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"Frigate" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2017 4:08 p.m. PST

"A frigate is a type of warship that comes in various sizes and was used many times throughout the Golden Age of Piracy as a type of pirate ship. During the 17th century and primarily the Buccaneering Era the term was used for any type of warship that was build for speed and maneuverability which was a great advantage in the West Indies. They were often smaller than a Ship of the Line but were larger than a brigantine or brig.

Often these warships would carry their main battery of cannons or carriage mounted guns on a single deck or on two decks with other guns such as swivel guns mounted on the forecastle and quarterdeck of the ship. They were considered fully rigged ships which contained three masts and square-rigging on each of them. Often these types of ships were used for patrolling or escorts instead of for intense naval battles.

In a definition that was adopted by the British Admiralty they were considered ships that had 28 guns and had all of their primary weapons on a single continuous upper deck. In contrast, ships of the line would contain two continuous decks of cannons. Eventually the term would come to define a type of armored vessel throughout the 19th century but that is mostly outside of the scope of the types of ships used in the Post Spanish Succession Period and the Pirate Round…."
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Andrew Walters27 Oct 2017 10:18 a.m. PST

That is a fun site, but a little romantic. They're a little loose with the details in favor of pirate-y coolness. Which is absolutely fine, up to a point.

The frigate is really too big for a pirate ship. There were a couple of pirate frigates, but they generally require a crew of 300-ish, and that's a little large for a pirate band. Most pirate ships were sloops, with a few brigs, barques, and what have you. Smaller, one- and two-masted ships with crews of 20-150.

Of course, terminology changes over time and is always a little fuzzy.

Famously, Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge was a frigate, but a small one at 100', 200 tons. He only used her for a year, with a crew between 100 and 150, before running her aground and moving his men and guns to smaller ships, which are just more effective for freebooting. Some say they tried to free the frigate, by I think I buy the story that he wanted to disperse the crew.

I think the most interesting thing about frigates is that after the Golden Age of Piracy during the Golden Age of Fighting Sail frigates in European navies had the job of capturing enemy shipping, since they were fast. Since the captain and crews shared in the value of the cargo and ship captured, many frigate captains declined promotions to captain a ship of the line, since their income would take a mighty hit. Ships of the line travelled in groups, either blockading somewhere, transporting troops, or hanging out waiting for a big battle. Less action. Of course, if you made it to admiral you got a share of the profits of all the ships under you, but that promotion is a long way off and unlikely if you're not connected. So if you want to retire rich you want to be a frigate captain.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2017 11:16 a.m. PST

Thanks for the info my friend!.


Cursd Captain28 Oct 2017 9:23 a.m. PST

This site is just an echo of the wikipedia page on frigates.

As wiki notes, "frigate" in the 17th century was a loose descriptive term for a ship of any size with a less stacked-up profile than usual, and/or a slimmer hull. Our familiarity with the 18-19th century frigate, a light cruising warship with a consistent size and role, is a source of confusion when we look back to the earlier age of sail.

Unlike wikipedia, I doubt that the word "frigate" derives from classical Greek. Here is a good essay on the word's cloudy etymology.

Frantic31 Oct 2017 2:03 p.m. PST

Frigates were very common pirate vessels. In the 17th and early 18th centuries, there were some very small Frigates, especially in the Caribbean. La Belle is a great example with a deck of less than 60 feet long and only about 40 tons.

Andrew Walters31 Oct 2017 7:21 p.m. PST

Wikipedia calls La Belle a "barque longue". I do not want to nitpick naval terminology, but calling a 60' ship a frigate is generous by any standard.

Frantic09 Nov 2017 2:59 p.m. PST

Barque longue and frigate are sometimes interchangeable terms for the French during this period. I don't know how to post pictures here, but if you check out Du Pas, there are quite a few illustrations of very small frigates that look identical to La Belle. Admittedly though, naval nomenclature during this period is a nightmare :)

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