History of Captain Kidd’s Adventure Galley
- Adventure Galley, a.k.a. Adventure, was an English ship captained by William Kidd, the notorious privateer turned pirate. It weighed 287 tons and had 34 cannons and a crew of about 150. While badly leaking, it was lost at the Île Sainte-Marie (Saint Mary’s Island), a formidable pirate base off the northeastern coast of Madagascar. It was stripped and the rest burned. It still remains in the shallow bay of the island.
On December 11, 1695, Bellomont, who was now governing New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, asked the “trusty and well beloved Captain Kidd to attack Thomas Tew, John Ireland, Thomas Wake, William Maze, and all others who associated themselves with pirates, along with any enemy French ships. This request preceded the voyage which established Kidd’s reputation as a pirate, and marked his image in history and folklore.
Four-fifths of the cost for the venture was paid for by noble lords, who were among the most powerful men in England: the Earl of Orford, The Baron of Romney, the Duke of Shrewsbury and Sir John Somers. Kidd was presented with a letter of marque, signed personally by King William III of England. This letter reserved 10% of the loot for the Crown, and Henry Gilbert’s The Book of Pirates suggests that the King may have fronted some of the money for the voyage himself. Kidd and an acquaintance, Colonel Robert Livingston, orchestrated the whole plan and paid for the rest. Kidd had to sell his ship Antigua to raise funds.
The new ship, the Adventure Galley, was well suited to the task of catching pirates; weighing over 284 tons, it was equipped with 34 cannons, oars, and 150 men. The oars were a key advantage as they would enable the Adventure Galley to maneuver in a battle when the winds had calmed and other ships were dead in the water. Kidd took pride in personally selecting the crew, choosing only those he deemed to be the best and most loyal officers.
As the Adventure Galley sailed down the Thames, Kidd unaccountably failed to salute a Navy yacht at Greenwich as custom dictated. The Navy yacht then fired a shot to make him show respect, and Kidd’s crew… responded with an astounding display of impudence — by turning and slapping their backsides in [disdain]
On April 1, 1698, Kidd reached Madagascar. Here he found the first pirate of his voyage, Robert Culliford, (the same man who had stolen Kidd’s ship years before) and his crew aboard the Mocha Frigate. Probably realizing that his men would not attack Culliford’s powerful vessel if ordered, Kidd anchored near the Mocha Frigate and made peaceful overtures to Culliford, promising him that he meant his fellow pirate no harm. Most of Kidd’s men now abandoned him for Culliford. Only 13 remained with the Adventure Galley.
Deciding to return home, Kidd left the Adventure Galley behind, ordering her to be burnt because she had become worm-eaten and leaky. By burning the ship, he was able to salvage every last scrap of metal, for example hinges. With the loyal remnant of his crew, he returned home aboard the Adventure Prize.