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Caravel

Caravel

Overview
A caravel is a small, highly maneuverable sailing
Sailing
Sailing is the propulsion of a vehicle and the control of its movement with large foils called sails. By changing the rigging, rudder, and sometimes the keel or centre board, a sailor manages the force of the wind on the sails in order to move the boat relative to its surrounding medium and...

 ship
Ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

 developed in the 15th century by the Portuguese
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 to explore along the West African coast and into the Atlantic Ocean. The lateen
Lateen
A lateen or latin-rig is a triangular sail set on a long yard mounted at an angle on the mast, and running in a fore-and-aft direction....

 sails gave her speed and the capacity for sailing to windward (beating). Caravels were much used by the Portuguese for the oceanic exploration voyages during the 15th and 16th centuries in the age of discovery
Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery, also known as the Age of Exploration and the Great Navigations , was a period in history starting in the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century during which Europeans engaged in intensive exploration of the world, establishing direct contacts with...

.

Initially, up to the 15th century, Europeans were limited to coastal cabotage
Cabotage
Cabotage is the transport of goods or passengers between two points in the same country by a vessel or an aircraft registered in another country. Originally starting with shipping, cabotage now also covers aviation, railways and road transport...

 navigation using the barge
Barge
A barge is a flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods. Some barges are not self-propelled and need to be towed by tugboats or pushed by towboats...

 (barca) or the balinger
Balinger
A balinger, or ballinger was a type of small, sea-going vessel in use in the 15th and 16th centuries. They were distinguished by their lack of a forecastle, and by carrying either a square sail, or a sail extended on a sprit on a single mast...

 (barinel), ancient cargo vessels used in the Mediterranean of around 50 to 200 ton
Ton
The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

s.
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Encyclopedia
A caravel is a small, highly maneuverable sailing
Sailing
Sailing is the propulsion of a vehicle and the control of its movement with large foils called sails. By changing the rigging, rudder, and sometimes the keel or centre board, a sailor manages the force of the wind on the sails in order to move the boat relative to its surrounding medium and...

 ship
Ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

 developed in the 15th century by the Portuguese
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 to explore along the West African coast and into the Atlantic Ocean. The lateen
Lateen
A lateen or latin-rig is a triangular sail set on a long yard mounted at an angle on the mast, and running in a fore-and-aft direction....

 sails gave her speed and the capacity for sailing to windward (beating). Caravels were much used by the Portuguese for the oceanic exploration voyages during the 15th and 16th centuries in the age of discovery
Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery, also known as the Age of Exploration and the Great Navigations , was a period in history starting in the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century during which Europeans engaged in intensive exploration of the world, establishing direct contacts with...

.

History


Initially, up to the 15th century, Europeans were limited to coastal cabotage
Cabotage
Cabotage is the transport of goods or passengers between two points in the same country by a vessel or an aircraft registered in another country. Originally starting with shipping, cabotage now also covers aviation, railways and road transport...

 navigation using the barge
Barge
A barge is a flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods. Some barges are not self-propelled and need to be towed by tugboats or pushed by towboats...

 (barca) or the balinger
Balinger
A balinger, or ballinger was a type of small, sea-going vessel in use in the 15th and 16th centuries. They were distinguished by their lack of a forecastle, and by carrying either a square sail, or a sail extended on a sprit on a single mast...

 (barinel), ancient cargo vessels used in the Mediterranean of around 50 to 200 ton
Ton
The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

s. These boats were fragile, with only one mast with a fixed square sail
Sail
A sail is any type of surface intended to move a vessel, vehicle or rotor by being placed in a wind—in essence a propulsion wing. Sails are used in sailing.-History of sails:...

s that could not overcome the navigational difficulties of Southward oceanic exploration, as the strong wind
Wind
Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet's atmosphere into space...

s, shoal
Shoal
Shoal, shoals or shoaling may mean:* Shoal, a sandbank or reef creating shallow water, especially where it forms a hazard to shipping* Shoal draught , of a boat with shallow draught which can pass over some shoals: see Draft...

s and strong ocean current
Ocean current
An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of ocean water generated by the forces acting upon this mean flow, such as breaking waves, wind, Coriolis effect, cabbeling, temperature and salinity differences and tides caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun...

s easily overwhelmed their abilities.

The caravel was developed in about 1450, based on existing fishing boats under the sponsorship of Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 and soon became the preferred vessel for Portuguese explorers. Its name may derive from an ancient boat type known as carabus in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and καραβος in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, later Arabized to qārib, indicating some continuity of its carvel build
Carvel (boat building)
In boat building, carvel built or carvel planking is a method of constructing wooden boats and tall ships by fixing planks to a frame so that the planks butt up against each other, edge to edge, gaining support from the frame and forming a smooth hull...

 through the ages. They were agile and easier to navigate, with a tonnage of 50 to 160 tons and 1 to 3 masts, with lateen
Lateen
A lateen or latin-rig is a triangular sail set on a long yard mounted at an angle on the mast, and running in a fore-and-aft direction....

 triangular sails allowing beating.

Being smaller and having a shallow keel
Keel
In boats and ships, keel can refer to either of two parts: a structural element, or a hydrodynamic element. These parts overlap. As the laying down of the keel is the initial step in construction of a ship, in British and American shipbuilding traditions the construction is dated from this event...

