Friday, 14 September 2007

Ship types ("historical")

I have presented the SPD class Brigantine earlier in this Log and have planned to go through different types of ships available on the market.

As with all intentions, they sometimes finally come around, though much later than anticipated. Well, I have collected pictures and data on various ships and will hopefully soon be able to compile the data in a more readable format for posting here.

Meanwhile, here are som historical ship types, typically used during "The Golden Age of Piracy". As with many other things, there was not always a consequent terminology, they changed over time, etc.

The rating system of the Royal Navy, a universal system for classifying ships, was first set up in 1677 by the famous Samuel Pepys, at that time Secretary to the Admiralty.

The ships descibed below are some of the more common ones, though naturally, a wild variety of ships were used, especially by pirates and buccaneers.

If you were a pirate:

SLOOP - It was usually rigged for a large fore-and-aft mainsail, but could easily be altered for various sail combinations, the huge bowsprit adding more canvas area for maneuverability.
Having a length of 30 to 60 feet and a top speed of over 10 knots, a crew of 20 to 70 men could easily maneuver this father of today's sailing yacht for quick in-and-out surprise attacks, avoiding broadsides and outrunning pursuit. With the sloop weighing as much as 100 tons and having maybe 15 cannons, its draft was still very shallow at eight feet and allowed it to find refuge in shallower waters far beyond the reach of any warship. This also was the reason that those commissioned to hunt out pirates often chose the sloop to gain access to their hiding spots.

SCHOONERS - Another favorite of the Caribbean and Atlantic pirates was the similarly sized two-masted schooner. With many of the prized features of the sloop such as terrific speed, maneuverability, and gun capacity, this sleek American variant was developed in the 1700's with a narrower hull and a shallower draft of only 5 feet. This meant it could effortlessly take a full load and 75-man crew further inland to hide or to divide the spoils, but diminished hold capacity meant fewer spoils to be had when you arrived.

BRIGANTINE - This shallow-draft, two-mast brigand's ship provided great maneuverability and speed from its various square and fore/aft-rigged sail possibilities. It was valued in the Mediterranean, where its earlier versions sometimes included oars that were better for diminished winds. Longer, heavier, roomier, and better manned than the smaller sloops and schooners, it was usually the first choice for prolonged battles instead of quick hits. A larger cargo area combined with moderate firepower meant the versatile brigantine also saw widespread use as a trade ship.70-80 foot length, 125-150 tons, 100+ men, 12 guns and so on.

If you were a Navy man:

The Navy SNOW became the patrol boat of choice for the British in their campaign against piracy. This 90 ton, 60 foot ship was very much like a brigantine, but offered extra maneuverability with trysails added to the standard square-rig arrangement of her two masts. It was well manned with up to 80 men and had 8 small guns.

The Navy SLOOP was a one-masted pirate hunter only slightly bigger than the snow but bulkier, with 12 guns and an abundance of sail. This 110 ton ship enabled a crew of 70 to give the pirates all they could handle even in calm winds: there were several pairs of oars fit between the gun ports for swift pursuit whenever sails hung limp.

Naval MAN O' WAR - Only the main naval powers of England, Spain, and France could afford a Man O' War to use these 3-masted, square-rig gun ships in any great number during the Golden Age of Piracy. Designed like a galleon but armored for war, the largest could weigh an amazing 3500 tons and have 140 guns. The principal differences in the types and uses for the gun ships stemmed from their weight, size, and number of guns, which determined basic maneuverability.

Three Man O'War ship types were:
The SHIP OF THE LINE actually refers to the top three in a six-level description based on size, crew, and firepower, with a 200-foot first class over 2000 tons, 100 or more heavy guns, worked by over 850 men on at least three decks. The massive arsenals of classes one through three were generally reserved for bombarding fortresses, fighting battles of national significance, and other large-scale naval conflicts.

The FRIGATE was a moderately sized, light armored ship with 18 to 40 mid-sized guns on one or two decks and 50 to 200 men. It was much lighter and faster at 300 or more tons over as little as110 feet, so in addition to leading convoys, it saw duty for reconnaissance, patrols, and pirate hunting. While no giant ship of the line, the frigate was still imposing enough to send some pirates scurrying just at the sight.

The CORVETTE was a smaller but powerful two-masted variety with up to 20 guns on one deck. Having the least amount of armor made it swift and agile, but the smaller number of guns meant the fights had to be chosen wisely.

I plan to post more about the six-level ship description used by the Royal Navy.

Main source: Various entries in Wikipedia

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