Tutorial - Small ships-of-war
This tutorial is complete
PART I General information, different locations
There is a lot of possible confusion coming to you when you decide to build a “smaller” sailing ship – smaller meaning that the MOC would be smaller than a frigate.
The most common types of sailing ships that could be used as ships of war in the 18th and 19th century were brigs, sloops, schooners and ketches. While this tutorial will focus on describing those types of ships there will be given additional information on ships like brigantines and snows.
The first thing we have to understand is that there is a big difference between a normal brig, schooner and ketch and their official names as ships of war. In the rating system of the Royal Navy that was used between 1782 and 1876 every ship was called a “sloop-of-war” that was not a “rated vessel” (meaning that it would be lighter armed than a post-ship frigate with 20 to 24 guns). Technically that meant that schooners, brigs, cutters and bomb-ketches that would be used in the Royal Navy as combat-ships were called sloops-of-war. Those ships would not be used in official fleet deployments and manoeuvres. A ship of the size of a sloop-of-war did simply not carry enough weapons to fight a ship-of-the-line or even a frigate. The heavier calibres on such ships would make it impossible for a sloop-of-war to come into weapons range before being blown to pieces by a broadside. Sloops-of-War therefore performed support and supply duties, delivered dispatches, patrolled coasts and escorted convoys.
Apart from the official rating system that would use different armaments for distinguishing, the differences between those ships can be seen mostly on their number and sizes of masts and their rigging.
Brig von HMSCentaur auf Flickr
A brig is usually classified as a ship with two masts. The mainmast is the higher one and carries a for-‘n-aft gaff rig sail being called spanker. The mainmast also carries square-rigged sails, traditionally three to four sails (the royals came into use on brigs during the early 19th century) – the average length for a brig would be between 25 and 55 meters and their average beam could vary between 7 and 12 meters. Some brigs feature one or multiple raked masts. Raked masts help the ship staying into the wind and therefore pointing.
Schooner von HMSCentaur auf Flickr
A schooner is a type of vessel that has been in use since the early 18th century. It features at least two masts while the fore mast may only be as high as all the following masts or smaller. A schooner will feature fore-‘n-aft sails on all masts, featuring the main mast always behind a fore mast.
Schooners were developed mainly in Northern America and were often used for commercial runs until the American Revolutionary War. This explains why there are so many different designs – some schooners can feature up to four masts and their hull size varies accordingly. However, the most common type that can be found until today and that was also used during our popular Napoleonic Wars is the two-mast schooner. But keep in mind that there are schooners out there that have no bowsprits, feature staysails or may have no headsails. Many schooners (but not all!) feature multiple raked masts. The taller a schooner gets, however, the less practical raking the masts becomes. It tends to move the centre of the ship and makes them less stable during difficult and stormy weather conditions. The two things that define a schooner in the end are still fore-‘n-aft sails that are rigged on masts that feature a smaller or equally tall fore mast.
Ketch von HMSCentaur auf Flickr
A ketch is a sailing vessel hat features exactly two masts that are normally rigged with fore-‘n-aft sails and can feature topsails and multiple jibs as well. The main mast is always the one nearer to the bow and is taller than the mizzen mast. The ketch is not to be confused with a yawl. Yawls have their mizzen mast positioned much nearer to the stern outside the waterline. The mizzen mast of a ketch is usually much taller than the mizzen mast of a yawl (being mostly around 50 % of the size of the main mast of the yawl).
Ketches are stable and well suited for rough seas and their rigging can be handled by very small crews. Ketches of the 18th and 19th centuries were often used for special duties such as fresh water transportation, medical transport, arctic exploration and most prominently as bomb ketches, featuring between one and three mortars that could be used for harbour and shore bombardment while staying out of the range of shore batteries. Their relatively short waterline would make them a weak opponent in a short-range fight, though, because they could only carry few conventional cannons.
Edited by Horry, 12 October 2011 - 04:23 PM.