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Ryan J. Kadwell




Location: Queensland, Australia
Joined: 12 Mar 2009

Posts: 25

PostPosted: Mon 24 Aug, 2009 12:30 am    Post subject: Ship Hypothetical         Reply with quote

Good Afternoon all,

I understand (and appreciate, trust me) that this may strike some as quite off-topic to usual conversation, but the staggering array of cluey medievalists, historians and scholarly thinkers on this board stands as the best hope I have in finding the answers I am looking for, or if not, to invite some interesting and thought-provoking imagination and debate as I have seen time and time again.

The following relates to a story I am trying to write, which is fantasy, albeit realistic fantasy. Think, all the fun and games of elves and dwarves, but with none of the Level 10 Boots of Escapement, finger-wiggling nonsense, Oh Dear I'm An Elf And I'm Awesome But I'm Leaving This Land For You Mortal Humans... I obey the laws of physics, inject some hard-cold truths about the human condition, and I would imagine that there are a lot of people who don't welcome the idea of going on quests with a multiracial band of do gooders - things of that gauge.

Basically, I need to have the ability for people to go on ocean-faring voyages, something on the order of two- to three-thousand mile journeys, able to carry substantial cargo (living and/or otherwise), and that said people have been able to do so for a fair while. They've got navigation nutted out pretty well, and reckon oranges serve purposes other than having something yummy to eat.

However, no-one has clued onto gunpowder yet. So, that is where my dilemma roughly begins.

How would the evolution of the design of the big ship (carrack and larger - up to and including Manila-Acapulco galleons) have varied if there was no requirement to carry 90 guns, ammunition and gunpowder, or the structural hardening required to let those bad boys loose, or to withstand such an onslaught from other ships?

I look forward to your insights and/or advice, and await as an avid listener. Happy

Kindest Regards to all,

Ryan

Geoffrey: You fool! As if it matters how a man falls down!

Richard: When the fallís all thatís left, it matters a great deal.
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Jim Mearkle




Location: Colonie, NY
Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Reading list: 3 books

Posts: 113

PostPosted: Mon 24 Aug, 2009 4:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Would a Norse cargo ship or a big Polynesian outrigger canoe suit your purposes?

Otherwise, take a look at a merchant ship from around 1600. They were not as heavily armed as warship, and so might point you in a useful direction.

Jim
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Marc Blaydoe




Location: Maryland
Joined: 29 Sep 2006

Posts: 72

PostPosted: Mon 24 Aug, 2009 4:55 am    Post subject: Look at ships before the Age of Gunpowder         Reply with quote

That would be the sorts of ships used prior to the 15th century. Cogs first appeared in the 10th century and were probably an evolution of the Norse (Viking Age) knarr, with a stern-mounted rudder replacing the side-mounted steering board in the 12th century. As the workhorses of the Hanseatic League, they most likely contributed to bringing about the end of the Viging Age by ending the Scandinavian dominance in trade and shipping.

Cogs started with a flush bottom but with lapstrake sides. The technology that gave them an advantagewas the stern-mounted rudder which was much easier to control and allowed larger vessels. Cogs were generally single-masted and square-sailed and could be rowed. They might have "castles" built up fore and aft to provde fighting areas to shoot down with arrows or spears. They were later replaced by the hulks, larger vessels that evolved from river barges. These were eventually replaced by the caravel, which, early in the 15th century would have not had cannon to any great degree.

An armed man is a citizen. An unarmed man is a subject.
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Michael Curl




Location: Northern California, US
Joined: 06 Jan 2008

Posts: 486

PostPosted: Mon 24 Aug, 2009 7:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First off, I love your Lion in Winter quote.


Secondly, the ships would have been built like floating castles to aid in melee.

E Pluribus Unum
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Mon 24 Aug, 2009 11:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think it's important to note that the predominance of gun tactics only gradually increased. In the first half of the 17th C., before the "Line of Battle" tactic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_of_battle) boarding was still the way to go in naval warfare.

Since Carracks and Galleons are the more or less logical evolutions of the Cog, I think that they would also have been developed without guns. They were simply more seaworthy and efficient than their predecessors. This could go all the way to the Full Rigged ships of the early 20th C.

Also, ships such as the Fluyt were exclusively designed for cargo capacity and ease to sail while being poorly armed. They were quite popular in the age of guns.
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James R.Fox




Location: Youngstowm,Ohio
Joined: 29 Feb 2008

Posts: 253

PostPosted: Mon 24 Aug, 2009 11:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sir-You would need the Venetian merchant galley. It carried up to 250 tons of cargo, and had 3 masts as well as 200 oarsmen. It was used to carry silk,spices, gold, lapis lazuli, incense, and other high value cargo from the Black sea ports or Egyptian ports to England Flanders and the Rhineland.They navigated by compass, astrolabe, and portolan (map of prevailing winds and currents in relation to coastline and the latitide). They sailed in winter and summer and and were used as war ships as well as the 200 oarsmen were usually trained crossbowmen and marines.The crew were all free men paid out of the frofits of the voyage. In fact, the crew often owned shares of the cargo as well, because the Venitians were firm believers in the power of money as a motivating force A great background is "A History of Venice" by John Julius,Lord Norwitch. It Is very well written and is the standard work on the subject..You can get it from Amazon.com
Ja68ms
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 12:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By evolution I think you mean the large carracks or galleons evolving to be bigger but without canon as the primary weapon.

