Pirate Strategy by Anna Markland

The strategies pirates used for capturing ships are a lot more complex than you might think. In fact, many pirates opted for stealing the ships’ merchandise and treasures instead of actually taking the ship as their prize.

Most pirate ships were not generally superior vessels in comparison to those from whom they were attempting to steal, so their strategy often involved minimal fire power, which in turn meant less damage to their prize ship.


Pirates targeted lone merchant ships that were full of products, meaning less space for arms. To find a ship alone, pirates would have to scout the less traveled sea lanes where merchant ships would go in search of the different and cheaper products. Targeting a ship in the main sea lane would mean more chance of running into a naval ship. Once the pirates had identified their prize ship, they would often take time to follow and track it, seeing how fast it was, how many crew it had etc. The kinds of ships targeted could be anything from a fishing boats to galleons to large merchant vessels.

The Marauder takes advantage of this flag’s similarity to the British red ensign.


Once the pirates had decided on their prize and could see that they had a good chance, there were various strategies they could employ. One was to fly a false flag that made it look friendly, meaning that the prey would not speed up to escape, luring them into a false sense of security. 

Alternatively, the pirate ship could pretend to be in trouble, so that the merchant ship came to the rescue, getting closer and allowing the pirates to attack.

Usually, once the merchant ship was in range of fire, the pirates would raise their real flag but it would be too late for escape. The pirates would surprise their prey and many ships would surrender just at the sight of the flag. Some pirate ships would also send a couple of warning shots that would fly over the bow to encourage surrender without damaging the ship.


On other occasions, all the pirates would go on deck, screaming and raising their weapons. It was common when attacking Spanish galleons to put the black pirates with weapons in clear view to scare the Spanish. Spain depended on slavery from Africa and Spaniards lived in fear of ex slaves taking revenge.

On most occasions, the targeted ship would get the message loud and clear that it was “surrender or die” and would surrender, unless the ship was far superior in terms of firearms. Usually, merchant ships would bribe the pirates; in fact it was not uncommon for merchant ships to have special cargo for pirate bribes.


If the pirate ship was close enough for the pirates to board, then it was likely that a merchant ship’s captain wouldn’t put up a fight. Merchant ships were known for having skeleton crews which left more room for cargo. It also lowered the cost of provisions and wages. If the ships refused to surrender, the pirates would start targeting the sails and the rigging in order to slow down any attempt at escape.


What pirates did with their prisoners varied. If the ship surrendered immediately, bribes and bartering could take place and no one would be killed. If the ship refused to surrender, most pirates would take the crew as prisoners, forcing them to become part of their team, in particular any specialists like doctors, carpenters and map readers. Passengers would often be taken to be ransomed later and crew might be sold into slavery. The captain would often be shot or marooned as an example.


If the captured ship was in good condition, the pirates might choose to keep it, and add it to their fleet or sell it. Otherwise they would take the cargo and then sink the vessel or send it afloat.

About the Book:

Spanish pirates take to the high seas in this passionate and powerful Pirates of Britannia adventure!

Capitán Santiago Velázquez falls foul of the Spanis

h Inquisition after a disgruntled lover falsely accuses him of perverse tendencies. Forced to flee to the Americas, he follows in the footsteps of his pirate ancestor, the notorious leader of the Demonios del Mar, and plunders ships the length and breadth of the Spanish Main. Captured by the Spanish governor of Florida in the last days of the Seven Years War with the British, he agrees to attack Royal Navy vessels under the aegis of Letters of Marque. In exchange, he secures a pardon for himself and his crew.

Valentina Melchor is trapped in St. Augustine with her father, the governor, when Florida is ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris. The turmoil caused by the end of the war is Santiago’s opportunity to flee, but he risks his life and his ship to rescue Valentina, despite his resolve to never trust a woman again.

Can a man of the sea finally find his happily ever after?


About Anna:

I was born in England, but I’ve lived most of my life in Canada. Education, business and disaster relief provided three interesting and rewarding careers before I became a published writer. I have a keen interest in genealogy. This hobby has had a tremendous influence on my stories. My historical romances are tales of family honor, ancestry, and roots.

For me, novels are an escape into another world and time where I lose myself in the characters’ lives, confident they will triumph in the end and find love. I love ferreting out bits of historical trivia in order to provide the reader with an authentic experience.

I hope you come to know and love my cast of characters as much as I do.

Escape with me to where romance began and get intimate with history.