In the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, when Will and Jack are having a debate about whether Will's father was a pirate, Jack turns the ship's wheel, causing the boom to swing across and hit Will, dangling him off the side of the ship. He reverses this maneuver after the debate is resolved, letting Will back on.

I have a little experience sailing modern yachts, and this looks like a gybe maneuver, but it happens so quickly and smoothly that I'm wondering if there's anything else to it or if such a thing is realistic. Would a ship like the Interceptor have the boom low down enough where this could happen? Was it just a gybe with the wind pushing the boom over or were the movement of the wheel and the position of the boom linked in any other way?

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    I think this was a gybe maneuver as well. Could be Jack ran the boom lines around the hub of the wheel, allowing him some semi-automated control of the Interceptor’s boom sail while turning the ship, we just don’t see this by the camera angle. Or, he turned the vessel in a direction, he knew that the wind would catch and hold the boom just right to knock Will off the deck until he turned out of it, thus loosening the boom to swing back in. Remember that Sparrow (although kind of dim and loose-footed) is supposedly a skilled sailor. Nov 23, 2020 at 3:37

1 Answer 1


It could be a gybe but I don’t think it is. The reason is a true gybe involves the boom whipping very quickly to the other side of the boat. The boom does not move at all until the sail catches the wind on its other side and then the boom whips across very quickly. It is a dangerous maneuver.

I just watched the clip on YouTube and the boom moves more gradually. Also Jack is able to control the boom’s position relative to the boat using the wheel. To me this is a 50% realistic exaggeration of real sailboat mechanics.

When Jack turns the ship hard to the right, (starboard) the whole ship leans (lists) to the left (port). This is because it’s the rudder and keel that turn right first, everything above that wants to keep going straight because of inertia. This includes the boom. So if there’s not a lot of wind in the sail, when you turn hard right everything not battened down moves to the left side of the boat, including the boom(s).

You can control and arrest this movement at any point using the tiller or wheel. If you build up some speed and then the wind dies, you can play all kinds of games with the boom by turning the tiller.

What I think is exaggerated is the responsiveness of the whole ship and the boom, along with the fact that everyone and everything else on the ship (including Will) would be thrown to the left about as fast as the boom was. It almost seems more likely that Will would have gone overboard prior to the boom passing over his position.

The scene to me plays as if it was based on the mechanics of a small single-hand craft and how you can move the boom around very nimbly if you have some momentum, and when they scaled it up they fudged the realism a bit.

Source: I’ve sailed single hand (12’) craft extensively. Only a couple times have I sailed larger craft and never a ship like the ones in the movie. The differences between my single hand experience and what would happen on a much larger ship are speculation based on extrapolation and my knowledge of physics.

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