How to master the art of ship combat in ‘Sea of Thieves’ and rule the high seas

You have access to a pistol and a sword in Sea of Thieves, but the majority of deadly encounters you face will take place between two ships on the high seas. To plunder loot from other players, and to keep it, you need to get the hang of naval combat. It will take some practice, but with a little help, you will be ruling the sea in no time. Here is how to get the most out of ship combat.

The ships and their components

Depending on the size of your crew in Sea of Thieves, you will be sailing with one of two ships. Crews of three or four players sail in a galleon, a large ship that requires each player to focus on a different task to guide it through the water. Duos and solo sailors crew a sloop, which is smaller and streamlines the sailing process. In order to stand a chance in ship combat, you must be familiar with how the ships work and what must be done to maneuver them.

Both sets of ships use sails and a steering wheel to maneuver. You use the wheel to turn left or right, and adjust sails to alter speed — even if the wind is pulling to one side. To get where you’re going quickly, you must drop the sails completely and angle them to go in the same direction as the flag at the top of your lookout post. On a galleon, you need one crew member to steer and a second to adjust the sails. On the sloop, the captain can do both without much trouble.

To drop the sails, find the small anvils located on the side of your boat, select them, and push down on the left control stick. To angle them, select the small wheel-like device next to it and move the left control stick to the left or right. If you want to decrease your speed or need more visibility, raise the sails up. This is particularly useful when you need to line up some shots from your cannon on another player, as you can quickly turn your ship is moving slowly. Both ships also have an anchor to completely stop your movement. It’s located in the front half of the deck on the Galleon and directly behind the steering wheel on the Sloop.


sea of thieves ship combat guide seaofthievesgalleon


  • The galleon has eight cannons, four on the right and four on the left. Each of these can turn a considerable amount to the left and to the right, but crew members will still have to hop between the cannons on each side in order to line up shots as enemy ships move.
  • Make sure you pre-load your cannons in advance with the galleon. By preparing for battle in advance, you will have eight possible shots ready without having to reload or get more cannonballs.
  • If/when you do need to reload, you will find 45 of them down on the middle deck, in the barrels in front of you and to the left as you come down the stairs.
  • In both three-person and four-person crews, have one member ready to take aim with the cannons at a moment’s notice. Lining up and hitting a few shots before your enemy has a chance to react will force them to either flee or begin patching their ship, giving you an opening to move in for the kill.


  • To the right of the barrels are wooden planks, which you use to patch up any holes. With a three-person crew, the person manning the sails should be the first to go below deck and begin patching holes, and/or filling up buckets of water to throw overboard. In a four-person crew, your “extra” crew member can do this as well. More often than not, you will often need two people to patch the ship together.


  • The galleon has three sails — one in the very front of the ship, one near the middle, and one directly behind the steering wheel. To steer efficiently and well, one crew member should steer and adjust the front sail, and a second crew member should devote themselves specifically to adjusting mid and rear sails.
  • In order to pursue other galleons, you need to have all three fully deployed and pointed in the direction of the wind. When chasing sloops, your best move is to raise your middle sail to about its halfway point. This will allow your captain to see the hazards in front of the ship, including enemies as well as rocks.


Sea Of Thieves Hands-on Preview | Ship on the ocean with another ship behind it


  • The sloop is designed for two occupants at most, and it shows: There are only two cannons are on the ship, one on each side. Pre-loading them is helpful, but not necessary — you will need to reload them constantly.
  • Extra cannonballs are located in the left-hand corner of the deck. You get fewer of them than the galleon, as there are only two barrels instead of three.
  • If you’re sailing alone, you have to drop the steering wheel and take a few shots from your cannons before returning to control the ship. It takes some getting used to, but it’s possible to take out other sloops this way — even if you have two crew members, however, you should never engage a galleon directly. You will lose.


  • Head into the area below deck and you will find a barrel filled with wood planks directly in front of the stairs. You use these to patch your ship just as you would with the galleon.
  • With a two-person crew, the gunner goes below deck to repair your ship as the captain continues to steer. If you’re alone, we suggest fleeing before patching up your ship.


  • There is only one sail on the sloop, and the captain can adjust by moving just a few feet from the steering wheel.

Best practices for ship combat

Sea Of Thieves Hands-on Preview | Helmsman turning the ship

Turn off your lanterns

Even during the daytime, the lanterns located around and inside your ship will give your position away to enemies. This not only makes you easier to initially spot, but it also makes it easier for an enemy to gauge your distance and hit you faster. With the lamps off, you will be much harder to see.

On the other hand, make sure you keep an eye out for ships that don’t follow this rule! Always keep a lookout for lights on the horizon.

Get extra cannonballs when you’re anchored, and don’t waste them

A full store of 35 to 45 cannonballs sounds like enough for even the largest ship battles, but you will blow through them quickly against skilled opponents. Whenever you are exploring on foot, make sure to store all your own cannonballs in your barrels so you can collect any you discover. (The same goes for wooden planks, though you won’t run out as quickly).

It’s also wise to be economical about using cannons when you can. After hitting a ship several times in a row, start slowing the pace of your cannon fire. Your first reaction will be to keep firing, since the ship is still afloat, but it isn’t always necessary. As the enemy ship takes on water, it will eventually sink. As long as you hit it four or five times, and you keep the enemy on the move, they won’t be able to repair it before it goes down.

Learn how to angle your shots

A good gunner knows you need to arc your shots to hit distant targets. Take your best possible guess when firing your first shot, and then raise or lower your cannon based on where the cannonball lands until you find the “sweet spot.” Make sure to actively keep track of what angles you’ve fired from as you go — you have to readjust your aim every time, as the cannon shakes considerably when it’s fired.

If you’re right up against another ship, you should aim your cannons slightly lower than their default position, as they aren’t tuned for close-range encounters. Should your Galleon and another ship crash into each other in a parallel formation, quickly run down the line of four cannons on the side of your boat and fire them low in order to devastate your enemy before they can even react.

Be prepared for boarders

When you see a ship — particularly a sloop — making a direct line toward your ship from a close distance, there is a good chance they are going to try ramming you. The collision will damage your ship, but that is rarely the goal in this situation. When one ship steers close to the other, chances are their real objective is to board you and kill your crew before they can fight back.

Sinking the enemy before they can hit you is always preferable, but make sure your gunner is prepared to leave the cannons and attack any boarders with their pistol and their sword. Your other crew member(s) may also want to abandon their posts to help fight off the attackers in this situation. One sailor should always head below deck to fix any leaks, or you will sink anyway.


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