Was there a dry dock somewhere on one of the pirate havens during the 17th century, where a pirate-controlled Galleon could go to get extensive repairs done by career carpenters or shipwrights?

I have heard there was one in Port Royal, after the British abandoned the Island because their forces were stretched too thin.

Was there anymore around in perhaps Tortuga, Hispaniola, Maricabo, or any other pirate haunts like that, where they could securely get their ships fixed by pros?

I'm asking because I'm working on a pirate story right now, and having someplace they can get their ship fixed in a few days is essential for the flow of my storyline.

Also, about much in gold would it cost them?

  • 3
    Pirates stole ships for a living. They wouldn't need to repair a damaged vessel, they'd just get a new one. Jan 22, 2022 at 8:12
  • 5
    Pirate crews would most likely have had a skilled carpenter among their number. Also, have a look at this: Careening. Jan 22, 2022 at 8:43
  • 6
    If this story is set during the Golden Age of Piracy (which is 1650-1730 by its widest definition) then it's unlikely that the pirates would have been sailing galleons. The galleon was an almost obsolete design by this point. Also a galleon was a large, well armed vessel that made it difficult to capture, so few of them would have fallen into pirate hands at all.
    – Steve Bird
    Jan 22, 2022 at 10:45
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    Also dry docks didn't become common (if that's the right word) until the 19th century when steam pumps made them more practical. Port Royal certainly didn't have one during the Golden Age of Piracy. The Royal Navy of the period used the port's commercial careening wharf for ship repairs when they were there.
    – Steve Bird
    Jan 22, 2022 at 10:50
  • 2
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    – MCW
    Jan 22, 2022 at 13:20

1 Answer 1


No. It's one thing to set up a pirates den with brothels, gambling and bars. Quite another to set up and run successfully a harbour with extended port facilities. Find a remote spot. Build some shacks. Import some women, playing cards and drinkies. You're all set to go.

Building a harbour or port is of a different order. Adding a dry dock to that even more. Most ports and nearly all harbours didn't have dry dock facilities. Only the largest ports had them. Because they are expensive to build, maintain and operate.

That brings us to profitability. The Caribbean Sea may have been a pirate's paradise, over all there weren't that many pirate ships. A pirate dry dock would run at a severe loss.

Next, there was no real need for dry docking pirate ships. Pirates never used big ships, like galleons. They preferred small, nimble and fast ships. It's not a coincidence Somali pirates do exactly the same thing.

There are three reasons why pirates wouldn't need to use dry docks:

1- You don't need to dry dock a sloop or another small type of fast ship. You can simply beach it, and work from there.

2- Steal another ship.

3- A dry dock would be a magnet for all European navies. So many pirate ships nicely docked waiting (defenceless!) to be serviced in one harbour is a wet dream for an admiral. That's how he would get rich in a hurry. Absolutely no need to motivate his crew. They'd be more than happy to do their very best.

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    Actually, this is not completely true. Many pirates were occasionally privateers and did have letter of marque, thus were at least temporarily legal. Therefore, they did have access to port facilities, and would occasionally outfit a ship for cruising, instead of simply capturing it. Line between piracy and privateering was often blurry.
    – rs.29
    Jan 23, 2022 at 19:20
  • Thanks for that my friend. I thought the other answers here sounded just a little too black and white for me. I mean, I knew there had to be a grey area in there somewhere. But of course I was not sure, but yer explanation makes perfect sense to me. Thanks again for that my friend. It really helps a lot. Take care and have great day.
    – Dwayne
    Jan 23, 2022 at 22:49
  • Thanks a lot for yer answers my friend. I am very grateful for yer help. Take care.
    – Dwayne
    Jan 23, 2022 at 23:04
  • The Wikipedia article on Careening has a picture of a ship being repaired by that traditional method, which allows you to expose first one side then the other of the hull.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 25, 2022 at 16:50

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