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Title: Ships & Ways of Other Days
Author: Chatterton, E. Keble (Edward Keble)
Language: English
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[Illustration: A SHIP OF YESTERDAY

(A Tea-clipper before the Wind)]


  (Author of “Sailing Ships & Their Story”)




_All rights reserved_



I desire to acknowledge the courtesy of the Master and Fellows of
Magdalene College, Cambridge, for having permitted me to reproduce the
three illustrations facing pages 212, 228, and 230. These are from MSS.
in the Pepysian Library. The Viking anchor and block tackle are taken
from Mr. Gabriel Gustafson’s _Norges Oldtid_, by permission of Messrs.
Alb. Cammermeyer’s, Forlag, Kristiania. The two illustrations on pages
Cesare Agosto Levi from his “Navi Venete.” The Viking rowlock and rivet
are taken from Du Chaillu’s “Viking Age,” by the courtesy of Mr. John
Murray. To all of the above I would wish to return thanks.

                        E. KEBLE CHATTERTON.


  CHAP.                                                             PAGE

         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS                                        xi

     I.  INTRODUCTION                                                  1

    II.  THE BIRTH OF THE NAUTICAL ARTS                               10

   III.  THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MARINE INSTINCT                       18

    IV.  MEDITERRANEAN PROGRESS                                       29

     V.  ROME AND THE SEA                                             56

    VI.  THE VIKING MARINERS                                          85


  VIII.  THE PERIOD OF COLUMBUS                                      150

    IX.  THE EARLY TUDOR PERIOD                                      169

     X.  THE ELIZABETHAN AGE                                         186

    XI.  THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY                                     221

   XII.  THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY                                      249

  XIII.  THE NINETEENTH CENTURY                                      274

         GLOSSARY                                                    291

        INDEX                                                        293



  A Ship of Yesterday (a tea clipper before the wind)
                                               _To face title-page_

  A Seventeenth-Century Dutch Dockyard       _Headpiece to Preface_

  Spithead in the Early Nineteenth Century                             2

  Old-fashioned Topsail Schooner                                       8

  “River sailors rather than blue-water seamen”                       13

  “Mine be a mattress on the poop”                                    34

  Cast of a Relief showing Rowers on a Trireme                        38

  Vase in the form of a Trireme’s Prow                                42

  Portions of Early Mediterranean Anchor                              44

  Shield Signalling                                                   49

  Greek Penteconter from an Ancient Vase                              51

  The Egyptian Corn-Ship _Goddess Isis_                               58

  The “Korax” or Boarding Bridge in Action                            63

  Sketches of Ancient Ships, by Richard Cook, R.A.                    64

  Ancient Coins illustrating Types of Rams                            65

  Bronze Figurehead of Roman Ship                                     66

  Sketches of Ancient Ships, by Richard Cook, R.A.                    66

  Two Coins depicting Naumachiæ                                       68

  A Roman Naumachia                                                   68

  Chart to illustrate Cæsar’s crossing the English Channel            71

  Hull of Roman Ship found at Westminster                             78

  Details of Roman Ship found at Westminster                          80

  Details of Roman Ship found at Westminster                          82

  Primitive Navigation of the Vikings                                 89

  Details of Viking Ships and Tackle                                  99

  Vikings boarding an Enemy                                          102

  Viking Ship with Awning up                                         111

  Thirteenth-Century Merchant Sailing Ship                           123

  Fourteenth-Century Portolano of the Mediterranean                  124

  Prince Henry the Navigator                                         126

  Fifteenth-Century Shipbuilding Yard                                132

  A Fifteenth-Century Ship                                           134

  The Fleet of Richard I setting forth for the Crusades              139

  A Medieval Sea-going Ship                                          146

  Fifteenth-Century Caravel, after a Delineation by Columbus         158

  “Ordered the crew ... to lay out an anchor astern”                 162

  Fifteenth-Century Caravel, after a Delineation by Columbus         164

  Three-masted Caravel                                               166

  Sixteenth-Century Caravel at Sea                                   166

  Sixteenth-Century Caravel at Anchor                                170

  Sixteenth-Century Astrolabe supposed to have been on board a Ship
      of the Armada                                                  172

