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Question of Swann (02.08.2023): Where did pirates repair their ships after being damaged by cannons?
How long did it take to repair a boat and how did they repair them?
If they were wanted, could they not land in any port? Thanks for this site !

Pirate sloop undergoing refit

Repairing a badly damaged ship required putting it into a « hull »

After naval battles and collisions, ships were damaged and needed to be repaired.
If the repairs to be done were basic, they could be done on the water, preferably in calm water. Close to a friendly port was much better because they could run out of things they didn't have in their ship, such as hemp to caulk, wood to repair the railings or the hull.

When the ship was too slow, it had to be refitted. The refit operation consisted in cleaning and repairing the submerged part of the hull, often covered with shells, algae and worms that were eating away at the wood and slowing down the ship.

The hull is the set of structures that form the hull and is located below the waterline.

Where did pirates repair their ships?

Pirates would repair their ships in ports off the usual trade routes, such as hidden bays or isolated islands.

They could also find refuge in friendly ports, such as pirate-controlled ports or ports established by tolerant nations.

The islands in question were isolated such as the Caribbean islands, the West African coast, the island of Madagascar, the Sunda Islands, among others. Some of these islands were known for their safe shelter and developed infrastructure for naval repairs.

How is a ship careened?

Pirates repaired their ships using carpentry skills, using tools and materials available on the ship or purchased from islands and ports.

They could also call on local experts to help with more complex repairs. The goal was to keep the ship in good working order so that they could continue to sail and carry out their illegal activities.

Vessel in hull lying on the water. Heating of the tar to soften it and recalibration of the ship
Hull vessel lying on the water with men working on a pontoon or raft. The men heat the old tar, which is damaged and covered with seaweed and shells, to soften it, make it easier to clean and then to recaulk the ship.

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