How To Become A Pirate

a guy sailing like a pirateAmong the prospective life paths I envisioned as a child, becoming a pirate ranked right up there with Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Batman.  What could be cooler than climbing aboard a ship with a bunch of one eyed, ragtag, parrot wearing sailors and setting sail in search of plunder and adventure in the unknowns of the high sea? Not much I would say, and many of your childhood psyches would probably agree with me.

While I knew that my romanticized childhood notions of pirates and real modern day pirates were probably a little divergent, I didn’t care. So, when I arrived in Eilat, Israel, at the northern tip of the pirate infested waters of the Red Sea, all I could think about was finding some kind of pirate classifieds advert and ringing them up. Having obviously not found any listing, I walked down to the harbor to see if I could catch a ride heading south to meet up with some Somali pirates.

The marina at Eilat on the red seaThere, I spotted a large sailing yacht whose crew looked as though they were making final preparations for departure. I approached the South African captain and feebly asked, “Is there any chance I can come along? I will work in exchange for passage.” He paused a moment, looked me over, and then responded in a thick accent, “You look about 16 brew” (South African for mate). “Yes I am,” I said, a bit surprised at his age guessing ability. “Well, this trip is going to be dangerous brew. Lots of pirates where we’re heading.” “Score” I thought to myself as my face lit up with a grin.

Whether he was perturbed by my naivety in wanting to join a pirate gang or whether he couldn’t be bothered with another responsibility, to my disappointment, he decided not to take me. So while I never got a chance to sail south and meet up with some pirates, I did manage to get work on a 20 meter charter boat.  And during my month working on this boat, which resembled a slave trader, I conceived how it would be possible for one to become a modern day pirate.

Disclaimer: The following is a theoretical guide to becoming a Somali pirate. It is not recommended that you attempt this.

The extent of Somali piracy

In order to join a Somali pirate crew, I realized that one would need to undergo some serious preparation.

First, one would need to hone their boating skills and learn how to sail, fish, tie knots and drive a small tender (motor) boat. No pirate captain is going to take on a recruit who isn’t a reliable seaman.

Second, one would need to know a basic level of Arabic, enough to communicate to the pirates two things. The first being, “I want to become a pirate and I speak English well.” This way the pirates might view you as a valuable negotiator during the ransom call. The second being,  “I am from Albania.” God knows I love Albanians and Albania but you Albanians out there know that if you are ever kidnapped by Somali pirates, ain’t nobody gonna pay ransom.

Finally, in order to maximize your chances of being accepted into the crew, you would need to be thoroughly acquainted with Somali culture and customs. Some of these customs include, leaving leftovers on your plate to inform the host that you are full, shaking hands and saying aasalam alaikum when greeting members of the same sex, and not pointing with your foot or index finger at another person.  Being well versed in the call to prayer would also impress your captors. Finally, it would also be advantageous to wear a proper Somali style attire, which you may be able to find before hand in Sudan.

A muslim militia in somaliaAfter you become well prepared, you will need to find a way to get to Somalia and find the pirate hideout. The first way one could do this is by sailing through the Mandab strait in a fancy boat with the hopes of being attacked. When you are taken hostage, desperately try and communicate to them that you are interested in any vacant pirate positions. You need to really sell yourself now and this is where your Arabic will come in handy.

Another way to locate the pirates would be to head down through Egypt and Sudan, and into Somalia by land. This will also be difficult and almost equally as dangerous. Since 1991 Somalia has been without a working central government. In the result, local leaders wielding armed militias, such as Al Shabaab, control much of Somalia.  If you manage to infiltrate without being suspected as a westerner and somehow find the pirates, you will really need to implement all the things you have learned and make it known that you are serious about employment as a pirate.

Once you are accepted as a Somali pirate, brace yourself for an experience quite different from that of your imagination. Instead of swords and pistols, modern day pirates wield grenade launchers, and automatic rifles. Instead of a grand sailing ship, you will most likely be stationed on a small dilapidated motor boat. However, despite a few superficial changes, the modern day Somali pirate’s pursuit isn’t all that different from the one our culture has come to romanticize.

captain jack sparrow from pirates of the caribbean

Regardless of how you feel about Somali pirates, it is vital that the international community do more to ameliorate piracy off the coast of Somalia. There are two potential courses of action, neither of which include increasing an international naval presence. The first might be to add a supplementary pirate tax to cargo ships as they enter and exit the Suez Canal. This money could then be allocated to the fisherman and also towards the formation of a government. The second option would be for the UN to mandate an internationally led military operation for the purpose of establishing an effective government and coast guard. While this would require a long term commitment and substantial funding, it would be tackling the problem of piracy at its core.

happy somali pirates

Unfortunately, since the failure of the UN mandated US led operation, “Restore Hope,” it doesn’t seem likely that any substantial endeavors will occur in the future. Fortunately for all you pirate wannabes, this means that you will have the chance to become a Somali pirate for many years to come.

Good luck and safe travels,


Let Me Know What You Think!

  1. Jessica says

    I’ve wanted to become a Pirate ever since I was very a young girl. Would it be impossible and a bad idea to try and become a Pirate as I am woman? I am currently 18 years old and obviously I would wait until I was much older! This website is amazing by the way!

