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Historical ship development


Rob

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Hi,

 

I am very interested in the development of the shape of a ship hull between 1600-1800. I have been searching the internet but cant seem to find what i want. I will sum up some question and i hope someone can help me. Wouldnt it be interesting to discuss this topic?

 

1. How did the shape of the bow, hull and stern develop in this period?

2. What are the most common design for ships in that period? and not just for ship of the line or frigates but for all open water vessels.

3. What does i certain shape mean for the perfomance? What are the advantages and disadvantage of certain designs?

 

I hope this will start a discussion, because i cant be the only one interested in this.  ;)

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I know very little about 1600-1700, but I know there are lots of great books out there. Somewhere on the internets (piratesahoy.com at some point), there is a guy named modernknight1 who seems to know a lot. Marion von Ghent of PotBS fame as well. Both briefly registered here.

(My, what a dreadfully internet-age approach to research.)

 

 

It's my impression that the lines of the bow and stern were very sharp in the 16th and 17th centuries, because most ships still carried rather light armament. Heavily-armed warships had to start walking back from that a little, as the turn of the 18th century came around. From that point on, it can certainly be said that ships got continually longer, as did the length:beam ratio. And the beakhead bulkhead gave way to the round bow, the square-tuck turn transitioned to round-tuck construction etc.

 

I recommend borrowing every book by Robert Gardiner. He has a book on frigates illustrated entirely by models, which is devoted entirely to chronological development.

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Ditto on Gardiner - also some of the Conway Maritime Press titles and of course Harland - "Seamanship in the age of Sail" . "Line of Battle" is a good one:

 

http://www.alibris.com/The-Line-of-Battle-The-Sailing-Warship-1650-1840-Conway-Maritime-Press/book/3953495

 

 

Some of the Osprey titles may help as well, but really only for an overview.

 

Here is another suggestion:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Dutch-Warships-Age-Sail-1600-1714/dp/1848321570/ref=pd_sim_14_47?ie=UTF8&dpID=616nxcaDcJL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR136%2C160_&refRID=082Q4TG1ER2VMS13KE11

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There was no real developement in hull shape  other than the small changes maturin already mentioned. There were (almost) V-shaped hulls, round hull shapes and everything in between at the beginning of the 18th century and at the end. Ship design was a trial and error affair and depended very much on the experience and talent of the shipwright in question. Very few shipwrights managed to produce good all-round performers (e.g. Pangalo, Slade, Landa, Sané)

 

The biggest improvements in the 18th century were the abilty to accurately calculate displacement  - the first known shipwright to do this was Blaise Ollivier in the 1720s using  trapezoids and a detailed list with the weights of the fittings, masts, etc. - reducing the need to girdle ships after launch and the 'discovery' of the concept of the meta center (Euler and Brouguer, both mathematicians). The next step came with af Chapman and his parabola method, which made it possible to calculate displacement after the length and breadth had been determined but before the actual plan was drawn - and it guaranteed good sailing characteristics  (see p.3, Systematische Untersuchung der Hydrodynamik historischer Großsegler, Böndel)

 

For a more in-depth reading I´d recommend:

 

Ships and Sciene: The Birth of Naval Architecture in the 18th Century, Ferreiro

The History of the French Frigate, Boudriot

The First Frigates, Gardiner

Enstehung, Entwicklung, Dokumentation und Vergleich der Achtzehnpfünder-Fregatten aus Großbritannien, Frankreich und den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika, Böndel

F. H. af Chapman: The First Naval Architect and His Work, Harris

Ships and Shipbuilders: Pioneers of Design and Construction, Walker

 

there is a guy named modernknight1 who seems to know a lot.

 

 

MK has his own site, buccaneersreef.com

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I am thinking about buying some of those books, i had a look at them and the seem very good. I already knew there where no reall development, and that it was mostly a trial and error process in the early days. But there had to be some theories right? I know i sound like i dont know anything, and that is true :) I want to learn about stuff from that period. I am mostly interested in early 1600 to 1700.

 

For example, what if you needed to build a merchantman. and not just any. But one that could cary a fair amount of goods and it had to be the fastest in the world. What would be the theory behind building such a ship?(beam-to-lenght, draft, shape)

 

Does anyone have some good historical digital readings about this subject? I have difficulty in finding anything because english is not my first language, and nautical slang is everywhere.

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For example, what if you needed to build a merchantman. and not just any. But one that could cary a fair amount of goods and it had to be the fastest in the world. What would be the theory behind building such a ship?(beam-to-lenght, draft, shape)

See the thread for the Farqueson (sp?) in this subforum.

 

If you want speed and capacity without heavy armament, you build it as long as possible, with less beam than a warship of similar length. You retain the flat or gently-rising floors of a ship of the line, since a more V-shaped hull would reduce capacity.

