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Ask me about ships!

Discussion in 'Research' started by Fluffypoodel, Jul 4, 2012.

  1. Fluffypoodel

    Fluffypoodel Inkling


    One of my passions is ships. I really like them and have always been fascinated by them and all of their aspects. as such, I have picked up a fair bit of knowledge about ships. I would say that my areas of expertise would be warships, whether they be steel clad dreadnoughts, hundred gun Man-o-War or galleys. I don't know a lot about eastern ships from China, Korea or Japan but if you want to share on here that would be cool! I'm not sure if anyone has one of these out here yet but I thought I would put one up. Ask away!
    mijo, Jess A and Lavender like this.
  2. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I got really hung up in a story, when two characters are visiting a foreign land by ship and I didn't know anything bout seafaring. I've done bit of research, but never wrote the journey.

    So I would really appreciate being able to run it by someone and straighten out the details to make sure it's believable.
  3. Fluffypoodel

    Fluffypoodel Inkling

    Do you know what kind of ships that they are using? the general geography is important on considering that. If your story is set in the middle ages then you have two things to consider: one is if its in open seas. if it is then the seas are going to be rougher meaning that the ship is going to have a deeper draft, meaning that it is going to sit lower in the water so that it water so that it does not tip over in the water. its also going to be tall so that those rough seas don't wash everyone overboard. Its also probably going to run on sail-power using several masts and sails. Cogs and Carracks were popular in norther Europe and they featured a variety of sail types. they were steered by a wheel that powered a rudder. they are also somewhat ungainly.

    the second is if your sailors are going across a sheltered sea. this would be something like the Mediterranean. her you would see shallow drafted ships like galleys. These would be powered by oars and maybe a small sail. there are many different types of Galleys but I think that the ones that most people are familiar with is the trireme. it was used by the Romans and the Greeks. they usually had three banks of oars and were relatively fast. they were steered by a man in the back with a tiller (a man powered rudder) and the rowers were kept on time with a drummer.

    Regardless of the type of ships you are using discipline is going to be harsh and there is alway the possibility of mutanies. moral is kept up through drinking and music, possibly story telling. if the voyage was long then the ship would need to stop and re provision regularly if they did not have the cargo space to store food or if their food would not keep. I hope this helps until you get something more specific! if you need a different time period give me a rough estimate and i'll see what I can do for you.
    mijo likes this.
  4. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I haven't figured out the distance and I'm embarrassingly unknowledgeable about seafaring. I went with a cutter I think, 48 guns... let me dig up the info and get back to you. This is going to just make me look stupid if I try to remember where I got in my research. Perhaps the best place to start is in telling you what I'm trying to accomplish and then finding the best way to do it.

    I am having my party leave somewhere about the Mediterranean and end up sort of by Ireland. That's how I envision the distance and the sea between. They will be sailing around a peninsula, and I'm not sure whether in that case it is safer to keep near the land or well away from it. They will be crossing a sea (don't really care about the distance) but I want it to take a fewweeks and I sort of wanted to throw in a sea battle (pirates or something). One of my characters is a prince and I want to show his leadership on the boat ( I know, the ship already has a captain, but it's a tense situation and he's battling with himself, so that's why I want to show it).

    So two passengers pay for passage aboard a merchant vessel. Along the way, there is some amount of abuse the boys suffer at the hands of the officers aboard the vessel (probably of a sexual nature, I don't know whether that is plausible). My MC is a really honorable guy and his background is eating away at him. His companion tells him to keep his mouth shut and stay focused on his own business, but he's befriended one of the boys aboard and comes to his aid because he can't stand by and watch what he feels is wrong.

    I thought a conflict at sea, either pirates or a foreign vessel, would give him the opportunity to break out of his self-imposed cage and sort of show his true colors. In the end, I would love it if they capture the pirate ship and tow it to harbor, where the pirates are brought to justice and he's sort of in the spotlight a little. Maybe the captain gets killed in the attack, and then no one obeys the abusive second officer that they hate.

    I stopped writing the novel at this point because it's a critical event and I just didn't know how to write it. I could easily gloss over the sea voyage and have them safely arrive, but I really want to do this right, and it's so terribly important that he start to think of himself as a leader again, so this was how I chose to do it.

