Easy ship takeovers
Since you are at war with France, you are going to attack some French ships. But not any french ships, only those that are battling pirate ships, because any other time when you encounter french ships they attack you. But this time they will be your allies, against the pirates, so find a battle where you are totally out numbered by the pirates and quickly defeat them. Now after the battle the french ships will not attack you, they will sail on their way. Get in close to those french ships and fire your kibles at their sails, do it to each ship, but do not fire anything else or the ships will instantly attack you. Now with their sails destroyed they cannot manuver very well, when you begin your attack, you can pick them off or flee if you must. Next select the ship you want to take over, get in real close and fire the grape shot at point blank rage. You will kill off some of the crew, and will instantly board their ship for a take over.
Now when you have your new ship the other french ships "if there are anymore" will attack you. But since you took out the sails, the battle will be easy, so sink them or run away to repair. You can do this with other nations, but once you do this you will be at war with them, which just adds to your problems early in the game.
Your officers pay you
Bring your commerce level up to six or seven. When you find an officer you want open conversation by saying his price is too expensive and close dialog box.
Repeat this enough times and the officer candidate will eventually go into negative numbers and will pay you a monthly fee!