Benerson Little

“The trident of Neptune is the scepter of the world.”*

Below are the current cover, TOC and sample chapter, and a series of images of and notes on common smaller pirate/​buccaneer/​filibuster vessels.

Notes & Errata

Extensive useful notes on content, based on research and discovery subsequent to publication, as well as errata may be downloaded via the linked pdf file below.

Common Pirate & Privateer Vessels

Canoe under sail, 1684.

A canoe under sail, from Labat, 1722. Strictly speaking, the vessel is a pirogue/piragua/periager. The vessel's sprit rig has been copied from a du Pas illustration of a "Felouque de Gennes."

Common Caribbean bark, 1683.

Caribbean sloop, French, 1685.

"Brigantins" of the Americas, by du Pas, 1710. Compare with the Labat illustration below.

A West Indian sloop, from Labat, 1722. The illustration, reversed, was originally used in du Pas (referred to as a brigantin) in 1710. In Labat, a sloop is referred to variously as a barque, balandre, and bateau in the text, and as a barque in an accompanying illustration.

Spanish Caribbean sloop, early to mid-18th century. From a chart in the Spanish National Library.

"Bermuda" sloop in Boston harbor, 1717. The vessel, by its ancient, jack, and commission pendant, is an English man-of-war or privateer. (Privateers often flew the colors of a man-of-war, even when proscribed.)

Sloop, probably Bermuda, with topsail and topgallant, plus fore staysail, jib, and flying jib, at Petit Goave, 1725.

Sloop, possibly Bermuda, in Boston harbor, 1728.

A barque longue from du Pas, 1710.

A barque longue from Jacque Vichot's Deux albums des batiments de l'Atlantique et de la Mediterranée, 1679. Illustrations in the albums are attributed to Jean Jouve. Note the oars.

"Galley under sail" by Nicolas Poilly, late 17th century. The illustration is clearly identical in all aspects to that of the barque longue. Poilly also has an illustration of the same vessel rowing, with sails furled, but with yards for lateen sails, not square or lug. Doubtless all three rigs were used. The vessel above is armed with two swivel guns in the bow.

Spanish barcalonga with lug sail, from the 18th century Álbum de Construcción Naval by the Marquis de la Victoria.

A type of vessel also referred to as a barque longue, particularly in Dunkirk where it was used as a privateer, from du Pas. The Dutch referred to this type of vessel, distinctive in that its foremast was significantly smaller than its main, as a snauw, the French form of which is senau, and the English version snow. The snow at this time was a square-rigged barque-longue, as in the illustration, capable of carrying 20 to 25 men and was often armed with a very small number of carriage guns The French navy also used a small frigate which was also referred to as a barque longue, for example La Salle's La Belle lost on the Texas coast in 1687.

Double chaloupe from du Pas. The term was often used to refer to barque longues, especially if decked over.

A brigantine or corvette, from Labat.

A corvette from du Pas. Labat lists the corvette, barque (sloop), and brigantin as the three most common Caribbean vessels, other than carved canoes and pirogues.

Caribbean brigantin, French, 1685. Note the lack of topsail on the mainmast.

A brigantin from Labat, modified from an illustration in du Pas. See below.

Grand brigantin Anglois from du Pas. Note the topsail above the gaff sail.

A ketch, occasionally used by buccaneers and pirates. Wm. Dampier was the supercargo of such a vessel when chased by Spanish "pirates" while trading for logwood at Campeche. Du Pas, 1710.

Single mast Mediterranean tartane, used as a ballast lighter ("Tartanne delist"), attributed to Jean Jouvet, 1679. Similar tartanes were common in the Caribbean and were occasionally used as sea roving vessels.

Mediterranean tartane by Nicolas Poilly, late 17th century, typical of those used by the Spanish in the Caribbean. This one shows five swivel guns but is probably armed with six.

Mediterranean merchant tartane armed with six swivel guns, attributed to Jean Jouve, 1679, virtually identical to the tartane above. These tartanes were common in the Spanish Caribbean and were occasionally used by buccaneers and privateers.

"Pirogue Espanol" or Spanish half-galley, from Labat, 1722. These vessels were used to hunt pirates, smugglers, and interlopers, and also by the Spanish to engage in privateering and piracy. A gun (cannon) on a field carriage is mounted in the bow.

A more accurate--eyewitness, in fact--illustration of a half-galley or "Spanish pirogue," 1688, possibly the one used in the Spanish attack on Petit Goave in 1687. It may also depict a French half-galley, as both the French and English adopted this vessel to pursue Spanish pirates. A naval carriage gun is mounted in the bow.