    What do you think? I need a lot of help, but really do want to make this scene very important, it's the opening of the second half of this novel, and where he begins to embrace his destiny as a ruler once again.
  5. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

    Thanks for the service Fluffypoodel. I actually need to write about ships with the condition that I will need to show an evolution of technology over a couple hundred years. I need to keep a couple things in mind:

    They serve as war ships to protect the seas from pirates.

    Pirates will have similar ships.

    I want technology of the ships to be great enough to stay out at sea (and not hug the coast) but not be able to travel over the ocean. I don't want to introduce an "Age of Discovery" yet.

    Also, if you are able to, can you describe your suggested ship? What are the names of certain parts of that ship? What prohibits them from traveling over oceans? How many men can it hold? Etc.

  6. Fluffypoodel

    Fluffypoodel Inkling

    Alrighty! let me see if I can nail down some points of contention here:

    1. Navigation of the ship through possible hazardous waters
    2. Seaborne warfare
    3. Life at sea

    Lets start with the ships navigation. first we need to know about the ship. A cutter in the traditional sense was the smallest commissioned ship in a navy. since this is a fantasy story you can call your ship whatever you want, but if you want to be more realistic then I would go with a merchant ship that is a little bigger. something like an East Indianman has enough deck space to hold the 48 guns as well as keeping enough space to hold a reasonable amount of cargo. since cutter had at most 12 small cannons I would not recommend them in a battle with larger ships. on the military side of things a 48 gun ship would be classified as a frigate and would be swift and deadly, the perfect ship to go hunting pirates in. You can take a lot of liberties in your ship, meaning that you may have a frigate class ship refitted to serve as a merchant vessel. these would have shallower drafts than the Indianmen but deeper drafts than a cutter. its a very versatile ship that you can do a lot with.

    Now depending on which ship you go with decides your navigational options. If you want to sail around a peninsula then there are a few things to consider. the first is the depth of the water. most ships came with navigational charts and books that detailed the coastline, telling them of submerged reefs and where the shallows were. the Spanish and the Dutch had good ones with the Dutch being a little better. So its then up to you as to whether or not the water is safe to sail through. another thing to consider is sea lanes. there are currents that move in the ocean that makes travel more favorable in one direction or another. these sea lanes are like ocean highways. they usually have dependent wind and are often protected by warships. this is also where all of the trade comes through so it is a very good place to run into pirates, or privateers. (Privateers being different than pirates by the letters of Marque that they were given by warring kings to legally pirate enemy shipping). if you want to avoid sea lanes and still want pirates then I suggest going to prosperous ports or island chains. this is where trade goods are coming from and if the ports are far enough away from the authorities then there is a good chance that they will be a den for pirates to hang out.

    Seaborne warfare: we'll break this one down too. there are three (Main) ways for ships to fight each other’s. one is through long range cannons, the second is through short range carronade and the last is through the men on board. with long range cannons ranging in weight form 40-12 pounders, they usually go down in increments of 8 pounds. the most common that I have seen are 40, 32, 24, 12, and 6 ( the weight being the weight of the ball that they shoot) on the ships that you are talking about the heaviest guns would probably be 24 pounders and would shoot accurately from 1/2-1 mile. generally ships close much closer than that to engage with one another. there are also three different types of shot that can be used in a cannon. Roundshot, meant to be shot into the hull of an enemy ship, to destroy guns and possibly sink it. at the outset of battle guns can be double loaded so that they cause more damage at the outset of battle but for the most part single loads are better because they are faster. Grapeshot/Canister shot, used to kill the crew by shooting hundreds of little musket balls into the ship, either in a bag for grapeshot or in a canister for canister shot. the advantage going to canister shot because the canister breaks apart too and causes additional damage. chain/bar shot is meant to be shot into the sails and rigging of a ship so that it cannot maneuver. this shot is made up of round shot that had been cut in half and attached by a chain or by a bar. Carronade is a shorter range cannon meant to be fired at around a quarter of a mile. these weapons fire the same kind of shot as long range cannons and have roughly the same weight. finally we have the men on board the ship, whether they be marines or men of the crew. they would initial be stationed in the masts or on any other high point on the ship. they would then fire down to snipe away at ships officers and crew. if the ships became locked together then the marines and crew would board the ship in what was usually very bloody combat. They would fight with pistols, swords, axes, spears, practically anything they could get their hands on.

