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Haratik

Most Powerful Seafaring Nations in the Game's Timeline

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I've seen differing opinions on whose navy was the strongest, and while the general consensus is Great Britain at the top, who comes after is usually hotly debated.  I'm opening up a debate (not a flaming war for all you folks that lack restraint), as to who YOU think the 10 strongest navies were during Naval Action's timeline.   Rules for posting your list are as follows:

1.  Expand on your views as to why you chose the particular order you've listed.  Don't just say "Well Subject A lost to Subject B, so Subject B is the best."

2.  Provide at least one or two sources to supplement your position.  Wikipedia is acceptable so long as supplementing sources are provided for the excerpts you pull from that site.

3.  Feel free to debate with fellow naval enthusiasts over your differences of opinion, but please do not flame, and choose your words carefully.  We're all mature adults here (I hope).

I'll be requesting a moderator to remove posts if you guys can't follow the rules.

Edited by Haratik
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It going to be a fight over third place after France, isn't it?

Did any nations ever match France's SoL count during the various 18th Century low points?

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7 minutes ago, maturin said:

It going to be a fight over third place after France, isn't it?

Did any nations ever match France's SoL count during the various 18th Century low points?

I don't know about the Dutch, one of the Scandinavian navies perhaps, or the Russians, that would require more research than I care to look into tonight.  Maybe tomorrow.

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If I remember correctly, France had just about 30 sols in active service between the 1720s and late 1730s, so there may have been nations that came pretty close. Spain or the Dutch, maybe?

Edited by Malachi

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An interesting topic, but I think you would need to define better as to what makes a navy strongest. Do you count numbers of ships, bearing in mind that they were not all equivalent classes? Do you count total numbers of guns of different poundage? And most importantly and hardest to gauge for navies that were not regularly in battle is the experience of the officers and crew. Some navies were very strong on paper but were not very effective in battle.

The British navy had very experienced officers and crew and I think were generally thought of as well trained and battle hardened, whereas the French had some very powerful ships but their crews lacked sea going experience due to the effectiveness of the British blockade and also the purges of their officers during the revolution. The Spanish were also a very experienced seagoing nation, but I personally think they were starting to wane by this period in time.

I am not a history buff, but I look forward to hearing what people who have studied this time period more have to say on the topic. Sorry I have not posted a list as anything I posted would be pure guesswork.

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28 minutes ago, Archaos said:

An interesting topic, but I think you would need to define better as to what makes a navy strongest. Do you count numbers of ships, bearing in mind that they were not all equivalent classes? Do you count total numbers of guns of different poundage? And most importantly and hardest to gauge for navies that were not regularly in battle is the experience of the officers and crew. Some navies were very strong on paper but were not very effective in battle.

The British navy had very experienced officers and crew and I think were generally thought of as well trained and battle hardened, whereas the French had some very powerful ships but their crews lacked sea going experience due to the effectiveness of the British blockade and also the purges of their officers during the revolution. The Spanish were also a very experienced seagoing nation, but I personally think they were starting to wane by this period in time.

I am not a history buff, but I look forward to hearing what people who have studied this time period more have to say on the topic. Sorry I have not posted a list as anything I posted would be pure guesswork.

That's why I want people to expound on why they think their ranking is the way it is.  I'm not going to go into detail on the OP, I want people to do that when they post.  Naturally, I'd think that those that post the most detail on their rankings will get more attention than someone who posts a personal opinion without any indepth source posting to back it up.

Feel free to post your guesswork, but be warned you'll be dissected by the more learned individuals. :P

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Sometimes, the whys are as important as the what. 

Why have England and Great Britain been so focused on her Navy ? Because it's an island with no enemy/ally/trading partner at the land borders.

On the other hand, France has two kinds of borders (a maritime one and a land one) and often had a land tropism, first keeping a close eye on Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, Duchy of Savoy...

And what is true for war is true for trade and diplomacy.

Edited by LeBoiteux
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I think generally the Spanish Navy was impressive on paper with its numerous 100-120-gun ships of the line, however they performed very badly in terms of the quality of crews and their officers, so would not place highly at all. 

