It’s lucky for you her captain was so poor a navigator, hm? Else we might never have found you.
Now. Most people by now know fore, aft, starboard, and port. On board the Britannia, the term “port” is less likely to be used as a reference to the left side of the ship. The term used at the time was larboard, and when you say it out loud, you’ll understand why they changed it, being so easily confused with “starboard” when shouted during a squall. But that’s what we have. Starboard and larboard it is.
A quarter can refer to a couple things. In the case of direction, it refers to literally a quarter of the ship aft of the beam (the widest part of the ship). The “starboard quarter” is the right side of the ship abaft (behind) the beam. The larboard quarter is the left side blah blah blah. On the other hand if someone talks about a quarter, they can be talking about a division of men. Britannia doesn’t really have a large enough crew for everyone to be divided into divisions, though, so.
What’s the equivalent for the bow? The bow. If you refer to the “larboard bow,” you’re talking about the front-left quarter of the ship. But what if the enemy ship is right in the middle, starboard side? Then they’re on the starboard beam.
What if you want to be more precise? Use compass points. The compass is divided into thirty-two points (the ship has a compass in the binnacle, a post built for having an embedded compass, by the helm). If you want to be specific, you can sound amazingly smart by telling someone how many points abaft the starboard beam something is.
Here is how such a conversation could go.
Hiccup: Sail ho!
Hornblower: Where away?
Hiccup: One…no, two points off the starboard bow!
Hornblower: (noting that the sail is to leeward) Square away, if you please, Mr. Bush, and set course to intercept.
Bush: ALL HANDS SQUARE AWAY! STARBOARD TWO POINTS!
Helmsman: Starboard two points, sir.
So we know direction in relation to the vessel itself. How about that amazingly daunting topic of (orchestral sting) NAUTICAL NAVIGATION?
Navigation by sea is, from what I understand (and I understand very little), a completely different beast from navigation by land. By land, there are landmarks, roads, terrains, etc. By sea, there is nothing besides natural and imaginary divisions of the Earth. How do you know where you are when all you see in any direction is flat water? This is where a sailing master, the chief navigator of a ship, comes in (Nami of One Piece could be considered a sailing master). Now, any green midshipman is taught how to plot a ship’s position on the earth. Hornblower even as a lieutenant made sure to plot the ship’s latitude and longitude every morning, but the sailing master, or just the master, makes nautical navigation their specialty. Maneuvering is not a part of this, especially not in battle, although a sailing master has the know-how to perform maneuvers requested by the captain.
Norie’s Epitome of Navigation, published in 1805, was the definitive book on navigation at the time. It defines navigation so:
“Navigation is that Art which instructs the mariner in what manner to conduct a ship through the wide and trackless ocean from one part to another, with the greatest safety, and in the shortest time possible.”
A master and his or her mates are going to be doing this all the time. Making sure they know exactly where on the globe the ship is. Figuring out how to get where they’re going, compensating for leeward motion that is inevitable unless one is completely squared away with the wind at their back. The master also figures out when sunrise and sunset will be every morning. Now, this is all stuff I am still learning myself, but this is the gist of what I have so far.
It’s math. Lots and lots and lots of math. So much math, in fact, that I just will not get into the details. Suffice it to say that we are spoiled in this modern age by calculators, because I have read about how to figure sines, secants, tangents, etc. without one and it is a pain unless you are using logarithms, in which case it is less of a pain. But that’s what it is. It’s all about circles, triangles, arcs, and the distance between two points.
To plot one’s position upon the Earth requires the proper tool and a lot of math. A sextant is especially famous for measuring the angle of the sun with the horizon. It’s these angles and plenty of math that determine one’s latitude and longitude. Anyone with a sun and a horizon can plot their position. You can even hand-make a sextant. Because. Yeah. In our day, sextants were all hand-made.
Now, I’ve spoken with Masa (who giggled at the word “sextant”), and it is possible to plot Luceti’s latitude and longitude if you’re using the assumption that this planet is like…whichever one you come from, with the same curvature to the planet and not, for example, a JRPG doughnut shape, and if you are assuming the existence of Greenwich, UK or some other “first meridian” for longitude. Plotting the position of locations outside the enclosure is going to be handwaved as not quite working. Celestial objects like stars are not at all the same from location to location outside the enclosure.
