Why Were Medieval Ships Unsuited for Long Distance Voyages

Why Were Medieval Ships Unsuited for Long Distance Voyages.

The ships of Medieval Europe were powered by canvass, oar, or both. There was a large diversity, mostly based on much older, conservative designs. Although wider and more frequent communications within Europe meant exposure to a variety of improvements, experimental failures were costly and rarely attempted. Ships in the north were influenced by Viking vessels, while those in the south by classical or Roman vessels. However, there was technological change. The different traditions used dissimilar structure methods; clinker in the north, carvel in the south. By the finish of the period, carvel construction would come to dominate the building of large ships. The period would also see a shift from the steering oar or side rudder to the stern rudder and the evolution from single-masted to multi-masted ships. As the expanse is connected by h2o, people in the Mediterranean built different kinds of ships to adjust different sea levels and climates. Within the Mediterranean surface area during the Medieval times ships were used for a multitude of reasons, similar war, trade, and exploration.

Sailing ships


Early on Eye Ages




The knarr, a relative of the longship, was a blazon of cargo vessel used by the Vikings. It differed from the longship in that it was larger and relied almost entirely on its square-rigged sail for propulsion.

High Middle Ages




Cogs were single-masted vessels, clinker-built with steep sides and a flat bottom

Although the proper noun “cog” is recorded as early equally the ninth century,[ii]
the seagoing vessel of that name seems to have evolved on the Western frisian coast during the 14th century.[iii]
Cogs progressively replaced Viking-type ships in Northern waters during the 13th century. Why this was the case is uncertain but cogs could carry more cargo than knarr of a similar size. Their flat bottoms allowed them to settle flat in the harbor, making them easier to load and unload. Their high sides made them more difficult to board in a sea-fight, which may have made them safer from pirates.[4]

Cogs were likewise used as military transports and warships, fitted with towers fore and aft.

The cog traditionally reached the Mediterranean in 1304. This led to a Mediterranean variant, the



hulc) is outset recorded in the 10th century, when it is distinguished from a keel (OE:
ceol), a ship in keeled longship tradition such as the knarr. Although clinker-congenital, the distinguishing feature of hulks was that they had no stem or stern posts or deep keel, being flat-bottomed like a cog. Early images of hulks show them strongly curved upwards at stem and stern.[vi]

Hulks continued to be mentioned in utilise throughout the Eye Ages and into the 16th century when information technology is especially associated with the Baltic and the Hanseatic League. These late hulks could be as big every bit contemporary great ships.
Jesus of Lübeck
of 1544 was a ship of 700 long tons (780 short tons; 710 t), the same as the
Mary Rose.[seven]
However, how similar later medieval hulks were to their ancestors is unknown. At that place is some evidence of hybridization with the cog course, showing both hulk and post-construction.[viii]
Others have suggested that belatedly hulks were partially carvel-built.[9]

Belatedly Heart Ages




Caravela Latina / Lateen-rigged caravel

The caravel was a ship developed by the Portuguese and used from the 15th century on for oceanic exploration voyages. Different the longship and cog, information technology used a carvel method of construction. It could be either square rigged and lateen rigged (Caravela Redonda) or only lateen rigged (Caravela Latina). The near famous examples of caravels were the
and the



The carrack was a ship blazon invented in southern Europe in the 15th century and particularly developed in Portugal in the aforementioned century. It was a larger vessel than the caravel. Columbus’southward transport, the Santa María was a famous case of a carrack. The ships allowable by Vasco da Gama as the São Gabriel, with six sails, a bowsprit, foresail, mizzen, spritsail and two topsails, already had the consummate features and the design of the typical carrack.

Pocket-sized vessels


A number of smaller vessels are named in English sources of the Belatedly Middle Ages, some of which continued into the 16th century and beyond.



A vessel of 20-50 tons, used largely on the cantankerous-channel merchandise.[10]



The hoy originated in Flemish region in the 15th century. A single-masted vessel usually of 25–80 long tons (28–90 short tons; 25–81 t) used a coaster or on short sea routes, as well as a lighter. The blazon would evolve in the 16th and 17th, just finally disappearing in the early 19th century.[11]



First recorded in the 1320s, the picard was a unmarried-masted vessel of 10–40 tons used mainly equally support vessel for fishing fleets, bringing domicile their catches and ferrying supplies, or equally a lighter, loading from vessels at anchor and discharging onto beaches or shallow creeks. A widespread type, in utilize from Scotland, all round the English declension and across in Ireland.[12]

Oared ships


Early Middle Ages




Galleys had been in apply for trade and warfare since at to the lowest degree the 8th century BC and remained in apply throughout the Middle Ages. Rowing was the chief method of propulsion, which was well-suited for frequently-fickle winds of the Mediterranean where they were primarily used. The galley was as well used in the waters of Northern Europe, but to a lesser extent since its low freeboard and lack of stability in rough seas made information technology vulnerable. During the years 1150-1350, later the Second Crusade, the Mediterranean witnessed an economic boom known as the Commercial Revolution. To proceed upward with trade, transport building increased as well. Italian urban center-states like Venice constructed ships like the galley. By the thirteenth century the galley was able to hold about 500 metric tons (490 long tons; 550 short tons) and was nearly 130 feet (xl m) long.[13]



The longship was a type of transport that was adult over a period of centuries and perfected by its most famous user, the Vikings, in approximately the 9th century. The ships were clinker-built, utilizing overlapping wooden strakes.