The performance of Spanish crews at St. Vincent is probably one of the worst in the Wars of the French Revolution, guns on some of their larger ships of the line were found with their muzzles still blocked by tampions after being captured . The arrangement of the Spanish fleet at St. Vincent was entirely without organization, clustered in two lopsided groups in sharp contrast to Jervis and his neat line-astern. Nelson captured two huge first-rates in succession very quickly, boarding them in the famous "Nelson's patent bridge for boarding first-rates". The Spanish fleet at Second Algerias became so confused that they fired on eachother wildly trying to hit the British '74 "Superb", a huge contributing factor to the Spanish being defeated as two ships blew themselves up from friendly fire. However, I can say for sure that they were certainly brave. The rescue of Santissima Trinidad at St. Vincent was something, a Spanish captain threatening to rake the ship if it did not raise its colors. Not to mention, everyone's favorite series mentions in #1, the immortal Master and Commander, the bravery of the Spaniards. 

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1 hour ago, _Masterviolin said:

The Spanish fleet at Second Algerias became so confused that they fired on eachother wildly trying to hit the British '74 "Superb", a huge contributing factor to the Spanish being defeated as two ships blew themselves up from friendly fire.

Lol

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I think In respect to the Spanish and French navy's they suffered from a good deal of 'bad press'. Historically the mistrust between France, Spain and Great Britain went back long before the timeframe of this game, indeed the power of the French and Spanish navy's were in part why Henry VIII formally established  the Royal Navy. 

It is I think well established that both France and Spain were excellent ship builders  many captured ships when reused proved to be well founded and often  faster than their British counterparts and contrary to popular belief France and Spain had their share of good officers,  The Compte de Grasse being an excellent case in point, had he not have stopped the British resupply of General Cornwallis The United States would share the same status as Canada as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.   So where did it all go wrong for the major land powers at sea?

It is easy to simply say that The French and Spanish lacked the skills and determination to beat the Royal Navy at sea, but is it really the case? The Spanish had been harried, chased around the  South Americas, their treasure fleets decimated for over a hundred years, The Spanish Armada when pressed to fight did so, they were defeated more by the English weather than the efforts of the Royal Navy. By the Napoleonic period Spain was not the sea power she was, what navy would not be demoralised following defeat after defeat at sea, they won some battles along the way,  just not the ones that mattered. Yet, when Napoleon took over Spain the Spanish fought hard and well, not in a conventional sense, they did however give the world a new  form of warfare, Guerilla warfare, the Spanish were never the inept fools that some people paint them as, they were simply hammered, brutally and systematically into submission.

As for France, France defeated France, The French Revolution, or more accurately the terrors that followed killed them.  The overwhelming majority of their Navy's Officers took the short walk with Madame Le Guillotine, they killed off the cream of their Navy in a senseless lust for revenge on their aristocracy, with it they killed their navy. It takes years to learn the skills of Naval warfare, and the skillsets lost were never replaced by the time Napoleon demonstrated his brilliance the on battlefields of Europe. Like some of the other European leaders in centuries to come he also was not nautically minded, like them he lacked the knowledge of naval warfare that the true maritime nations  held, he failed to grasp that if he allowed the Royal Navy free reign to blockade his ports, to cut off the admittedly small amounts of goods (compared to what he could obtain overland) that came by sea to fund his wars and more importantly do the same to the British it is very possible that my native language would be French not English!  

I tend to think that for those reasons there is no real battle for second and third place, both France and Spain share a honourable second place, they were not at all as portrayed by history, they had the courage to fight, they had the ships and men, one was beaten into submission over centuries, the other was it's own worst enemy.  

 

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It is interesting to see that so far most of the discussion appears to center round Britain, France and Spain, with little mention of the Dutch, Danes, Russians etc who also had powerful navies but maybe because they were not almost constantly at war at sea during this period like they are not so much talked about.