The speed of a vessel is measured in knots. In the Age of Sail, this was measured by essentially chucking a weighted rope into the water and looking at how many measured lengths (marked by, you guessed it, knots) they went through in 30 seconds. It’s roughly equivalent to a nautical mile per hour (about 1.8 kph or 1.5 mph). Tall ships are not planes or cars. They do not travel at super-speeds even before the wind. The average speed of a vessel really depends on the vessel, but there seems to be something of a bell curve depending on the size of the vessel. Tiny boats are slow and giant first-rate ships of the line are slow (“slow” might be 3-5 knots) whereas the Joanna Joyce might get up to about 8-10 knots with a fair wind. No matter what, though, it always depends on the wind. Sometimes, size is an advantage in speed. Larger vessels carry more sail and catch more wind, and are less affected by weather and waves. Still, the speed of a vessel does not depend solely on the vessel itself. For example, with the wind at their backs, Joanna Joyce would undoubtedly beat Britannia in a race. Beating to windward, however, Britannia has the advantage because size is actually a good thing when beating to windward, as discussed in an earlier entry. It also depends on if your sails are spilling wind, whether deliberately or through poor handling. Even with everything perfect, you can never sail faster than the wind.
How long does it take to sail from the shore to the farthest point of the Barrier? Depends on the vessel and the wind, but probably no more than a day. With good wind and fair conditions, about half that. What about the perimeter of the Barrier? I haven’t done the math yet, but I’d guesstimate it’d be two or three times the distance from the shore to the furthest point of the Barrier, so maybe 36-48 hours. It’s oblong and I always sucked at parabolas in pre-cal, so I am not doing this. If anyone catches my math being off, please tell me, because I would love to correct this.
This is all very complicated, isn’t it? Well, there’s more.
A ship’s course is, to quote our friend Norie, “the angle which a ship’s track or path makes with the meridian, and is expressed either in points or degrees. Thus, when a ship sails in a north-east direction, we say her course is 4 points, or 45 degrees.”
The distance is…self-explanatory. It’s the number of miles between any two places on the course, or it is the “length that a ship has sailed on a direct course in a given time.” That one was obvious. Next!
The difference of latitude is “the distance which a ship has made north or south of the place sailed from and is reckoned on a meridian.”
The departure is “the east or west distance a ship has made from the meridian of the place she departed from, and is reckoned on a parallel of latitude.”
These are all things a navigator will keep tabs on at all times. There is a different way to calculate, construct, and measure every one of these. If you’re measuring, there’s a different tool for each. Navigation is hard.
Eyes crossing yet? It’s okay. For RP, this is stuff you probably only need to know if you play an officer or navigator (midshipmen, you are being taught this stuff! But you are not likely to have to reference it in RP unless you are playing out a navigation lesson, which…why would you do that?). Even then, it’s mostly terms to throw around so your character can sound like they know what they’re talking about. If anyone, anyone, actually wants me to go into a Navigation: Part 2 sometime after I’ve read more about it and can get into detail without breaking my own brain, let me know.
Make note that this is stuff I get from reading a book that was definitive in 1805, and not even the entire book. I am a student like you. I cannot tell you if they use this stuff in the world of One Piece. I cannot vouch for its usefulness in modern sailing, but if you’re that into the Age of Sail, Epitome of Navigation is a free ebook on Google and a fascinating read.
I think I have officially gone too far, though.
Next time: Important people and what they do on board a ship.
It’s lucky for you her captain was so poor a navigator, hm? Else we might never have found you.
From now on, I want to see you on the dogwatches skylarking on deck, not skulking about in the cable tiers like a lot of damned Frenchmen.
So. A ship is not a house. Here are the very, very basics.
The outer portion of a ship’s frame, all around, is the hull.
Any barrier which separates space vertically (therefore being itself horizontal) is called a deck.
Any barrier which separates space horizontally (therefore being itself vertical) is called a bulkhead.
Any hole in the hull of the ship for any purpose is called a port.
The terms floor, ceiling, wall, and window are not used (unless we’re talking about the stern windows that have actual glass in them). Your character does not stand on the floor, lean against the wall, and look out the window. They stand on the deck, lean against the bulkhead, and look out a port (and generally speaking, ports serve some purpose, such as gun ports—you don’t just have ports for the heck of it). If you want to have your character hitting his or her head on the low “ceiling,” your character is actually hitting their head on the deck beams.
Now! That said, these are terms your character, if they are not used to them, will take time to get used to, so have fun with dialogue.
