The Sea of Thieves New Player Guide

The Sea of Thieves left me lost in the basics, but its a really entertaining game so I’ve taken the time to figure out what you need to know from the start.

If you don’t know what it is, it’s a 3D game of pirates and galleons with a beautiful sea filled with islands, treasures, skeletons and beasts. In my opinion it’s a brilliantly conceived and executed game idea. I really enjoy the sights and sounds of the sea, the heave of the ship and the splash of the waves. It’s definitely worth checking over.

What to Expect from the Sea of Thieves

Basically, collecting loot, upgrading your gear, managing the sea monsters, natural hazards, and skeletons. from time to time you might have a skirmish with other players or join in with them :0)

First Time Preparation

The preparatory phase leaves long-lasting effects and it’s the part you will want to be over as soon as possible. I wish the game designers would take this into account but they don’t. Don’t rush or you’ll regret it.

Be Careful How You Sign In

It’s a Microsoft game, you’ll have to sign in and they use the sign on to create a character. Unfortunately, that will also use up one of two chances to get the right name. It’s not a good way to start, they should let you do it when you choose a character.

You can pay to change your character’s name and you get a free pass on the first change. Apparently, this is normal for an MMO :o(

How to Force an Update

I had to collect the download plus a sequence of updates. When I first tried to play Sea of Thieves it said it was not the correct version and needed more updates. To force that to happen open Microsoft Store at the Sea of Thieves page and that should restart the stuck download.

Choose Your Character Carefully

You need to take your time choosing a character because you will NOT be able to swap it out without losing everything you have built up in the Sea of Thieves. This was the second pain in the neck.

Sea of Thieves pirate selection

Use A and D to move your selection left and right. Use 1 to mark or unmark a favoured character and use ENTER to select a character. Page-Down replaces all unfavoured characters with new ones for you to consider.

Choose the Right Ship

You will need to choose the right ship for the crew you are expecting to take with you. This one is easier to put right than the name and character choices.

Sea of Thieves ship selection
Solo players should choose the Sloop

The Sea of Thieves supports groups of people in crews. It is possible to be a solo player, and the only ship to do that with will be the Sloop. Although it’s smaller and more fragile than the other ships it’s also nimble and has a shallow draft. If you tack into the wind you will lose a bigger ship if it’s following you. If you hug the shoreline of an island they won’t be able to make the same tight turns that you can.

Select Your Crew

There is room on the Sloop for a friend or a computer-generated crew mate, or just yourself. I’ve seen plenty of advice available on how to run a Sloop as a solo player, so it should be ok.

Sea of Thieves crew selection
Choose your crew

To do solo, choose a Closed Crew to assemble your crew manually and don’t invite a friend.

Printable Keyboard Controls

After a period of guessing my way around, a printable keyboard control set became a must-have item. Here’s mine :0)

Things You Need to Know

There is non-aggressive game-play in Sea of Thieves but you should probably expect to be boarded, robbed and shot a lot! To be honest, that’s not something I’m looking forward to right now.

The Game Structure

There are three sets of trading characters you will work with to make progress in the Sea of Thieves:

  • Gold hoarders
    who you can buy treasure maps from and sell gold to
  • Merchant Alliance
    who send you on timed missions to fetch animals
  • Order of Souls
    who send you on missions to kill skeletons and bring back their skulls.

Buy a voyage map from a trader, you can hold three at a time. Go to your ship, select a voyage, navigate to the island collect the item and take it to an outpost to trade to exchange for reputation and gold.

With spare gold, you can buy fancy sails, clothes, tattoos, hair hats and eventually pets. During your voyages, you will encounter sharks, Megalodons, Krakens, bad weather and other pirates who will most likely rob you.

At first, don’t spend money on flashy clothes or fancy ship ornaments since this indicates you are not a new player and probably have things worth stealing. When you log out of the Sea of Thieves you lose any quests that you had in hand. Dying is ok, you will go to The Ferry of the Damned that takes you back to your ship via a vortex.

No Voyages Available?