  Astrolabe used by the English Sixteenth-Century Navigators         173

  Sixteenth-Century Navigator using the Cross-staff                  176

  Sixteenth-Century Compass Card                                     177

  An Old Nocturnal                                                   178

  Sixteenth-Century Four-Masted Ship                                 186

  Elizabethans boarding an Enemy’s Ship                              187

  Elizabethan Steering-Gear                                          189

  Sixteenth-Century Ship chasing a Galley                            190

  Waist, Quarter-deck, and Poop of the _Revenge_                     192

  Sixteenth-Century Three-masted Ship                                192

  Riding Bitts on the Gun Deck of the _Revenge_                      195

  Plan of Early Seventeenth-Century Ship                             197

  Sixteenth-Century Warship at Anchor                                198

  Drake’s _Revenge_ at Sea                                           201

  Sixteenth-Century Mariners learning Navigation                     206

  Chart of A.D. 1589                                                 211

  Ship Designer with his Assistant                                   212

  Chart of the Thames from the First Published Atlas                 214

  Diagram illustrating the use of the “Geometricall Square”          215

  Sixteenth-Century Ship before the wind                             216

  Early Seventeenth-Century Warship                                  218

  Early Seventeenth-Century Harbour                                  222

  Early Seventeenth-Century Dutch East Indiamen                      226

  “The Perspective Appearance of a Ship’s Body”                      228

  “The Orthographick Simmetrye” of a Seventeenth-Century Ship        230

  Early Seventeenth-Century Dutch West Indiamen                      232

  Fitting out a Seventeenth-Century Dutch West Indiaman              236

  Seventeenth-Century Dutch Shipbuilding Yard                        240

  Seventeenth-Century First-Rate Ship                                244

  Section of a Three-Decker                                          246

  Nocturnal                                                          247

  Building and launching Ships in the Eighteenth Century             248

  Collier Brig                                                       250

  Boxhauling                                                         252

  Eighteenth-Century “Bittacle”                                      253

  Interiors of Eighteenth-Century Men-of-War                         254

  Quarter-deck of an Eighteenth-Century Frigate                      255

  Collier Brig discharging Cargo                                     256

  Eighteenth-Century Man-of-War                                      258

  Collier Brigs beating up the Swin                                  259

  Model of H.M.S. _Triumph_                                          260

  “Compelled to let the ship lie almost on her beam ends”            261

  An interesting bit of Seamanship                                   262

  An ingenious Sail-Spread                                           264

  Eighteenth-Century Three-Decker                                    266

  Sterns of the _Invincible_ and _Glorioso_                          268

  Model of an English Frigate, 1750                                  270

  A 32-gun Frigate ready for Launching                               272

  Launching a Man-of-War in the year 1805                            274

  Sheer-Hulk                                                         276

  H.M.S. _Prince_                                                    278

  An Early Nineteenth-Century Design for a Man-of-War’s Stern        280

  Course, Topsail, and Topgallant Sail of an Early Nineteenth-
      Century Ship                                                   281

  Stern of H.M.S. _Asia_                                             282

  A Brig of War’s 12-pounder Carronade                               283

  A West Indiaman in Course of Construction                          284

  A Three-Decker on a Wind                                           285

  The Brig _Wolf_                                                    286

  A Frigate under all Sail                                           287

  Man in the Chains heaving the Lead                                 287

  H.M.S. _Cleopatra_ endeavouring to save the Crew of the Brig
      _Fisher_                                                       288

  H.M.S. _Hastings_                                                  289

  Model of the _Carmarthenshire_                                     290


(_At End of Volume_)

     I.  Body Plan, etc., of Early Nineteenth-Century 74-gun Ship.

    II.  A Portable Crab Winch of the Early Nineteenth Century.

   III.  Longitudinal Plan of Early Nineteenth-Century 74-gun Ship.

    IV.  A 330-ton Merchant Ship of the Early Nineteenth Century.

     V.  Shrouds of Mainmast on Early Nineteenth-Century Ship.

    VI.  Design of the Stern of Early Nineteenth-Century 330-ton
             Merchant Ship.

   VII.  Midship section of Early Nineteenth-Century 330-ton Merchant

  VIII.  Longitudinal Plan of Early Nineteenth-Century 330-ton Merchant

    IX.  Plans of Early Nineteenth-Century 74-gun Ship.

     X.  Iron Clipper Sailing Ship _Lord of the Isles_.

    XI.  The Wooden Clipper Ship _Schomberg_.

“The sea language is not soon learned, much less understood, being
only proper to him that has served his apprenticeship: besides that,
a boisterous sea and stormy weather will make a man not bred on it so
sick, that it bereaves him of legs and stomach and courage, so much
as to fight with his meat. And in such weather, when he hears the
seamen cry starboard, or port, or to bide alooff, or flat a sheet, or
haul home a cluling, he thinks he hears a barbarous speech, which he
conceives not the meaning of.”

