How to Deal with Ghost Ships in Sea of Thieves

Defeating and successfully sinking ghost ships in SOT is easier than you may think. The challenge is those pesky skellies aboard with impeccable aim! There are ways to work around these skeleton ship minions and ensure success when sinking a skeleton ship every single time you encounter one. In this guide, we will be discussing the best method of dealing with and sinking Skeleton Ships, Ghost Ships, and Captain Flameheart’s Ghost Fleets in SOT. In this guide we cover:

  • Skeleton Ships resemble regular sloops and galleons but have tattered sails and their lanterns are lit with blue and green flames
  • Ghost Ships are transparent, glowing, blue/green ships  
  • Stock up on all resources before battle. The average materials spawned in your boat will not be enough materials to defeat a fleet of skeleton ships or ghost ships. You will need at minimum double amounts of planks, cannonballs, and some higher quality food for survivability
  • Skeleton Crews board up holes, but will not bucket water. Landing cannonball attacks will eventually sink Skeleton ships because the skeleton crews don’t remove the water flooding the hull
  • Damaging Skeleton Ships – all cannonballs deal damage, ramming cracks holes similar to player ships, firebombs and Fire Phantom cannonballs will deal damage, and kegs of all kinds are effective methods for sinking skeleton ships. Skeleton ships highly resemble player ships, all methods effective for sinking player ships will work on a Skeleton ship (just don’t try to anchor them, they don’t have one!)
  • Keep powder keg barrels in your crow’s nest at all times (only good for Skeleton Ships)
  • Damaging Ghost Ships – all types of cannonballs can be used against Ghost Ships. Powder keg barrels and ramming into the hull will not do damage
  • Defeating the Ghost Ship Fleet – 4 waves. Kill the Ghost Ship leaders (symbols on their sails) to disband the pack of ships. Killing the Burning Blade in the final wave will defeat the event

Skeleton Ships vs Ghost Ships

Roaming the ocean are two types of PvE pirate ships; the Skeleton Ships, and the Ghost Ships. These two boats are similar but not identical. They both are crewed by skeletons but will require different strategies to defeat.

First let us define which is what, so that you know exactly which methods you need to utilize when taking on these world events.  

Skeleton Ships

ghost ship sailing in SOT

Skeleton Ships are defined by their torn sails and green/blue flames lit inside the ship’s lanterns. Sloop and Galleon Skeleton Ships can be found patrolling the seas, often popping out from beneath your boat.

These ships also spawn during the Skeleton Fleet world event. The Galleon cloud in the sky is a symbol for the active event, the cloud will stay in the sky until a crew defeats the fleet.

Since these Skeleton Ships greatly resemble regular boats they can be attacked with powder keg barrels and by ramming into them.

Ghost Ships

sailing ghost ship in SOT

Ghost Ships are visually defined by their turquoise, transparent, glow-like color. In addition to their unique, visual appearance, Ghost Ship crews have unique battle mechanics.

First, these ghost ships cannot be rammed into or blown up with powder kegs. Instead they explode after getting hit with cannonballs.

Secondly, Ghost Skeleton crews will drop keg mines in the water behind them, and lob three new special cannon balls; the Phantom Cannonball, The Flame Phantom Cannonball and the Wraith Cannonball.

  • Phantom Cannonball – visually, these balls launch phantoms at enemy ships, but essentially function identical to a regular cannonball. Phantom balls are “a tormented spirit from a spectral realm
  • Flame Phantom Cannonball – These are red glowing phantoms, similar to firebombs, but are not throwables. When the flame phantom cannonball strikes an enemy ship, it sets it on fire
  • Wraith Cannonball – visibly, a sorrowful face will be hurled through the air toward your boat. When striking a ship, this ball will crack multiple holes into the hull and knock it back

These unique, glowing, transparent, Ghost Ships are found during the Haunted Shores world event depicted by Captain Flameheart’s Skull in the Sky. In addition to the world event, pirates can purchase a quest from the Order of Souls, or Duke in the Tavern to take on the challenge of defeating these Ghost Ships at any time.

  • Captain Flameheart – First debuted in a tall tale. His skull is more defined, topped with a hat and beard. This skull will be uniquely different and will not look anything like the fort skull clouds (he likes to bare his teeth)

Stock up on Planks, Cannonballs, and Food

When attempting to take on a fleet of ships, ghost or skeleton you NEED resources. Do not, I repeat, do NOT head out before gathering more resources. You need at minimum double the planks, cannonballs as well as some higher tiered food to sustain you during battle.

Wraith balls will burst multiple holes in your ship, so in theory, getting hit with 3 Wraith balls will at minimum place 9 – 12 holes, meaning you need 9-12 planks just for those three special Wraith balls. The base number of planks on a freshly spawned ship is 15 planks per plank barrel. So right there, three Wraith balls consumes nearly all your planks.

If you don’t have enough resources you can always evacuate and go get more, but IMO, this is a massive time sink because you have to sail away and then sail back. Do yourself, your crew, and your boat a favor get an ample amount of resources before challenging these fleets.

