Sid Meier's Pirates! Wiki
This article is about the Ship Type known as the "Pinnace". For the family of ship known collectively as "Pinnaces", see Pinnace Class.

The Pinnace is the smallest Ship Type, available in all incarnations of Pirates!. It is decidedly the fastest and most agile of all ship-types. On the other hand, it is also the smallest in terms of cargo capacity, is the least armed, and has the smallest crew complement of all ship types. It is a favorite of both small-time pirates and smugglers, as its speed enables it to either evade combat altogether or get its crew on board an enemy ship as quickly as possible.

General Description[]

Pinnace is the name used to refer to a specific type of ship or group of ships appearing in the various "Pirates!" games. It is the cheapest and smallest type of ship, but in the hands of an experienced player it can find good use, thanks to its superior speed and maneuverability. It is used primarily for quickly boarding enemy ships, and is fast enough to catch any other ship in the game (except, in some cases, another Pinnace).


The Pinnace is a pure Fore-And-Aft Rigging design, sporting nothing but two or three triangular Sails of different sizes. Its hull is tiny compared to other ships. A Pinnace carries a very small Crew complement, and no more than a handful of Cannons.

In the Real World...[]

Pinnaces were, in fact, used primarily as auxiliary vessels. Larger and faster than lifeboats, they were often sent to collect or deliver mail, scout ahead of a fleet, or simply to evacuate personnel in times of crisis. However, they were on occasion used on their own, primarily by Smugglers and Pirates.
Going solely by its visual in-game design (in all Pirates! games), this ship should actually have been referred to as a "Tartane", a small boat with two or three lateen (triangular) sails. The designers of Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004) were apparently aware of this, as the ship is referred to as "Tartane" in several game files. However, it is still called a "Pinnace" in-game, possibly for consistency with previous games.

Strategic Use[]

Thanks to its Fore-And-Aft Rigging, the Pinnace is the fastest ship that can sail easily against the wind. This makes it capable of sailing east on the Caribbean map at a good speed, even in bad weather. Unfortuantely, the Pinnace has a tiny Cargo Hold, basely enough to support its crew for more than a few months. In addition, unless her captain is experienced with the combat use of a Pinnace (see below), it will generally be necessary to visit port for repairs more frequently than with other ships. An experienced captain, however, can sail the Pinnace for prolonged periods of time without repairs, as he can avoid all combat damage entirely!

In Combat[]

The small, weak hull on a Pinnace means that it cannot survive prolonged combat with enemies. In fact, such attempts would be time-consuming and ultimately pointless, as the Pinnace does not carry enough guns to make any significant impact on enemy ships.

Instead, the Pinnace's superior speed and turning rate are used to completely outmaneuver one's opponent, dodge incoming fire, and board the enemy vessel early on in the battle. Instead of wasting time duelling the enemy ship, Pinnace tactics involve heading straight for a Boarding and placing all effort on winning the Fencing portion of the battle instead.

Finally, since the Pinnace is generally the fastest ship you'll encounter, it is best used for chasing small enemy vessels, who might otherwise escape a larger, slower boat.


The Pinnace's cargo capacity is, in no uncertain terms, as tiny as the ship itself. Any space wasted on cargo other than Food will cause starvation very quickly. Of course, the Pinnace's speed means that enemies cannot intercept cargo runs, but the profit itself is usually negligible. Trading captains usually prefer selecting a larger vessel, such as a Sloop or even a Barque, if they wish to maintain reasonably good speed without giving up too much cargo space.

Icon Pirates1987.png Header Pirates1987.pngPirates! (1987)[]

Ship Type
1987 Ship Pinnace.png
A tiny but lightning-quick boat
Best Sailing Point: Broad Beam Reach
Best Speed (weak wind): 9 leagues
Best Speed (strong wind): 10 leagues
Max. Cannons: 8 Icon Cannon.png
Max. Crew: 64
Cargo Capacity: 20 tons
Basic Sale Price: 500 Icon GoldCoin.png
Draft: Shallow

In the original game, the Pinnace is the smallest vessel available. It is also the fastest ship (overall).

Pinnaces tend to be used by the French and Spanish, especially during the earlier eras. They rapidly become outnumbered by Sloops as later eras roll in, but they never disappear altogether. For the overwhelming majority of encounters, Pinnaces will be nation-owned; Pirate Pinnaces are extremely rare.

The Best Sailing Point for a Pinnace is Beam Reach, where it can achieve speeds of 9-10 leagues. However, in strong Winds it can be significantly slower than a Square Rigged ship, at least when going Before The Wind or close to it.

Players can keep a Pinnace in their fleet if they wish to have the capability of catching other Pinnaces (or even Sloops that are trying to run away). Additionally, players who like to constantly journey all over the Caribbean may want a Pinnace or a Pinnace Fleet, which can sail quickly against the wind. However, due to its many shortcomings, the Pinnace is generally not a preferred ship in this game, and is often replaced with a Sloop whenever possible.