                        (SIR WILLIAM MONSON’S _Naval Tracts_.)



In “Sailing Ships and their Story” I endeavoured to trace the evolution
of the ship from the very earliest times of which we possess any
historical data at all down to the canvas-setting craft of to-day.
In “Fore and Aft” I confined myself exclusively to vessels which
are rigged fore-and-aftwise, and attempted to show the causes and
modifications of that rig which has served coasters, pilots, fishermen,
and yachtsmen for so many generations.

But, now that we have watched so closely the progress of the sailing
ship herself, noting the different stages which exist between the first
dug-out and the present-day full-rigged ship or the superb racing
yacht, we can turn aside to consider chronologically what is perhaps
the most fascinating aspect of all. On the assumption that activity is
for the most part more interesting as a study than repose, that human
activity is the most of all deserving in its ability to attract, and
that from our modern standpoint of knowledge and attainment we are able
to look with sympathetic eyes on the efforts and even the mistakes of
our forefathers on the sea, we shall be afforded in the following pages
a study of singular charm.

For, if you will, we are to consider not why the dug-out became in time
an ocean carrier, but rather how men managed to build, launch, equip,
and fit out different craft in all ages. We shall see the vessels on
the shipyards rising higher and higher as they approach completion,
until the day comes for them to be sent down into the water. We shall
see royalty visiting the yards and the anxious look on the shipwright’s
face lest the launching should prove a failure, lest all his carefully
wrought plans should after months of work prove of naught. We shall
see the ships, at last afloat, having their masts stepped and their
rigging set-up, their inventory completed, and then finally, we shall
watch them for the first time spread sail, bid farewell to the harbour,
and set forth on their long voyages to wage war or to discover, to
open up trade routes or to fight a Crusade. And then, when once they
have cleared from the shelter of the haven we are free to watch not
merely the ship, but the ways of ship and men. We are anxious to note
carefully how they handled these various craft in the centuries of
history; how they steered them, how they furled and set sail, how
these ships behaved in a storm, how they fought the ships of other
nations and pirates, how they made their landfalls with such surprising
accuracy. As, for instance, seeing that the Norsemen had neither
compass nor sextant, by what means were they able in their open ships
to sail across the Atlantic and make America? In short, we shall apply
ourselves to watching the evolution of seamanship, navigation, and
naval strategy down the ages of time.


  Frigate.      A 74-Gun Ship.      Portsmouth Pilot Cutter


But we shall not stop at that; for we want to obtain an intimate
picture of the life lived on board these many ships. We would, so
to speak, walk their decks, fraternise with the officers and men,
adventure into their cabins, go aloft with them, join their mess,
keep sea and watch in their company in fine sunny days and the
dark stormy nights of winter. We are minded to watch them prepare for
battle, and even accompany them into the fight, noting the activities,
the perils, and the hardships of the seamen, the clever tactics,
the moves and counter-moves, the customs of the sea and of the ship
especially. Over boundless, deep-furrowed oceans not sighting land
for weeks; or in short coasting voyages hurrying from headland to
headland before impending tempest; or pursued by an all-conquering
enemy, we shall follow these ships and men in order to be able to live
their lives again, to realise something of the fears and hopes, the
disappointments, and the glories of the seaman’s career in the past.