    A note on shooting. A good gun crew could fire and reload a gun to be ready to fire again in two minutes. The process after the shot was that the cannon would roll back. The barrel would have to be swabbed so that it would be clean and to clear any embers away that would cause a misfire. After that the cartridge would be stuffed in. the cartage contained the black powder that shoots the balls. Then wadding would be stuffed in after that to protect the cartridge and then finally the cannon ball itself. The cannon would then have to be shoved back into position, it was non wheels, and then fired using an ignition cap, for faster and more accurate shooting or a matchlock for not as reliable shooting. There would be about six to eight men for each cannon and then an officer for each side of each gun deck. The heaviest cannons would be on the bottom so that the ship was not top heavy.

    Life at sea. As I mentioned before punishment was harsh at sea. The biggest distinction between sailors were officers and enlisted men. Failure to show respect to an officer would result in ration skipping, flogging or time in the brig(ship’s prison) on merchant ships this would be relaxed though it depends on what the captain decides to do. Usually it is the boatswain who delivers the punishment. As for sexuality on board ships I think you have it spot on. Sometimes ships would employ a prostitute on board, usually on merchant ships or pirate vessels. The abuse of young boys is not too far of a stretch especially if it is a long voyage and the sailing men start getting frisky.

    As for the character taking over the ship that too is entirely possible. Ship borne mutiny happened all the time. If the character has the support of the crew then he /she could easily take over a ship. It might come down to bloodshed or it might be done bloodlessly.; it depends on how your characters react.

    Well I hope this helps. I bolded some key terms that you can plug into google for more info. this website Navigation in Ancient Times is pretty good for navigational devices as well as a boatload of other helpful things. If you have more questions ask away.
    mijo likes this.
  7. Lavender

    Lavender Minstrel

    This thread is going to be really helpful for me as I have a ship in my novel. Will have to read this properly when I have time - thanks for posting this :)
  8. Jess A

    Jess A Archmage

    Brilliant. I shall follow this thread. I like ships and I have trading posts on outer islands and across the sea. There will be ships.
  9. Fluffypoodel

    Fluffypoodel Inkling

    Hey Ankari, sorry about the tardiness of my response I think I can help you out here.

    A brief history of the Mediterranean would be an excellent starting point. this is where we see the development in the galley. The Minoans were known to have a vast seagoing trade network that probably included warships. I’m not super familiar with them but its worth a look. Ramses the second encountered a people designated in history as the sea pirates. The Pharaoh would have used small flat bottomed boats that would not have been able to traverse rough seas. We go through a succession of seafaring people, notably the Phoenicians and the Greeks. The Greeks had a ship called a Penteconter that was a galley with twenty-five oars to one side probably around 60-80 feet long and 12-14 wide. It relied on its ram to puncture the hull of enemy ships rather than boarding them with marines. It had a tiller in the back used to steer, caller a tiller man or a pilot depending on your choice. Helmsmen would probably be the most realistic title for him. Some ships might carry a canopy behind the mast to keep officers out of the sun but for the most part the ship was exposed to the elements. Some ships strapped shields to the sides of their ships for added protection. This is the standard galley design. From here on only small modifications are made and the only real thing that changes is the size of the vessel and the number of oars that it uses. Here’s a brief rundown:

    Bireme: two banks of oars, using an outrigger higher bank to extend the width of the ship above the waterline while keeping the hull streamlined and fast. Two banks of oars on each side meant that it carried a hundred oars, twenty-five per bank.

    Trireme: this ship added a second outrigger for three banks of oars to a side putting the total of oars up to one hundred fifty. This was the standard heavy warship of the Greek city-states. With three banks of oars it was faster and more maneuverable than previous ships.

    Quadrireme, Quinquereme and even larger ships: these ships follow the trend. They add banks of rowers to increase the ships fighting prowess. They sacrifice speed and maneuverability for firepower. They are vey powerful ships but smaller ships working in unison could still ram them and sink them just as easily as smaller ships. They were very expensive to make. fun fact, I read about a ship with four thousand oars! so really anything is possible.

