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Old 02-14-2010, 05:59 PM   #11
Rocket Man
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Default Re: Crewing a ship in the Age of Sail

It really does make a difference what kind of ship you're talking about. For example, the caravels of the early days of the Age of Sail would have had a crew of 20-30 people. During Columbus's voyage, the Nina (90 tons) sailed with a crew of 24 and the Pinta (70 tons) with a crew of 28. By contrast, the tiny 16th-century frigate Squirrel (8 tons) completed a three-month voyage across the Atlantic and back again with a crew of only 10.

The size and type of the ship, the type of mission it's undertaking, how long it's expected to be at sea ... all these and more will make a difference.
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Old 02-14-2010, 06:00 PM   #12
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Default Re: Crewing a ship in the Age of Sail

Not to mention "which part of the Age of Sail". 1600 is not 1800.

At any rate, going by numbers for the British Napoleonic-era system (and all crew or gun numbers are approximate, +/- 20%)

Rate
1st (3 decks, 120 guns): 850
2nd (3 decks, 90 guns): 725
3rd (2 decks, 74 guns): 600
4th (2 decks, 50 guns): 370
5th (1/2 decks, 32-44 guns): 250
6th (1 deck, 28 guns): 200
Sloop of war: 16-20 guns, 100 men
Gunboat/cutter: 6-12 guns, 10-20 men

As has been mentioned, most of these are "excess" crew so you can fight the ship and sail it at the same time, board and repel boards, detach crews for prizes, and take casualties. Merchant crews or prize crews are _much_ smaller, perhaps a dozen men. Merchants don't want to pay any more salary than they have to.

The "East Indiamen" operated by the British company were an intermediate case, heavily armed for a merchantman, and had about half as many crew as a Royal Navy man-of-war of similar size.

The PCs are going to need help to sail a ship of any reasonable size (unless your gaming group is a lot bigger than mine!)
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Old 02-14-2010, 06:24 PM   #13
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Default Re: Crewing a ship in the Age of Sail

For a warship, very roughly one man per three tons burthen, much less for a merchant ship. In Treasure Island the Hispaniola, a schooner of "two hundred tons" was even handled temporarily and in a very rudimentary way by one boy advised by a wounded, hung-over pirate (although that was fiction).

As a wild guess, for merchant ships a normal minimum crew might be something like 6 plus 1 per 100 tons.
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Old 02-14-2010, 06:40 PM   #14
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Default Re: Crewing a ship in the Age of Sail

Now that I think of it, in Treasure Island it must have been one of Squire Trelawney's many indiscretions to take on so much crew, most of whom turned out to be pirates. I imagine that for a 200-ton schooner it would have been enough to have one reliable captain, one mate, and five or so real seamen, plus all of the landsmen gentlemen and hangers-on.
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Old 02-14-2010, 06:46 PM   #15
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Default Re: Crewing a ship in the Age of Sail

Many years ago, I spent some time on a sail training ship. The ship was USS Providence. She is about 55 feet length at water line, and about twice that overall. She's a sloop of war, with 10 guns, and rigged as a topsail sloop. (One mast, fore and aft rig with one square topsail.) The original was a merchant conversion, so she's quite beamy for a warship.

Sail handling is done as it was durring the revolution. Her regular crew was 5 or 6, including the captain, and that was sufficient for sailing 24/7. Two people could get her underway at need, though it would take time (And an ax for the anchor cable) It would be slow, ugly, and not done in foul weather. (Str rolls to get the mainsail up, and a skill roll as well, to get underway without incident.)

The sail could be handled nicely in decent weather with 4 on deck--it took all hands (Not including the sail trainees) to double reef the sails when we sailed into a storm. Only 2 are needed topside if the sails don't need to be trimmed...lookout and tiller. The one on the tiller has a decent view, so could be alone.

Might be able to go a long ways with a total crew of four--but with cautious sailing and some luck.

I'd say that, under minimum sail, two or three could get her home if all went well. Of course, back then, the hull wasn't fiberglass and the pumps were manual--but sailors were also more tollerant of long hours than people are today.

Sort of rambling, but some of my memories from long ago. (And if any of my friends are reading this, NO, I didn't sail on the original with John Paul Jones, just on the replica!!!)
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Old 02-14-2010, 07:24 PM   #16
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Default Re: Crewing a ship in the Age of Sail

Quote:
Originally Posted by trans View Post
For a warship, very roughly one man per three tons burthen, much less for a merchant ship. In Treasure Island the Hispaniola, a schooner of "two hundred tons" was even handled temporarily and in a very rudimentary way by one boy advised by a wounded, hung-over pirate (although that was fiction).
But not terribly unreasonable. You only after all need one sail up to move, and one hand on the wheel or tiller to steer.

Plenty of people have sailed around the world single handed, though not usually in anything that big. Yacht racing crews tend to run somewhere in the 4 to 8 range depending on the size of the boat and the rules set. A typical PC party probably *can* handle a smallish merchanter by themselves. Four per mast and two per gun is probably about the minimum to take a warship into combat though.
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Old 02-14-2010, 08:26 PM   #17
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Default Re: Crewing a ship in the Age of Sail

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Originally Posted by Žorkell View Post
Updated for modern times, your question reads like this "In the latter half of the 20th Century how many people were required to crew a ship?" You are, in my opinion, completely ignoring the fact that there are and were many different types of ship and each type had a different crew requirement.
And this is why no one likes rules lawyers ;)

More to the point I want to know how many crew would be needed for different types of ships from the period.
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Old 02-14-2010, 09:38 PM   #18
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Default Re: Crewing a ship in the Age of Sail

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Originally Posted by Dangerious P. Cats View Post
What crew would be required for an age of sail ship and what skills would they need?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dangerious P. Cats View Post
And this is why no one likes rules lawyers ;)

More to the point I want to know how many crew would be needed for different types of ships from the period.
You'll recognize your original post, I assume?

That's a pretty broad question, considering that you didn't specify a particular time frame or type of ship.

The Age of Sail is considered to run from around 1571 to around 1862. That's not quite 300 years. That's a lot of different types of ships, covering an entire planet.

So, part of the answer is between 1 and 500.

Does that help?
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Old 02-15-2010, 04:26 AM   #19
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Default Re: Crewing a ship in the Age of Sail

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Originally Posted by Dangerious P. Cats View Post
And this is why no one likes rules lawyers ;)

More to the point I want to know how many crew would be needed for different types of ships from the period.
How are my questions rules lawyer-y? Your question is overly broad, and I am attempting to narrow it down.
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Old 02-15-2010, 06:11 AM   #20
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Default Re: Crewing a ship in the Age of Sail

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Originally Posted by trans View Post
Now that I think of it, in Treasure Island it must have been one of Squire Trelawney's many indiscretions to take on so much crew, most of whom turned out to be pirates. I imagine that for a 200-ton schooner it would have been enough to have one reliable captain, one mate, and five or so real seamen, plus all of the landsmen gentlemen and hangers-on.
Of course there may have been some malicious advice involved there - or possibly the extra hands were hired to give him a fighting crew once he was on his way home with a ship full of knocked off bullion.
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