What people usually think of as “the deck” is the spar deck, so called because this is the very top deck where the masts (aka spars) are. It’s the one open to the sky. If the first lieutenant cries, “ALL HANDS ON DECK!” he means for everyone to come up to the spar deck. Really, any time you say “deck” by itself in such a context where it seems like you should be referring to a specific deck, it is assumed you are referring to the spar deck. Britannia has all her gun ports on the spar deck, lacking a separate gun deck. On many small vessels, the spar deck is a flush deck, meaning it is flat from stem to stern (front to back). Britannia does not have a flush deck, so let’s go over the different sections of a fairly typical setup for a ship-of-war’s spar deck.
Around the spar deck is the bulwark, the sort of “wall” around the “edge” of the deck. There’s a rail atop it, so it is perfectly acceptable for your character to “lean against the rail.” Entry onto the ship can be done through the entry port, a small gap in the bulwark.
Forward (in the front, pronounced “for’ard”), we have the forecastle (“fo’c’sle,” pronounced in two syllables like “foke-sull”). It is a deck built over the fore section of the spar deck. Beneath it, there are often movable wooden barriers to divide space. Sometimes the sickbay is located beneath the forecastle. Sometimes the galley (kitchen). It depends on the ship. Sometimes, though, one might use the entire space of the spar deck just for guns. In Britannia’s case, the space is used, theoretically, for guns.
Just aft of (behind) the forecastle is the waist. This is where you’ll find the mainmast. There’s no deck built above it. It’s a dip in the ship’s silhouette right across the middle.
Aft of the mainmast is the quarterdeck, taking up about a quarter of a ship, another deck built above the spar deck like the forecastle. This is where the real heart and soul of a ship is, so of all the terms we’ve mentioned, this is one of the ones you should be most intimately familiar with. Here, you’ll find the captain and his officers during times of action or interest, as well as the helm (a wheel used to steer the ship). The captain gives his orders from the quarterdeck. Nowadays the exposed quarterdeck has been replaced by the enclosed bridge, just so you have a parallel.
(The famous poop deck is usually located aft, if a ship has a poop cabin on the quarterdeck. The captain’s cabin is often in the poop cabin if a ship has one, and the deck on top of the poop cabin is the poop deck, or just the poop. Britannia does not have a poop cabin, but it would be funny if it did.)
To get to the captain’s cabin or ward room, one walks down a companionway, or just a companion. There’s a separate companionway forward that leads to the ward room (where the lieutenants, sailing master, purser, and similarly lofty sorts mess [eat together], sleep, use the head [toilet], and wash) and another from the quarterdeck that leads to the captain’s cabin. For access to the lower decks, there is the main hatchway in the waist (a big ol’ hatch before the mainmast) with ladders down each side.
As Britannia lacks a gun deck, the berth deck is the deck below the spar deck. Its purpose is self-explanatory. This is where domestic stuff takes place. It is the location of all sleeping quarters. There is one large cabin for everyone below the rank of midshipman to sling a hammock and mess in. On a typical ship, the only private heads are in the ward room and the captain’s cabin, but since this ship is coed, there are separate heads in the forecastle for separate sexes. Aft of this cabin is the galley. Forward is the midshipmens’ berth (which is sort of partitioned off but not its own cabin) and the sickbay. Furthest aft is the captain’s cabin and furthest forward is the ward room, but these are not accessible except by the companionways on the spar deck.
Not all ships have berth decks. Take H.M.S. Victory as an example. She has three gun decks but no berth deck. Instead, planks were set up between the guns as tables when it came time to eat, and hammocks were strung up between the guns when it came time to sleep. Victory then has a spar deck, three gun decks, the orlop (which houses the sickbay, the carpenter, and quite a few other things that are not on Britannia’s orlop), and the hold. No two ships are the same.
The next deck down is the orlop deck, or just the orlop. This is where we find the powder magazine and other storage cabins, as well as the hatchway into the hold. The orlop is partway under the waterline (would be fully under if the ship had all her guns), and the hold is fully so. The hold is where we find the shot locker and the cable tier, where the shot (cannon balls) and cables (effing thick ropes, usually about sixteen inches in diameter, used for the anchor and such) are kept.
Let’s go over the hull real quick, because we can. The bow (front of the hull) is pointed. The stern (the back of the ship) is flat. The seam that runs from stem to stern, going under the waterline and everything, is called the keel. The curved timbers making up most of the ship are called, marvelously, futtocks. Let there be laughter. The rudder is located aft, of course, and this is how the ship is steered, redirecting the flow of water.
Next Time: Direction.
We’ll see if a spell in the rigging won’t teach you to tread more carefully.
