Sea of Thieves tips: 25 things to know before you play

Rare has supported its swashbuckling adventure with updates every single month since it launched, which means new or returning players have a lot to learn because it's nowhere near the same game as it was two years ago. Enter our Sea of Thieves tips. Even if you're a veteran, we've gathered more than two dozen Sea of Thieves tips to help ensure your pirate stays looking as lively as they do stylish. Here are 25 tips for survival in Sea of Thieves.

1. Sailing a ship is harder than it looks

If you’ve got a crew, you’re all going to need to work together to make that ship go places, because it turns out there’s a lot of moving parts. You’ll need to drop the sails, adjusting their angle so they billow in the wind for more speed, and raise the anchor to, you know, make the ship actually move. Of course, there’s also steering, map reading and keeping an eye out for rocks and other pirates. Being a pirate isn’t as easy as just drinking grog you know. 

2. You can do handbrake turns in a ship, who knew?

If you’re heading for land or rocks and are about to crash, you may need to perform a bit of an evasive manoeuvre. So lock the wheel fully in one direction and then drop the anchor and your ship will spin around anywhere between 90- and 180-degrees. It’s also good for getting a good angle on any enemy ships too. Prepare the cannons!

3. Know what all your items are for...

If you hit LB, you’ll be able to check out all your various equipment, but before you go to town on your tankard of grog, you’ll want to familiarise yourself with the other items in your pirate kit. Planks are used for repairing holes in your ship, which have either been blasted there by other pirates and their cannons, or are the result of your poor steering skills and unexpected rocks. 

Bananas, on the other hand, are for repairing you. Not only can other pirates on the open water attack you, but you’ll find yourself coming up against angry, armed skeletons and even sharks on your quest to have all the treasure. 

You’ve also got a bucket for bailing water, a compass for guidance, a lantern for light, a shovel for digging up treasure, a telescope for checking out faraway things and cannonballs for your ship cannons. Don’t worry, hit X to skip to page 2 of your inventory and there’s your grog, along with a couple of musical instruments to lighten the mood. 

4. ...and where all your supplies live

 If you happen to run out of any of the above, you’ll be pleased to hear there are plenty of supplies located on your ship. Just check the barrels and you’ll find fruits, planks and cannonballs aplenty. There’s even more ammo for your pistol and sniper rifle in a box marked with a gun near your map table. Don’t forget all your weapons sit on the Y button too, so pick your two preferred weapons from the game's quartet of a cutlass (sword), pistol, blunderbuss (shotgun), and eye of reach (sniper).

If you run out of any of your supplies, you’ll find planks, fruits, and cannonballs in similar barrels on any of the islands you come across. You can also find fish inside the barrels of shipwrecks, and collect meats from the many animals in Sea of Thieves. Just don't eat them raw or else you'll get sick and lose out on some of their regenerative benefits.

5. Get voyages from one of the three factions at any Outpost

Although it’s okay to just sail the seas and explore, if you want to be a proper pirate you’re going to need to have some kind of plan. Well, a map to be specific; a treasure map. No good pirate has just sailed off into the big blue without some scrap of paper that directs them to an X marking some spot, and the same thing can be said for Sea of Thieves. 

Getting gold is pretty much your main goal in Sea of Thieves and the main way to earn money is to complete Journeys for the three factions, which you pick up at their tents on any outpost island. The Gold Hoarders give you maps and riddles that point the way to buried treasure. The Order of Souls task you with taking out undead pirate captains and bringing back their glowing skulls. And the Merchant Alliance are all about trading, from chickens and pigs to gunpowder and cannonballs. 

Take a look at our guides for each faction below, to help you make the most of every mission:

6. You have to vote for a voyage before you set sail

But unfortunately, you can’t just pick a voyage and set off, as there’s a weird second stage to choosing which treasure you’re pilfering next. Go onto your ship and below deck you’ll find a map table. Near there is another table with a small sheet of paper on it. Here you can suggest a voyage for your crew to undertake, and all of them then have to vote on it. 

Yes, that’s even true if you play Sea of Thieves solo. You’ll have to suggest the voyage and then put your one vote to it before you get the maps or riddles guiding you to the buried treasure - all of which are found in the RB menu.

