2004 Screenshot Upgrade

A Shipwright offers to upgrade this Sloop with Fine Grain Powder for 500 Icon GoldCoin.

An Upgrade is a special piece of equipment or material installed on a ship to enhance its performance. Upgrades are only available in Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004). In this game, there are 8 different Upgrade types available. They can be purchased at Ports, can be installed on any ship, and a single ship can take all upgrades at the same time. All ships encountered in the Caribbean have a chance to come "pre-installed" with one or more Upgrades, although some Ship Roles increase this probability. A ship with upgrades installed also yields more Gold if it is sold.

Icon Pirates2004 Header Pirates2004Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004)Edit

In Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004), 8 different upgrades are available for installation on any ship.

An upgrade improves one aspect of the ship's performance. For example, the Cotton Sails upgrade increases the ship's overall speed by a small amount. Each of the 8 upgrades improves a different part of the ship.

Any upgrade can be installed on any ship, provided that the ship does not already have that particular upgrade installed. It is possible to install all 8 upgrades on a single ship, in which case it is referred to as "fully-upgraded".

Upgrade Types and FunctionsEdit

There are 8 different types of upgrades available in the game. Each upgrade performs a different function, increasing one aspect of the ship's performance in a simple, predictable manner.

Name Icon Function
Copper Plating 2004 Upgrade CopperPlating Moderately increases the ship's turning rate.
Cotton Sails 2004 Upgrade CottonSails Moderately increases the ship's overall speed.
Triple Hammocks 2004 Upgrade TripleHammocks Increases the ship's maximum Crew capacity by 50%.
Iron Scantlings 2004 Upgrade IronScantlings Slightly increases the ship's Durability.
Chain-Shot 2004 Upgrade ChainShot Enables the ship to fire Chain-Shot during combat.
Grape-Shot 2004 Upgrade GrapeShot Enables the ship to fire Grape-Shot during combat.
Fine-Grain Powder 2004 Upgrade FineGrainPowder Significantly increases the range of the ship's Cannons (with all ammunition types).
Bronze Cannons 2004 Upgrade BronzeCannons Increases the accuracy of the ship's Cannons (with all ammunition types).

Pre-Upgraded ShipsEdit

Most ships encountered during routine sailing in the Caribbean will have at least one upgrade already installed on them. The specific upgrade is selected randomly when the ship is spawned by the game.

Certain Roles assigned to a ship increase the chance of more upgrades appearing on it by default. Other Ship Roles decrease the chance of a ship coming pre-installed with any upgrades or more than one upgrade.

Some ships, including ships sailed by the Evil Foreigners, come fully-upgraded by default, I.E. having all 8 upgrades installed on them from the moment they are created. Needless to say, such ships cannot be upgraded further (nor do they need to be, hence "fully-upgraded").


Ships can be fitted with upgrades at a Port or Pirate Haven. This requires you to enter the Port or Haven by sea (I.E. not by overland travel).

Each Port/Haven provides only one type of Upgrade. The type of Upgrade provided by each Port/Haven is selected randomly at game-start. The location will continue to provide the same the Upgrade for the entire duration of the campaign. Once a location has been visited (or information about it acquired in some other manner), it is possible to see the type of upgrade sold at this location by examining it on the World Map.

If a ship in your fleet lacks the particular Upgrade offered by the Port/Haven you are visiting, the option to add that Upgrade will appear in the Shipwright's menu, when that ship is selected.

If you have sufficient Gold to purchase the upgrade, clicking the Upgrade button will immediately install this Upgrade on the selected ship. It is visibly added to the ships' Upgrades list on the right-hand side of the menu, and you will also notice the sale price of the ship rise by a certain amount. The Upgrade is now permanently installed on the ship - it can never be removed.

Installation CostsEdit

Installing an Upgrade costs a specific amount of Gold. The amount is determined based on three separate factors:

  • Your Rank with the nation that owns this location, if applicable.