Not everything that floats is called a ship. A ship is actually pretty specific, as specific as a brig or a schooner or a cutter or a sloop. It’s not as broad a classification as most people think. When you refer to a vessel as one of these, what you are really referring to is the rigging.
When you are referring to a vessel’s rigging, you are referring to pretty much everything above the spar deck. This includes spars (masts), sails, lines (ropes), braces (more ropes), sheets (even more ropes), halyards (ropes you use to hoist certain sails), shrouds (the vertical ropes that help steady the masts), ratlines (the horizontal ropes across the shrouds you climb up), everything. If you’re talking about, say, a sail’s rigging, you are referring to the various ropes around it and their various uses.
This is how a vessel is identified. “Ship” is short for “ship-rigged.” “Ship-rigged” means she is square-rigged (yards “square” with the deck, sails square) and has three or more masts. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t carry some fore-and-aft sails (pretty much all ships do), but those are comparatively tiny and secondary to the square ones. Schooners are typically fore-and-aft rigged (yards parallel to the deck instead of perpendicular, triangular sails), whereas brigs are square-rigged with two masts. It’s best to do your own reading about the particular type of rigging you’ve chosen for your vessel. These are examples. It is most common for small vessels to have fore-and-aft rigging, whereas your very largest ones are ship-rigged.
Ship classifications can go further, based on size, purpose, and guns carried (if any). Despite being rather small for it, Britannia is really a small frigate, being ship-rigged and capable of carrying twenty-two guns. She’s too large to be a sloop-of-war or a post-ship, but she’s not designed to be a merchantman, either. If we wanted, we could get into a ship’s rating and frigates vs. ships of the line (ships of the line being a replacement for galleons in the latter half of the 18th century, POTC people), but that’s somewhat off-topic.
Every single piece of rope used on a ship has a different name and purpose, but there are only two basic types. There’s the standing rigging which is as permanent a fixture as the masts, first of all. These are the ropes that run diagonally from various parts of the masts to secure places on the vessel for the purpose of supporting the mast. Among these are the famous shrouds, which run from a platform just outside the hull to the top (the platform at the masthead). More shrouds run from the top to the topmasthead. These are supporting the sides of the masts, and further ropes secure the fronts and backs. If you remove or cut too much of this standing rigging, the mast will fall over. It is just too tall to support itself.
The other type is the running rigging. These are all the ropes you pull to hoist, heave, etc. Halyards on fore-and-aft sails like jibs and staysails are an example—you pull the thing really hard and the sail unfurls. Sheets are another example, being used to control the sails, while braces control the yards. Running rigging is part of the machinery of the ship. You don’t really do anything with standing rigging besides leave it be, or splice it if it parts.
This website has some great charts showing standing and running rigging.
Masts, sails, and yards are all pretty easy. There are only a handful of terms that can be put together in varying combinations to yield all the names you need. These are the terms used when specifically referring to the position of one of these items.
Bottom: Course (or nothing)
Second from bottom: Top
Third from bottom: Topgallant or t’gallant
There are some exceptions. For example, the foretop-staysail (or stays’l) is the very front sail, but it’s not on the foremast (although it is attached to it by the standing rigging and named for it). It has its own boom (the rod that runs underneath it like a frame) and is triangle-shaped. The jib is above and slightly abaft (behind) it, and also has its own boom. These booms are, appropriately, referred to as the staysail-boom and the jib-boom. Aft (in the back) is the spanker, which has an odd trapezoidal shape. Its boom is called the spanker-boom, one of the best nautical terms of all time.
Other than that, just combine those terms. The results:
Masts from front to back:
Sails from front bottom to back top (assuming three sails per mast):
Yards are all similar. The “main course yard” or mainyard is the yard that holds the main course sail, or the mainsail. That sort of thing.
Now, Britannia’s mizzenmast only carries one sail, so not all of those are relevant to us. A larger ship might have royals, smaller sails above the t’gallants, or any number of other additional sails. Britannia, however, is small, so she only carries a foretop-staysail, a jib, foresail, foretopsail, foretopgallant, maintop-staysail, maintopgallant-staysail, mainsail, main-topsail, main-topgallant, mizzen-sail, and spanker. In most cases, the “a” and the “I” are left out of the pronunciation (and even the spelling) of “sail;” for example, you might refer to the “maintop-stays’l” or the “foretops’l.”
If a vessel has two masts, it has a foremast and a mainmast but no mizzenmast. In a fore-and-aft-rigged vessel, the mainsail is the sail on the after side of the mainmast.