Late 17th century Spanish "galeota" or "half galley" intended for use at Cuba. (Archive of the Indies in Seville.)

Small frigate of 100 to 150 tons and 8 to 12 guns, such as commanded by Barth. Sharp or Pierre Lagarde. Du Pas, 1710. The frigate is similar to La Salle's La Belle, described as a barque longue or barque en fagot.

English merchant galley frigate or "running ship," from du Pas, 1710. Very similar to sixth rate men-of-war, these ships, ranging from 180 to 250 tons and 18 to 24 guns, were used both for commerce and as privateers. Most sixth rate men-of-war also carried sweeps on the main deck, as depicted here. William Kidd's Adventure Galley was just such a ship. Only rarely did sea rovers sail ships larger than this.

French fregate legère or sixth rate, attributed to Poilly, late 17th century. Some armed French merchantmen and slavers of this size were similar. As with the galley frigate above, these smaller ships typically carried sweeps, were armed with 16 to 24 guns, and were used as men-of-war, privateers, merchantmen, slavers, and pirates. Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge was probably similar to this representation, including armament. The vessel depicted above is armed with 26 great guns and 6 swivels.

* By Antoine Marin Lemierre, from his poem "Commerce." (Le trident de Neptune est le sceptre du monde.)

Book Links:
Descriptions & Reviews

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The truth behind the great pirate myths and legends. In print!
Maritime History

A colorful and detailed description of how pirates and privateers practiced their trade.

To really understand what the pirate's world was like: how buccaneers lived, fought, and died.


The Sea Rover’s Practice:
Pirate Tactics and Techniques,

A colorful and detailed description of how pirates and privateers practiced their trade, including planning, intelligence gathering, tactics, and lifestyles.

In print: Hardover, Trade Paper, Kindle, Nook, and EPUB (Google).


"As colorful as a Howard Pyle illustration and as compelling as an Errol Flynn film, The Sea Rover’s Practice belongs on anyone’s short list of useful scholarship on the great age of piracy. Based largely on first-person accounts, the book provides a trustworthy description of how pirates, filibusters, buccaneers, and privateers went about their business, from planning and recruiting, through chasing, engaging, and boarding, to dividing the spoils. The reader, entertained as well as informed, is likely to have nearly as much fun reading this book as the author appears to have had in writing it."
—Michael J. Crawford, naval historian and editor of The Autobiography of a Yankee Mariner: Christopher Prince and the American Revolution

Benerson Little brings a unique and powerful perspective—that of a scholarly former U.S. Navy SEAL—to a fascinating subject. The result is a remarkable book that casts much new light on the sea rovers of the Age of Sail."
—Frank Sherry, author of Raiders and Rebels: The Golden Age of Piracy

"A remarkably complete analysis of methods used in piracy, especially in Europe and America, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The book is based on solid research and is especially valuable for understanding the language and literature of the subject. It includes useful notes and bibliographies and is a highly recommended reference work for both general and specialized libraries."
—Norman J. W. Thrower, professor emeritus of geography at UCLA, and author of Maps and Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society

"The Sea Rover’s Practice fills a long-standing void in the literature of piracy. With the trained eye and experienced hand of a sailor and maritime combatant, Benerson Little reconstructs a century of tactics and stratagems developed by pirates during the height of their operations in Spanish America and beyond. Through engaging prose and careful scholarship, Little uncovers the fascinating secrets of the ‘sweet trade.’"
—Peter R. Galvin, associate professor of geography, Indiana University Southeast, and author of Patterns of Pillage: A Geography of Caribbean-Based Piracy in Spanish America, 1536-1718


"Mr Little details the tactics and methods the pirates employed. The result is fascinating, and reads at times like a tactical manual for aspiring buccaneers...the reader may feel that he is listening to some grizzled old sea dog talk about how he and his mates used to conduct business on the Spanish Main."
—Burke G Sheppard,, February 2009

"...The Sea Rover’s Practice provides a very useful introduction to the subject. It will probably have a wide appeal to general readers, and it may well prove helpful in connection with a range of university courses."
—H. J. K. Jenkins, The Mariner’s Mirror 94, 2009

"This book on Golden Age piracy is as lively as its subject matter...With considerable gusto and an impressive understanding of the strategies of violence at sea, the author explores the material practices of piracy from the beginning to the end of a voyage. Little’s book is particularly strong in its description of the armaments and tactics of warfare at sea...The scholarship is also strong...Little’s achievement in The Sea Rover’s Practice is a considerable one; this well-priced and absorbing book allows the reader to appreciate the terms of engagement, and the stakes, in the much romanticized but little understood phenomena of early modern piracy."
—Claire Jowitt, Nottingham Trent University, The Historian, Summer 2008