Try the merchants to see if you can buy anything that might result in a quest or voyage. Check the Captain’s table to see if there are any voyages on it that you weren’t aware of. Some may have arrived as quest items. Failing those, options try The Shroudbreaker Tall Tale from a tavern (look for a book by the bar). I found a lot of saleable items while trying to solve that. If I hadn’t lost the ship again, it would have been helpful.

Another way to find things to do is to go to islands randomly and and see what you can find above and below the waterline. There are quests scattered around and by completing riddles you can pick up more loot.

How to Initiate a Voyage

For new players, there is a sequence you should follow to obtain a Sea of Thieves quest/voyage.

  • Buy a treasure map from one of the three trading characters
  • Take the map to your ship
  • Place the map on the Captain’s table. The captain’s table isn’t marked but the other table has a map on it permanently showing all the islands you can go to.
  • Propose a voyage at the Captain’s table
  • Vote for one of the proposed voyages
  • Examine the selected map and compare it to the outline of an island on the world map laying on the map table.

Mark the destination island by moving the island to the centre of the screen and then clicking on it with the mouse. You might want to click where you currently are as well since you know you can trade here. It’s probably the best place to come back to although you will find other trading posts around the map.

Sea of Thieves map matching
You have to match an island on the treasure map to an island on the world map. For beginners, the destination island will be within 2 squares of your current location.

Determine what direction the island is by compass setting and remember its name. When sailing, keep a straight line using the compass setting and confirm that the island you have reached matches the name. You may also be able to confirm the shape of the island by scaling the mast to the crows nest for an aerial view.


For solo players, everything’s smaller and quicker in a sloop, it has one sail and is the best choice. If necessary you can look below from the bridge to see the map instead of going there, but it’s better to sail using the compass as a guide and leave map reading until you are nearer to your target.

  • Keep your lights off at night to avoid attracting pirates.
  • All the ship controls surround the wheel on the bridge.
  • Use one rope to drop sails, another to turn the sails. Line up the sails with the wisps of wind to make them billow out and for full force.
  • Line up the marked wheel spoke with the mast to go straight.
  • You have to walk around the capstan to raise the anchor but you can drop an anchor quite quickly by holding the F key.
  • Birds will circle a sunken vessel that may contain things you want.
  • A harpoon can be used to drag behind a shark.
  • To avoid damaging your ship, approach an island slowly by minimising the sails before dropping anchor. It’s safer to stay a little offshore although this will make you vulnerable to pirates and sharks.
  • Go to the top of the mast and put up a flag from the flag box so that you can easily see what direction the wind is coming from.

The Emergency Brake Manoeuvre

  • Turn the wheel
  • Drop anchor
  • Swivel on the anchor chain
  • Straighten the wheel
  • Raise anchor

You can use a harpoon to perform a similar manoeuvre by hooking into a rock or structure for a period of time. The harpoon can also be used to drag your boat closer to the shore or dock, or grab barrels from the sea or crew mate.

Lost Your Ship?

The creepy looking Siren will help you when you lose your ship and treasure.

The Siren figure is there to help out when you go overboard or your alliance leaves you away from your ship. The Siren will show you where your floating treasure is and help you get back into your ship. You can’t do both, but you can hide the treasure and come back for it.

Finding Treasure on an Island

It can be hard to orient yourself to an island using a map at ground level. The best thing to do is pull out the compass and use it to look North. The Island is now facing the same way as the map.

Figure out where you currently are on the map and where you want to go. Check to see what is around the X on the map such as trees, shoreline and rocks.

If you are in the correct vicinity you will strike the treasure chest with a thud on your first dig. Keep digging to pull it up then carry it back to your ship, you can swim with it.

Finding Random Quests

Sea of Thieves message in a bottle
Quests can be found in barrels, chests and bottles.

You don’t necessarily have to stick to buying quests from the Gold Hoarders, Merchants and Soul Traders. I have had a great time sailing to random islands and looking for things. Apart from finding treasures you can take to an outpost to sell, you will also find quests hidden inside barrels and bottles as you go.

How to Make and Break an Alliance

An alliance is a voluntary connection you can make with other players in the game. Alliances are managed by choosing flags from the flag box. You can find it in the crow’s nest at the top of the mast.