This again comes back to what I said earlier as to what you use as a measuring stick to call a navy most powerful, ships alone do not make a navy so lists alone cannot give the answer as many ships even on active register were little more than hulks and ships bottled up in port for months on end would slowly rot away.

I think the only thing that is certain is that by the end of the period in question there was only one true naval power and that was Britain, which led into the period called "Pax Britannica", almost 100 years where Britain acted almost like a global police force on the seas and used its naval superiority for that purpose. During this period there were no real major naval engagements for that might to be challenged. They also had a policy that was eventually made into law that their navy had to be twice as powerful as their two closest rivals.

A good book to read regarding the Royal Navy is called "To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World" by Arthur Herman. It follows the history of the navy from its first formation through to modern times, explaining how at one stage the Admiralty was so powerful it basically was the government.

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Navy exists to protect trade. The more colonies the more trade to protect. The more trade the more resources to build a navy, to protect even more trade. And eventually pass on to land conquest.

There is no discussion on the rampant overall supremacy of the RN in the second half of the NA period ( fully extends from 1670 - 1820 ).

France, since early, relied way more on private ventures and we can see that in the early West Indies expeditions. Was very natural for French to let rip the corsair culture which remained strong through the entire period.

Looking at the other navies, by 1795 the RN had scrapped the pan for all seamanship experts. It didn't lose strength but did surely fell short on quality. By 1812 the young American nation and Denmark were considered to be the best crews. US employed a lot of excellent european emigrates, notably greek, while developing their own on board duties, especially Marines, most of them made of excellent shots from kentucky and other territories. I am very certain several book on the subject present the US Marines at the start of 1812 war to be second only to Danish Marines in quality.

But this is meaningless in the grand strategy. The purpose of the navy is what determines how powerful it is and in that regard all navies must be measured at equal levels.

This being said, Sweden and Russian Empire fights for the control of Baltic trade can be traced as a "Great Britain vs France" in miniature.

Interesting enough Sweden did academy all nations navy officers including those of Prussia ( especially in the lake wars ) and many of the RN as well.

So, how to say who is the best without considering the primary objectives of the navy ?

In that regard RN and France are equal when looking to 1670 - 1820 span. With Spain declining heavily due to both of these nations continuously attacking them, with some interruptions but regarding the West Indies the local councils could "ignore" many mainland directives and local petty wars did happen. Actually the buccaneer wars were real, with french and anglo saxons clashing with each other and also preying together on the spanish fleets.

Funny that Portugal did furnish the RN during the Napoleonic Wars with rear-admirals and ships and having seconds in command in the mediterranean and atlantic. Also developed, with help of the english ship wrights, the colonies coast defence frigates, with full flushed decks, low profile and packing decent firepower which remained the model until well into the late 1830's.

So, how to order 10 navies ? Can we consider Canada a navy on its own during 1812 ? After all their privateers were by a fair margin the most successful during 1812, contrary to urban myths. But the US young navy did achieve the primary goal as much as possible - propaganda victories at the bare minimum.

Can we consider Greek navy and revolutionary privateers into this ?

Sorry for not following the model :)

I am trying to look to the question regarding each navy - was the primary objective achieved ? Then it is a good navy, as good as the RN. 

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7 minutes ago, Archaos said:

It is interesting to see that so far most of the discussion appears to center round Britain, France and Spain, with little mention of the Dutch, Danes, Russians etc who also had powerful navies but maybe because they were not almost constantly at war at sea during this period like they are not so much talked about.

This again comes back to what I said earlier as to what you use as a measuring stick to call a navy most powerful, ships alone do not make a navy so lists alone cannot give the answer as many ships even on active register were little more than hulks and ships bottled up in port for months on end would slowly rot away.

I think the only thing that is certain is that by the end of the period in question there was only one true naval power and that was Britain, which led into the period called "Pax Britannica", almost 100 years where Britain acted almost like a global police force on the seas and used its naval superiority for that purpose. During this period there were no real major naval engagements for that might to be challenged. They also had a policy that was eventually made into law that their navy had to be twice as powerful as their two closest rivals.