". . . .rich in colourful detail, and displays impressive knowledge of sailing and fighting skills."
—Richard Hill, The Naval Review, August 2007

"Be prepared—after reading only a few pages—to feel the wind in your face and taste the salt air."
—Jack A. Gottschalk, Naval War College Review, Autumn 2006

"For the student of fan of early pirating days who will readily appreciate Navy SEAL officer Benerson Little's focus on the realities and -- dare we say -- business practices of early sea rovers. The Sea Rover’s Practice is the only book to describe in detail their tactics, and the scholarly reader in particular will find the research solid."
Midwest Book Review, December 2005

"[Little's] unique insight gives us a truly practical guide on the strategies and techniques used by the successful pirate or privateer... If I were headed out a-rovin' and were allowed only one book in my sea bag, this would be the one I'd bring."
—Michael MacLeod, No Quarter Given

"No self-respecting sea rover should be without this manual! Reenactors and writers will find The Sea Rover’s Practice invaluable, but anyone who wishes a more in-depth look into the tactics of pirates and privateers will not be disappointed."
—Cindy Vallar, Pirates and Privateers, 2006

"A scholarly, informative, thought-provoking work, a book that would be a welcome addition to any maritime historian's library. Considering all the titles that have been published in the last decade on piracy, this book is an excellent resource on its true nature."
—Louis Arthur Norton, Sea History, Spring 2006

"Former US Navy SEAL Little has delved into the first hand narratives of piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe and America in order to reconstruct their tactics of buccaneers, freebooters, corsairs, and privateers."
—Reference and Research Book News

"The Sea Rover's Practice is delightful and frightful and scholarly all at the same time . . . . The reader is enthralled with the detail of it all . . . ."
Alabama Writers' Forum, Spring 2007

"THE SEA ROVER'S PRACTICE is an excellent review of every aspect of pirating and privateering . . . a great resource. . . ."
—JoAnne Powell, North Carolina Maritime Museum, Nautical Research Journal, Fall 2006

"THE SEA ROVER'S PRACTICE by Benerson Little, a former Navy SEAL officer, examines the tactics and stratagems deployed by privateers and pirates to 'take wealth by force of arms at sea' in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. It is precisesly the sort of book that some of my students crave."
—Andrew parnaby, Cape Breton University, International Journal of Maritime History, June 2006

"[An] author of truly heroic status. Benerson Little has written a book without precedent--a small tome of combat knowledge as it applies to our pirate forebears. . . . It's one thing for a historian to write about old naval tactics. It's quite another when that historian is a former Navy SEAL. . . . A truly exceptional book."
—, 2006

"Excellent . . . This is a great backgrounder on what really was behind the privateers, buccaneers/​boucaniers, filibusters/​flibustiers, and pirates. . . . This is not a book that only looks at the past but has a surprising applicability to modernity."
—Matt Armstrong, of the Public Diplomacy blog, June 2006

From the Publisher

To read of sea roving's various incarnations -- piracy, privateering, buccaneering, la flibuste, la course -- is to bring forth romantic, and often violent, imagery. Indeed, much of this imagery has become a literary and cinematic cliché. And what an image it is!

But its truth is by halves, and paradoxically it is the picaresque imagery of Pyle, Wyeth, Sabatini, and Hollywood that is often closer to the reality, while the historical details of arms, tactics, and language are often inaccurate or entirely anachronistic.

Successful sea rovers were careful practitioners of a complex profession that sought wealth by stratagem and force of arms. Drawn from the European tradition, yet of various races and nationalities, they raided both ship and town throughout much of the world from roughly 1630 until 1730. Using a variety of innovative tactics and often armed with little more than musket and grenade, many of these self-described "soldiers and privateers" successfully assaulted fortifications, attacked shipping from small craft, crossed the mountains and jungles of Panama, and even circumnavigated the globe. Successful sea rovers were often supreme seamen, soldiers, and above all, tacticians. It can be argued that their influence on certain naval tactics is felt even today.

The Sea Rover's Practice is the only book that describes in exceptional detail the tactics of sea rovers of the period -- how they actually sought out and attacked vessels and towns. Accessible to both the general and the more scholarly reader, it will appeal not only to those with an interest in piracy and in maritime, naval, and military history, but also to mariners in general, tall-ship and ship-modeling enthusiasts, tacticians and military analysts, readers of historical fiction, writers, and the adventurer in all of us.