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Old 11-08-2008, 04:43 AM   #1
Icelander's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Iceland*
Default Sailing Ships -At least until CCoI (Low-Tech) arrives

We lack sailing ship data and the stats in Fantasy are worse than nothing. So here are my takes on the same vessels.


Dhow, Baghlah (90’)
TL: 4
ST/HP: 160†
Hnd/SR: -3/2
HT: 11c
Move: 0,2/5
Ewt: 34t
Lwt: 128t
Load: 94t
SM: +8
Occ: 20
DR: 3
Range: -
Cost: $27K
Locations: 2M, O, S
Draft: 5’

Dhow, Sambuk (60’)
TL: 3
ST/HP: 138†
Hnd/SR: -3/2
HT: 11c
Move: 0,2/5
Ewt: 20t
Lwt: 70t
Load: 50t
SM: +6
Occ: 12
DR: 2
Range: -
Cost: $17K
Locations: M, O
Draft: 4’

The word dhow has been used to describe any of various lateen-rigged sailing vessels that were used in the Red Sea and along the coasts of the Indian Ocean. Dhows are associated with Arab traders in the mind of Westerners, but the vessel was constructed with timber from India and the word itself may be of Swahili origin. The Arabs that sail these craft refer to dhows by names specific to each type, determined principally by size and hull design, but the Western convention of identifying a vessel by its sail plan mean that the four principal types and various subtypes are all familiar to us merely as dhows.

These vessels typically had a raised poop, a raked stem, and one or two masts. They ranged in size from 300+ ton baghlahs and boums to jalboots of only 20 tons. The most common are probably sambuks, about 50 tons burthen (displacing about 70 tons). The two examples given here are a two-masted baghlah of moderate size and a single-masted sambuk with a crew of twelve, both fairly typical for a trading dhow in their size. Note that the statistics assume that the vessel is loaded with cargo. A dhow carrying no cargo can reach speeds of 11-17 knots (Move 0,3/7 or more), but is very hard to handle with such a small crew, suffering a -1 penalty to its Hnd. The draft will also be about 1-2‘ less.

Optional Modifiers: A dhow is not intended to sail against the wind and will make much less speed on that point of sail than a comparable vessel with a more versatile sail plan. Dhows also suffer a -1 to Hnd on any attempt to sail windward. Attempts to tack or veer a dhow are at a -2 to Hnd due to the limited crew size and the lack of provisions for such actions in the sail plan.

Notes: A length of 90‘ and a tonnage of 90 were somewhat incompatible with a crew of only 12. Also, the larger dhows had two masts by the time of the Age of Sail. The speed was fine for an unladen racing dhow (such as those used in the modern al-Shandagha race in Dubai, UAE), but much too optimistic for a laden merchant dhow.

Pirate Sloops

Pirate Sloop (50‘)
TL: 4
ST/HP: 153 †
Hnd/SR: -2/4
HT: 12c
Move: 0,3/6
Ewt: 28t
Lwt: 64t
Load: 36t
SM: +6
Occ: 43
DR: 10/5
Range: -
Cost: $56K
Locations: M, O, S
Draft: 7’

Pirate Sloop (75’)
TL: 4
ST/HP: 189 †
Hnd/SR: -3/4
HT: 12c
Move: 0,3/6,25
Ewt: 53t
Lwt: 120t
Load: 67t
SM: +7
Occ: 75
DR: 10/5
Range: -
Cost: $106K
Locations: M, O, S
Draft: 8’

These are typical Age of Sail sloops used by pirates in the Caribbean. The term sleep describes a single-masted vessel with a fore-and-aft rig and the mast further forward than the mast of a cutter. The word acquired connotations of tactical role later on and is today used for a vessel mid-way in size between a corvette and a frigate, but is here used in its original sense.

The sail plan of a sloop is designed to optimise performance when sailing against the wind (known as sailing windward or close-hauled), but also provides a workable overall compromise at all points of sailing. This makes it manoeuvrable and able to escape from ships with a larger sail area by turning into the wind. That quality, combined with a shallow draft, made it a desirable vessel for pirates in the Carribean ocean who were frequently hunted by much more powerful naval vessels. A pirate sloop has a larger crew than a similar merchant vessel, in order to be able to man the guns and board enemy ships.

Two examples are provided. One is a fairly typical pirate sloop, able to surprise and intimidate a merchant vessel but overmatched in a fight with nearly any naval vessel afloat. Generally, a sloop of this size armed for piracy or combat would carry 6-10 cannons, often only 3- or 4-pounders. Edward Teach‘s (the infamous Blackbeard the Pirate of TV and novel legend) Adventure might well have been similar to this ship. The larger one is at the top of the size range for sloops during the Golden Age of Piracy. It might carry anything up to a 15 guns, varying widely in shot weight. The Cost and Weight of the vessels do not include any possible armament.