I can promise the reader that if he loves ships, if he has a
sympathetic interest in that curious composite creature the seaman--who
throughout history has been compelled to endure the greatest hardships
and deprivations for the benefit of those whose happy fortune it is to
live on shore--he will find in the ensuing pages much that will both
surprise him and entertain him. I have drawn on every possible source
of information in order to present a full and accurate picture, and
wherever possible have given the actual account of an eye-witness.
How much would we not give to-day to be allowed to go on board the
crack ship of the second century, for instance, and see her as she
appeared to an onlooker? Well, Lucian has happily left us in dialogue
form exactly the information that we want about the “monster vessel
of extraordinary dimensions” which had just put in at the Piræus. On
a later page the reader will accompany the visitor up the gangway
and go round the ship, and be able to listen to the conversation
of these eager enthusiasts, just as he would listen attentively to
a party of friends who had just been shown over the latest mammoth
steamship. What the captain said of his ship, his yarns about gales
o’ wind, how great were her dimensions, how much water she drew, what
was the average return to the owner from the ship’s cargo--it is
all here for those who care to read it. A thousand years hence, how
interested the world would be to read the first impressions of one
who had been allowed to see over the _Mauretania_, or _Olympic_, or
their successors! In the same way to-day, how amazingly delightful it
is still to possess an intimate picture of a second-century Egyptian

We are less concerned with the evolution of design and build of ships
in this present book than with the manner of using these craft. How,
for example, on those Viking ships which were scarcely decked at all,
did the crew manage to eat and sleep? Did the ancients understand the
use of the sounding lead? how did they lay their ships up for the
winter? what was the division of labour on board?--and a thousand
questions of this sort are answered here, for this is just the kind
of information that the reader so often asks for, and so rarely gets,
frequently being disappointed at the gaps left in historical works.
Believing firmly that a knowledge of the working and fighting of the
ships in history is worthy of every consideration, I have for years
been collecting data which have taken shape in the following narrative.
Seamanship, like the biggest sailing craft, cannot have much longer
to live if we are able to read the signs of the times. _Steam_anship
rather than seamanship is what is demanded nowadays; so that before
long the latter will become quite a lost art. It is therefore time that
we should collect and set forth the ways and customs of a fast-dying
race. Seamanship is, of course, a changing quality, but at heart it is
less different than one might at first imagine. I venture to suggest
that if by any wonderful means you could transfer the men of a modern
crack 19-metre racing cutter to the more clumsy type of Charles II’s
_Mary_, she would be handled very little differently from the manner in
which those Caroline seamen were wont to sail her. Similarly, a crew
taken from one of the old clippers of about 1870, and transferred--if
it were possible--to one of the Elizabethan galleons, would very
soon be able to manage her in just the same manner as Drake and his
colleagues. It is largely a matter of sea-bias, of instinct, of a
sympathy and adaptability for the work. And in such vastly different
craft as the Greek and Roman galley, the Spanish carack, the Viking
ship of the north, the bean-shaped craft of medieval England, and so
on down to the ships of the present day, you find--quite regardless
of country or century--men doing the same things under such vastly
different conditions.

The way Cæsar worked his tides crossing the English Channel when about
to invade Britain in 55 B.C., or the way William the Conqueror a
thousand years later wrestled with the same problem but in different
ships--these and like matters cannot but appeal to anyone who is gifted
with imagination and a keen desire for knowledge. And then--perhaps
some will find it the most interesting of all--there comes that
wonderful story of the dawn and rise of the navigational science
which to-day enables our biggest ships to make passages across the
ocean with the regularity of the train, and to make a landfall with
an exactness that is nothing short of marvellous considering that
the last land was left weeks ago. It is a story that is irresistible
in its appeal for our consideration, firstly because of its ultimate
value to the progress of nations, and secondly because no finer
example could be afforded us of the persistency of human endeavour to
overcome very considerable obstacles. It is a little difficult just
at first to place oneself in the position of those navigators of the
early centuries. To-day we are so accustomed to modern navigational
methods, we have been wont so long to rely on them for finding our way
across the sea, that it requires a great effort of the imagination
to conceive of men crossing the Atlantic and other oceans--not to
speak of long coasting voyages--without chart or compass, sextant or
log-line. There are many names in history which very rightly have won
the unstinted applause of humanity irrespective of national boundaries.
These names are held in the highest honour for the wonderful inventions
and benefits which have been brought about. But there are two among
others which, as it seems to me, the world has not yet honoured
in an adequate manner. These two--Pytheas and Prince Henry the
Navigator--are separated by thirteen or fourteen hundred years, but
their inestimable help consisted in making the ocean less a trackless
expanse than a limited space whereon the mariner was not permanently
lost, but could find his position along its surface even though the
land was not sighted for many a day. Think of the indirect results of
this new ability. Think of the subsequent effects on the history of
the world--the establishment of new trade routes consequent on the
discovery of new continents, the impetus to enterprise, the peopling
of new lands, the rise of young nations, the growth of sea-power, the
spread of Christianity, the accumulation of fortunes and the consequent
encouragement given to the arts and sciences. It is indeed a surprising
but unhappy fact that humanity, because normally it has its habitation
on land, forgets how much it owes to the sea for almost everything
that it possesses. Perhaps this statement may be less applicable to
the European continent, but it is in every sense true of all the other
parts of the world.