The sea of thieves alliance pennant
The Alliance Pennant shows you are willing to co-operate with other players.
  • If you are willing to join an alliance you raise the Alliance pennant that can be found on the second screen of the available flags.
  • To create an Alliance with another ship, raise the Join Alliance flag. When joined, there is a screen notification and the alliance is given its own flag and name.
  • There is another option in the flag box to leave an alliance.


  • A sword and blunderbuss are reported to be a good default combo to have
  • Arm cannons when there’s no fighting
  • Aim cannon balls to hit below the waterline, shooting through waves works
  • Use planks of wood to fill in cannon holes below the waterline
  • A bailer can bail out two holes worth of water at a time

Attacking Ships

I’m not so keen on attacking other players yet, but here are a few of the tactics I have discovered in my online searches so far:

  • Unload a cannon, hop in and fire, you won’t die and it’s a good way to go to shore or attack a ship.
  • Grab the wheel and shove them to shore
  • Red kegs blow up when shot
  • Ignite TNT with a pistol shot below the deck or under the keel to make 4 holes
  • Stop opponents from repairing the holes you made
  • Use opponents food to stay healthy
  • Take opponents planks, food and anything else if it helps


sea of thieves ferry of the damned
I ended up here a lot. You can exit via the door at the far end of the deck which opens after a minute or two.

The Ferry of the Damned is an area where newly killed players arrive. If you are unlucky you will be trapped with a player you have just been arguing with. After a while, doors will open onto a swirling vortex inside the ship and you can go back to being alive on your ship again.

The Skull Cloud

the Sea of Thieves Skull Cloud
The Skull Cloud

The Skull Cloud shows you an island with a stronghold where you can fight hordes of skeletons to gain a large mass of treasure. The key you are fighting for is held by a Captain who will be among the last skeletons you will fight.

The Skull Cloud eyes are green when no-one is on the island, red when players are in combat. There will be multiple waves of different skeletal types keeping you at bay so you will need to tackle it as a group.

The Skull Cloud has been described in detail by GamesRadar, including a video.

Skeleton Ships

These are galleons with a crew of skeletons. You will see them from time to time on the horizon, and it might also appear on your world map too. They may leave you alone if you don’t attack.

A more aggressive version of a skeleton ship will surface next to you, so start attacking that one right away!

a galleon shaped cloud in the sea of thieves
A fleet of skeleton ships is marked by a galleon shaped cloud.

A Skeleton Fleet will be marked by a galleon shaped cloud, and this makes a good target for an alliance of players.

The Kraken

This is my first experience with a Kraken. It’s more lively than I expected, the tentacles didn’t just hang there as I’ve seen in videos. They slammed my ship a couple of times and one of them started to eat me. I escaped using a sword, but the ship went down again. Yes, I’m afraid so.

Here I am being eaten by a Kraken tentacle. A few sword strikes got me out so I could get back to my ship.

After that, I swam over to a couple of the tentacles and attacked them with my rifle and sword. That didn’t go well.

The Megalodon

There is a chance that the Megalodon might not attack you. Once you have hit it with gun or cannon, it will circle and attack. They won’t follow you if you go close to an island.

I have dissuaded one using harpoon and cannon, but not made a kill. On advice, I set the ship to run in circles so I could take shots at it. The net result was that I spent all my time patching up the ship until I couldn’t keep up anymore.


  • When searching for treasure, you can use head bobs to count steps.
  • You can climb into a cannon and shoot yourself through the air to land on an island or a ship without harm. Look at the muzzle end and press R.
text dividing ruler

My Journey

The following is what happened when I ventured into the Sea of Thieves. I died and lost my ship a lot. There isn’t much guidance about what is expected of you or what you are supposed to do.

The First Time In

My first time in was just a tentative dip to try to get a feel for the Sea of Thieves game style. I didn’t do much more than go from the tavern to the base of a hill where I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be doing. My patience evaporated and I logged out knowing that I had to spend some time researching since the in-game guidance for the Sea of Thieves isn’t there in a way I would like it to be.

The Second Time In

Having armed myself with a little more knowledge I could follow required route:

You wake up in a tavern where you are given a few instructions on the controls. I forgot those fairly quickly but pressed on under instruction from a stranger in the tavern to take a chest to the gold hoarder. He will give you money in return.

