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Pirates & galleons

Inside a pirate ship

Brigantines were speedy and easy to control.Brigantines were speedy and easy to control. A brigantine was a medium-sized vessel with two masts. Brigantines were favoured by pirates because they were fast and easy to control. They could sail in shallow waters where heavier warships could not follow. These features were advantageous for chasing prey or escaping danger. At the bow, the forecastle was set higher than the rest of the upper deck to give a good view. It was also a useful platform from which to board taller ships. Spanish galleons were no match for the speed of pirates aboard a brigantine, especially when weighed down by cargo and the many guns needed for defence.


A cutaway illustration of a brigantineA cutaway illustration of a brigantineThe stern, or rear, of the ship, had four decks and housed the captain’s quarters and some of the stores. At the bow, the front of the ship, was the fo’c’sle (short for forecastle), or front deck. This was often higher than the rest of the top deck to give a good view. Most of the crew had their sleeping quarters here. Some slept in hammocks slung from the ceilings. Below deck was the ship’s kitchen, or galley, reached from above by stairs called a companionway. Here also was the capstan, a winding machine used for raising or lowering the anchor. 

The cruel pirate Captain Blackbeard (c.1680–1718) tested the courage of new arrivals on his ship by locking them down in the ship's hold. He called it "hell" because it was full of smoke and fumes.

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