One: Ship Combat Upgrade.
First, replace the scripting ship combat with zoomed-in real-time isometric ship combat, with a selection of (editable) AI options. Remove "close to board" as an approach option and instead only make it available when you've actually gotten your ship alongside the enemy.
Additionally, make attacking ships matter for your reputation — both faction rep and disposition. There should be options to be an all-out pirate, a privateer, or an actual hero who doesn't, y'know, sink merchants just to get more swords, hats, and coats to sell at the nearest fish shop. Towar