Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Flotilla of Ships

Not exactly a Dogger, but I couldn't resist the image.
For three days I've been working on my own versions of ships, attempting to create a consistent framework for the size of crews, hull values, rigging values, tonnage carried, available spaces for ship's weapons and so on.  Towards this end I've been creating empty links on my wiki.  I'm glad to say those spaces are no longer empty.  The wiki has been populated.

Here are the links I've devised for ship types

Barge: river vessels of varying sizes designed to haul goods up and down stream.
Bireme: light galley designed for battle, beached at night.
Caravel: ocean-going, manoeuvrable 2-masted sailing ship.
Carrack: heavy ocean-going trade ship designed for long voyages.
Coaster: light coastal vessel based on the cog, used as a local service boat.
Cog: broad, single-masted vessel, primitive in design but still working in parts of the world.
Dekares: immense cataphracted oared galley designed to transport infantry and marines.
Dogger: two-masted, sturdy, seagoing fishing vessel.
Holk: ponderous sea-going vessel that is highly fortified.
Junk: sailing ship favored by merchants, with river-going and sea-going forms, replete with isolated compartments.
Ketch: two-masted, large maneuverable ocean-going fishing vessel.
Knarr: light ship built for sea journeys but dangerous in heavy weather.
Yawl: light two-masted vessel used for lake fishing and communications.

My next step is to build a table that describes each of these.  I will say that one thing I could really use would be a floor plan for all of these ~ but I think I'll have to do that myself if I want them to absolutely match the descriptions I've created.  I won't be able to find floorplans that won't need adjustments to length, beam, the number of quarters and so on.

Eventually there will be other ships.  I could easily add 15 more types in galleys alone, from my Trireme game, but just now having 17 types of galley seems unnecessary.  Those will get added in time, when it becomes necessary (if ever).

I did my best to find images for each ship.  Not easy; and was forced to use a modern image occasionally, or one with a ship featuring cannon (which does not exist in my world).  Did my best to find images that would downplay the latter, but frankly it was unavoidable.  Many of these ships were invented post-cannon and that's all there is to it.

I believe, at least, I've got the approximate correct shape and number of masts.

Adding a compiled list of the types shown:


Sterling Blake said...

Took me a few to get it, but now I think I understand your third dimension on these vessels (keel to whatever-is-highest-part-of-hull) is meant to help with your forthcoming deck plans. The other dimension a sailor would be very interested in is draft, that is, how deep below the waterline does she go. That tells us where she can go and a little about how she feels and performs.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Plus, if you grapple an enemy's boat, what is the vertical distance between your deck and the enemy's?

Glenn Robinson said...

On the subject of grappling and boarding, does the vessel have a tumble home?

Alexis Smolensk said...

This is very interesting, Glenn. Not knowing what a "tumble home" was, in a few minutes I've found a book written about Nicolaes Witsen (b. 1641) and the Dutch "Golden Age," which followed the terrific expansion of Dutch overseas trade with the invention of some very interesting shipcraft, which really put the English on the ropes for several decades.

Here's the book, by Diederick Wildeman

The book defines a "tumble home": "The top timbers were curved inward ... making the upper deck narrower than the main deck. Witsen supplies a formula for the tumble home; one third of the height of the upper deck. But clearly this was the last phase in which the shipwright could intervene in the shaping of the hull, so he was free to vary from the rule. For carriers a lot of tumble home was preferred, making boarding a difficult undertaking; on men-of-war the upper deck was wider to supply ample space for fighting.

To answer your question; in the late 17th century, the Dutch were making ships that were unique in the world, and using those ships to really hurt the trade of other European powers. That's why it's the Dutch Golden Age and not that of others. So to get the ship you want; you'd have to have it made in Holland.

Because the new shipbuilding was only beginning to take off in 1650, the year my world takes place, a time when Witsen was only 9, it has been but 10 years since the Spanish left the Netherlands. So it would be hard to find a shipbuilder able to do it. But not impossible!

Finally, while you could get it put in place, it would not be an automatic counterstroke against boarding. Yes, it would make it HARDER. But I would merely impose a time penalty on climbers, which would give more time for the defending ship to kill them before they could reach with their own weapons.