, the caravel could sail upriver in shallow coastal waters. With the lateen sails attached, it was highly maneuverable and could sail much nearer the wind, while with the square Atlantic-type sails attached, it was very fast. Its economy, speed, agility, and power made it esteemed as the best sailing vessel of its time. The limited capacity for cargo and crew were their main drawbacks, but did not hinder its success.

The exploration done with caravels made possible the spice trade of the Portuguese and the Spanish. However, for the trade itself, the caravel was later replaced by the larger nau
Carrack
A carrack or nau was a three- or four-masted sailing ship developed in 15th century Western Europe for use in the Atlantic Ocean. It had a high rounded stern with large aftcastle, forecastle and bowsprit at the stem. It was first used by the Portuguese , and later by the Spanish, to explore and...

 which was more profitable for trading.The caravel was one of the pinnacle ships in Iberian ship development from 1400-1600.

Design


Due to its lighter weight and thus higher speed, the caravel was a boon to sailors.
Early caravels generally carried two or three masts with lateen sails, while later types had four masts. Early caravels usually had , an overall length of 20 to 30 m, displaced around 50 tons, a high length-to-beam ratio of around 3.5:1, and narrow ellipsoidal frame (unlike the circular frame of the nau
Carrack
A carrack or nau was a three- or four-masted sailing ship developed in 15th century Western Europe for use in the Atlantic Ocean. It had a high rounded stern with large aftcastle, forecastle and bowsprit at the stem. It was first used by the Portuguese , and later by the Spanish, to explore and...

), making them very fast and maneuverable but with somewhat low capacity. Towards the end of the 15th century, the caravel was occasionally modified by giving it the same rig as a carrack
Carrack
A carrack or nau was a three- or four-masted sailing ship developed in 15th century Western Europe for use in the Atlantic Ocean. It had a high rounded stern with large aftcastle, forecastle and bowsprit at the stem. It was first used by the Portuguese , and later by the Spanish, to explore and...

 with a foresail
Foresail
A foresail is one of a few different types of sail set on the foremost mast of a sailing vessel:* A fore and aft sail set on the foremast of a schooner or similar vessel....

, square mainsail
Mainsail
A mainsail is a sail located behind the main mast of a sailing vessel.On a square rigged vessel, it is the lowest and largest sail on the main mast....

 and lateen mizzen, but not the carrack's high forecastle
Forecastle
Forecastle refers to the upper deck of a sailing ship forward of the foremast, or the forward part of a ship with the sailors' living quarters...

 or much of a stern
Stern
The stern is the rear or aft-most part of a ship or boat, technically defined as the area built up over the sternpost, extending upwards from the counter rail to the taffrail. The stern lies opposite of the bow, the foremost part of a ship. Originally, the term only referred to the aft port section...

palace, which would make it unweatherly. In this form it was sometimes known as caravela redonda (a bulging square sail is said to be round, redonda, in the Iberian tradition). It was in such ships that Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

 set out on his expedition in 1492; Santa Maria
Santa María (ship)
La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción , was the largest of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first voyage. Her master and owner was Juan de la Cosa.-History:...

was a 600-800 ton carrack
Carrack
A carrack or nau was a three- or four-masted sailing ship developed in 15th century Western Europe for use in the Atlantic Ocean. It had a high rounded stern with large aftcastle, forecastle and bowsprit at the stem. It was first used by the Portuguese , and later by the Spanish, to explore and...

 (same as: nau) which served as the flagship, and Pinta and Niña
Niña
La Niña was one of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first voyage towards the Indies in 1492. The real name of the Niña was Santa Clara. The name Niña was probably a pun on the name of her owner, Juan Niño of Moguer...

were smaller caravels of around 30 m with a beam of 6 m and displacing around 150 tons.

In the first half of the 16th century, the Portuguese created a specialized fighting ship also called caravela redonda to act as an escort in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 and in the East Indies
East Indies
East Indies is a term used by Europeans from the 16th century onwards to identify what is now known as Indian subcontinent or South Asia, Southeastern Asia, and the islands of Oceania, including the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines...

 route. It had a foremast with square sails and three other masts with a lateen each, for a total of 4 masts. The hull was galleon-shaped, and some experts consider this vessel a forerunner of the fighting galleon
Galleon
A galleon was a large, multi-decked sailing ship used primarily by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries. Whether used for war or commerce, they were generally armed with the demi-culverin type of cannon.-Etymology:...

. The Portuguese Man o' War
Portuguese Man o' War
The Portuguese Man o' War , also known as the Portuguese man-of-war, man-of-war, or bluebottle, is a jelly-like marine invertebrate of the family Physaliidae...

 was named after this curious type of fighting ship which was in use until the 17 century

See also

  • Medieval ships
    Medieval ships
    The ships of Medieval Europe were powered by sail or oar, or both. There were a large variety, mostly based in much older conservative design. Although wider and more frequent communications within Europe meant exposure to a variety of improvements, experimental failures were costly and rarely...

  • Notorious
    Notorious (ship)
    The Notorious is a replica fifteenth century caravel, currently under construction. The ship has taken twenty years to build, made entirely from reclaimed timber. It was launched at Martins Point, Port Fairy, Victoria, Australia on Monday, 7th of February, 2011...

    - a replica caravel under construction in Australia

External links