A good book to read regarding the Royal Navy is called "To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World" by Arthur Herman. It follows the history of the navy from its first formation through to modern times, explaining how at one stage the Admiralty was so powerful it basically was the government.

I think in part it's because the main protagonist's of the period were the British, French and Spanish, for most people it's first thing that comes to mind, There were a number of small conflicts going on that included the Barbary wars in which the United States and Venice were actively involved in, Demark also participated in the Napoleonic wars to the extent that had Nelson not disobeyed the commanding Admiral, Denmark would have won the battle of Copenhagen! No mean achievement on the part of the Danes that they came so close to winning. There were tensions elsewhere too, Russia and Sweden, the Turks in the Mediterranean, the Anglo-Venetian alliance which dominated the Mediterranean for quite some time, all overshadowed by the massive Anglo-Franco-Spanish wars. Portugal's contribution during this period is often overlooked, without Portugal the Napoleonic wars may well have gone on decades longer.

Numbers helped, but it is true that you can have the biggest military yet still lose a war, it's not how powerful you are, it's how you project that power, you can have the finest men and equipment but it is all for naught if you cannot translate that into power projection. That is what Britain did, project power, that said, the French and Spanish could easily have done so, were it not for the times they lived in. 

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7 hours ago, Yngvarr said:

i'll reply with this
http://felipe.mbnet.fi/html/sol_1700-18601.html

the website also has lists of ships per nation on the homepage.

Well that makes things a lot easier!

 

This site must disregard warships placed in ordinary, though. Certainly the British 'had' more than 22 SoLs and 4th Rates between 1790 and 1799. I would expect this to depress the numbers of the minor powers, more than the bellicose British.

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4 minutes ago, maturin said:

Well that makes things a lot easier!

 

This site must disregard warships placed in ordinary, though. Certainly the British 'had' more than 22 SoLs and 4th Rates between 1790 and 1799. I would expect this to depress the numbers of the minor powers, more than the bellicose British.

Here's your list with 1-2 rates for England

http://felipe.mbnet.fi/html/_1___2_rates.html

 

I can only work with the information available to me...

Edited by Yngvarr

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6 hours ago, Sir Lancelot Holland said:

I tend to think that for those reasons there is no real battle for second and third place, both France and Spain share a honourable second place, they were not at all as portrayed by history, they had the courage to fight, they had the ships and men, one was beaten into submission over centuries, the other was it's own worst enemy.  

I absolutely agree. But there were also problems that went beyond revolution and such for the French. French frigates were generally faster and sweet-sailing but had lighter and less durable construction that would require a lot of repair and maintenance work constantly. They sometimes lacked the hull space to properly stow for long voyages, and many had cramped decks that bred sickness and poor health for their crews. A multitude of French frigates were not coppered. Many French and Spanish ships had "roundhouses" which increased windage and blocked sight aft, the British always removed them when they captured these. Not to mention, French naval doctrine in prioritizing damage to their opponents rigging with long-range gunnery was abysmal. French crews were not well trained enough for that kind of accuracy. British warships, with carronades inflicted severe damage and casualties whilst receiving very little. Such is the case for many British single-ship victories. The French didn't develop anything like a carronade until late in the war, with a rather unremarkable 24pdr that performed worse than their British counterparts. 

The downfall of the French not only lies in revolution and mismanagement, but in technology and doctrine. 

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4 hours ago, maturin said:

Well that makes things a lot easier!

This site must disregard warships placed in ordinary, though. Certainly the British 'had' more than 22 SoLs and 4th Rates between 1790 and 1799. I would expect this to depress the numbers of the minor powers, more than the bellicose British.

It also seems to miss out on ships launched from ordinary on capture. I'm not particularly convinced by the numbers of the site in general, it seems to fall apart a little bit under closer examination.

I will drop these charts again to compare to the Sailing warships link, the numbers reflect the British Fleet over the years given.

