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Horry

Tutorial Caravels

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Caravel Feature von HMSCentaur auf Flickr

This is a small tutorial on caravels, the famous ships of the "Age of Exploration"

Edited by Admiral Croissant

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PART I general information and locations

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Caravel Orthographic von HMSCentaur auf Flickr

Caravels are small sailing ships, developed in Europe in the late 15th century and used until the middle of the 16th century. They were among the first European ships that were oceangoing and featured a number of innovations.

One of the most important features was the sails. Caravels used lateen sails on one or two of two to three (later four) masts that enabled the ships to maintain a tacking course. Additionally, their relatively plane keel and the square sails that could be used alternatively provided high speeds and manoeuvrability.

A typical caravel would have a crew of 15 to 30 sailors and would have a length over all of about 20 to 25 meters.

Most caravels featured a main deck and a lower deck with the poop deck being a shelter for the helmsman who would use a tiller and not a wheel.

The rigging was relatively simple compared to their bigger relatives, the carracks. They would only need 200 to 300 meters of standing and running rigging, depending on the number of the masts and the employed sails.

The caravel was also able to go up rivers in order to continue exploration or trading. A single skiff would be transported on the main deck.

PART II Equipment & Functions

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Caravel Structures von HMSCentaur auf Flickr

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Captain von HMSCentaur auf Flickr

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Cook von HMSCentaur auf Flickr

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rigging von HMSCentaur auf Flickr

As most of the ships of that time would be purchased or build by explorers or merchants, there was no unified appearance of the caravels. Rigging, sails, masts, weaponry and equipment would remain unique on most if those ships. For example there where caravels with two, three and later four masts featuring square sails or lateen sails or both of them. There was no galley on-board a caravel. The meals would be cooked on the main deck, using a small fire pit. The captain would be the only person to have a single room at the stern.

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Cannons von HMSCentaur auf Flickr

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Armed von HMSCentaur auf Flickr

Early caravels had no or almost no artillery. They would be armed with hand weapons only. Later caravels often featured between 2 and 8 bronze cannons of smaller calibre. Some of those armed caravels continued service well in to the late 17th century as coast guard ships for the Spanish and the Portuguese Navies.

Those ships would not be suited for long term duty as almost all of their space was occupied by weaponry.

Edited by Horry

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PART III Internal structures and functions

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Cross-Section Caravel von HMSCentaur auf Flickr

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Tiller von HMSCentaur auf Flickr

A caravel is among the first seafaring ships that is purely built around the keel. It runs from the stern to the bow and acts as the “spine” of the ship. From there, the frame is constructed, forming the “rips” of the ship. The planks are then placed upon the frame and make up the outer hull of the caravel. In order to make them impervious to water, the gaps in-between the planks are filled with tar; that is called caulking. Caravels use carvel built planks, meaning that the planks touch each other edge to edge as opposed to the clinker-building technique. carvel built planking means that caravels are be able to carry more weight for their size but at the cost of needing more caulking and more often. The decks are within this frame.

Compared to frigates of the 18th and 19th century, the caravel featured a very shallow keel making it possible for these ships to sail up rivers and get their cargo directly into cities along those rivers.

Under the lower deck, also called the orlop deck, there is the bilge. It is the coolest part of the ship and is filled with sand and stones in order to balance the caravel. From time to time, sand and stones need to be replaced in order to eliminate the gained weight of the soaked water.

The orlop deck is partially under water and has various functions. Normally, there are cargo holds and the sleeping places of the crew. It can be reached via ladderways. Later caravels of the 17th and 18th century feature some small separated areas for junior officers.

There is no gun-deck on a caravel. All cannons must be located on the weather deck as the ship is not very tall. Gunports would make it vulnerable to heavy sea. The masts go all the way through the ship and are placed on the keel.

On a caravel, rigging is much more "primitive" than on later types of vessels. There are some hundred metres of running and standing rigging running through the entire ship. Running rigging on caravels is commonly moved by hand force. Capstans are not yet incorporated into the masts and are mainly used for additional operations like casting the anchor. Capstans are vertically rotating drums or barrels, mounted on wooden or iron axles. The ropes are put around or into the capstan and can be coiled on or off the capstan by the sailors. The grips that are put into the capstan can be removed in order to improve safety or to lock the mechanism inside. Capstans will usually be found on the weather deck.

The equipment, the cannons (if there are cannons) and the cargo of a sailing ship have to be carefully aligned through the ship in order to make it well balanced. The better the caravel is balanced, the better are her sailing characteristics. If a ship is overloaded or unbalanced, the ship could keel over or behave badly while under sails. Balancing a caravel is usually a lengthy procedure due to the nature of the individual neds of a mission.

Caravels (especially the early versions) would normally feature a tiller instead of a steering wheel. This lever would be directly attached to the rudder stock. It is located below the weather deck (in front of the the cabin) but normally features full view of the sea. The tiller can be operated by just one person during fair weather conditions, However, it offers enough space for up to 5 people that can change the course during heavy sea.

Edited by Horry

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NIce tutorial... I like the method you've used for the hull. Might try it myself!!

Cheers

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Really nice job. Thank you very much for a very well done tutorial! I learned a great deal!

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Great to see you're continuing these, Horry, I learn a lot from every one.

Maybe I'll make one for forts. :pir_yoda:

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Wow, thanks! I'm planning to make one, I was recently inspired by a Columbus documentary that talkied about how he used caravels. :pir-grin:

~Cpt. Tristan

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Thank you all! If there is anything that you would like to see added or have any further questions feel free to ask - I would like to improve on those tutorials.

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PART III Internal structures and functions...

This is so cool, I may have to get back into ship building, after cogs caravels are my fav. good work.

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Justindale, please don't quote long stories like that. Rather click the "Add Reply" button in this case.

Or otherwise, shorten the story like I now did for you.

Thanks in forward :pir-classic:

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