Mission giver in Sea of Thieves
Starting the Sea of Thieves

Buy a Map form the Gold Hoarder

With money you will earn by selling the chest, buy a map to show you where to find more treasure.

I was told to buy some clothes with the leftover money but I couldn’t find the clothes store and started to feel motion sickness. I logged out (the Noob Walk of Shame).

The Gold Hoarder in Sea of Thieves
Buy a map from the gold hoarder

Logging Back In for the Third Time

When I logged back in later, I had missed not only the clothes shop but also the need to take the map and place it on the captain’s table to start the quest. That part had now been done for me and I was aboard the ship.

I had also missed out the Stranger’s order to return for more instructions so I don’t know if that part was significant.

Don't go off of the Sea of Thieves map!
Here’s the part where I’m heading off the map to see what lies beyond. Don’t do that or you’ll end up a shipwreck very soon.

The map shows you where your ship is in the world just like a SatNav. As the sole owner of a Sloop, I would be able to stay up on deck and peep over the rails to see the map without having to go below deck. That part is normally assigned to a crewmate who is in touch with you via a comms channel.

To examine the map properly you’ll need to be next to the map and check it over using the W, A, S, D keys to move around in closer detail.

Trying Out the Ship

I was keen to try out the ship, so using my printed controls and some hints from YouTube I found the ship’s controls:

  • The anchor is raised using the capstan behind the steering wheel.
  • There are two ropes on each side, of the steering wheel, one to set the sail height and one to set the angle of the sails to the wind.
  • Use the direction of the wisps of air to set the angle of the sails. They make a sound when they are pulled tight by the strongest force.
  • The ships wheel has a decorated peg on the top which lines up with the mast when you are steering in a straight line.

Losing the Ship!

This screenshot is about 15 seconds away from it capsizing. I knew that the wind could break the masts but the waves didn’t seem especially choppy so I had no idea what was about to happen.

Capsizing the Sloop in Sea of Thieves
The first time out in a Sloop, learning the ropes.

Once in the sea, I began swimming to the distant shore and on the way, I happened upon a mermaid type sea creature who magicked myself and my ship back to land.

Losing the Ship Again!!

After wandering around the island a bit I took the ship out and headed North to see what I could find. What I found was the edge of the playable area where the sea turned red and my ship started breaking up. Too late, alas, and that was the end of visit number 2.

If you don’t stick to the map your ship will break up.

The Fourth Try Made More Sense

Tri Rock Isle

Now that I had a better idea of what to expect I hoped to string together a complete mission. This time I managed to collect three voyages, propose a voyage on the captain’s table and then located the island marked it and where I was with a ring, figured out the compass setting and set off.

tri-rock island
You can get a better view of an island from the crows nest.

I soon found Tri-Rock Isle using only the ship’s compass and located the treasure chest the first time by using the map and the pocket compass. Take out the pocket compass, face North and look at your map. The map and the ground are now aligned. To determine where you are, use the local trees, rocks and shoreline. Once you have that set, you can figure out where the chest should be relative to that.

The Chest of Sorrows in Sea of Thieves
The Chest of Sorrow can be a pain in the neck when it starts crying.

As long as you are in the right area you will be given the chest when you dig with the spade. They aren’t making finding the treasure unnecessarily tricky, which is a relief. However, the Chest of Sorrow will start wailing from time to time and when it does water will gush out of it and you will need to start bailing out.

This time I did all the right things, sold the chest and found the clothes shop for a good look around.

The Sunken Grove

The Sunken Grove Island in Sea of Thieves
I stopped on the East side of the Island, failing to notice that the only viable approach would be on the South or better still near the X on the West. That’s something I will need to plan for in future.

Now I’m starting to get the hang of things perhaps, starting to learn the scope of the environment. I made it to the next island and then had move the ship to a part of the island with a sandy shore. That’s something you should plan for before you arrive, so I’ll do a better job of that the next time.

Everything went ok until a pair of skeletons came out of the sea, one holding a keg that blew up and killed me. I ended up on the Ferry of the Damned.

The Ferry of the Damned yet again
The Ferry of the Damned is an area where newly killed players arrive. After a while, doors open onto a swirling vortex inside the ship and you can go back to being alive again.

