A Pirate Captain would be an individual well-known for his sailing experience and management, his personal drive or perhaps having a little education or even the gift of eloquence ; elected by the crew, he held his position only as long as the pirate crew let him do so under the close-scrutiny of productivity. He could draw on the experience of the Quartermaster, Sailing-Master, Boatswain and Gunner for advice as to what to do or where to sail but the final decision on how to proceed in battle would be his and his alone … and the consequences would be on his shoulders alone.

The Pirate Captain had to be able to manage a crew made up of pretty tough individuals, physically fit and willing to fight. He would have to prove an ability to hunt down prizes, have a good understanding of trading (so as not to be cheated ‘to excess’), have the contacts and ‘fences’ to trade with, be charming and persuasive when undertaking any subtle bribery with colonial officials but above all be an effective leader in battle. He would lead and inspire his crew, being at the head of a sea-going democracy of an average number between fifty and two hundred crew, keeping them content and unified whilst cruising for prizes and trained, totally efficient and ruthless during any fight. Tolerant of pain, energetically fit and bonded together in a single-minded pursuit of stolen wealth, a pirate crew required a leader who could both understand and make the best use of their talents - and in return they gave him obedience and a willingness to carry out his orders for as long as they brought in the plunder.

In action, the word of a Pirate Captain was absolute - a Pirate Captain could and would shoot any pirate aboard who did not obey his orders in pursuit of a prize ; but when cruising, he had no more rights aboard ship than anyone else - there was no such thing as privacy in a Captain’s cabin aboard a pirate ship, locks anywhere aboard the ship were forbidden  and all decisions outside battle had to be referred to the crew. Unlike a privateer Captain, a Pirate Captain received only an extra share or a half-share of the pirate plunder than a pirate crewman in return for his efforts.

What pirates wanted most were easy and profitable victories at sea and many of them - with as little fighting and danger as possible - and a fast, safe voyage ending with pockets filled to the brim with gold or silver to be able to retire to their chosen paradise and enjoy ‘the fruits of their labours’. An ‘unsuccessful’ Pirate Captain would be ‘voted out’ by the crew ; if he was unproductive but otherwise a popular man or a skilled seaman he might step down and remain in the crew - but ‘suspicion’ could still see him done away with - if unpopular or seen as cowardly, he could be cast adrift in a boat, ‘marooned’ on a sand-spit or a lonely island or even just plain murdered … another member of the crew would then be elected by the crew to take his place.



Select one of the names below to read about the individual members of the crew

Quartermaster - Bosun - Gunner - Surgeon - Navigator

All text © Copyright of Richard Rutherford Moore. Photo © Copyright of John Webster

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