If foreign privateers start blockading your colonies and you have no Navy of your own the King may offer you a Frigate for defence. At lower game levels it is free, at higher levels you have to pay a significant tax hike up to 10%. Bear this in mind before choosing John Paul Jones to join your congress because as soon as he brings you a free Frigate the King will never make this offer. Also some fans seem to think that the offer is only made or more likely to be made when the King is at war with another European power. I am unsure about this point but you may wish to consider this when choosing Benjamin Franklin to join your congress as he prevents you getting involved in any more of the King's wars.
Circumnavigate First Continent
Circumnavigate the First Continent, this will pin point enemy Colonies, find the best Colony sites and Indian Skills, and speed exploration. It will mean your first Colony will be delayed, but at least it will be in a good spot, and the first Colony is very important. If the Continent is too small, look for another one. Use the Colonists to explore the interior, but don't explore lost cities, get an expert Scout for this, it will have a greater chance of success. If you found your Colony before starting the Circumnavigation, have your Colonist make liberty bells, hammers or finished goods so the warehouse doesn't get overloaded. If you discover the Pacific Ocean, you will be approximately half way round, of course the Continent may not go all the way to the Pacific. Remember a Continent may go all the way down to the ice cap, so you won't be able to go right round, in this case its probably best just to go back to your Colony.
Navigating on the High Seas
If you are on a high seas square and don't want to go to Europe go due North go due South until you get to coastal waters. It is a good idea to build your first Colony close to the high seas so you can get goods to and from Europe quicker, and because it is easier to run blockades. If a ship is in the bound for Europe box, and you want to change direction, you don't have to wait till it gets there you can move it to the Bound for New World Box, and vice versa. When your ship is in Europe don't forget to send it back again, or you could be waiting a long time. You may of course want to wait for new Colonists.
When your ship goes to Europe it will generally come back where it left. This means ships leaving the Western edge of the map, will reappear in the West. If you have a Warship in Europe, use the don't board next ship command to stop Colonists getting on it, as they will reduce it's combat strength. You might of course want to use it as a cargo ship, but be careful.
Load one Privateer with a Scout and go explore. The Privateer can map out the coastline fast and the Scout can explore the interior. The Privateer may also come across a ship if can raid. If you have not contacted an Indian Tribe and see a Lost City Square in their lands, drop the Scout in and you might be able to raid their burial grounds with out starting a War, as you have not made contact. Try to contact all Indian Tribes (there are only 8) as they will buy most plundered cargo at no tax once contacted, they don't however buy raw materials.
Never have your ships on the same square
If they are attacked all will be damaged or sunk. Also sleeping Colonists, Soldiers, Dragoons and Artillery may end up on the wrong ship, going the wrong way. For this reason use the ship GO command with discretion, as they may cross over on their journey.
If your ships follow the coast as much as possible, they have less chance of encountering enemy naval vessels, as there are fewer sea squares. Also when enemy naval vessels are encountered, units can be dropped on a land square, thus saving them from getting sunk and increasing your ships combat strength. Don't unload near hostile units.
Attacking Blockading Naval Vessels
If an enemy naval vessel is blockading one of your harbours and you have a Fort or Fortress attack from next to the Colony. The battle may have no winner, and the enemy will attack next turn, and may sink or damage your vessel. It will then move into that square and be fired on by the guns in the Fort. If you are doing the blockading try to avoid this situation, or your vessel may be the one to get damaged.
Forts Line of Fire
All sea squares neighbouring a Fort or Fortress are within its Artilleries line of fire. They have some intrinsic Artillery, 4 for Forts, and 8 for Fortresses, but really need a lot more Artillery in them if they are to be effective. Garrison them with damaged Artillery Units as there not much good for anything else. If you have a lot you stand a good chance of sinking enemy vessels. Forts help keep your harbours open. If you are exploring the map by sea, and suspect a Colony (by seeing plowed land or roads), stop and wait a turn. This will give you maximum movement points, so if you come across a Fort you might not be slowed too much and be able to escape. This applies to Colonies you have already discovered which may have been upgraded.
Don't blockade next to a Stockaded Colony, as it will probably be upgraded to a Fort and Fire on you, and be more difficult to attack from land. Stay one square away.