  2. Violet says

    I don’t know how serious everybody else is, but being a pirate has been all I’ve ever wanted to be. Don’t know if it’ll ever be possible, but I can wish.

  3. says

    [laughs]. Really enjoyed this! Comical and serious, since I’ve always wanted to become a pirate (or a nomad selling tie-die panties all around the world). Just one thing though, we South Africans call other guys “bru”. Brew is more what I’ll call my Zamalek (south African beer) stash. :) Great site bru.

  4. sven says

    argh name is sven and im looking to join someones ship. i will work in exchange for food and shelter (on the seven seas). i dont want idiots with rocket launches , im more looking for someone in possession of ;
    big old boat with big sails
    medieval cannons
    eye patches
    pistols from around 1700 1800
    cats ( to keep the rats away)
    alot of rum

    i cant be the only one thats ready to life the real pirate life . contact me if you have a job. you can pick me up in holland. they call me by the nickname; the flying dutchman.

    ps i hope well set sail to the caribbean or some place else were the sun is.

    the flying dutchman

    pps this is serious

  5. Jordan says

    When I got out of the military I got contracted to ride shipping vessels through this region providing security. It was a decent job and I got to see Africa which was cool. The pirates are getting smarter. As the dumb ones get shot and killed they evolve! It has became a game almost, they approach as close as they can, all the while fishing…. And scoping you out… Once they figure out the state of the security the tarps come off the RPG’s and the rifles haha. They gotten smart and they are adapting but they are also diminishing over the last few years. The rise of the armed escort has really affected their operations! Haha

  6. Jade Moth says

    It’s times like these I wish I was born a man. No one would ever see a lady pirate as anything more than a potential victim. It’s a shame, seems like an exciting line of work.

    • musicalme says

      Actually, there were several famous female pirates back in the day. For the life of me, I can’t remember their names.

      One started off [disguised as a man] taking her husband’s place aboard a pirate ship after he died. She revealed she was a woman after she became first mate. Shortly thereafter, she became captain. When her ship got attacked by a military vessel, she fought more valiantly than her men, and threw a few over the side because they were being sissy. She lost the ship, and was executed for crimes of piracy.

        • says

          The two most famous female pirates were Anne Bonny and Mary Read. I think you may be thinking of Mary Read, as she disguised herself as a man, but I always heard that her and her husband owned an inn. When her husband died, she sold the inn, pretended to be a man and became a privateer. She was then captured by pirates and became one herself, as you said fighting more valiantly than her men. At the height of her career she worked with Jack Rackham (Calico Jack) and Mary Read. Their ship was captured and they were sentenced to death. Mary Read died in prison, because she was pregnant, Jack was hung, and Anne somehow escaped jail, historical evidence is unclear, but it’s likely because her father was a wealthy plantation owner in the colonies, who possibly bailed her out.

  7. CAPTAIN RON says

    If it is wonder on the high seas if you wish …then take up your sword …and sail the sea !!! there are pirates all around us …pirates all !!! take the riches from the higher pirates ( namely the politicians<<< lawyers<<< ( bandits all !!!) ..they call us pirates !! BUT i say to you they are the pirates ..the political ( robbing the populace !!) happy sailing this lifetime it is each man for him/her self !!!!

    • Adrian says

      Yes I am going to do It, but In Australia. the First thing you need to do is, build a boat. then travel where ever steal food from super markets but never let your crime lead to your boat, the boat will have to be for living and travel only or they will come after the boat and in westernized country’s, the navy is just to powerful. I’m looking for a crew to help build the boat, I am thinking about stealing one. Your welcome to come to Australia an join me, you can even be captain, Email me if your Interested, I’m looking Into the easiest way to get the ball rolling so it might take a while. I recommend getting a compound bow and sword, these weapons are aloud in almost every country, guns are good but you can’t take them every were. also research how to bend wood and build large boats.

  8. says

    This was a fun read. Sometimes I think I look like a pirate when I’m backpacking if I’m wearing my bandanna, scruffy clothes and have a bit of stubble on my face. The only thing I’d be lacking is a nice eye-patch :P

  9. Arrrrr! says

    I stumbled upon this looking up the keywords Èjoin somali piratesÈ because I actually probably would if i could but this will get you killed lol

  10. says

    Our plan for dealing with pirates was always: Sail in a dilapidated boat. No pirate is going to bother attacking a diesel-smudged, poorly maintained, 1979 leaking sailboat with raggedy sails. Then again, the possibly of sinking your own ship goes up exponentially in this case.

    • says

      haha, that wasn’t a bad plan. I was thinking about shooting at pirates with paintball guns as a way to deter them. Maybe they have never seen it and would be freaked out. Did you ever run into any or hear of a sailor who did?

      • Peter says

        I’ve read account by a few who were boarded and robbed. Most “pirates” are fishermen run down on their luck, in one case the elderly couple in question survived because the wife started crying convincingly and the pirates were so ashamed they left!

    • Peter says

      I wouldn’t count on it, even if they don’t take you hostage, if you end up in the wrong waters you still stand a good chance of being robbed blind/murdered.

      Going to sea with raggedy sails is a bad idea in general, personally I’d prefer to be held to ransom than to die of thirst in the gulf of oman because the engine quit and the backstay failed. Keep in mind, you can’t even abandon to a liferaft around there because of sharks.

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