    As we move into the middle ages galleys grew into floating castles. Their forward and rear sections were raised into fore and stern castles to protect fighting men from projectiles. Archers, javelin throwers and crossbowmen could fire on opposing ships from these positions. Byzantine Dromons and Venetian galleys are great example of theses.

    The number of men that it takes to crew a galley is pretty easy to guess, depending on its purpose. Most of the crew is taken up by the rowers. So if we have a ship of 150 oars then we have 150 crew as our base level. Throw in the helmsmen, captain and a few officers and marines and we are looking at a crew of somewhere between 160-180 men with the deciding numbers being the oarsmen and the marines.

    Galley fighting: battling pirate is as wicked as it gets. Fortunately galley fighting is relatively straightforward. Before the Romans the fighting in galleys consisted of ramming. Opposing sides of ships would line up abreast (Side by side) and row towards one another in formation. They would then jockey for position as they drew closer, zigzagging a little to get other ships to move out of position. When they saw their chance they would accelerate (a trireme could cruise at 11.5 knots and have short bursts of speed for a few minutes at about 20 knots. 1 knot approximately 1.3 mph) and ram the ship. The oarsmen would reverse their strokes, backing their ship away and the enemy ship would sink. This way requires few marines for boarding and great seamanship.

    Another way is to use larger ships and to carry a large complement of marines. The Romans did this spectacularly in the first Punic War with Carthage. They invented a thing called a Corvus, a drawbridge with spike on the side to fall onto an enemy ship, immobilize it and allowed marines to pour through and kill the crew. It is a great way to transfer land power to sea power. The drop side is that the Corvus made the galley heavy wherever it was placed and less maneuverable.

    Another is Greek fire, a napalm like substance that could burn on water. This could be sprayed out of a nozzle or thrown from buckets at enemy ships to light them on fire. You have to be careful not to catch your own ships on fire though.

    One other thing. Pompey the Great, the general that everyone talked about before Julius Caesar actually fought against pirates using these ships in the Mediterranean. I don’t know a lotof details about it but I think that is your best bet for historical action on pirates at the time.

    I went with Galley’s because that is what I know best. They wouldn’t have had an easy time going out to open ocean because of their reliance on oar power and the relative flat bottom hulls. Sails are what made them obsolete but the galley remained an integral part of most navies into the 1600’s. I hoe this helps and if you have questions I’ll try to clarify.
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  10. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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  11. mijo

    mijo Scribe

    Wow this thread is really useful for refrence.
    Fluffypoodel likes this.
  12. Fluffypoodel

    Fluffypoodel Inkling

    Yeah, I answered a few posts for people that dealt with ships so I decided to make this thread. I've been meaning to add a few websites but I haven't really had the time to. If you have any questions just shoot them on here and I'll do my best to help you out.
  13. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Okay another question... How long is a long voyage? I mean, how long does it take for morale to start to drop? I was looking at the ship being at sea for a couple months (2-3) total, but then it raised the question of how fast a ship covers distances. So going with the East Indiaman? idea, how quickly would it sail from like Italy to Ireland? I don't want the trip to be too quick, but I'm not sure what my scale is. I hope the reason the trip takes a couple weeks is because of rough weather and the need to sail around the peninsula, which you indicated could be tricky.
  14. Sia

    Sia Sage

    Hey, I want to ask to what extent ships are affected by most of our world being right-handed. I ... for some reason... my world's leftie:rightie ratio got flipped.
  15. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    A long voyage is usually one that is longer than expected...
    18-19th Century British warships often spent months at sea at a time but the crew and ship were prepared for this. If a ship only expecting to be at sea for a week or two [say fishing] and is becalmed or blown of course even a month might be too long for morale to stand up...
    Much of morale at least in the British Navy was down to the how the Captain and senior officers acted and how strictly run the ship was. Being strict and by-the-book was seen as good for morale but being too strict and never bending and things soon fell apart...
    Being too lax was often seen as worse and gave Captains and ships a bad name.
    As for speed of journeys - from what I've read and given the right weather/winds... for an East Indiaman an "average" good speed might be 8-10 knots [9-12mph] and slower closer to the [European] shore...
    [with big clipper ships 15-20 knots [17-23mph] was possible]
    Last edited: May 22, 2013

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