From YPPedia

Buffing is a term that refers to using the navy, or solo pillages, to bring one's puzzle standing up as high as possible. This is most commonly used for gunnery skills, as most ship XOs require pirates to have a high standing before they will permit them to gun on larger ships, or in blockades, flotilla attacks, or sea-monster hunts. Many pirates find that their standing falls while on an actual pillage, so the navy is the best place to "buff" skills. Buffing is, in its most basic form, completing puzzles as fast as possible, and leaving the puzzle. The speed of completion and the amount of time in the puzzle play a factor in standing.

This is also known as hyper-ranking.

The term 'buffing' is also a common term on other computer games. More info available here.

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