The Ship Class is the most influential factor. Upgrading a ship from a larger Class is usually more costly than upgrading a smaller ship. Within each Class, upgrades for each individual Ship Type cost the same amount of money. For example, upgrading a Sloop costs the same basic amount of Gold as upgrading a Sloop Of War or a Royal Sloop.

Location Type is also important. Ships can be upgraded at Pirate Havens for only 60% of the basic upgrade price appropriate for their Class. For example, if upgrading a Sloop-Class ship at a nation-owned Port costs 500 Icon GoldCoin, but will cost only 300 Icon GoldCoin at a Pirate Haven.

However, when upgrading at a Port, your Rank with the nation that owns the port may significantly influence the upgrade price. Having a rank of Admiral with a nation reduces the price of Upgrades by 50% at all Ports belonging to that nation. Once the rank of Duke with that nation has been achieved, Upgrades at Ports belonging to that nation will be done free of charge.

Note that the Upgrade Type has absolutely no effect on the price. All upgrades for the same ship will cost the same amount of money, assuming all three factors explained above stay the same.

Ship Class "No Rank" to Colonel Admiral to Marquis Duke Pirate Haven
Pinnace Class 400 200 Free 240
Sloop Class 500 250 Free 300
Barque Class 600 300 Free 360
Fluyt Class 700 350 Free 420
Brig Class 700 350 Free 420
Merchantman Class 900 450 Free 540
Merchant Galleon Class 900 450 Free 540
Combat Galleon Class 900 450 Free 540
Frigate Class 900 450 Free 540

Selling Upgraded ShipsEdit

Each upgrade installed on a ship has an effect on its sale price.

Each upgrade increases the ship's sale value by 1/4 of its original (non-upgraded) value. Therefore, ships that sell for a higher value when not upgraded at all will have their sale value increased more for each upgrade you install on them.

When all 8 upgrades are installed on a ship, it will sell for 3 times its Basic Sale Value.

Ship Class Basic Sale Value Value Increase per Upgrade Maximum Value (8 Upgrades)
Pinnace Class 225 Icon GoldCoin 56 Icon GoldCoin (56.25) * 675 Icon GoldCoin
Sloop Class 300 Icon GoldCoin 75 Icon GoldCoin 900 Icon GoldCoin
Barque Class 375 Icon GoldCoin 93 Icon GoldCoin (93.75) * 1,125 Icon GoldCoin
Fluyt Class 450 Icon GoldCoin 112 Icon GoldCoin (112.50) * 1,350 Icon GoldCoin
Brig Class 450 Icon GoldCoin 112 Icon GoldCoin (112.50) * 1,350 Icon GoldCoin
Merchantman Class 600 Icon GoldCoin 150 Icon GoldCoin 1,800 Icon GoldCoin
Merchant Galleon Class 600 Icon GoldCoin 150 Icon GoldCoin 1,800 Icon GoldCoin
Combat Galleon Class 600 Icon GoldCoin 150 Icon GoldCoin 1,800 Icon GoldCoin
Frigate Class 600 Icon GoldCoin 150 Icon GoldCoin 1,800 Icon GoldCoin

* The value in parentheses is the "true" increase of the ship's Sale Value. However, when these ships are sold the game first adds up the Upgrade bonuses to the ship's Basic Sale Value, then rounds down to the nearest whole number to determine the final sale value. Therefore, you do not receive the fractions unless they add up to a whole Gold piece.

Note that invariably, the ship's total sale value increases only by a fraction of the cost of the Upgrade itself. In other words, upgrading a ship only to increase its sale value is not profitable (in fact, it's a substantial net loss). The only case where this is not true is when upgrades are free, I.E. when upgrading a ship at a nation-owned Port while having the rank of Duke with that nation. In this case, it is always wise to upgrade all ships whenever the free upgrade option is presented, since you pay nothing and will get a little more money when the ship is sold.

Checking UpgradesEdit

During the game, you will occasionally want to know what upgrades are installed on a ship - whether your own ship or an enemy's.

Checking the upgrades on your ships is easy, and can be done at any time through the information menu.