Hope that answers your question.

Dusk said...

Really like the ship/boat pages - I might be in need of some of this stuff. Players travel by river a lot in my campaign, so the smaller vessels are of particular interest.

Despite having quite an interest in ships myself, I've never bothered to compare my games default boat/ship stats to any real-world sources before now.

Would you make any adjustments to speed or crew requirements for river barges that would be either sail-powered, or alternately horse-drawn? (As shown in your chosen illustration.)

Alexis Smolensk said...

Mule-drawn. I seem to remember the canal barges of the 18th century in England preferred mules because they were more durable and lower to the ground. That might be a false memory.

There must be information about it somewhere.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Sorry Dusk, to answer your question.

I'm not sure the horse in the picture has anything to do with the barge. It appears the barge is hitched off high to the left and the poler is pushing the barge out into the stream.

Mules, horses, whatever, that dragged barges did it on canals built mostly after 1700, where the water is flat and placid in both directions. I'm sure that work animals were used to pull boats, but most likely at rapids and such, when the oarmen would not have been enough.

The barge shown here is clearly 19th century. I could not find a proper image of a covered 17th century barge, more's the pity. I would imagine the eyes for the oars would be removed and the oarsmen would have sat upon makeshift benches on half-empty boats to go upstream. By the 19th century, river barges were either towed back by paddle boats or simply disassembled at the destination point. Long-term barges were only common on canals, where they could be pulled both ways with the same amount of effort.

Incidentally, Abraham Lincoln's memoirs include an account where he and his friend Allen drove a barge from Gentry's Landing on the Ohio River to New Orleans. It's worth the read.

Lance Duncan said...

A few of these I recognise from a general study of history, and the rest from the Total War games

Dusk said...

Being from the west of Scotland I'm quite sure we had Clydesdales pulling canal barges, though admittedly I never considered that it was more or less only canals and not rivers, and that also my education on that only really covered the 19th century.

Having done a little reading online I'm a little surprised to discover horse-drawn boats go back as far as Roman times here in the UK, though surviving towpaths from any era look like they're all canalside rather than by rivers.

I mentioned sail-power as well since WFRP's source books specifically have riverboats using sails as their main mode of propulsion, and having been out on the Norfolk broads last year I got to witness a couple of traditional Wherries - something that really brought it to life for me.

Alexis Smolensk said...


I bow to your research. Only it seems to me that "riverboat" would mean various forms of yawls or sloops, the latter not being listed here as only a madman would take it into war (but who knows).

The wherrie looks like a sloop to my eyes (ignorant as they are), with one mast; certainly not a barge. Looks like a small knarr. I believe my description of yawls included river use. I appreciate that wikipedia gives a legal dimension; I could calculate it's hull points and tonnage for my system based on the numbers (might be off-accurate, but its for my world, not the real world). A beam of 4½ feet is a lot smaller than any of the boats above.

Dusk said...

My campaign is much more likely to need boat dimensions - cargo capacity, draft etc. - for purely civilian uses of travel and possibly trading (and so far the party doesn't own any boats themselves). In this context the ship-to-ship rules would only really come in to govern movement, as any sort of ambush or fighting would be at the usual combat-round scale.

I appreciate that your focus is on the ship VS ship battles, where taking such smallcraft would be mad indeed. (I'd go off on a tangent here about little carronade gunboats, though this isn't relevant to your world.) The ship-to-ship fighting I do have enough personal interest in to have bought my own copy of Wooden Ships & Iron Men on ebay (arrived Monday - joy!) despite it being of little immediate use, and I look forward to more posts, whatever the particulars.

Alexis Smolensk said...

But then, small ships don't need a system, do they?

You'll notice the dogger and the yawl both have a "hard point." That means there is room to emplace a ballista or a catapult; I intend to put some work in on these weapons, with a minimum size of ship that a specific siege weapon could be emplaced. For example, a heavy catapult would need a ship bigger than a yawl, but a light catapult emplacement, that could be shifted from port to starboard amidships, would do.

A yawl would certainly be within reach of a party of 5th to 7th level players; who might appreciate being able to bombard river pirates while controlling their own passage from place to place.