It is NOT a good idea to attack Frigates with Privateers as they seem to get sunk rather often. It is best to lore them into Forts perhaps with an empty Caravel you no longer require, or use your own Frigates. Privateers can usually out run Frigates, especially if you have Magellan in Congress. Don't have more than 4 Privateers as the computer seems to adjust the probabilities if you get anymore, so that they sink all the time. This is probably to stop you blockading every enemy port, which would make the game a bit too easy. Generally the higher your Naval Power as compared to your enemy, the less chance individual ships have of winning.
Enemy ships will '0' Cargo may be stuffed to the gunnels with troops, if this is the case they are easier to destroy. It will be very likely if you are at War and they are close to one of your Colonies. It's a lot easier to destroy 6 units in a ship than on land!
If during negotiations you agree to withdraw your Privateers to Europe, don't forget, go immediately to Europe and bring them back. If you do withdraw them, then the Tribute demanded will be reduced and peace may be possible. Of course the level of Tribute may still be more than you can meet, so they will have been withdrawn unnecessarily. If they are about to raid a rich cargo then it might not be a good idea to withdraw them. It can be a good idea to have a lot of ships in one area, to make a 'wolf-pack'.
Before your Privateer leaves port, check it is empty; otherwise you will have to waste time going back to unload; or your attack strength will be weakened, and you be able to take less or no plunder. Time is money.
If there are a lot of enemy Privateers and Frigates in the area wait before attacking. As Privateers carry no flag you don't know who they belong to (unless they go in the same square as a Frigate or Privateer you have unsuccessfully attacked), so they may attack and neutralise each other, leaving you to take out the victor. Don't attack cargo ships, if there are warships in the area as you will be weaker when loaded with plunder. Either attack the warships, or find new hunting grounds.
Before attacking a cargo ship, check the commodity prices and shortages in your Colonies. Then you know which cargo is best to take.
Some Ports are a lot easier to blockade than others. Study the geography, if the Port is close to the High Seas, it will be difficult to blockade. If however its Ships must go through a narrow stretch of water between land masses, then it will have to pass your Warships, which will slow them down, ready for the kill. Try and have Ports near hunting grounds to unload your cargo, so you can go back for more immediately. If the Sea passage is one square, you can prevent Enemy Sea Traffic completely, and call up extra ships for the attack.
If the Privateer is a long way from a friendly Port, send it back to Europe and wait. Cargoes can then be exchanged directly with Merchant Ships heading for your Colonies, or sold in Europe. Indians may also buy processed goods.
When you capture a Colony make and want to dismantle it, make sure you have lots of shipping to carry the plunder to Colonies with Factories. This will mean at least 2 Galleons, one for the troops, and one for the Colonists and goods.
As soon as your Colonies start getting blockaded and you have a few Military Vessels, build a Drydock in your principle port ie. the one with your Factories and where most of your goods are shipped from. This means as soon as ships are repaired they can Fight / Trade immediately. There is a dock in Europe but that's a long way away. When a ship is damaged it will go to the nearest dry-dock. You need a dry-dock before you can build a Shipyard. If you only have one ship, it can never get sunk but may be damaged often.
If one of your coastal Colonies has a lot of lumber and ore build a shipyard there. You only really need one. I find a reasonable navy consists of 4 Privateers, 2 or 3 Frigates and 3 or 4 Galleons. If you are rich you might not need to bother as you can buy ships from the King, and they don't increase in cost like Artillery. Don't bother with Caravels or Merchantmen, they are weaker, slower and carry less. If you can't afford a Galleon, buy a Privateer. It can move cargo fast, take Colonists to be trained by the Indians or raid ships, the plunder can buy your Galleon.
If you buy ships instead you will need a lot of money. Generally you will get this when you unload a Ship in Europe. Don't send the ship back straight away, buy the new Ship First, or the Europe Screen will close, and you may forget. Move the first Ship first, or outbound cargoes may get mixed up.
If you are at War with a colony and make a landing from the sea, it is best to have at least 2 Veteran Dragoons or your Artillery will be cut to pieces. Try landing on a hill or mountain as this is easier to defend.