The Boarding Pike

While our modern sensibilities cause us to look askance at primitive weapons, like boarding pikes, they were incredibly effective weapons. One has to consider that under the best of circumstances the reliability of flintlock firearms was problematic. When used at sea they were often unreliable. The most reliable weapons for boarding enemy ships or repelling boarders were the point and edge weapons available to the crew. Cutlass, boarding axe, and boarding pike.

While most useful for repelling boarders, the boarding pike was a formidable offensive weapon. As we recounted in The Taking of Banda, when Captain Christopher Cole attacked this Dutch outpost he had his men armed with boarding pikes in anticipation of frequent tropical downpours making their muskets inoperable.

Boarding pikes were about eight feet long and stored in beckets around the masts.


Filed under Age of Sail, Naval Weapons

11 responses to “The Boarding Pike

  1. Were the men trained to use them in useful formations like that?

    • billcrews

      what you’re seeing is drill, not a formation. This is how sailors were taught the basics of using the boarding pike or the cutlass.

      • Aww… too bad. I bet it’d have been *really* hard to board if you could get two ranks of 5-10 guys, all moving together and using their pikes appropriately, creating a wall of steely destruction to face the boarders.

        But then again if they spent all their time learning that, they’d never learn how to keep the ship sailing I guess, heh.

  2. Mark Eley

    Formations of sailors welding boarding pikes wasn’t practical due to the crowded conditions on the boarded vessel. Likewise, many times the ship would have had desensive netting swathing the ship, so the pikemen would have simply been standing side by side, thrusting their weapons through the rigging as boarders climbed over the side. Just found your site and very pleased with it!

  3. Mike West

    How long were the hafts of the boarding pikes as seen in the photo? I’m thinking between 6′ and, 7′. Also, were the spear points round, or 3 or 4 sided?

  4. Mike West

    Thanks. In some of the other photos of the team on the ‘net, some seem longer than others, especially with the shorter team members. I noticed your comment in the article about 8 foot pikes. I would assume that’s the entire length, including the blade?I know a blacksmith who could make me one. The link you sent me shows a 15 inch pike head, with a 6 inch spear point. That looks shorter than what the team is using. That looks to be the size of the reproduction the website sells.

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  6. Barbara Hoag

    I have one. My father left it to me.
    What should I look for to see if it is the real thing?

  7. Zack Burkett

    I recently got one that is just under 8′ including the head. The tip appears to have been broken and re shaped so the original would have been 8′.

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