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"Research questions, golden age of piracy, the Whydah" Topic

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826 hits since 29 Apr 2023
©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
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Makhno191829 Apr 2023 1:45 p.m. PST

I've been making steady progress on my fleet of cardboard ships, looking forward to using them for some games in the future. As I've been building my knowledge, skills and technique, I'm getting closer to building the ships that are most difficult, or at least the ones I care more about how they look and am most excited about.

My favorite pirate is Sam Bellamy, naturally. I've got cardboard versions of his early ships, the sloop Marianne and the Sultana Gally, mostly assembled and ready to prime. Now I get to turn to the ships I set out to build all along: 2 versions of the Whydah Gally. I hope to build one version of the Whydah as originally launched, and a second to represent the conversions that Bellamy and his men made when they turned her into a pirate ship.

I've read a few books and done a lot of internet research, but still have a few questions I'm hoping someone may have some answers to. First, I'll share what I've learned, and list the questions after.

The Whydah Gally was an English slave ship built in 1715. It was a 3-masted ship-rigged galley, 300 tons, 110 ft (34 m)., or 100' from bow to stern, its tallest mast 120' from the deck to the top. Armed with 18 six-pound mounted cannons and room for 10 more, this well-armed ship was also fast, capable of 13 knots. The hull could carry 500-700 slaves.

In 1715, Captain Larence Prince sailed the Whydah to Africa and took on human captives whom they sold as slaves in Jamaica for sugar, indigo, and dyes.

In late February of 1716, Prince and crew had been at sea for a year when they turned north to begin their journey home. That is when Sam Bellamy and his small fleet, including the Sultana and the Marianne, fell upon the Whydah and captured her without much of a fight.

Bellamy and his men made extensive conversions to suit their purposes. They cleared the top deck off the pilot's cabin, removed the slave barricade, and got rid of other features that made her top heavy. They added ten cannons, bringing the total to 28. 120 men crewed her. They stored their extensive treasure down the gunlock with the men, left without any guard.

I've seen a handful of engravings and paintings, and photos of models. Most of these can be found at the Whydah Museum's website, unfortunately I haven't been able to visit it in person.

I have not been able to find any plans, diagrams, or charts for the Whydah, and am having a hard time distinguishing on the photos of other models if they are intended to represent the ship before or after conversion. Some of my specific questions:

-Is the "pilot's cabin" typically housed in the forecastle?

-Where on the deck would the slave barricade be located?

-Has anyone ever heard of a figurehead on the Whydah Galley?

-Anyone seen plans or particularly good images I may have missed?

Lastly, I'm also interested in modeling Woods Rogers' flagship on his voyage to take over Nassau, the 460 ton-ship Delicia. A showdown between Rogers' fleet and Bellamy's over Nassau Harbor, as some alternative history game, is tempting me.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP29 Apr 2023 5:52 p.m. PST

Info on barricades.



It's a great little museum if you can ever make it there. I don't think the model in the museum has a figurehead. You could always send them an email, or call and ask. Some illustrations show a female figurehead or a mermaid.

Blutarski29 Apr 2023 7:23 p.m. PST

Try this site good photos. The model has the pilot's cabin aft and displays a British ensign in use between 1707-1800. No carved figurehead is represented, simply an uncarved stem. Try contacting the model manufacturer and asking what documentation they based their model upon.


Re figureheads, I checked in Chapelle's "The Search for Speed Under Sail" which covers design of fast sailing ships (including galleys of a similar size as Whydah Gally from 1700-1855. The ship profile drawings often show/suggest figureheads, but with the notation "figurehead "reconstructed" suggesting that the issue may be unclear. Chapelle also notes that ships built for smuggling and blockade running typically had a short life at sea and ornamentation was typically omitted. IMO, I'd say the choice is in your hands; considering the treasure Bellamy accumulated in his short career as a pirate, he could easily have afforded a bit of customization had he wished it.

I grew up in Massachusetts and spent a good part of my youth surfing Cape Cod, including the outer Cape (water is COLD, even in Summer!). I surfed the Cape coastline where Clifford later located Whydah. Most of that coast around Wellfleet features a narrow beach backed by steep 30ft bluffs; there is a cold N/S ocean current that runs right along the coast and the good surf breaks (i.e. sandbars) would change after every storm. One time in early September (Hurricane season for New England) in the early 70s, I drove out there to watch from the blufftop as some hurricane surf pounded the beach; it was MAYBE 15-20ft with winds blowing onshore like mad. I was getting beach spray up on top of the bluff. Experiencing it up close and personal gave me great respect for the power of the ocean; 30ft surf would have been 2x-3x more powerful. No surprise that nearly everyone aboard Whydah drowned.

For any surfers among us I was riding a 9ft10in Dave Sweet single stringer at the time – nice board; didn't like the short boards.

OK end of personal recollections.


Makhno191803 May 2023 5:07 a.m. PST

thanks for your responses! 79thPA, these links on slaves ships are very informative, I not have a much better picture in my head about where the barricade would go and how ot would look. Thank you Blutarski for your input as well. This is a nice for inspiration.

I decided to take a day off work later this week to drive down to the museum. Thanks to both of you for the encouragement. I also plan to walk on Marconi Beach afterward, have a little Sam Bellamy field trip. Along with the models I'm working on an oil painting of the storm and the wreck.

Lastly, wanted to add a little more info on the Delecia: Rogers purchased it in 1713 and used it for his journey around the earth (including to Madagascar) and it had 36 guns.

Blutarski03 May 2023 8:46 a.m. PST

Hi Makhno1918,
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to take my little personal trip down Memory Lane. I cannot tell you how terribly my wife and I miss our time living on the Cape (and the absolutely fresh seafood!)


Makhno191803 May 2023 2:02 p.m. PST

Where on the Cape did you all live, and where did you move to? It's a great place, I have family and friends in the upper cape. Yes I'm looking forward to the trip! Thanks for sharing your memories

Blutarski05 May 2023 7:45 a.m. PST

Hi Makhno1918
We lived in Yarmouthport (Mid-Cape). This was our home -

The pictures shown date to our ownership, including our cat "George".

The pictures really do not do the home or its surroundings real justice.

We are now retired in Greenville, South Carolina area – known as "Upstate SC" (foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the NW corner of the state.

- – -

Dining recommendation –
Dates back to 1690. Right on Rte 6A (King's Highway). We used to walk there from our house.


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