Sinking Skeleton Ships

sinking skeleton ship in sea of thieves

Taking on a Skeleton Ship is similar to regular player ships as they take damage identical to player ships. You can use powder keg barrels to blast holes in them. You can ram them with your ship if you run out of cannonballs, and you can board them.

We have found that while you can board skeleton ships, it’s not really necessary so long as you have enough cannonballs to flood enough water into their boat. A skeleton crew will repair holes, but they don’t clear out the water. Meaning, so long as you keep hitting them and creating new holes, water will keep filling up, and inevitably they will sink.

The only reason to board the skeleton ship is if you need to prevent the skeletons from repairing the hole. This would be necessary if you are low on cannon balls, or have none left. You will not be able to anchor them, the anchor on the skeleton ship is non-existent.


Dodge cannon fire by sailing sporadically. Sail in a zig-zag, weave around the try to keep at an angle where your boat had shots, but their boat doesn’t (I know… this is obvious). Circling a ship works so long as you are slightly ahead of the motion. Circling while the skeleton ship (or any boat for that matter) has the front advantage puts your ship right in the line of cannon fire.

The serpentine method isn’t perfect, but does prevent some cannon fire from cracking your hull. When a cannonball is launched the trajectory is already in place, and is aiming for the estimated location of where the enemy thinks your ship will be. So, change it up, don’t sail in a straight line. Take random twists and turns to keep that cannon fire off your boat.

Sinking Ghost Ships

upclose view of a ghost ship in sea of thieves

Ghost Ships on the other hand, require skilled cannon fire to defeat. Bully tactics such as swimming a keg or straight ramming into the hull will not work. Bring tons of cannonballs as well as massive amounts of planks to keep from sinking.

Wraith Balls are unique to Ghost Ships, and they have the shotgun effect. Getting struck by a Wraith Ball will crack multiple holes in your hull and knock your boat back.

So long as your aim is decent, and your crew is coordinated, Ghost Ships are not impossible to defeat. They are the significantly harder to defeat due to the new phantom balls they fire, but not impossible. Come prepared is the best advice I could give you.

If you think you have enough resources (planks, cannonballs, food) grab 10 more of each just to be safe. If you get overwhelmed just remember you can always run away. These ships stick inside their spawn bubble, when reaching their tether point they will stop chasing and return to circling their designated location.

Tips on Defeating the Ghost Fleet

ship shooting cannon balls at a ghost ship SOT

The new Captain Flameheart’s Ghost Fleet is extremely challenging and rewards special ghostly loot necessary for completing accommodations. When the fleet spawns, you will have to defeat a total of four waves of roughly 10 ghost ships per wave.

NOTE: This fleet battle has leader ships and follower ships. Leaders will be central ships and have a symbol on their sails protected inside a pack of other follower ships (no symbol on their sails). These boats will mob together, and stick together to the best of their ability. Killing the “leader” will disperse the follower ships.

  • DO: Use any type of cannonball (chain shot, blunderbomb, regular cannonballs, cursed cannonballs, firebombs)
  • DON’T: these ships do not take collision damage. Smashing into Ghost Ships or using powder keg barrels will not do any damage
  • Two types of ships; Leader ships and follower ships
  • Leader Ghost Ships will have symbols on their sails. Killing a leader will cause the followers in its fleet to disperse
  • When a ship is defeated it will explode not sink
  • When a Ghost Ship is defeated, the explosion will knockback and do damage to objects within the blast zone
  • Ghost ships drop ghost kegs in the water behind them. Avoid running over them. They can be shot and blown up similar same as regular non-ghost kegs

The Ghost Fleet Battle Phases

The battle goes as follows; there are four waves. Waves 1 and 3 are 10 rouge, singular ships. No leaders or followers. You will have to sink 7 of the 10 ships to start the second wave. The second wave spawns two formations of Ghost Ships. Meaning, 5 ships with a leader (x2). Sink the two leader ships to activate round 3 of the fleet. Kill 7 of the 10 ships in wave 3 to spawn the final wave. The Burning Blade Boss Ghost Ship spawns in a formation. Kill the Burning Blade to defeat the whole event and earn the special ghost goodies.  

Phases of Captain Flameheart’s Ghost Ship Fleet Battle;

  1. Phase 1 – 10 ships. Sink 7 to defeat the phase
  2. Phase 2 – Two groups of Ghost Ships spawn, each have a “leader”, and a few followers (roughly 5 ships per formation) Kill the leaders of each pack to defeat the wave
  3. Phase 3 – 10 ships. Sink 7 to complete the wave
  4. Phase 4 – The Boss brigade spawns with the Burning Blade as the leader. Defeat the Burning Blade to complete the battle and earn the ghostly loot

Haunted Ghost Rewards

new ghost loot with circling phantoms in sea of thieves

The new ghost loot can be found floating in the water where the Burning Blade sunk. Look for circling ghouls in the sky hovering over the loot similar to how seagulls circle. Look for the Crate of the Damned, this crate will contain the special Phantom cannonballs the ghost ships use in battle.


My name is Natalie and I go by Noodles in most games. When I'm not grinding levels in my favorite MMOs I'm creating or crafting something for fun.

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