Checking upgrades on an enemy's ship can only be done during Naval Combat, although there are visual cues associated with some upgrades that allow you to tell that these upgrades are installed on a ship before engaging it.

Visual CuesEdit

Two upgrades, when installed on a ship, will change its appearance slightly. By looking at a ship, you can determine immediately whether it has these upgrades installed - assuming you know what to look for.

  • The Cotton Sails Upgrade is clearly visible on all ships that have it. When installed, it turns the ship's sails bright white (with a slight glowing effect, if HDR is enabled). This is particularly noticeable when compared to a ship that does not have the upgrade, although that is circumstantial.
  • The Copper Plating Upgrade turns the ship's lower hull a solid tan color. This is harder to notice, since the lower part of the hull is usually underwater.

Other Upgrades will not change a ship's appearance whatsoever.

Naval Combat Upgrades BarEdit

2004 Screenshot UpgradeBar

The Upgrade Bar for this Royal Sloop shows that it has Chain-Shot, Fine Grain Powder and Bronze Cannons installed.

During Naval Combat, each combatant's ship-type, crew, cannons and current speed are prominently displayed at the top of the screen. These details appear for your ship (on the left), the enemy ship (on the right), and possibly an escort if any (below the main opponent's details).

Below these details is a large bar displaying all the Upgrades installed on the ship, shown as miniature versions of the icons visible earlier on this page. This list of Upgrades is accurate, there are no "hidden" upgrades here.

Guessing Enemy UpgradesEdit

By determining an enemy ship's Role before starting combat, it is possible to guesstimate how many upgrades this ship will have.

A Ship's Role can sometimes be determined by simply reading the caption that appears over this ship when spotted on the world map. Sometimes you must hover your mouse cursor over the ship for this caption to appear. On occasion, a caption will not appear, usually (but not always) indicating that this ship is a simple Trader.

Once the ship's Role has been determined, experience and/or examination of available data on this Wiki can give you a good idea on how many upgrades it should have. For example, New Warships tend to have around 4-6 upgrades installed. Indian War Canoes will generally have either one or none. Simple Trader Ships will rarely have more than a couple of upgrades, if any.

Admittedly, this is a poor way of determining upgrades, both because it's a guess and because it does not reveal what type of upgrades a ship might have. However, there is no other way of determining a ship's upgrades prior to combat.

Evil Foreigners and Famous PiratesEdit

It is possible to acquire exact knowledge of a specific ship's upgrades before doing combat with it, if that ship belongs to either an Evil Foreigner or a Famous Pirate. This is because the ships they sail are unique.

Evil Foreigner ships are always fully-upgraded, sporting all 8 upgrades by default. For this reason, taking the Foreigner's ship as a Prize and selling it at the nearest Port is very lucrative: it will yield an extra 1,800 Icon GoldCoin, on top of the Gold plundered from the ship and acquired from selling its cargo.

Famous Pirate ships have somewhat randomized upgrades (though they can have all 8). Once a Barmaid or Bartender has revealed the home-base of a Famous Pirate, subsequent conversations with these characters can yield information about their ship. The first piece of information will tell you the ship's Type, and the next piece will reveal all upgrades installed on that ship. From that point on, you can re-examine these details by clicking the appropriate Famous Pirate icon on your Quest Bar. Note that Famous Pirates do not spontaneously upgrade their ships beyond what is initially reported by the Barmaid/Bartender.

Cut ContentEdit

2004 Upgrade BoardingPlatform

The Boarding Platform, an intended 9th Upgrade cut from the game during early development.

Examination of the game's data files reveals an image file containing the image for a 9th upgrade.

This upgrade was the Boarding Platform. Given its name, it is possible to assume that initially, ships were not supposed to be able to board other ships without this upgrade installed. Alternatively, it may have given an advantage during the boarding action, much like pistols, and been cut due to overlapping functions.

The intended mechanics behind this upgrade are unfortunately unknown at this time. It was apparently cut from the game at an early stage of development.