It gets better. Each mast is made up of three spars, not one, each attached one on top of the other. We are still, however, using the same terms I have been talking about. The “topmast” is second-lowest section of the mast, where the topsail is. The “t’gallant mast” is the very highest part of the mast, and so forth (unless a ship has royals, in which case there is a “royal mast”). Combining all these terms gets fun, and you feel smart when you can use the term “foretopgallant mast” in a sentence.
Let’s talk about climbing up to these things. For that, you’ll generally want to use the ratlines, or the ropes that cross the shrouds. You know, the ones that look like big ol’ nets or spiderwebs or something? Climb up those and get to the top at the masthead (top of the mast). After that, you can climb through the “lubber’s hole” in the top if you’re inexperienced or around the outside if you’re experienced and trying to get to the yardarm to make (let out) or shorten (take in) sail. More shrouds run from the top to the topmasthead. These tops are on both the foremast and the mainmast of the Britannia (appropriately called the foretop and the maintop). Neither of them is a crow’s nest. A crow’s nest has a different purpose from a top. A crow’s nest is higher up, sometimes on the topgallant masthead, and used as a lookout point and has protective railing. A top serves more to anchor the shrouds to the mast above and is a platform without railing, but being lower on the mast is not a great lookout point. Britannia does not, as of yet, have a crow’s nest, although if it is going to be a ship of exploration, that might be a decent enough addition. Here's a shot where you can get a decent look at the entire ship and spot the tops on the foremast and mainmast.
The lowest shrouds are the “futtock shrouds,” the ones above the “topmast shrouds,” and the ones above that the “t’gallant shrouds.” Seeing a pattern, for the most part? Once you let it all sink in, it’s not too complicated.
Next Time: Decks
Winds may change, monsieur.
-French captain and H. Hornblower
As I read up on tall ships and sailing in general, I’m thinking that anyone with a character in Luceti who is or will be a sailor could use some of this information, so I’m starting a series on the basics of sailing and tall ships. In this edition, we talk about the most basic of basics: the wind and your vessel.
Perhaps the best thing is to think of sailing like a game of pool with the wind as the cue stick. The sails are the sides of the ball, and direction of the vessel depends on how the winds hit them. For this reason, you don’t just sail with your wind at your back all the time. You’d go all over the place. Wind changes all the time. No, the yards (the horizontal sticks across the masts) pivot so the sails can catch the wind in different ways.
One obvious thing not to do is sail directly into the wind. That’s useless even if your destination is windward. You’d never hit the cue ball directly away from the target pocket, right? If you try to sail directly into the wind, you slow down. Your ship yaws back in the direction it was tacking from, and you start to sail backwards. Not cool. So. To avoid this, you only sail so close to the wind. Ever. Sailing close-hauled means you’re sailing as windward as you can without the wind hindering you. You can turn the ship about (called coming about or tacking) by relying on momentum to carry you through the no-go zone to windward, as long as you’re skilled and keep going. If your destination is windward, what you want to do is zig-zag. You tack every so often so you’re not going in a straight line to your destination. This is called beating to windward. Tacking requires manipulating both the sheets (the lines that control the sails) and the rudder.
Terminology: the term tack is used in a few different ways. As a verb, it’s the same as coming about. As a noun, it can refer to the lower corner of a sail or the position of the ship in relation to the wind. If a ship is close-hauled on the starboard tack, it means she’s sailing nearly in the direction the wind is coming from and the wind is hitting the starboard side.
If the wind is coming directly from the side of the ship or other vessel, you have to be careful that the vessel isn’t rolling too much. If it is, take in some sail.
If the wind is directly behind you (say you’re sailing northeast and the wind is southwesterly), you can square away. This means squaring the yards so they are perpendicular to the deck, or going across it. The wind is now directly behind the sails, creating those gorgeous shots you see in movies of the sails billowed out completely. This is actually kind of tricky, even if it’s the fastest way to travel. It can be hard to tell how strong the wind really is when it’s behind you and you’re traveling with it. You’re not even seeing the crests of the waves since you’re behind them. It’s easy to damage the ship if you’re not careful. More terms that talk about wind and weather can get confusing. If you say the wind is, for example, southwesterly (or sou’westerly), you mean it’s blowing from the southwest. If you talk about a sou’wester, you’re probably referring to a squall coming from the southwest.
Any questions? Please ask on this entry and not on Plurk so others can see the answers.
NEXT LESSON: Rigging.