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The current time is: 10/23/2017 3:09:37 PM
 Naval Pre-American Civil War    
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prr

New User
E-2 Private
Posts: 9

Caravel and naval technology of the 1400s
Posted on: 8/6/2017 8:12:47 PM
I am reading a history book that is talking about the benefits of the caravel.

How important was the development of the caravel, to the Age of Exploration? If the naval technology that it represented didn’t exist, could those voyages to the Americas and the Far East, have been taken from Europe? Let’s assume the compass was used, but not the following: the portolan chart, rudder hinged to the stern post; triangular lateen sail; a shallow drafted, dow like hull.

Could the voyages to other parts of the world have been undertaken with these? Or without just one or two of these?

I really have no background in sailing at all. I just found a paragraph in a book that is talking about developments in navigation leading up to the Age of Exploration, and I’m wondering how crucial these were.



The link to the book is here: https://books.google.com/books?id=6bksYkkeezcC&dq=history+of+latin+america+peter+bakewell&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi1_-fU6sPVAhWnq1QKHTHECkgQ6AEILTAB My question deals with page 40 of this edition (there is a newer edition out; I have the first, 1997 edition).

kaii
Edinburgh, UK
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1884

Re: Caravel and naval technology of the 1400s
Posted on: 8/7/2017 8:44:29 AM
Well, I suppose the viking longships with square sails proved that crossing of big oceans was possible in more primitive craft than the caravel, and looking back at the Ra- and Tigris expeditions of Thor Heyerdahl, he proved that even boats made from reed and with square sails could make the crossing of the Atlantic ocean given favourable wind and currents...

However, the main benefit of the caravel, I believe, was that it allowed regular crossings almost unrelated to wind and currents and thereby also to set up regular trading routes which more primitive craft before had struggled to maintain, being more dependent on wind+ and current directions than the more maneuverable caravel.

With the development of the combat caravel, with one square sail up front, the Portuguese had a naval advantage over others for quite some time, which allowed them to settle large tracts of South America.
---------------
A fool and his money are soon elected.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5314

Re: Caravel and naval technology of the 1400s
Posted on: 8/7/2017 12:18:57 PM
Well I have no sailing background but what features of a Portuguese caravel made it a technological advancement?

This is supposed to be one. Other than a big ship with lots of sail, what makes it special?




Cheers,

George

kaii
Edinburgh, UK
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1884

Re: Caravel and naval technology of the 1400s
Posted on: 8/7/2017 12:52:28 PM

Quote:
Well I have no sailing background but what features of a Portuguese caravel made it a technological advancement?

This is supposed to be one. Other than a big ship with lots of sail, what makes it special?




Cheers,

George
--George


Two things spring to mind immediately, the sails and the rudder.

The lateen rigged sails allowed the vessel to sail almost straight against the wind, as opposed to square sailed vessels that are dependent on wind from behind or the side. Also, the rigging was made such that it could be changed to square sails when beneficial, and caravels often sailed with both square and lateen sails to benefit from changing wind conditions. Speed was the key word - the caravel could maintain speed where other designs couldn't.

The hinged rudder allowed a straight course to be held with much less effort, rather than drift with the current, as was more normal when a steering oar was used and raw muscle power was used to keep the ship on course.

The lateen rigging was known before the caravel, of course, fishermen had been using it for smaller boats before, but it was slow to be put in use on larger ships, especially warships, as a square rig can carry more sails and provide a more stable plattform for artillery (a lateen rigged ship will invariably list to one side or another depending on wind, which makes aiming of guns difficult.)
---------------
A fool and his money are soon elected.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5314

Re: Caravel and naval technology of the 1400s
Posted on: 8/7/2017 3:08:01 PM
Kai, I am not familiar with the adjective "lateen". Does it refer to the shape of the sail?

Cheers,

George

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 2774

Re: Caravel and naval technology of the 1400s
Posted on: 8/7/2017 7:10:38 PM
Currently reading, The last voyage of Columbus, by Martin Dugard. And on numerous occasions the Admiral of the Ocean Blue, said he preferred the Caravel, as his exploration vessel of choice! I for one will not argue with Christopher Columbus!

MD
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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

prr

New User
E-2 Private
Posts: 9

Re: Caravel and naval technology of the 1400s
Posted on: 8/8/2017 10:59:05 AM
Thanks, Kaii. Very informative.

kaii
Edinburgh, UK
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1884

Re: Caravel and naval technology of the 1400s
Posted on: 8/8/2017 11:06:14 AM

Quote:
Kai, I am not familiar with the adjective "lateen". Does it refer to the shape of the sail?