Size wise I think that 250 to 300 feet is about the maximum one can build if one uses wood and 300 feet is sort of optimistic !

Historically the largest pre-iron/steel ships of the line maxed out at around 225 feet long I think, without the weight of heavy and numerous canon one might be able to make the ship a bit bigger.

Since their are no canon in this " fantasy " scenario boarding would still be the primary way ships would engage each other but one could imagine some heavy stone or heavy dart throwers of the crossbow or Chinese triple bow type: These should be able to pierce the upper works of even a heavily build warship but might not be able to fully pierce the heavy planking near the water line ? Or if a dart did piece the hull the hole would be small or even plugged up by the dart itself ?

Incendiary missiles would be a possible primary weapon but not as effective as canon and possibly as dangerous to use should any accident happen when handling the incendiaries. ( Even more so if one had a large number of these giant
" crossbows " firing through gun ports as substitutes to canon.

Oars might be a good idea for coastal travel or in becalmed doldrums. Some of the large Chinese ships also used multiple paddle wheels on each side of some ships in place of oars. These would be operated like treadmills.
http://www.kultofathena.com/product~item~NVG6...East+1.htm
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More " exotic " might be to develop a large catamaran type ship using paddle wheels between the two hulls and some sort of bicycle built for a hundred might provide the propulsion ? If one goes " fantasy " and the only things not permitted are canon/gun powder weapons or steam propulsion one can still imagine thing that " Da Vinci " might have imagined combined with ideas from the Chinese mixed together with European designs.

High castles as well as numerous archers being the main secondary weapon + boarding.

Very high castles do have disadvantages as far as sailing qualities are concerned compared to a more flush deck type of ship of the late 18th century.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Peter Remling





Joined: 28 May 2004

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PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 6:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Look up caravel and caravella, both are lanteen rigged ships. Some were 2 masted and some 3. Many later versions have not all lanteen but support 1 or 2 square rigged sails as well. The square for speed and the lanteen for manuerability.

For an early 2 masted, look up models of the Nina (of Pinta and Santa Maria fame) and for a good looking 3 masted with some square riggs, look for a picture of Henry Hudson's Halfmoon.

These types of vessels were made for trade and exploration, A 1600 Caravel typically sported only 6- 2 inchers, 2 port, 2 starboard a bow chaser and a stern chaser. Great looking hearty ships very capable of a voyage outlined in your story. Hell a pic of one will make great cover art as well.

When you look up the pics, the Halfmoon is just over 80' long, for reference sake.
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Ryan J. Kadwell




Location: Queensland, Australia
Joined: 12 Mar 2009

Posts: 25

PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2009 2:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Excellent, thank you everyone for your help Happy It's certainly given something to think about.

Kind Regards all,

Ryan

Geoffrey: You fool! As if it matters how a man falls down!

Richard: When the fallís all thatís left, it matters a great deal.
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Jim Mearkle




Location: Colonie, NY
Joined: 20 Mar 2004
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Posts: 113

PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2009 6:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Without cannons, the tactics would revolve around closing to boarding range, and avoiding being boarded.

Since shooting away the rigging and rudder would not be an option, ships could carry heavy ballistas or harpoon launchers, shot hard enough to lodge in the other ship's hull and pull it into boarding range? Then you could have a scene where a heroic individual hangs off the side of the hull to cut the rope. Another counter would be hammering the harpoon out from below decks.

Jim
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Aug, 2009 7:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
By evolution I think you mean the large carracks or galleons evolving to be bigger but without canon as the primary weapon.

Size wise I think that 250 to 300 feet is about the maximum one can build if one uses wood and 300 feet is sort of optimistic !

Historically the largest pre-iron/steel ships of the line maxed out at around 225 feet long I think, without the weight of heavy and numerous canon one might be able to make the ship a bit bigger.


With wooden ships, I'd think that the size and strength of the tree determines the maximum size, in particular for the masts, but also for the frames. In a fantasy world, you could have huge trees with properties that would make it suitable for shipbuilding.

But even in a pre-industrial society, an iron-built ship would not be impossible, although the costs might be prohibitive. Perhaps like the Korean Turtle ships, although there the iron was only an add-on armour, not structural.

Jim Mearkle wrote:
Since shooting away the rigging and rudder would not be an option, ships could carry heavy ballistas or harpoon launchers, shot hard enough to lodge in the other ship's hull and pull it into boarding range? Then you could have a scene where a heroic individual hangs off the side of the hull to cut the rope. Another counter would be hammering the harpoon out from below decks.


The Romans used grappling hooks for this purpose. I think that'd work better.
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