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What would be the best way to have a playable pirate ship?

So I am thinking about making a game that involves managing a pirate ship (Think Assassins Creed 4). I can think of multiple solutions on how to do this, but I don’t know what the best solution would be. Should I make the entire ship a pawn that you possess when you want to sail it around? What about collision, when you are running around the ship? Would I have to attach the 3rd person character to the ship to keep the character from shifting around as it bobs over the sea?

I am a bit overwhelmed just thinking about how to accomplish this, and would appreciate any help!

~StevenWaltherMedia