From canoes to caravels.....
Early Types of Vessels
Early societies used dugout canoes for water travel. They were made
of rafts, skin or bark. An advanced canoe would have a wooden framework
and would be covered with an outer layer of thin wooden planks.
Egyptian ships were made of a wooden framework covered with wood
planking. They could accommodate at least 20 oarsmen and could carry
cargo which could hold up to several head of cattle. Pictures of these
galleys date to as early as 3000 BD. Ships in early Egyptian paintings had a
double mast, joined at the top from which sails were hung. Later, a single
mast was used and the sails were hoisted with rollers at the top of the mast.
Early Egyptian vessels were steered with one or more steering oars. When
more than one oar was used in steering, the steering oars were bound
together and were directed by a single steering arm.
The Phoenicians (2000 B.C.) were the most able shipbuilders of
ancient times. They constructed merchant vessels capable of carrying large
cargoes. They also constructed warships larger and more effective than the
Egyptians. The Phoenicians developed the "round boat", a broad beamed
ship that depended mainly on sales rather than oars and had a larger cargo-space than the narrow galleys. These round ships traveled the
Mediterranean and probably as far as the African coast.
Greek ships were made of naturally curved timber. A superstructure
was built at the after end of the deck to house and protect the captain and
the officers. At the end of the ship, the deck was raised to form a structure
called a forecastle. The Greek ships also had a series of ropes strung
around the sides of the ship to strengthen the ship if they were rammed in
battle. These Greek ships had one or two masts for sailing, but the sales
were not used when the ship was engaged in battle. The crew of a Greek
warship was approximately 220 men who were primarily oarsmen.
The Romans had many kinds of warships, primarily galleys that had
bridges for boarding enemy ships and some had catapult artillery. The
Romans also built large ships for commerce, up to 175 feet in length and
about 45 feet in width and depth. These large cargo ships were rigged with
square sails on three masts and may have had a topsail above the mainsail
on the mainmast.
The Roman warship was called the dromond, a swift galley with one or
two banks of oars, and this was used in the 5th century A.D. From this time
and later, warships were improved by adding forms of protective coverings,
such as leather and vinegar-soaked cloth to guard against the missiles that
were part of the navy.
These were highly efficient long ships, which were oceangoing vessels
and were propelled by both oars and sails. They were developed by the
Vikings and Danes in Scandinavia. The smallest were called the snekkja
which had about 30 oars. One was found in Norway which was 78 feet in
length, 16 feet in width and about 6 feet in depth. The Viking round ship or
skuta was primarily a sailing vessel that could also be rowed. It was used in
Viking expeditions to Greenland and Iceland.
The Chinese Junk
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The Chinese developed one of the strongest and seaworthy vessels,
the junk. It is still used by the people of Southeast Asia. It is a large, light
flat-bottomed box. It does not have a keel, a stern and stern posts. Its hull
is partitioned off by bulkheads running lengthwise and crosswise to divide it
into watertight compartments. These bulkheads make a ship structurally
rigid and also protect it against sinking. They were adopted by the West in
the 19th century. In place of a keel is a heavy steering oar or rudder
mounted through a watertight housing on the centerline in the bottom. The
rudder can be raised or lowered. The sails are made up of narrow
horizontal linen or matting panels each on its own line or sheet so that each
sail can be quickly spread or closed.
By the 9th Century A.D. Chinese junks were carrying merchants to
Indonesia and India. By the 15th century junks were wailing to East Africa.
Near the end of the Middle Ages the use of oars for propulsion began
to give way to the exclusive use of sails, especially on vessels built in
northern Europe for use in the Atlantic Ocean.
Early European Types
The caravel was a ship typically built in Portugal and Spain. It was a
small vessel. It had a broad bow and a high narrow poop deck. It was
rigged with three or four masts, of which only the foremast carried a square
sail. All the other masts had lateen sails. The Santa Maria, Nina and Pinta
were all caravels.