Among the decisive battles of the world, among the discoveries of new
lands, among the vast trade routes, how many of these do not come under
the category of maritime? And yet in many an able-bodied, vigorous man,
who owes most of his happiness and prosperity to the sea in some way or
another, you find a spirit of antagonism to the sea, a positive hatred
of ships, an utter indifference to the progress of maritime affairs.
Hence, too, consistently following the same principle, the world
always treats the seafaring man of all ranks in the worst possible
manner. It matters not that the sailorman pursues a life of hardship
in all climes and all weathers away from the comforts of the shore
and the enjoyment of his own family. He brings the merchant’s goods
through storm and stress of weather across dangerous tracts of sea,
but he gets the lowest remuneration and the vilest treatment. He goes
off whaling or fishing, perhaps never to come home again, performing
work that brings out the finest qualities of manhood, pluck, daring,
patience, unselfishness, and cool, quick decision at critical moments.
Physically, too, he sacrifices much; but what does he get in return?
And then think also of the men on the warships. But it is no new

Throughout history the world has had but scant consideration for the
sons of the sea, whether fighters, adventurers, or freight-carriers.
You have only to read the complaints of seamen in bygone times to
note this. One may indeed wonder sometimes that throughout the world,
and in fact throughout history, men have ever been found knowingly
to undertake the seafaring life with all its hardships and all its
privations. To people whose ideas are shaped only by the possibilities
of loss and gain, who are lacking in imaginative endowment, in romance
and the joy of adventure, it is certainly incredible that any man
should seriously choose the sea as his profession in preference to
a life of comfort and financial success on shore. Indeed, the gulf
between the two temperaments is so great that it were almost useless to
hazard an explanation. The plainest and best answer is to assert that
there are two classes of humanity, neither more nor less. Of these the
one class is born with the sea-sense; the other does not possess that
faculty, never has and never could, no matter what the opportunities
and training that might be available. Therefore the former, in spite of
his lack of experience, is attracted by the sea-life notwithstanding
its essential drawbacks; the latter would not be tempted to that
avocation even by the possibility of capturing Spanish treasure-ships,
or of discovering an unknown island rich with minerals and precious

From a close study of those records which have been handed down
to us of maritime incidents and affairs, I am convinced that the
seaman-character has always been much the same. It makes but little
difference whether its possessor commanded a Viking ship or a Spanish
galleon. To-day in any foreign port, granted that both parties have a
working knowledge of each other’s language, you will find that there
is a closer bond between shipmen of different nationalities than there
is between, say, a British seaman and a British landsman. For seamen,
so to speak, belong to a nation of their own, which is ruled not by
kings or governments, but by the great forces of nature which have
to be respected emphatically. Therefore the crews of every ship are
fellow-subjects of the same nationality, no matter whether they be
composed of a mingled assemblage of Britishers, Dagoes, “Dutchmen,” and


After E. W. COOKE.]

So, as we proceed with our study, we shall look at the doings of
different ships and sailors with less regard for the land in which they
happened to be born than for that amazing republic which never dies,
which exists regardless of the rise and fall of governments, which for
extent is altogether unrivalled by any nationality that has ever been
seen. We shall look into the characteristics, the customs, and the
manifold activities of this maritime commonwealth, which is so totally
different from any of our land institutions and which has always had
to face and wrestle with problems of a kind so totally different from
those prevailing on shore.

   “That art of masts, sail-crowded, fit to break,
    Yet stayed to strength, and back-stayed into rake,
    The life demanded by that art, the keen,
    Eye-puckered, hard-case seamen, silent, lean,
    They are grander things than all the art of towns,
    Their tests are tempests and the sea that drowns.”



