You seem about right. If you aren't keeping your companions near your own level you might want to buff them up a bit. You should be in your second free ship. How did you do in your first try vs the Armada?
If you have done all the side quests, your only about level 17 1/2 when you get to Cool Ranch, which you will be getting to shortly. I'd say your right on track assuming your skipping some side quests.
I recommend you go back and clean up side quests to get a little further ahead if your finding battles to difficult.
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i just got to valencia and i am level 15...i was also wondering if i was to low level . I cant seem to find any good clothing and i am getting beaten alot in the battles. the ship battles seem to be going ok, just the ground battles, i may have to go buy some companion training or something.
@tnpineknot I was level 16-17 when I entered Valencia and I was very comfortable in the ground battles. I piloted a Galleon in this world which easily sank their ships when not getting swarmed. Though now in Cool Ranch I need to replace it since its weaker then the skiff they offer. Only need one more nautical level before I can buy one :D.
Anyway, 15 isn't bad but it depends on how your stats are built too. My character is built on Agility and Dodge which does wonders in battle for Swashbucklers I dodge physical attacks 70% of the time and Range attacks 30% of the time. Try to find what suits your style (and class choice) then you won't have that many issues.