Tuesday, December 8, 2009
A little info on Ships
Traveling by ship is a staple of fantasy gaming. By far the most popular ship of the mid-medieval centuries was the "Caravel", an extremely versatile vessel sturdy enough to travel long distances and yet small enough to navigate the shallower rivers and coastal regions. This makes it a great choice for both merchants and explorers, and a reliable means of long-distance transportation. Along with the cog, the carrack, and the Norse knarr, the caravel saw use for centuries and was often modified/customized for widely different, specialized purposes. Combat modifications to this ship would eventually result in its specialized evolution into the huge, notorious fighting galleons of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance.
The Caravel typically sported 2 or 3 square-rigged masts, with a triangular lateen sail on the mizzen (a small mast near the back of the ship) to help with fast tacking and manueverability. The ships weighed in at about 50-150 tons, and had a hull length of 60-90 feet, with a width of 15-20 feet. Crew size was typically 15-20, and the crew usually lived on deck, under canopies in times of inclement weather. Below-deck was reserved for cargo and stores, particularly during long voyages, and a couple of small cabins were available for the captain or important passengers. Cooking was done on deck with small coal braziers, and experienced sailors knew to supplement the usual "hard-tack" biscuits and salted meats with the occasional lemon or apple to avoid scurvy.
A good sized caravel could carry roughly 150 tons of cargo.
The average speed of the caravel was roughly 4 1/2 mph, and the ship could often manage 100 miles per day in open seas, and up to 150 miles per day - weather permitting. The narrow width of the ship made it capable of bursts of speed up to 10mph if wind conditions were favorable. In stormy conditions, the main sails would be furled to prevent the masts from breaking, and in calm or still conditions, up to 20 oars could be deployed for short periods.
A good, short glossary of ship terminology may be found here.