after a day of farming (tribe of 10), we finally managed to get our schooner out on sea. It was a very long grind in the lawless region, and we decided we had to sail out and find somewhere safe to log off. We sailed from L9 to L8 and I kid you not, we encountered 10 ship of the damned at the very least. Most of the time these ships would be very close to each other, making maneuvering away from them very difficult. When we did manage to escape, this was because the ships would suddenly steer in the opposite direction (they are very unpredictable).
But after an hour of sailing (from L9 to L8), we got caught in between two ships of the damned. They clapped us. We had 6 cannons with 50+ cannons made, a crew of 7 online, and resources to repair. I was in charge of repairing, and I had points in the tree. Still, even though I was repairing, I could not repair the structures fast enough because the DPS being dealt to us was too great. We lost HOURS of work in 2 minutes, not even to other players, but to broken NPC.
So my suggestions:
1) Make ship building easier.
2) Reduce # of Ships of the Damned in a zone (and let them sail on independent courses that ensure they don't group up)
3) Reduce their speed and power in lawless regions (like a debuff that affects their health/damage and speed, making fighting them an option)
4) Make repairing easier