7. There’s an easy way to count your steps

No, we aren’t suggesting that there’s a pirate fitness tracker. We’re talking about the riddles that ask you to take a certain amount of steps in a particular direction from a certain spot on an island to find the buried treasure. Although you can roughly count your steps and guesstimate the location of your shiny gold, there’s a much easier and more precise way to do it. 

Bring out your compass and then hold RT to bring it up to your face. Now move while keeping RT held down and you’ll feel every step you make with the rumbles in your controller, making it much easier to track where you are when you’ve completed your required paces. 

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8. Protect your treasure at all costs

Sea of Thieves Tips

Once you’ve got a chest, it’s more than tempting to just keep sailing the high seas until your ship’s belly is totally full of treasure, but beware. If your ship sinks for any reason, you can say goodbye to your treasure. Plus, the longer you leave it on your ship, the more you risk other players coming after you and stealing it all. 

It’s worth heading back to any of the outposts on the map and selling your discoveries to the Gold Hoarder’s Shopkeeper between voyages, or at least being a little creative with where you hide your more valuable treasure chests if you decide to spend a little longer roaming the waves. Try putting your chests in the Crow’s Nest, on the Captain’s Balcony (on the larger ships), under the steering wheel, behind the barrels in the lower decks, or even on the sail cross beams by hopping down onto them from the Crow’s Nest. 

9. You can board other players’ ships

Of course, all that goes the same for other players. Spot another ship on the map and you can go after them, attacking them with your cannons, or send one of your crew off to surreptitiously board their ship, take all the rival pirates out and then steal any treasure chests they’ve got squirreled away for yourself. It’s a pirate’s life after all.

Just remember that even if you kill all the opposing crew members, they’re only sent to the Ferry of the Damned for a short space of time before they respawn… on their ship. It’s very possible (and we’re speaking from experience) that you can suddenly find yourself surrounded by the enemy when your arms are full of treasure if you’re still on their turf when they return.

10. The edge of the map is a death trap

Sea of Thieves Tips

In this limited slice of the full Sea of Thieves map, it’s easy to reach the edges of the territory if you’re not paying full attention to the map. But as soon as you do start to venture into literally uncharted territories, trust me, you’ll know. The waters and the skies around you will start turning red, and then before you know it, your ship will start creaking as it begins to take damage. Lots of damage. 

Before you know it, you’ll watch your ship (and hopefully not all your precious treasure) disappearing into the depths, leaving you with no other choice but to seek salvage from the sirens. 

11. Don't worry if you fall off the ship

Speaking of sirens, you shouldn't worry if you happen to fall off your ship - whether you're playing alone or with other people. You can either get your crew to stop and wait for you to swim back, or just look for the blue smoke rising from the waves, which indicates the siren is waiting there for you. But don't worry, they're not the kind of siren that promises you your wildest dreams and then kills you, they actually just teleport you back to your ship. 

12. Check below deck for water if you get caught in a storm

Sea of Thieves Tips

Although it’s easy to discover you’re taking on water when you hit a big rock or get hit by an army of cannonballs, but you might not think to check your ship’s belly during a storm. Like it would in real life, getting caught in a huge thunderstorm means there’s tonnes of rain pelting down on your deck and washing down below. If you’re not careful, you can have a ship full of rainwater without even realising, which if you don’t address means your ship could well be in danger of sinking. 

13. You can use your vomit as a weapon

Sea of Thieves Tips

Getting totally drunk in Sea of Thieves isn’t cause for your crew mates to ask you to walk the plank, in fact it’s almost a major part of pirate life. But be careful, when you start knocking back that grog, you’ll start staggering wildly and your vision will be warped. Chuck three tankards of grog down your neck and prepare to see it all come back up again in no time at all. 

But before you start cursing your bad luck and weak stomach, grab a bucket and chunder in that instead. You can save all that sacred regurgitation for a little later, when you can aim it right in your crew mate’s face. Or you can just ditch the bucket entirely and vomit straight in their avatar’s mug, causing their entire screen to go green. Nice.