After a minute or so I found a swirling vortex and returned to the land of the living aboard my ship. I still had the map and I was still at the island where I had just died. This time I figured out where the treasure was before going ashore and quickly found the Castaways Chest and got back to the ship.

Finding my way back to the outpost was easy since I only had to travel East and look for the unusual rock formations on the horizon. This time I configured the ship and wheel before raising the anchor so I could proceed without risk of running aground.

Then a Megalodon turned up and started circling the ship. I Couldn’t get it into my sights with a harpoon or cannon so felt fairly helpless and pressed on to the island while it took chunks out of the boat.

Another sinking ship. I’m starting to get used to this.

The boat sank around me and took the treasure chest with it! Nothing left to do but swim to shore.

Attempt 5: Where are the Voyages?

The Sea of Thieves told me that I had completed the last voyage when I found the treasure chest. Now I couldn’t buy a voyage from any of the merchants and I didn’t have any on my Map Radial. I bought a few things that I thought would help but didn’t seem to, so I was stuck.

There is nothing online that covers this situation, but it couldn’t be an error or there would have been a lot of chat about it. Unfortunately, during all of this I did forget to check the Captain’s table for proposed voyages, so that’s something worth checking in the future.

Finally, a Quest I Can Go On

The map table
Plotting the location of the Shroudbreaker treasure chest

After several tries, I started searching the tavern and found I could take The Shroudbreaker voyage. I don’t think I would have made any sense of it without the help of this guide on GamesRadar. Now I have a better feel for the puzzles.

Three Wrecks and an Island

A random wreck containing a skull and a rare Tea chest

Along the way I happened upon a three shipwrecks. The first one was random but contained rare Tea and a skull. The second was part of the quest where I gained more pages for the book, the third was a small island with wreck on the shoreline.

Beautiful islands in the Sea of Thieves
An island containing a lot of different items was fun to explore

With all the extra loot on board, I felt it would be safer to leave the quest and cash in the loot. When I got to an outpost it was being watched by a galleon and I was sure to be boarded it looked like I had anything on board. They sniffed around me for a while which was a good reason to leave. So I set sail and slipped away out of sight behind an island.

No Safe Harbour

There aren’t many outposts to use. I was ploughing along trying to avoid the bad weather trying to figure this thing out. At this point, a Megalodon arrived and started hunting me. I managed to fire a harpoon into it but that wasn’t enough to put it off and it took a chunk out of the boat.

Bailing out happens a lot in the Sea of Thieves
The point at which bailing out becomes futile

The Megalodon damage forced me to alternate between repairing the hull and bailing out water, which I was kind of winning, except that I had now sailed off the edge of the map and the ship was breaking up. Although I managed to turn the ship around, I lost the battle to keep it afloat, and that was the end of that journey, along with a few chests, a skull and rare food items.

At least the pirates didn’t get it though, that would have been annoying.

A Few Weeks Later…

After a few weeks and some intermittent game-play, I eventually reached to point where I was told that I would be joining the rest of the internet (oh no!). I was wondering about what to do if I should encounter someone on the high seas. The whole encounter thing put me off playing a bit.

The first person I encountered was on a sloop on the same island I wanted to go to and we waved to each other a bit (phew).

The next time I saw what I thought was the skeleton galleon in the distance. Fairly soon I was challenged to a frantic “Friend or Foe!?” text message (uh-oh!) but I didn’t know how to answer it – that’s not going to help. Then right behind me came another ship that collided with mine. By now the first ship had turned so I rammed it since I’m already damaged. After a lot of graunching noises, my ship sank and although I made it onto theirs I didn’t know what to do next and was killed.

Well, that wasn’t so bad I thought. Probably just as well to get that experience out of the way. So I set off again and within a short period of time I encountered two Irish fellas using a console (they couldn’t type but had microphones). Once I had plugged in some headphones and a microphone I agreed to help one of them to defeat a character and earn an upgraded cutlass. That worked out ok and I learned a few things in the process.

It’s been a while since I’ve joined forces over the internet like that and it feels a bit weird. I don’t think the age difference helped. It’s probably worth persevering with and in any case, Sea of Thieves doesn’t really give you any choice, to be honest.