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Later period: Frigate built was popular. Just adjust height in hold to an integer height of the standard cargo intended (sugar, tea would have different heights and need different ships for efficient carriage, so east and west indiamen were built differently.

Frigates where used earlier, just not so popular in the british navy. Very common in the french and dutch navy. At least that is what i know from my research.

Interesting difference between east and west indiamen, didnt know that.

 

A more v-shaped hull wouldnt necessarily reduce capacity, it will if you keep the same depth inside the ship. But a more v-shaped hull will improve the handling in open seas. I think a more flatter bottom would mean that the ride woud be very rough. I am right on this?

 

I have another question; Why did most ships from that period have a very round bow? Why didnt they use a sharper bow, that would improve speed, right? Or is the construction of a sharper bow harder?

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A ship with a very sharp bow - and a fine run -  could be fast in a calm sea, but loose speed dramatically in heavy weather due to deep pitching motions.

A good example for this is La Renommée: maybe the fastest ship in the the 1740s/early 1750s in good weather but abysmal in anything above a topgallant gale.

 

But a more v-shaped hull will improve the handling in open seas. I think a more flatter bottom would mean that the ride woud be very rough. I am right on this?

 

 

Not necessarily. Forfait´s Seine- and Gloire-class had very similiar sailing characteristics compared to the hexagonal designs by Sané.

The hull shape alone played only a small part in the overall performance of a sailing ship. Slade´s Niger-class had a very modest length-to-breadth ratio of 3.5 and a 'plumb' hull but was one of the best all-round frigate designs of the 18th century. It certainly was one of the fastest.

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I have another question; Why did most ships from that period have a very round bow? Why didnt they use a sharper bow, that would improve speed, right? Or is the construction of a sharper bow harder?

Why coyly avoiding any generalizations, my dad the naval architect pointed out that the smallest surface area for any given volume is a sphere.

 

Also, a round bow provides that all-important buoyancy. And that's significant not just for decelerating by pitching, but for keeping seawater where it belongs. Sharp ships were especially sensitive to weight carried near the ends (guns), which could make them vulnerable to hogging.

 

 

La Renommée: maybe the fastest ship in the the 1740s/early 1750s

Malachi, there's something bothering me about ships before 1760.

 

Given that short frigates like Renommee and Niger claimed 14 knots, and some even claim 13 knots for the Whydah galley, is it possible that the knot was measured differently?

Robert Gardiner claims that the British used a log line that was too short, resulting in exaggerations of over 10%. I have come to disbelieve this given the excellent performance of modern replica vessels like Rose and Hermione. 

However, I also read that the length of the nautical mile changes in the 1760s, due to better measurements of the Earth's dimensions. Isn't it plausible that older knot values are inflated due to the shorter nautical mile? Or wouldn't everything be measured in fathoms anyhow, with no attention paid to how it all added up?

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Also, a round bow provides that all-important buoyancy. And that's significant not just for decelerating by pitching, but for keeping seawater where it belongs. Sharp ships were especially sensitive to weight carried near the ends (guns), which could make them vulnerable to hogging.

Never thought about it this way, so that must be why they preferred a round bow. Also considering that the North sea and most parts of the Atlantic ocean are quite rough seas, that is probably the reason for the sturdy design.

 

I should really buy some books about this and just read my little bits of spare time away. :)

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Malachi, there's something bothering me about ships before 1760.

 

Given that short frigates like Renommee and Niger claimed 14 knots, and some even claim 13 knots for the Whydah galley, is it possible that the knot was measured differently?

Robert Gardiner claims that the British used a log line that was too short, resulting in exaggerations of over 10%. I have come to disbelieve this given the excellent performance of modern replica vessels like Rose and Hermione. 

However, I also read that the length of the nautical mile changes in the 1760s, due to better measurements of the Earth's dimensions. Isn't it plausible that older knot values are inflated due to the shorter nautical mile? Or wouldn't everything be measured in fathoms anyhow, with no attention paid to how it all added up?

 

 

 

Well, that´s a very good question. One plausible explanation of the good performance of modern replicas is the quality of the sails and rigging, probably much better than what they had in the 18th century. And the use of high quality materials in general and much more time to build (in contrast to hastened production during wartimes, often with unseasoned timbers, unsufficient maintenance due to lack of funds etc). 

 

And one could most probably write a thesis about how knots were measured in different countries at different times :P

 

By the way, the 'official' best speed for La Renommée  - at least according to Gardiner - was 13 knots before the wind and 8 - 9 knots close-hauled. I´d love to know where Boudriot got his 11 knots close-hauled (p.83, History of the French Frigate) from.

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I remember reading years ago about when I believe it was Francis Drake who raided the spanish in Cadiz in 1587 to delay and damage the Armada building there. The interesting thing was discussion of his ship Ark Royal. She was too broad for her length having a 3:1 ratio. I guess an experimental design leading to the 'race built' galleons.

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