14. There’s no way to find your crew mates unless you communicate

Sea of Thieves Tips

One of the most annoying things about navigating on-foot in Sea of Thieves is that there’s no way to see where your crew mates are unless they’re literally in your eyeline. There’s no mini-map, no radar, no beacon pulse you can send out to reveal their location. All you’ve got is good, old-fashioned communication. 

Queue a heck of a lot of chatter about the rock you’re near, compass directions and tiny points of interest if you’ve got any luck of finding each other mid-treasure hunt.

15. There’s a secret dash swim trick

When the sea between you and your ship is full of sharks or you need to get back in a jiffy, you might need to use the secret dash swim trick to glide yourself at a super speedy pace across the water. To pull it off, all you need to do is charge your sword attack while you’re standing at the edge of the water and then move forward. You can pull it off from the top of a cliff, from your ship or just from the beach. You just need to be on land to kickstart it, and then you’ll be zooming about in no time.

Cheers to Hidden Beach for the tip!

16. If you attack enemy ships, aim your cannon below the waterline 

Sea of Thieves Tips

When attacking an enemy ship using the cannons, make sure to aim below the waterline when you can. That way, you're not only damaging their ship, but making sure the water rushes in there as fast as possible, meaning they've got more problems than just a hole in the hull to deal with. 

Alternatively, you can always just shove one of your crew members in the cannon instead and watch them fly.

17. If the waters go black, sail away… fast

Sea of Thieves' Kraken attacking distant ships.

Sometimes you'll be sailing away, minding your own business, when suddenly your ship comes to a halt and the waters surrounding you go pitch black. If you find yourself in such a situation, man the cannons and prep the water bails, it's time to fight the Kraken. This tentacled beast can spring on any ship in the server, and if it chooses you, you'll have no choice but to put up a fight or sink to the murky depths. If you've got loot on board, you do not want to sink, so go down swinging or come out victorious, but don't let the pink menace win without a fight. 

18. Skulls in the sky are a sign of sweet, sweet loot

You know how you used to go cloud-gazing when you were younger? That hobby is especially useful in Sea of Thieves, as the sight of a giant skull- or ship-shaped clouds in the distance mean that you’ve got a treat in store. Well. A treat that comes with the small caveat of massive risk to life and limb. Head to the area under the cloud, and you’ll find a fortress or a naval battle stocked with loot and lots of skeletons, or if at sea, their wretched ships. 

Odds are that you’ll have to team up with some other pirates nearby who might not be your immediate friends. But working together in numbers to take down the skeletons is the only way to get to the center of the fortress and grab that sweet loot. The riches when you win these raid battles is worth the trouble, but just know that it's rarely going to be easy.

19. You don't have to go downstairs to check the map

Sea of Thieves Sloop map

When you're sailing on your own, there can be a lot to do to keep your ship sailing in the right direction. And one of the things that can take your eye off the waves is having to downstairs to check the map. In fact, trotting up and down those stairs is a pain regardless of whether you're sailing solo or with three other pirate buddies. But, there's a shortcut for sailors and when I realised that, it blew my tiny mind. 

If you're on the sloop, you can look over the balcony behind the ship (see above) to see the map in full. Yes, it might be a little tiny, but if you whack a waypoint circle on the island you're heading for, it'll help you see whether you're heading in the right direction. 

On the galleon, you can view the map through the grill in the floor on the main deck. It's a little more obscured than the view from the sloop's deck, but it's handy for getting a quick bearing update.

20. There is a pirate code, sort of

An excited pirate from Sea of Thieves.

Hell is other people, as the saying goes, and unfortunately that can sometimes be the case in Sea of Thieves. But if you want to attempt to make sure whether you know other players are friend or foe, and vice versa, there is a pirate code that you can follow.

You can read the full version in our guide to how to tell if other pirates are friendly or stabby but basically, don't sail at night with your lights off if you're friendly, and always reach for your grog rather than your sword if you want to strike up a pirate love story. 