High Middle Ages




The balinger was a clinker-built oared vessel, initially with a single mast, merely in the 15th century larger vessels had a 2nd mast. They were usually pocket-size vessels of 40–60 long tons (45–67 brusk tons; 41–61 t) but larger vessels of up to 120 long tons (130 brusk tons; 120 t) are recorded. Balingers were popular in the Bay of Biscay and English Channel and were used both for merchandise and warfare. Fast and with the flexibility of oars and sails for propulsion, they were commonly used by pirates.[14]

Late Middle Ages




In the waters off the west of Scotland between 1263 and 1500, the Lords of the Isles used galleys both for warfare and for transport around their maritime domain, which included the due west coast of the Scottish Highlands, the Hebrides, and Antrim in Republic of ireland. They employed these ships for bounding main-battles and for attacking castles or forts built close to the sea. Every bit a feudal superior, the Lord of the Isles required the service of a specified number and size of galleys from each holding of land. For examples the Isle of man had to provide half dozen galleys of 26 oars, and Sleat in Skye had to provide one xviii-oar galley.

Carvings of galleys on tombstones from 1350 onward testify the construction of these ships. From the 14th century they abandoned a steering-oar in favour of a stern rudder, with a straight stern to suit. From a document of 1624, a galley proper would have xviii to 24 oars, a birlinn 12 to 18 oars and a lymphad fewer still.

See too


  • Equus caballus transports in the Heart Ages
  • Byzantine navy



  1. ^

    Mcgrail (1981), p.36

  2. ^

    Mcgrail, 1981, p.36

  3. ^

    Crumlin Pederson (2000)

  4. ^

    Mcgrail (1981), p.38

  5. ^

    Bass (1972), p.190

  6. ^

    McGrail (1981) pp 38-forty

  7. ^

    Davies (2005), p.94

  8. ^

    Friel (1995), p37

  9. ^

    Davies (2005), p. twenty

  10. ^

    McGowan (1981), p.33

  11. ^

    McGowan (1981), pp35-7

  12. ^

    McGowan (1981), p33-4

  13. ^

    O’Connell, Monique (2016).
    The Mediterranean globe : from the fall of Rome to the rise of Napoleon. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN978-1-4214-1901-5. OCLC 1047614281.

  14. ^

    Rose (2013) pp71-two

General references


  • Bass, George F. 1972.
    A History of Seafaring: Based on Underwater Archæology
    . Thames and Hudson Ltd, ISBN 0-500-01077-3
  • Crumlin-Pedersen, O. (2000). “To be or non to exist a cog: the Bremen Cog in Perspective”.
    International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
    29.two: pp. 230–246
  • Davies, Jonathan (2005).
    The Rex’s Ships. Leigh-on-Sea, Essex: Partizan Printing. ISBN1-85818-547-5.

  • Friel, Ian (1995).
    The Good Send. London: British Museum Press. ISBN0-7141-0574-0.

  • McGowan, Alan (1981).

    Tiller and Whipstaff:The development of the Sailing Ship 1400-1700
    . London: National maritime Museum. ISBN0-11-290313-4.

  • McGrail, Sean (1981).

    Rafts, Boats and Ships
    . London: National Maritime Museum. ISBN0-11-290312-6.

  • Rose, Susan (2013).
    England’s Medieval Navy 1066-1509. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’south University Press. ISBN9780773543225.

  • O’Connell, Monique; Dursteler, Eric R. (2016).
    The Mediterranean globe: from the fall of Rome to the rise of Napoleon. Johns Hopkins University Printing. p. 133. ISBN978-1-4214-1901-5. OCLC 1047614281.

Further reading


  • Flatman, Joe (2009).
    Ships and Shipping in Medieval Manuscripts. British Library Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7123-4960-four
  • Hutchinson, Gillian (1994).
    Medieval Ships and Shipping. London: Leicester Academy Printing, ISBN 978-0-7185-0117-4
  • South. McGrail: “Medieval boats, ships, landing places” in Waterfront archeology in Britain and Northern Europe, pp. 17–23, Council for British Archæology, 1981.
  • Gardiner, R & Unger, Richard W. (1994).
    Cogs, Caravels, and Galleons. Conway Maritime Printing, ISBN i-55750-124-6
  • McGrail, Sean (March 28, 2002).
    Boats of the world from the Stone Historic period to Medieval times. Oxford Academy Press. pp. 88–164. ISBN9780199271863. OCLC 1120663729.

External links


  • Nordic Underwater Archeology

Why Were Medieval Ships Unsuited for Long Distance Voyages

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_ships