A Player's Fleet composed entirely of one or more Pinnaces can sail over Shoals without risk of hull ruptures. This is also true if the fleet contains Sloops, but not larger ships.

Icon Pirates2004.png Header Pirates2004.pngSid Meier's Pirates! (2004)[]

Ship Type
Mid-Sized member of the Pinnace class
War Canoe
Mail Runner
2004 Ship Pinnace.png
A tiny but lightning-quick boat
Prevalence: Common
Physical Size: Very Small
Maneuverability: Very High
Durability: Very Low
Best Sailing Point: Beam Reach or Broad Beam Reach
Comparative Speed: Very High
Best Speed: High
Max. Cannons: 10 Icon Cannon.png
Max. Crew: 60 Icon Crew.png
Min. Crew: 6 Icon Crew.png
Ideal Crew (w/ Max Cannons): 36 Icon Crew.png
Cargo Capacity: 25 tons
Basic Sale Price: 225 Icon GoldCoin.png

In Sid Meier's Pirates!, the Pinnace is the name used to refer both to the specific Ship Type called "Pinnace", and the entire family of ships known as Pinnaces The "Pinnace" is the Mid-Sized member of its class, and is also the most common.

The Pinnace carries up to 10 Cannons into battle, and can hold a Crew of up to 60 men. With 6 or fewer men available, the Pinnace becomes sluggish and difficult to use. With at least 36 men and 10 cannons on board, the Pinnace is at its maximum fighting efficiency.

A Pinnace can carry up to 25 tons of cargo (including Cannon), which makes it largely unsuitable for trading. In fact, that is barely enough room to hold Food for more than a few months (with a full crew), though Pinnace captains may decide to dump all their cannons to make room for more food and/or cargo.

When sold, a Pinnace yields 225 Icon GoldCoin.png, plus 56 Icon GoldCoin.png for each upgrade installed on the ship. This assumes that the ship is at 100% condition, otherwise it is sold for less (down to 10 Icon GoldCoin.png if either sails or hull are all but gone).

Upgrades for a Pinnace cost 400 Icon GoldCoin.png each. Once the rank of Admiral has been attained, Pinnace upgrades will only cost 200 Icon GoldCoin.png each.

In the Player's Hands[]

The following nation/era combination will have the player starting off with a Pinnace:

  • Spain, 1600
  • Spain, 1620
  • France, 1640

In terms of gameplay, the Pinnace and its variants are most suitable for quickly covering ground on the campaign map, due to their ability to sail quickly against the wind. In addition, experienced players who have a good grasp on Fencing technique may favour the Pinnace for its ability to "bypass" ship-to-ship combat entirely, going straight for a Boarding as explained below. This cuts down on maintenance costs, and significantly reduces the length of all ship battles.

Players who find that they prefer firepower to maneuverability will usually "upgrade" to a Sloop Class ship instead. Some players will only upgrade to a Mail Runner for a little extra "punch", though these are so rare that the opportunity may never arise.

More often, however, experienced players will actually "downgrade" to a War Canoe instead. While the War Canoe is even smaller and more fragile than the Pinnace, it capitalizes even more on speed and maneuverability. Some claim that this makes it virtually invincible, and thus preferable to all other ships.

Roles and Nationality[]

The Pinnace is ubiquitous: it is used by every nation in every era.

Pinnaces fill a small variety of Ship Roles. They are most commonly seen as Smugglers. Given how common Smugglers are in the Caribbean, it should not be a problem to acquire one.

In Combat[]

The Pinnace's Best Sailing Point is Beam Reach, where it can easily clock 10-12 leagues at weak winds, far more than most other ship types. The Pinnace can easily handle going at Close-Hauled or even Close-Hauled Into The Eye, especially in stronger winds. However, it is by far not the fastest ship when running Before The Wind, again especially in stronger winds.

The Pinnace's ability to sail quickly upwind or at odd angles means that few ships can catch it if the captain decides to avoid confrontation. Additionally, its amazing speed and maneuverability means that the Pinnace can pretty much out-maneuver any other ship. This is absolutely crucial for the Pinnace, since its hull is so weak that it cannot risk taking more than a few cannon hits anyway.

Therefore, shoot-outs with enemy ships are largely pointless, especially given how few Cannons the Pinnace can carry to begin with. Instead, Pinnace captains generally prefer to go for a quick Boarding: they evade cannonfire (which is very easy in this tiny ship, which can potentially even slip between cannonballs) and head straight for the enemy ship at maximum speed. Once contact is made, it's up to the captain's Fencing abilities, rather than naval combat abilities, to decide the winner. Again, this requires very good skills, but can potentially make the game significantly easier to play. Players who are very good at this technique tend to "downgrade" to a War Canoe to capitalize on the Pinnace Class's best features.