Of all the activities of human nature few are so interesting and so
insistent on our sympathy as the eternal combat which goes on between
man on the one side and the forces of Nature on the other. Conscious
of his own limitations and his own littleness, man has nevertheless
throughout the ages striven hard to overcome these forces and to
exercise his own freedom. But he has done this not so much by direct
opposition as by employing Nature to overcome Nature; and there can be
no better instance of this than is found in the art of tacking, whereby
the mariner harnesses the wind in order to enable him to go against the

Winds and tides and waves are mightier than all the strength of
humanity put together. The statement was as true in pre-Dynastic times
as it is to-day. For a long time man was appalled by their superhuman
strength and capabilities; he preferred to have nothing to do with
them. Those nations which had their habitation inland naturally feared
them most. But as familiarity with danger engenders a certain contempt,
so those who dwelt by the sea began to lose something of their awe and
to venture to wrestle with the great trio of wind, wave, and tide.
Had they not exercised such courage and independence the history and
development of the world would have been entirely different.

It is obvious that the growth of the arts of the sea--by which is meant
ship designing and building, seamanship and navigation--can only occur
among seafaring people. You cannot expect to find these arts prospering
in the centre of a continent, but only along the fringe where land
meets sea. And, similarly, where you find very little coast, or a very
dangerous coast, or a more convenient land route than the sea, you will
not find the people of that country taking to the awe-inspiring sea
without absolute necessity. This statement is so obvious in itself,
so well borne out by history and so well supported by facts, that it
would scarcely seem to need much elucidation. Even to-day, even in an
age which has so much to be thankful for in respect of conveniences,
we actually hear of landsmen looking forward with positive horror to
an hour’s crossing the Channel in a fast and able steamship, with its
turbines, its comfortable cabins, and the rest. If it were possible
to reach the Continent by land rather than water they would do so and
rejoice. So it was in the olden times thousands of years ago; so, no
doubt, it will ever be.

Strictly speaking, notwithstanding that the Egyptians did an enormous
amount of sailing; notwithstanding that they were great shipbuilders
and that their influence is still felt in every full-rigged ship, yet
it is an indisputable fact, as Professor Maspero, the distinguished
Egyptologist, remarks, that they were not acquainted with the sea even
if they did not utterly dislike it. For their country had but little
coast, and was for the most part bordered by sand-hills and marshes
which made it uninhabitable for those who might otherwise have dwelt
by the shore and become seafarers. On the contrary, the Egyptians
preferred the land routes to the sea. It is true that they had the
Mediterranean on their north and the Red Sea on their east, both of
which they alluded to as the “very-green.” True, also, it is that there
was at least one great sea expedition to the Land of Punt, but this was
an exception to their usual mode of life.

At the same time, though they were primarily river sailors rather than
blue-water seamen, yet they had used the Nile so thoroughly and so
persistently, both for rowing and for sailing, that on the occasions
when they took to the sea itself they were bound to come out of the
ordeal fairly well, just as a Thames waterman, accustomed all his life
to frail craft and smooth waters, would be likely to make a moderately
good seaman if his work were suddenly changed from the river to the
ocean. From childhood and through generations they had worked their
square-sailed craft on the Nile and acquired a thorough knowledge of
watermanship, and when the crews of Thebes manned those ships which
carried Queen Hatsopsitu’s expedition to Punt and returned in safety
back to their homes, they were able to put their lessons learned on the
Nile to the best of use on the Red Sea.


So also on the Mediterranean the Egyptian ships were seen. We know that
the galleys of Rameses II plied regularly between Tanis and Tyre. This
was no smooth-water passage, for the Syrian sea could be very rough,
and on a later page we shall give the actual experience of an Egyptian
skipper who had a pretty bad time hereabouts in his ship. Even those
skilful seamen, the Phœnicians, found it required a good deal of care
to avoid the current which flowed along their coasts and brought to
them the mud from the mouths of the Nile. Now it was but natural that
when the Egyptians took to the sea they should use, for their trading
voyages to Syria or their expedition to Punt, craft very similar
to those which they were wont to sail on the Nile. In fact, it was
possible for one and the same ship to be used for river and sea. In my
“Sailing Ships and their Story,” the appearance of the Egyptian ships
has been so thoroughly discussed that it is hardly necessary to go
further into that matter at present. It is enough to state that they
were decked both at bow and stern, that short, narrow benches were
placed close to the bulwarks, leaving an empty space in the centre
where the cargo could be stowed, and that there were fifteen rowers
a side. There was one mast about 24 feet high setting one squaresail
which was about 45 feet along its foot, and in addition to the oarsmen
there were four topmen, a couple of helmsmen, and one pilot at the bow,
who gave the necessary instructions to the helmsmen as to the course to
be taken. Finally, there was an overseer to see that the rowers were
kept up to their work and not allowed to slack.