21. Don't forget to finish a voyage before quitting

If you're about done with Sea of Thieves for the night, always remember to take your treasure chests or other findings back to an outpost to properly complete a voyage before you sign out. Although the game will tell you the voyage is complete when you've found the buried treasure or got the pirate captain's glowing skull, you'll need to actually deliver your wares to the Gold Hoarders or Order of Souls to actually get the XP, gold and progression. If you leave Sea of Thieves with a chest still in the belly of your ship, it'll be gone when you sign back in, so make sure to make a trip to an outpost before you quit, otherwise it'll be a wasted journey.

22. Watch out for the flash of the spyglass from other ships

If you're wondering whether another ship is going to be friend or foe, a good way to tell is to check whether they're watching you through the spyglass. You can tell by looking for the glint of the spyglass in the sunlight. It'll flash a bit like a torch going on and off once, alerting you to the fact you're being watched. And hopefully that doesn't mean they're checking you out before coming on board or trying to sink you. It may also be the case that it's more than their spyglass too. It could actually be the scope of their Eye of Reach sniper rifle. Tread cautiously. 

23. Some skeletons won’t be hurt by first

A Sea of Thieves player is locked in combat with a skeletal captain.

Firing bullets at skeletons is an obvious tip so I won’t insult your intelligence by including it in here. But if the shambling pile o’ bones heading your way looks a bit...odd, take a step back (literally) and plan how you’re going to attack it. If there are plants coming out of its ribage, it’s an Overgrown skeleton, meaning it regenerates health when it’s standing in water. So maybe don’t let it go near puddles or, you know, that giant body of water called the sea. Gold skeletons, however, are vulnerable to water as it rusts their hard armour, so try to lure them into that H20. Skeletons that have bones as black as Barbosa’s heart aren’t very fond of the light as it stuns them, making them temporarily weaker, so make sure to have your lantern out in between sword swings and/or bullets. 

24.  Offering an alliance may save your life and make you money 

(Image credit: Microsoft)

At the top of your crow's nest sits a flag customization item. Head up the ladder and choose to dazzle other pirates with a number of different flags, but also understand that some serve both fashion and function. One in particular is the alliance flag. Flying it signals to other pirates that you're willing to spread the love, and should another ship nearby link their boat to yours with the same alliance flag, you'll both benefit. When in an alliance, anything you cash in will net the other allied crews in your game 50% of what you earned. That's on top of you earning your usual 100% too, so there's no detriment to allying with a crew you can trust. Everyone gets a cut of the work and the team actually cashing in doesn't lose a single coin.

However, be aware of pirates who may use this prospective friendship as a trap. Many a pirate have been known to approach with the in-game chat command "WE'RE FRIENDLY!" and feigning friendship, only to board and sink you once you let them get close. Be careful with your trust as not all swashbucklers are worthy of it. 

25. Birds are a sign of a shipwreck - and treasure

Sea of Thieves shipwreck

In between all the treasure hunting, chicken collecting and skeleton battling, there's quite a lot of sailing. But don't just focus on getting totally grogged, playing the hurdy gurdy or you know, actually sailing. Keep an eye on the sky for circling seagulls, because they'll be alerting you to the presence of a shipwreck. 

You might only see a prow poking up from the waves, but under the waters directly below the birds you'll find an entire Galleon shipwreck. Dive under the decks, and on the lowest level there's usually at least one chest lurking there. But sometimes you can get really lucky. We once found two Captain's chests and a glowing skull, which we turned in for a few thousand gold. It's a nice little earner, so watch out for those birds. 

Got any more tips? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter @GamesRadar.

Sam Loveridge
Global Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Sam Loveridge is the Global Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar, and joined the team in August 2017. Sam came to GamesRadar after working at TrustedReviews, Digital Spy, and Fandom, following the completion of an MA in Journalism. In her time, she's also had appearances on The Guardian, BBC, and more. Her experience has seen her cover console and PC games, along with gaming hardware, for a decade, and for GamesRadar, she's in charge of the site's overall direction, managing the team, and making sure it's the best it can be. Her gaming passions lie with weird simulation games, big open-world RPGs, and beautifully crafted indies. She plays across all platforms, and specializes in titles like Pokemon, Assassin's Creed, The Sims, and more. Basically, she loves all games that aren't sports or fighting titles! In her spare time, Sam likes to live like Stardew Valley by cooking and baking, growing vegetables, and enjoying life in the countryside.