WesterosCraft Guide To Authentic Canon Ship Building
First are foremost, when building any ship in WesterosCraft you must first ask yourself this question, “For what will this ship be used for?”
Known uses for ships:
- Raider/pirate vessels
- Trading/cargo ships
Now, let us get a bit of nautical facts out of the way first, shall we? A ship is not a boat. A boat is not a ship. These words mean completely different things. Do not confuse them merely because they both float on water, for they are used for, and can me found in, entirely differences places and things. There are boats used for other purposes than those above, river ferries, rafts, gigs, just to name a few. Ships travel oceans. Boats travel rivers, lakes, or shorelines of oceans. And on a completely unrelated subject, seamen are verteran shipgoing crew. People who primarily dwell on land are landsmen. Hence the terms: seamen and landsmen. A typical seaman will look at a landsman in scorn for not understanding their nautical ways. Snickering at the word seamen for how it sounds reveals how much of a landsman you are.
Starboard is the right side of a ship.
Port is the left side of a ship. An antiquated term for the left was Larboard side, which was phased out due to it being so easily confused with the word “starboard” during a storm or battle when there was lots of noise.
Now that we’ve picked a ship use and gotten some basic knowledge out of the way, let us decide what type of ship it is to be. There are six categories of ships:
- Swan Ships
Larger than boats that are primarily powered by oars. They are used for warfare, trade, and piracy. Due to their low setting, they are primarily coastal ships. They prefer to stay near shore, near islands, or in otherwise shallow water than can protect them from the large, harsh waves that are found in deeper ocean water. Their large rowing crews make them highly manueverable and fast, but also require frequent stops for food and water. Most galleys also have supplimental sails to replace or augment the effort of rowers, particularly during larger journeys. The ability to travel swiftly without direction or strength of the wind became invaluable during daylight expeditions across open water. Real-life, practical upper limit for a galley fast and manueverable enough for warfare was around 25–50 oars per side. By adding other levels of oars (2, 3 or 4 decks) the galley could be made shorter with as many rowers, while making them strong enough to be effective at ramming. General Gally information. Types of galleys: Trireme, Bireme, See the “Heavy Warships” section of this article for others.
A smaller type of Galley, primarily used by the Ironborn. They are long, narrow, light wooden ships with a shallow-draft hull designed for speed. The ship’s shallow draft allowed navigation in waters only one meter deep and permitted beach landings, while its light weight allowed it to be carried over portages. Longships were double ended, with a symmetrical bow and stern allowing the ship to reverse direction quickly without having to turn around. This trait proved particularly useful in the northern lattitudes where icebergs and sea ice posed as navigation hazards. Longships were fitted with oars along almost the entire length of the boat itself. Later versions sported a rectangular sail on a single mast which was used to replace or augment the effort of the rowers, particularly during long journeys. GRRM has compared them to viking longboats. More information on Longships
Mostly propelled by sails and thus are at the whims of the wind. Can travel into deeper water and rough seas. Greater cargo capacity allows for trading and generally more storage to allow for longer voyages. More information on Cogs.
Large ocean-going vessels. Stable in heavy seas and roomy enough to carry provisions for longer voyages. Carracks have three masts and square sales.
These ships are called Swan Ships within the Seven Kingdoms for their great white sails and figureheads which are often carved in the shape of birds. They are very large ocean-going vessels designed and built in the Summer Islands. With a steady wind on the open sea, they can outrun any galley. They have high-masts and high forecastles.
Ships are constantly used in small skirmishes and we have seen full scale naval engagements, for example: Battle of Fair Isle, Battle of the Blackwater. They are also used for raiding, for lords whose lands reside near the coast might need to maintain war galley to defend against piracy, however it would be up to the major houses to deal with anything larger such as the Ironborn raids encountered during the War of the Five Kings. Ship are also use for support roles such as providing provision, transporting troops etc.
The basic tactic of naval battles is to get the your ships close enough to ram the other ship and then board her and fight the rest of the battle on the deck. Up until they close longbows and crossbows can be used and sometimes siege weapons considering few of the biggest War Galley’s.
The three types of ships mainly used for warfare in Westers are Longships, War Galleys, and Swan ships:
Longships - Used as fast raiding vessels. They attack other ships or towns or cities near the shore. They can travel twice as fast as a merchant cog and carry up to 1,000 men. Specifically, a hundred foot long Longship would have about fifty oarsmen and room for about 100 men on deck.