On the whole the Egyptians were a peace-loving nation and not great
fighters; but there were times when they had to engage in naval
warfare, and on such occasions the ship’s bulwarks were raised by a
long mantlet which shielded the bodies of the oarsmen, leaving only
their heads exposed. And there were soldiers, too, placed on board
these Egyptian ships in time of warfare. Two were stationed on the
forecastle, one was in the fighting-top high on the mast, whilst the
remainder were disposed on the bridge and quarter-deck, ready to shoot
their arrows into the approaching enemy.

The navigation of the Egyptian seamen was but elementary. They coasted
for the most part, rarely venturing out of sight of land, fixing their
positions by familiar landmarks. This was by day; but at night they
lay-to until the dawn returned, when they were enabled to resume their
journey. Such methods, of course, demanded a longer time than more able
seamen would have required, but the Egyptians were in no hurry, so it
mattered not. It is patent enough, from the many representations which
we find of craft on the Egyptian monuments which have been unearthed,
that ships and boats played a highly important part in the life and
habits of the Egyptians; but beyond the funereal customs and the
connection which these craft had with their religious ideas, we know
but little, if we except those models and those representations of
their bigger ships seen with sail and mast. It is unquestionable that
the shipbuilding industry was one of the most important activities
which these Nile-dwellers engaged in; and illustrations still exist
which show a shipwright’s yard of the Sixth Dynasty. We can see the
men busily at work, whilst the dockyard manager or superintendent is
carried in a kind of Sedan-chair to see how the work is progressing.
Some are engaged hammering and chipping away at the wood that is to
become a boat; some are fixing the different sections in place; whilst
others are setting up the truss which was employed for preventing the
ship from “hogging.”

But already by the close of the Third Dynasty, Professor Flinders
Petrie says, the Egyptian shipbuilders were using quite large supplies
of wood for their craft. In one year alone, Senofern constructed sixty
ships and imported forty ships of cedar. When we consider that the
Nile was the great national highway of Egypt, it was but natural that
shipbuilding should be one of the most important trades. There were,
first, the light skiffs which could be easily carried from place to
place. There were also the larger freight-carriers which sailed the
Nile and the open sea; and lastly, there were the houseboats, a kind of
modern dahabeeah. The small skiffs were made of reeds for lightness,
and coated with pitch. They were punted along the shallows with a
pole, or paddled. They could carry only a couple of people, and were
practically ferry-boats or dinghies. But the larger boats were built
of wood, and probably sometimes of acacia. The masts were of fir which
was imported from Syria, the sails being occasionally of papyrus, but
probably also of linen.

The lotus plant played a conspicuous part in Egyptian shipbuilding. We
see the smaller craft being strengthened by the stalks of this plant,
bundles of which are depicted being carried down to the yard on the
backs of the shipwright’s men. The tail-piece, even of the biggest
sea-going craft, is shown to be in the shape of a lotus bud or flower.
That they knew how to build ships of great tonnage at these dockyards
is evident from the fact that Sesostris had a sacred barge constructed
that was 280 cubits long. And it was doubtless owing to the great
length of the Nile sailing ships, and their consequent inability to
turn quickly, that we find it unusual for the Egyptian ships to have
only a single steering oar; very frequently there was one each side at
the quarter.

