Caribbean Tales - Ships - Sloop
While the movies and popular imagination
associates pirates with 3 masted ships likes frigates and brigantines, most
of the action involving pirates took place aboard sloops. The single-masted
sloop had a bowsprit almost as long as her hull making her perhaps one of
the swiftest and agile vessels of her day. If the wind was favorable, a square
topsail could be hoisted to give her a top speed that could on occasion exceed
The Sloop was a favourable ship for pirates and smugglers alike. Her size could be as large as 100 tons. They ranged from 35' to 65' long (11-20m long) and had 3 decks - the surface deck, the hold, and the bilge. This relatively small vessel could carry around 75 (up to 150) pirates and 14 cannons on the surface deck. The ship could also mount 8 swivel guns quite easily, with more being fitted if the need was warranted such as in pirate ships.
The Sloop was often the ship of choice for hunting in the shallower channels and sounds, drawing 8 feet of water. The Schooner which came into widespread use around the last half of the eighteenth century is a little of all of the best features in a pirate ship. Perhaps her greatest virtue lie in her shallow draft. She was favored by pirates of the North American coast and the Caribbean. Fully loaded she was still small enough to navigate the shoal waters and to hide in remote coves. The Jamaica and Bermuda sloops were renowned for their speed and were prized as pirate vessels.
A sloop is a one-masted fore-and-aft rigged vessel with one jib (staysail) before the mast. If there is more than one jib, the boat is a cutter. These ships were generally gaff rigged with a single mast. She was generally rigged with a large mainsail which was attached to a spar above, to the mast on its foremost edge, and to a long boom below. She could sport additional sails both square and lateen-rigged. Today's sailing Yacht is essentially a sloop.
The Naval Sloop was basically a Sloop with more guns and slightly larger. The Naval Sloop was a pirate hunting ship, with a crew of 70 to man this 113 ton, 65 foot fighting ship. The ship is "sharp-ended" to allow for faster attack and is fit with 7 pairs of oars (put through the gunports) to allow for chase without wind. A well trained crew could fire the 12 nine pound cannons about twice every three minutes.
Sloop of War - An English naval vessel smaller than a 6th rate, captained by a master and a commander. They were commissioned to be built in the early 1700's to combat French commerce raiders in the rivers of England. At this time they were single masted, but this was quickly dispensed with and by 1720 sloops of war were 2 masted vessels.