 

First Rates In Service In Ordinary/Repairing Total
1793 1 4 5
1796 6 0 6
1799 4 2 6
1801 4 2 6
1805 6 1 7
1808 4 2 6
1811 5 2 7
1814 7 0 7
1815 0 8 8


Second Rates In Service In Ordinary/Repairing Total
1793 4 12 16
1796 16 0 16
1799 15 2 17
1801 14 2 16
1805 11 3 14
1808 7 4 11
1811 8 4 12
1814 5 3 8
1815 2 5 7

80 Gun Ships of the Line In Service In Ordinary/Repairing Total
1793 0 1 1
1796 5 0 5
1799 6 1 7
1801 5 3 8
1805 4 2 6
1808 7 0 7
1811 6 1 7
1814 1 4 5

 

74 Ship of the Line In Service In Ordinary/Repairing Total   Large 74 Ship of the Line In Service In Ordinary/Repairing Total
1793 18 40 58   1793 1 2 3
1796 48 8 56   1796 6 2 8
1799 41 8 49   1799 17 3 20
1801 39 11 50   1801 17 3 20
1805 30 13 43   1805 19 5 24
1808 47 4 51   1808 29 1 30
1811 56 6 62   1811 24 4 28
1814 64 3 67   1814 21 9 30

64 Ship of the Line In Service In Ordinary/Repairing Total
1793 2 28 30
1797 28 2 30
1799 22 4 26
1801 21 6 27
1804 8 12 20
1808 19 2 21
1810 11 1 12
1811 9 0 9
1814 1 0 1

50 Gun Ships In Service In Ordinary/Repairing Total
1793 7 5 12
1797 10 2 12
1799 10 0 10
1801 9 1 10
1804 7 3 10
1808 9 0 9
1810 7 0 7
1812 4 1 5
1814 2 2 4

Total Ships in Service First Rates Second Rates 80 guns 74 guns 74 guns (Large) 64 Guns 50 Guns
1793 5 16 1 58 3 30 12
1794              
1795              
1796 6 16 5 56 8    
1797           30 12
1799 6 17 7 49 20 26 10
1801 6 16 8 50 20 27 10
1804           20 10
1805 7 14 6 43 24    
1808 6 11 7 51 30 21 9
1810           12 7
1811 7 12 7 62 28 9  
1812             5
1814 7 8 5 67 30 1 4
1815 8 7          
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4 hours ago, Yngvarr said:

Here's your list with 1-2 rates for England

http://felipe.mbnet.fi/html/_1___2_rates.html

 

I can only work with the information available to me...

 You can also please follow the rules I set in the original post instead of fobbing off because you don't feel like putting the effort in.  Expand on your views or don't bother posting.  This is an educational thread, not a place to just throw numbers and expect it to be said and done.

@Hethwill As to what navies count, I leave that up to whoever decides to post here, if you feel Canada's privateers deserve a mention, go for it.  I am looking for organized country navies within the time period though.  Organized, and recognized countries*.

*some countries weren't recognized globally I know, but if recognized by two or more of the major European powers, I would consider them recognized.

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You can also please follow the rules I set in the original post instead of fobbing off because you don't feel like putting the effort in.  Expand on your views or don't bother posting.  This is an educational thread, not a place to just throw numbers and expect it to be said and done.

How on earth is anyone supposed to offer an informed opinion without having data? I'm pretty sure none of us knew those numbers off the tops of our heads, and I wasn't about to spend all afternoon researching it.

At the very least it had demonstrated how weak the French navy was before 1730, opening up the second-place category somewhat.

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The Athenians had the best Navy ever.

('ever' covers 'the Game's Timeline', right ?)

(Sorry, Sella22, but...)

(no need of data, right ?)

Edited by LeBoiteux
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i find this an interesting topic and ill gladly participate in the next few days to set argue the dutch position on this list.

Yet in the meantime i would like to set a you a challenge by asking you to post your thoughts. How do you personally see this top 10 list being filled?

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3 hours ago, maturin said:

How on earth is anyone supposed to offer an informed opinion without having data? I'm pretty sure none of us knew those numbers off the tops of our heads, and I wasn't about to spend all afternoon researching it.

