Regardless of the specific details, the Flying Dutchman remains one of the most famous and feared pirate ships in history, even if its existence is purely the stuff of legends.
7. The Black Pearl
Fictional Ship from the Pirates of the Caribbean
An ornate fictional ship made famous in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, the Black Pearl is a grand ship recognizable by her intimidating black hull and sails.
Known to be untouchable for her speed, thanks to the large number of sails she uses, she was originally known as the Wicked Wench until she was burned and sunk before being resurrected from the sea floor by Davy Jones and renamed by Jack Sparrow.
The Legend of the Black Pearl
While not a historical pirate ship, the legend of the Black Pearl has captured the hearts of millions through its portrayal in the popular film series.
The ship’s mythical status, combined with its association with the charismatic Captain Jack Sparrow, has earned it a place in the annals of pirate lore.
8. The Jolly Roger
Captain Hook’s Ship from Peter Pan
Another fictional ship, the Jolly Roger is the vessel that Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, and their crew of pirates call home in the story of Peter Pan.
Captain Hook uses the ship as headquarters for all of his pirate business and is the only place in Neverland, besides Skull Rock, considered to be pirate territory.
The Enduring Legacy of the Jolly Roger
Although a fictional creation, the Jolly Roger has become an iconic symbol of piracy, with its name and flag design featuring a skull and crossbones becoming synonymous with the swashbuckling lifestyle.
The ship’s enduring legacy has made it one of the most famous pirate ships in literature and popular culture.
9. The Rising Sun
A Ship of Destruction
Rising Sun was a pirate ship with 35 guns that boarded a crew of 135 men under the leadership of Captain Christopher Moody.
Previously under the command of Black Bart, Moody formed his own crew and embarked on a voyage in 1718 with the Rising Sun, an eight-gun brigantine, and a sloop, all under his command.
The Reign of Terror
Jamaican Governor Archibald Hamilton inspected Moody’s fleet for signs of aggression and piracy and found that the infamous vessels were used to rule over the waters between the islands of St. Christophers and Santa Croix.
There, they burned and destroyed the ships they had successfully plundered. This reign of terror forced Hamilton to seek more powerful naval vessels from England to defend the area from the horror of Captain Moody and the Rising Sun.
10. The Delivery
George Lowther’s Ship of Mutiny
In 1721, George Lowther was a second mate on board the Gambia Castle, an English Man of War, when she sailed for Africa. The Gambia Castle was bringing a garrison to a fortress on the African coast when the crew found their accommodations and provisions to be unacceptable.
Lowther had fallen out of favor with the captain and convinced the unhappy soldiers to join him in mutiny. They took over the Gambia Castle, renamed her Delivery, and set out to engage in piracy.
The End of Lowther and the Delivery
Lowther had a relatively long career as a pirate and eventually traded the Delivery for a more seaworthy ship. However, his luck would eventually run out, as Lowther died marooned on a desert island after losing his ship.
The Greatest Pirate Ships in the History of Sailing
In conclusion, the history of piracy is filled with tales of daring adventures, ruthless plunder, and legendary ships that have left their mark on the pages of history.
From the real-life exploits of pirates like Blackbeard and William Kidd to the fictional tales of Captain Hook and Jack Sparrow, these famous pirate ships continue to captivate and inspire the imaginations of people everywhere.