Most cases of maritime barratry involved the deliberate wrecking of a ship for her insurance value. In a wooden-hulled ship, this could be easily done by one man in the hold, drilling holes. Sometimes the captain and crew were in on it, sometimes not.

Steel-hulled ships were considerably more difficult to wreck. The most frequent method seems to have been deliberately running them aground, so that the captain and crew might survive to collect their payoff.

Cases of barratry were usually very difficult to prove. The laws, until fairly recently, were firmly on the side of the shipowners and captains. Alan Villiers cited one such case, of a British sailing ship, Gunford, wrecked on the coast of Brazil in 1907. The Gunford was heavily over-insured, and had not made a profit in several years. Her captain had not been to sea in over twenty years, after losing his previous ship. Gunford hit the coast of Brazil three times homeward bound to England before finally being wrecked. The relevant pages of the log had been ripped out. The captain claimed this had been done by "pirates" who had looted the ship after it was wrecked. At the resulting inquiry, the captain's license was suspended for a year, and all insurance claims were ordered to be paid.

In the last days of sailing ships, barratry was often more profitable than carrying freight.

Source: Alan Villiers, The War With Cape Horn.