8 Notorious Pirate Ships that Prowled the Seven Seas

8 Notorious Pirate Ships that Prowled the Seven Seas

What’s a pirate without a ship?

1. The Fancy

Henry Every ship

Engraving of Henry Every with The Fancy in the background

Although it might not have had a very threatening name, the Fancy was one of the most feared ships in the world for the approximately 2 years that it was used as a pirate ship. It was commanded by Henry “Long Ben” Every. Nowadays, he is a relatively unknown pirate by the general public but, in his time, he was nicknamed “The King of Pirates” by his contemporaries and for good reason. He was only active as a pirate between 1694 and 1696, but he managed to plunder at least 11 ships including the famed Ganj-i-Sawai that was loaded with tons of silver and gold.

He did this while commanding the Fancy, a 46-gun privateer originally called Charles II and in the service of Spain. However, Every organized a mutiny and gained control of the ship from its original captain. The fate of the ship and of Every remain unknown. In 1696, while working hard to evade a manhunt, Every simply vanished and it’s not known what happened to him or to the Fancy.

2. The Amity

Thomas Tew

Thomas Tew talks up his exploits to the Governor of New York

The Amity was not a mighty ship. It was a sloop armed with only 8 guns and capable of carrying a crew of 46. However, it became quite notorious under the leadership of Thomas Tew, a contemporary (and later ally) of Henry Every. Truth be told, the Amity had one successful major score, an Indian ship carrying a vast treasure in gold and silver. According to Forbes, that alone was enough to place Tew in 3rd place on its list of highest-earning pirates with over $100 million in modern currency.

Several smaller attacks followed, but lightning didn’t strike twice for Tew. When he attacked a convoy of ships carrying a lot of cargo, one of the ships was more than prepared to deal with the Amity and killed Tew in the process. Demoralized, what was left of his crew surrendered and the Amity sunk to a watery grave.

3. The Whydah Gally

The bell recovered from the shipwreck that identified it as the Whydah. Photo Credit: jjsala

The bell recovered from the shipwreck that identified it as the Whydah. Photo Credit: jjsala

If we’re talking about successful pirates, we really have to mention “Black Sam” Bellamy and his ship, the Whydah Gally (or simply Whydah). Even though he only spent a little more than a year as a pirate, Bellamy captured more ships than any other pirate in history (over 53), amassing a fortune of $120 million in modern currency, making him the wealthiest pirate ever (still according to Forbes).

Bellamy never really got to enjoy his huge plunders, though. The Whydah Gally encountered a huge gale storm in April 1717 and sunk to the bottom of the ocean, taking Bellamy, all of the riches and most of the crew with it. However, over 250 years later, the legend of the Whydah was resurrected when the shipwreck was discovered in 1984. It was found mostly using an old map from Bellamy’s time suggesting where the Whydah might have sunk, making it about as close to an actual pirate treasure map as we are ever going to get.

4. The Adventure Galley


Contemporary painting of the Charles Galley, a ship the same design as the Adventure Galley

Theoretically, this ship would have been far more frightening for pirates than traders. This is because it was captained by William Kidd, a man who went down in history as one of the most notorious pirates ever, even though this reputation is not entirely deserved. Kidd started off as a pirate hunter. He was even sent to hunt down Thomas Tew, even though Tew was already dead at that time.

His Adventure Galley had been fitted with everything necessary in order to make it one of the fastest and most powerful ships prowling the sea. However, this also left Kidd quite indebted so, when he wasn’t able to track down enough pirates in order to pay back his backers, he found other means to increase his income i.e. piracy. His most notorious capture was the Quedagh Merchant, an Indian merchant ship carrying a lot of valuables. Kidd felt that this capture was made legally and intended to use part of the fortune to pay his debts. However, others in the British Empire disagreed and Kidd was eventually tried and executed for piracy.

His trial was highly publicized which is mainly why he became so famous as a pirate. The real fate of the Adventure Galley is not completely known, although it is generally agreed that Kidd stripped it of useful materials and sunk it on purpose as it was no longer sea-worthy.