War Galley - Larger than a normal galley and carries more tonnage as a result of being equipped with siege weapons like a ballista or catapult. Has a larger compliment of oarsmen and soliders on board. The standard tactic these ships employ is to disable the opposing ship’ sails, ram, and then board. They are presumably the kind of ship that GRRM has compared to the Veetian/Byzantine “dromonds of war”.
Swan Ship - Known to have “red archers” companies that help to defent the vessel from attack. Women are known to serve on swan ships and can even command the “red archers”. source
As I look at various ships across Westeros, I see many ships that have been built with incorrect sails. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Ships either have one, two or three masts. Only Cogs, Carracks, Swan Ships or Whalers should have 3 masts, with the smaller ones having 2. Gallyes and Longships should have, at most 2 masts. Under no circumstances should a ship have 4 masts. Four masted ships are modern sailing vessels that did not come about until the 18th century. They were the pinnacle of modern sailing technology just prior to sailing ships being replaced with steam vessels. It is completely unrealistic for medeival sailing technology of what would be about in Westeros to have four masted vessels. Additional info on information about masts.
- A square-rigged sailing vessel should not have both square sales and triangle sales off of the same mast. Saling spars (the cross part of a mast) are made to swing 45–60 degrees, horizontally, depending on the angle of the wind. To also carry a triangle sail on the same mast perpendicular to those square sales is like attaching two car engines to a car and having one enegine push forward while one pushes sideways. It just doesn’t make sense. Don’t do it. It may look pretty, but to anyone who knows anything about sailing it looks ridiculous. Like a Cowboy in a western with a ninja sword. Or people in a Star Wars movie wearing Star Trek uniforms. Do. Not. Do. It.
- A good rule of thumb is that if a ship has a triangle sail on its Main Mast then all the sales on that vessel should be triangle. There is a notable exception to this rule, however, with square-rigged saling ships. Those ships will often have a single triangle sail at the fore of the ship, running from the foremast to the end of the Bowsprit. These sails are classified as Headsails but depending on the vessel type and rig of the ship, may be also called staysails, forestaysails or jibs.
In general, Wikipedia has the most awesomest, bestest evar™ article on sail plans. Please refer to the bottom half of the article as well as it contains a good list of examples of different sailing rigs depending on vessel types. Please note that most of those ship types are not found in Westeros, but it will give you a good idea of the types of sails different types of ships had. Additionally, most small vessels are triangle-rigged whereas larger vessels are square-rigged. This isn’t merely a design choice, but instead is because of how the physics of the wind works. Note that Swan Ships and Carracks of Westeros should follow the “Fully Rigged Ship” sail plan as listed there.
What Types Of Things Can I Build On My Ship?
I thought that a section of items and features commonly found on ships would be a good resource for builders to augment their ship with more details. Most of these things can be found on all ship types, with notable exceptions being some of the decks, masts, etc on smaller ships of course. Use your judgement and the rest of the knowledge within this document to determine whether a Longship, for instance, should have 3 masts, a quarter desk and forecastle (hint: it shouldn’t).
Other Useful General Knowledge
Sources for A Song of Ice and Fire Sailing/Ships Knowledge
Please note that anytime I quoted real-world sailing or ship knowledge, I’ve already linked to its source above within this document. These sources are specifically where I obtained Westeros-related information. I anticipate that some people may feel that we should be able to take liberty when there are insufficient details, and are unable to find specific information within the books or HBO shows to answer our questions. I feel that we should fill in those gaps with real-world sailing knowledge because I think that, despite being a fictional fantasy series, I highly doubt GRRM has intended to redefine the laws of physics to come up with different mechanisms for the wind to work. If physics dicatated vessels to have been built in a certain within the real world, and there isn’t any information to be found within the books to contradict it, we should fill those information gaps with the knowledge I’ve listed here.
With that being said, I am extremely wary that I’ve probably made many typos, or have misstated facts within this document. If you notice misspellings, typos, or just blatantly incorrect information that you know to be otherwise, please let me know. I consider this a living document and welcome feedback and tweaks. However, if you do have change requests, please have sources to back those up.