At the very least it had demonstrated how weak the French navy was before 1730, opening up the second-place category somewhat.

Don't be insufferable maturin, you're better than that.  I'm looking for essay style answers, not a "here's a link and that's my answer" kind of post.

Let's modify the topic here and remove Britain, France, and Spain from the equation.  How would you rank the nations that follow those three?

 

@SteelSandwich  I'll post tomorrow probably, been a crazy week focusing on my rt.

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This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer, in part due to the fact the game's timeline is roughly 120 years, do you argue about peak ability of navies, average or specific points? The sensible option would probably be to divide the time period up into 3 or 4 parts, depending on whether you are covering the 18th and early 19th or just the 18th, because in my mind at least how naval power operates pre and post Trafalgar is quite significant but in general the whole 18th and 19th century are such a dramatic change as major powers get relegated to secondary status and there is a clear winner in general. The idea gets more interesting as you go further down the list, as the top 5 are fairly clear to me and pretty easy to rank on the whole, although this still looks pretty vague but this is likely due to how open the time period is. Its also important to remember that raw numbers aren't the be all and end all of this, as has been pointed out above, seamanship is important, as are the economic ability to build supply and support a navy, manpower to actually crew it and how effective it is at effective coverage of the maritime assets its meant to protect.

In order to give a rough understanding of how I see things I will attempt to list a rough ranking order, although its very difficult to actually give significant ordering, especially the lower down the ranking you go because some navies punch well above their weight others punch under, but its also important to remember that its incredibly rare to see large fleet battles having more than around 30 ships a piece.
 