5. The Ranger

benjamin hornigold ship

Contemporary engraving of La Concorde

Originally, Captain Benjamin Hornigold helmed this mighty 30-gun sloop which he used to maintain dominance around the region surrounding Nassau. At the height of his power, Hornigold captained as many as five vessels and had a crew 350 strong. He was a feared pirate but, at the same time, he avoided targeting British ships in order to maintain his status as a privateer. This wasn’t always popular with his crew and a mutiny eventually lost him control of the Ranger.

His actions did pay off eventually as he was pardoned for being a pirate. Instead, he was tasked to become a pirate hunter. He set sail after some of the most notorious pirates of his day, including Stede Bonnet, Calico Jack and his former second-in-command, a man by the name of Edward Teach. His career as a pirate hunter never really reached the same level of success. His new ship La Concorde was caught in a hurricane and sunk, taking Hornigold down with it. In modern times, piracy fans can see Hornigold featured in the TV show “Black Sails” and the video game “Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag”.

6. The Revenge

Stede_Bonnet flag

Traditional depiction of Bonnet’s flag featuring a skull between a dagger and a heart. There is no contemporary source to confirm this was actually Bonnet’s flag.

The Revenge has the distinction of being one of the few ships that was captained by two of the most notorious pirates in history. One of them was Stede Bonnet, a man who was eager for a life of piracy, but didn’t really know anything about it. Nicknamed the “Gentleman Pirate” Bonnet was already pretty wealthy so he was able to actually buy the ship he named Revenge and pay a crew to sail with him. However, his lack of knowledge about being a captain was obvious so he accepted the help of the aforementioned Edward Teach who became sort of a co-captain.

Teach taught Bonnet a lot about being a captain but, unsurprisingly, when Teach left, so did many of the men who preferred him as captain. Left without a crew, Bonnet spent some time on Teach’s own ship (which might make an appearance later on). Eventually, with enough experience, Bonnet tried his hand at being a captain again, also renaming his ship Royal James in the process. He had a few successful captures and became a respected captain in his own right, but was eventually captured, tried and hanged for piracy.

7. Rose Pink


Engraving of Edward Low

Again, not a name that would inspire a lot of fear, yet it belonged to one of the most savage pirates ever – Edward Low. The extent of his cruelty was mentioned many times and by many different people and it helped garner him an extremely fearsome reputation. Tales of him torturing and murdering his prisoners were common, something that didn’t really happen as often among pirates as you would think. Many of them simply robbed their prisoners and left them alone.

During his years as pirate captain, Low helmed many ships. He captured over 100 of them and, while he burned most of them, he was always ready to swap his flagship for something better. He once captured a French or Portuguese pink (just to avoid confusion, pink is a type of ship) which he made his flagship and renamed it Rose Pink.

Most notable about it, however, was the stupid way in which it was destroyed. Low brought it ashore and ordered his men to clean it from the outside in order to remove seaweed and barnacles (a process called careening). However, as he was still inexperienced at the time, he ordered too many men to do this and the Rose Pink tipper over. As it had its portholes open, water started coming into the ship and the Rose Pink sank while performing standard maintenance.

8. Queen Anne’s Revenge

Pirate painting Blackbeard

Blackbeard’s final battle

We’ve mentioned this Edward Teach guy a few times already and now it’s time to talk about his ship. It had quite a history. Originally, it was an English ship called Concord. Afterwards it was captured by the French, modified to have a larger cargo hold and turned into a slave ship renamed La Concorde. It was then captured by Teach’s captain of the time, Benjamin Hornigold who eventually relinquished command of it to Teach. When the two went their separate ways, Teach renamed the ship Queen Anne’s Revenge and also adopted a new moniker for himself – Blackbeard.

Suffice to say that the ship of the most infamous pirate of all time lived up to the reputation. Blackbeard added a lot more firepower to it and used it to create his fearsome legacy. Despite this, he only had it for less than a year. Blackbeard eventually ran it aground (supposedly on purpose) in order to disband his crew and escape pursuers.

Almost 20 years ago, the remains of a ship were discovered around the inlet in North Carolina where Blackbeard supposedly left the Queen Anne’s Revenge and there were already talks that it might be the famous shipwreck. Various artifacts were recovered and work on the ship is still very much ongoing. However, in 2011, the ship was positively confirmed as once belonging to the notorious Blackbeard.



Featured image courtesy of Zil via Wiki Commons.