Historical Sketch of Naval Architecture
In 1359, the Castilians took a Venetian carrack, which had three 'covers' (decks), and must consequently have been as high as the great storeships of the seventeenth century. In 1545, a French carrack, the Carraquon, which passed for the finest ship and fastest sailer of the western ocean, was of eight hundred tons burthen, and had one hundred pieces of artillery of all calibers for armament. The carracks of the fourteenth century had only two masts in the fifteenth, they took three, and after wards four. At first three-decked, they finally reached as high as seven decks. The poop and prow were the height of three or four men above the deck, and looked like castles raised at each of the extremities. The castles mounted each from thirty-five to forty guns. In the galleys, the employment of fire-arms did not effect material changes; the prow alone, somewhat shortened, was armed with a gun mounted on a mass of wood destined for its recoil, and extending amidships through the whole length of the vessel. This piece of wood was called the coursie, and the gun placed upon it the courser. At the sides, upright carriages supported a few falconets and other pieces of small ordnance. The galeass, originating in the galea grossa, as the latter did in the galley, carried, as well as the carrack and other ships, a castle at the bow and a castle at the stern. In the former, there were twelve guns in three tiers in the latter, ten only in two tiers. She had thirty-two benches of rowers, and between each of her benches rose a swivel on a point. This, it will be perceived, was a formidable armament. The galeass had three masts and lateen sails. The Venetians made great use of this vessel. Their famous Bucentaur belonged to this class. At the end of the fifteenth century, when Christopher Columbus armed his vessels at Palos, he formed his little flotilla exclusively ofcaravels. Now, this name of caravel, which in the outset belonged only to a common barque, was at this time borne by a vessel of considerable, but not extraordinary size. The caravel had four masts the forward one with a square sail surmounted by a topsail, the three others each carrying a lateen sail. These sails enabled the caravel to manoeuvre well, and she was as prompt to handle as the French tartane,much renowned at that epoch. She came about as quickly as if she had been a row-boat. She had but one deck, and very little carrying capacity. Still, if the caravels of Christopher Columbus were smaller than those of a later period, at the close of the sixteenth century, they were large enough to contain ninety seamen and the provision necessary for a long voyage. The flag ship of Columbus was called the Santa Maria; the two other, La Pinta and La Nina. A passage in the journal of Columbus himself, gives a detail of the canvass of the Santa Maria. The wind,' says he, became mild and manageable, and I set all the sails of the vessel - the mainsail with the two studding sails, the foresail, the spritsail, the mizzen and the topsail.' The caravels then had, like all the great vessels of the period, a castle at the bow and a castle at the stern. They made, on an average, six knots an hour. Columbus was only thirty-five days in going from Palos to San Salvador - an ordinary passage even in these days of quick sailing. The sixteenth century was an epoch of progress for the marine; England particularly gave it the onward impulse. Meanwhile, an important invention, that of gun-ports, was due to a Frenchman, of Brest, named Descharges. The system then adopted for the arrangement of batteries has never since been changed, and exists to the present time. Historians and antiquaries have taken great pains to arrive at a knowledge of the forms of ships of war at this period. The documents written and drawn are, some so confused, others so deficient in proportion and perspective, that it is difficult to understand them.