What Is The Meaning Of “Sailing The High Seas”?

Many times you may hear this term sailing the high seas. I have always wondered exactly what that term means.

Sailing around the high seas means sailing an area of the ocean that is not controlled by any country or sovereignty. In other words, no one owns those seas when you get out in the middle of the ocean. Every nation is allowed to cross the high seas.

Meaning Of Sailing The High Seas

When somebody uses the term “sailing the high seas,” it means that it is an area of the ocean that is not controlled by any country. Most notably, we think about pirates roaming the high seas.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the High Seas as:

“ The areas of the oceans that are not controlled by any country.”

Cambridge Dictionary

The high sea is a term that is under maritime law. It includes all the parts of the world’s ocean around the globe that are not considered part of any state’s territorial water or internal waters.

To sail around the high seas means that you are sailing in these bodies of water or water that essentially belong to no one. Legally anyone can sail with all within these high sea waters, even the Pirates.

The high seas are vast bodies of water not part of any country or territory. So if someone is out there sailing the high seas, they are sailing bodies of water, not under any country, state, or region, but are sailing water uncontrolled and accessible to all.

Some Facts About Sailing The High Seas

As the high seas take up so much territory around the globe, it was interesting for us to understand a little bit about the high seas and precisely what it means to sail the high seas or travel on a boat around the high seas.

Here is some information about the high seas:

  • Throughout the history of the world, the high seas were not claimed by any territory. But there was a time during the European middle ages when several maritime states started claiming absolute sovereignty over large portions of the high sea. Here are two significant examples:
    • Genoa claimed the Mediterranean sea in the Middle Ages.
    • Great Britain claimed the North Sea and elsewhere in the Middle Ages.
  • There is a maritime doctrine that the high seas are open to all nations in times of peace and may not be subject to national sovereignty. This is known as freedom of the oceans and is an aspect of International Law. Freedom of the seas was proposed way back in 1609 by the Dutch Jurist Hugo Grotius but did not become a principle of international maritime law until the 19th Century.
  • Freedom of the high seas is now recognized to include freedom of navigation, fishing, laying submarine cables and pipelines, and overflight seas for airplane travel.
  • Today the high seas continue to be an area of the world that is only regulated by maritime law and international agreements.

If you decide to go sailing on the high seas, you are certainly allowed to do so because the high seas areas of the world do not belong to any nation and a sovereign nation. It is territory that is open to all, even the Pirates.

Pirates And The High Seas

Most people think about the high seas and pirates on the high seas. Pirates have existed since ancient times. But the golden age of piracy was during the 17th and 18th centuries.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, more than 5,000 pirates were out into the high seas. The Pirates mainly targeted ships and launched attacks; the pirates also attacked coastal towns.

Many of these famous pirates had a fearsome reputation and some exciting names. From 1650 to 1720, during the golden age of pirates, the more famous pirates included:

  • Sir Henry Morgan (1635 to 1688) – He was a Welsh buccaneer who was most famous for plundering Spain’s Caribbean colonies during the late 17th Century.
  • William “Captain” Kidd (1645 to 1701) – William Kidd, also known as Captain Kidd, was a Scottish-born pirate who roamed the high seas. In 1701 he was captured and hung in London for murder and piracy.
  • “Calico” Jack or John Rackham (1682 to 1720) – Was an English pirate that operated in the Bahamas and Cuba in the early 18th Century. He had two female crew members, Mary Read and Anne Bonny.
  • Bartholomew Roberts or Black Bart (1682 to 1722) – Bartholomew Roberts was a Welsh pirate and was considered one of the most successful pirates of his time. He raided ships off the Americans and West Africa and created a pirate code that included an early type of Skull and Crossbones flag.
  • Blackbeard – Edward Teach (1680 – 1718) – Was an English pirate who operated around the West Indies and the North American Colonies (United States). He was known to be a shrewd and calculating leader who spurned the use of violence but was highly successful.

As you can see, pirates have long been on the high seas, looting ships and taking treasures. Many of these pirates that operated during the time of the golden age of pirates have a romanticized in many different movies and books.

Pirates on the high seas continue to be a problem in many parts of the world. Many aspects of Africa and Asia continue to have incidents of modern-day pirating on the high seas. These modern pirates have used the high seas for armed robbery, hijackings, kidnappings, and unauthorized ship boardings.

So for centuries, people continue to sail around the high seas. Pirates have also sailed the high seas as the high sea is one area of the world that is not part of any single country or sovereign nation.

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Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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