Cheers,

George
--George


Yes it refers to the sail and the rigging. A lateen sail is mounted on a long yard arm set at an angle to the main mast, and runs in a fore-aft direction (i.e. parallel to the boat) rather than mounted in a straight angle in a port-starboard direction like a square sail/rig.

A lateen sail can also be square in shape in principle, but a triangular shape is more normal and probably is most efficient when cruising up against the wind.

I am lucky enough to have crossed the North Sea both in a modern yacht and a Viking style longship, and it is quite a different experience depending on the wind and currents. The longship is much faster when the wind is beneficial(i.e from behind you), but struggles when the wind comes against you, so the vikings will have had no choice but to pack in the sails and use the oars at times when lateen or modern rigged boats can still sail quite efficiently. (Modern rigged means the sail is connected to the mast and a movable boom in the bottom, and still runs parallel to the keel of the boat).

You may also come across the term "full-rigged" when talking about ships, this would mean the ship uses both square sails and lateen sails (like the frigates/man-o-wars of the 17-1800's) yielding ships that can sail in all conditions and serve as stable gun plattforms as well.


K

---------------
A fool and his money are soon elected.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5314

Re: Caravel and naval technology of the 1400s
Posted on: 8/8/2017 11:44:17 AM
Thanks for that Kai.

Did you have to row the long ship or was the wind at your back?

George

Riaindevoy
Geelong, Australia
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E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1075

Re: Caravel and naval technology of the 1400s
Posted on: 8/8/2017 3:40:15 PM
IIRC Columbus' Santa Maria was a Carrack and the Nina and Pinta were Caravels, the difference being the Carrack used a square mainmast but lateen fore and rear masts, which meant in a following wind it could get better speed but still get most of the benefits of the lateen sails in contrary winds.

Where I grew up in Warrnambool is a key in the Theory of the Portuguese Discovery of Australia; where a Portuguese Caravel from Mendoca's 1522 voyage was stranded in an occasional opening of the Merri River and the wreck was visible in the dunes when Warrnambool/Port Fairy were being discovered/settled in the 1800-1830s period but was gone by the 1870s. A bloke built a replica in Woodford and launched it a few year ago, it's called The Notorious, the triangular sails laid out fore-aft along the axis of the ship was the lateen sails and they're what makes it a caravel. BTW these ships were built to North Atlantic standards and were very tough compared to the Dhows in the Indian Ocean which were lashed together with coconut fibres, and bristles with cannon, IIRC Da Gama's tiny ships had something like 22 big cannon plus swivel guns and the like, to back up his atrocious behaviour.


---------------
Vegetarian: the ancient tribal word for the villiage idiot; who was too stupid to hunt, fish and ride!

kaii
Edinburgh, UK
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1884

Re: Caravel and naval technology of the 1400s
Posted on: 8/8/2017 5:10:46 PM

Quote:
Thanks for that Kai.

Did you have to row the long ship or was the wind at your back?

George
--George


I did my stint at the oars but luckily we had planned the crossing well...:-)
---------------
A fool and his money are soon elected.

kaii
Edinburgh, UK
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1884

Re: Caravel and naval technology of the 1400s
Posted on: 8/8/2017 5:13:21 PM

Quote:
IIRC Columbus' Santa Maria was a Carrack and the Nina and Pinta were Caravels, the difference being the Carrack used a square mainmast but lateen fore and rear masts, which meant in a following wind it could get better speed but still get most of the benefits of the lateen sails in contrary winds.

Where I grew up in Warrnambool is a key in the Theory of the Portuguese Discovery of Australia; where a Portuguese Caravel from Mendoca's 1522 voyage was stranded in an occasional opening of the Merri River and the wreck was visible in the dunes when Warrnambool/Port Fairy were being discovered/settled in the 1800-1830s period but was gone by the 1870s. A bloke built a replica in Woodford and launched it a few year ago, it's called The Notorious, the triangular sails laid out fore-aft along the axis of the ship was the lateen sails and they're what makes it a caravel. BTW these ships were built to North Atlantic standards and were very tough compared to the Dhows in the Indian Ocean which were lashed together with coconut fibres, and bristles with cannon, IIRC Da Gama's tiny ships had something like 22 big cannon plus swivel guns and the like, to back up his atrocious behaviour.


--Riaindevoy


That is really cool Riain, thanks for posting. I love seeing replicas of old ships, and even better if I get the chance to sail one. This one looks like it could be an interesting challenge to sail around Africa...
---------------
A fool and his money are soon elected.

 Naval Pre-American Civil War    
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