Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Strike the Colors - Pirate Tactics

Pirates are known for their pillaging, plundering and rioting. But when chasing down ships under sail, pirates preferred tactical strategy over a bloodbath. What? That’s not the way they do it in Hollywood. Ah, but it’s true. Despite how pirates loved a good fight, most times they’d rather rumble in bar brawls than in a sea battle. The risk of losing limb or life was too high.

Once the pirates spotted a potential prize, they shadowed the quarry, following them for hours, and sometimes even days. They did this to determine several things—wh
at country the ship sailed under, where the ship was headed, how fast she sailed, and if the vessel was well-armed.  How did they determine all this? By being badass pirates, naturally.  The seas they hunted were their business. They weren’t just experienced sailors. They were knowledgeable of the trade routes, the going rate for goods, island politics, and they had rats, er, informants staked in every port. But that’s not all.


Armed with this intelligence, the pirate crew voted on whether they wanted to take a ship or let her pass.  Yes, they voted. Was the ship a better bucket than the one they sailed? Did she carry supplies and provisions the pirates needed? Perhaps she carried something, or someone, of value. Maybe even treasure! Should the pirate crew decide a ship was a worthy prize, they still didn’t attack. Engaging in battle was the last thing they wanted. What good was a prize if she was damaged, or worse, sinking? And no one wanted to die, right? Pirates relied on the elements of speed, surprise, and gotchas!

First, they might show their colors, meaning hoisting their jolly roger. If that didn’t get the knees a-knockin’, they’d fire a single warning shot across the ship’s bow. You’d think that would be enough. Unfortunately, there were many stubborn fools. A pity to them. Pirates would then resort to vapouring techniques meant to terrorize victims into surrendering. Fierce shouts and fearsome threats, lively battle music, and brandishing weapons were usually quite effective. Giving up the goods spared lives. But those who resisted, well, they were shown no quarter.

If you were encountered by a pirate ship, when would you surrender? Or would you fight until the death?

About the Author
Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.

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