Optional Modifiers: A sloop is optimised for close-hauled sailing and receives a +1 bonus to Hnd when sailing windward. This can only reduce a penalty, never provide a net bonus. A sloop is also able to maintain a higher speed close-hauled than other vessels of similar size and sail area. The size of the crew also gives a +1 to rapid tacking or veering of the vessel, but this is negated by the lateen sails which give a -1 to the same actions. The crew size can be reduced to 25 for the smaller craft and 45 for the larger one for a merchant sloop that does not carry as many cannon or expect to board enemies.

Notes: The length of the ‘Pirate ship’ at 75’ was unusually high for the tonnage given. The ratio of tons burthen to tons displaced was also strange, so I assumed that the weight of guns and shots had accidentally been counted in the Ewt (otherwise the ship couldn’t have carried 12 cannon at all). The speed was so far off that it must have been a typo.


Galleons were large, multi-decked sailing ships used primarily by the nations of Europe from the 16th to 18th centuries. They had three to five masts, with the foremast and mainmast being square-rigged and the last mast using lateen sails. The hull was usually carvel-built. The term ‘galleon’ has been used for vessels ranging in size from around 100 tons to the largest ships afloat in their days which could reach 2000 tons displacement.

Galleons were an evolution of the earlier Carrack and Nao ship types, combined with influences from caravel design which resulted in more slender hull lines than those ponderous vessels (which could have a length-to-beam ratio of 2:1). The typical length-to-beam ratio of a galleon was 3.5:1 or greater and the height from keel to gunwales was half of the beam. Galleons were longer, lower and narrower than the earlier vessels and had a square tuck stern instead of a round tuck. One of the most recognisable features of the galleon was the ‘snout’ or head which projected forward from the bows below the level of the forecastle.

Galleons were used both for commerce and warfare from their invention. The popular modern image of them is as Spanish treasure galleons (the gargantuan Manila Galleons) bringing home gold and jewels from the New World, but during much of that time they were already eclipsed as front-line vessels. The Spanish, though, did retain some galleons in use until the 19th century.

Optional Modifiers: Typical galleons, with their high castles on deck, were more stable than the Carrack, but unweatherly compared to later ships. Penalising them by -1 to Hnd (and at the GM’s option also -1 to SR for ships with extremely high centres of gravity) in high winds would not be unfair. They are also poor sailors to windward and suffer a -1 to Hnd when attempting to sail close-hauled.

Galleon, medium (130’)
TL: 4
ST/HP: 295†
Hnd/SR: -3/5
HT: 12c
Move: 0.07/4.5
Ewt: 200t
Lwt: 490t
Load: 390t
SM: +8
Occ: 45+70
DR: 30/15
Range: -
Cost: $390K
Locations: 3M, O, 2S
Draft: 9’

This galleon is fairly typical for an ordinary Portuguese galleon and can be used to represent ships of nearly any nationality.

Galleon, English race-built (140’)
TL: 4
ST/HP: 309†
Hnd/SR: -3/5
HT: 12c
Move: 0.1/5
Ewt: 230t
Lwt: 670t
Load: 440t
SM: +8
Occ: 75+50
DR: 30/15
Range: -
Cost: $460K
Locations: 3M, O, 2S
Draft: 10’

This English two-decked race-built galleon was among the most cramped vessels of their age, packing an enormous mass of men and weapons in a hull just barely large enough for it. The forecastle has been razed and is only retained as low fighting platform with the highest point some 22’ high from the keel. This makes the ship faster and more weatherly, which proved crucial in naval battles of the time (along with superior gunnery). This ship is based on Sir Francis Drake’s Revenge.

Optional Modifiers: The English race-built galleons do not suffer the same penalty as normal galleons in high winds or when sailing to the windward.

Spanish Galleon (150’)
TL: 4
ST/HP: 341†
Hnd/SR: -4/5
HT: 12c
Move: 0.03/4
Ewt: 310t
Lwt: 930t
Load: 620t
SM: +9
Occ: 160+240
DR: 40/20
Range: -
Cost: $630K
Locations: 4M, O, 2S
Draft: 12’

This ship is a large Spanish galleon, one of the main fighting ships of the Spanish Armada.

Notes: The galleon given in Fantasy was too fast and drew too little water for such a large ship. It also had a crew that was far too small for Spanish practises at the time. Finally, the listed DR did not take into account the sheer thickness of the hull. The higher number is for the hull at the waterline, which could reach more than 2 feet of oak, and the lower number for the decking and castles. The stern uses the lower number.

More to come when I feel like it.

© 2008 Garđar Steinn Ólafsson
All rights reserved.
Za uspiekh nashevo beznadiozhnovo diela!

Last edited by Icelander; 11-20-2008 at 05:12 AM.
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