  1.  Britain:
    There isn't really much doubt about this, they have a strong economy, manpower, technology and shipbuilding facilities, they are the clear "winner" of the period and once they start playing about with having enough large ships to out number the next two strongest navies combined there is no question really, especially as they tended to have a much quicker maintenance than other navies so could operate more ships more of the time delivering a more effective fleet. Britain's main issues were caused by timber shortage and covering such a wide area.
  2. France:
    While France spent the majority of the 17th century almost unchallenged and its quite clear that they were in the second spot for the vast majority of the 18th century, while they offer some great production facilities and some of the most progressive architecture going, their fleet was large and they enjoyed slightly tighter overseas possessions, so could offer better coverage. Its a shame that the political instability of the 1770s-1800s saw the French with supply and seamanship issues despite it being a period where they are slowly building some of the most iconic designs.
  3. Spain:
    Spain is another fairly strong showing, where they are fairly consistent throughout the period even through a lot of political turmoil, offering a consistently strong navy, while their ships aren't as numerous as some of the nations I will put below them they do keep up with technology much better through their own advancements, taking on innovations from captures from Britain and France, they also have a strong working relationship with the Genovese which helped boost them up a little. They also make the most of their new world resources to keep up with nations who were more blessed with local resources.
  4. Russia:
    The Russian navy is perhaps one of the more underrated of the groups, often not thought about but full of some incredibly large and powerful ships, they also enjoyed almost limitless timber supplies and resources in general, which they used to their advantage, building some impressively huge ships and arming them with monstrous guns. The main issue for Russia is fairly clear being that their fleet was split between their 3 coastlines, whilst also being fairly limited in their ability to break out of these areas due to the natural choke points involved without major upset to the local powers making them fairly vulnerable. Russia also suffered some fairly significant technological disadvantages, if it wasn't for these issues they would easily be in 3rd place over Spain.
  5. Ottomans:
    The Ottomans are another one who are fairly underestimated, they had some fairly impressive naval facilities such as their grand arsenals of Gallipoli and Istanbul which were larger and just as capable as most European shipyards. Their fleet was huge, and they frequently built some of the largest ships in existence. They also had the advantage of having overlordship over the powerful Barbary nations, who could offer them better seamen than were available in their own lands but also cause a great strain to shipping with limited diplomatic strain pushed back on themselves. Ottoman's also armed their ships with some massive guns, involved in a minor poundage arms race with Russia, although similarly to Russia they suffered poor technology, and often poorly made ships preferring expendable greenwood creations over properly seasoned wood.
  6. The Netherlands:
    The its no real dispute that the position of the Netherlands changed dramatically over the course of the 18th Century, starting out as one of the strongest contenders they declined fairly heavily due to a mix of issues such as foreign powers becoming jealous of the wealth of the Dutch and especially the VoC, troubles with their timber supplies becoming more unreliable however they maintain a strong position of 6th mainly due to the fact their strong performance during the first half of the 17th century, although the Dutch still kept a strong position over the 2nd half too, managing to keep hold of significant trade possessions. I'm sure Steelsandwich will cover The Netherlands in more detail.
  7.  Portugal
    The Portuguese seem to be a fairly solid 7th position, consistently outputting a fairly strong remnant navy although it was really the case that their alliance with Britain was what kept them in a strong position able to, they are the first on this list to not have built a 1st rate warship at some point over the period given. Their strong trade prowess and mercantile fleet leave them in a nice position respectively, although their hands became somewhat tied looking after their massive south American colony of what is now Brazil.
  8. Denmark-Norway
    Denmark-Norway represent a fairly interesting step here, they are notably quite a lot stronger than those below them, having strong seafaring traditions and large ships but being a noticeable step down from those above them, they are probably the first and strongest of the secondary powers and while I'm not too clear on how time affected them they do seem fairly consistently as a strong power, able to maintain a good defensive fleet and control inflow and outflow into the Baltic sea.
  9. Venice:
    It was hard to place 9th and 10th positions, partly because I'm not too clear over Sweden, both nations consistantly punch above their weight effectively challenging much larger naval powers, however I feel like Venice edge ahead of the Swedish. I would put Venice here on account of their incredible seamanship, while the Venetian life at sea wasn't quite the same as it was in the 13th and 14th century there was still a significant marine lifestyle as you would expect in what is basically a floating city, Venetian sailors were much prized in European fleets, taking part as experienced crew in foreign navies. Venice also have their huge advantage, the Venetian arsenal, which although a shadow of its former self by the 18th century it could still easily outperform any other shipyard in the world should the finances be made available. Venice also had a significant advantage over other nations when it comes to Venetian guns, able to comfortably outperform even British cannons. While the Venetian operating fleet was relatively small, they did keep a significant portion of naval power in ordinary, sitting well preserved in the roofed slips of the Arsenal leaving them protected from weather for long periods of time ready to be launched at the drop of a hat. They also had a very strong timber supply from the state woodlands in Montello which was also supplemented with wood and other resources from Istria and Dalmatia. Its also somewhat hard to place Venice in some respects as they developed their own technology quite independently to other European nations, leaving them with some interesting quirks in their architecture and tactics. Its also worth noting that the Venetian state's desire to solve problems through diplomacy rather than warfare caused interesting dynamics into the naval funding, alongside the fact the Venetian government were reluctant to construct or maintain ships beyond 70 guns, preferring to use shock tactics over the more traditional line of battle.
  10. Sweden:
    As I explained just above the 9th and 10th position was very tight for me, I have hopefully delivered as unbiased an account as I could, but there is no doubt that Venice and Sweden are comfortably competing for these two positions together. Sweden benefits from some impressive history, and a strong fleet, with a great level of technology and history built on the blood spilt with the Russians, again I don't know a huge amount about the Swedes but its very obvious they managed to field some strong ships, and were able to adapt and combat the stronger Russian fleet through technological and tactical ability.

There is my top 10 anyway, I hope that is more along the lines of what you wanted from the topic, please feel free to expand or criticise the points I have made, I'm certainly no expert on the majority of the navies I have discussed here so if someone knows better please do correct me. :)

Edited by Fluffy Fishy
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Off topic

I wouldn't be surprised if the French, Dutch or British East India Companies would come somewhere on that list they may not have fielded SOLs but they had a ridiculous amount of armed ships.

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