More than this it is difficult to state regarding the manner in which
they employed their ships. There is indeed very much that we should
like to know, and we cannot be too thankful that modern exploration
has actually revealed so many pictorial representations. The Egyptians
were not instinctively seamen as the Phœnicians and the Vikings, and
if there had been no Nile it is probable that the sea and its coast
might have meant even less to them than was actually the case. Nor was
it any different with the Assyrians, whose kings feared the sea for a
long time. They never ventured on its surface without being absolutely
compelled. At a later stage, when their victories brought them to
the shores of the Mediterranean, they were constrained to admire its
beauty, and presently even took a certain amount of pleasure in sailing
on its bosom, but nothing would tempt them far from land or to make a

But then there came a new precedent when Sennacherib embarked his
army on board a fleet and went in search of the exiles of Bit-Iakin.
The only ships that were at his disposal were those belonging to the
Chaldean States. These craft were in every way unsuitable; they were
obsolete, clumsy, heavy, bad sea-boats, and slow. During his wars,
however, he had seen the famous sailors of Sidon, and noted alike the
progress which these seafarers had made in actual shipbuilding, and in
the handling of their craft at sea. These were of course Phœnicians,
and among his prisoners Sennacherib found a sufficient number of
Phœnicians to build for him a fleet, establishing one shipbuilding
yard on the Euphrates and another on the Tigris. The result was that
they turned out a number of craft of the galley type with a double
row of oarsmen. These two divisions of newly built craft met on the
Euphrates not far from the sea, the Euphrates being always navigable.
The contingent from the Tigris, however, had to come by the canal
which united the two rivers. And then, manned with crews from Tyre and
Sidon, and Cypriot Greeks, the fleet went forth to its destination;
Sennacherib then disembarked his men and rendered his expedition

Here, then, is just another instance of a non-seafaring people
taking to the sea not from choice, not from instinct, but from
compulsion--because there was no other alternative; and all the time
employing seafaring mercenaries to perform a work that was strange
to landsmen, just as in later days at different periods (until they
themselves had grown in knowledge and experience), the English had to
import sailors from Friesland in the time of Alfred, or Italians in the
early Tudor period. The sea was still hardly more than a half-opened
book, and few there were who dared to look into its pages.



But when we come to the Phœnicians we are in touch with a veritable
race of seamen who to the south are in just the same relation as the
Vikings are to the north. Whether they took to the sea because they
longed to become great merchants, or whether they were seamen first and
employed their daring to commercial benefit needs no discussion. They
had the true vocation for the sea, and it was inevitable that sooner or
later they must become mighty explorers and traders.

They had the real ship-love, which is the foundation of all true
seamanship; they were in sympathy with the life and work, and they
knew how to build a ship well. They furnished themselves with the
finest timber from Lebanon and surpassed the Egyptian inland sailors by
making their craft stronger, longer, more seaworthy, and more able to
endure the long, daring voyages which it delighted the Phœnicians to
undertake. Similarly, their crews were better trained to sea-work, were
more daring and skilful than the Nile-dwellers. They minded not to sail
out of sight of land, nor lay-to for the darkness to pass away. They
were wont to sail the open sea fearlessly direct from Tyre or Sidon to
Cyprus, and thence to the promontories of Lycia and Rhodes, and so from
island to island to the lands of the Acheans, the Daneans, and further
yet to Hesperia. How did they do it? What were their means and methods
for navigation?

The answer is simply made. They observed the position of the sun
by day. They would watch when the sun rose, when it became south,
when it set, and then by night there was the Great Bear by which to
steer. Their ships they designated “sea-horses,” and the expression
is significant as denoting strength, speed, and reliability. By their
distant voyages the Phœnicians began to open out the world, and they
contributed to geographical knowledge more than all the Egyptian
dynasties put together had ever yielded under this category. Their
earliest craft were little more than mere open boats which were
partially decked. Made of fir or cedar cut into planks, which were
fashioned into craft all too soon before the wood had sufficient time
to become seasoned, they were caulked probably with bitumen, a poor
substitute for vegetable tar. We know from existing illustrations that
the Egyptian influence as to design was obvious in their ships. We
know also that the thirty or more oarsmen sat not paddling, but rowing
facing aft, and that they used the boomless squaresail and shortened
sail by means of brails.

“The first considerable improvement in shipbuilding which can be
confidently ascribed to the Phœnicians,” says Professor Rawlinson,[1]
“is the construction of biremes. Phœnician biremes are represented
in the Assyrian sculptures as early as the time of Sennacherib (700
B.C.), and had probably then been in use for some considerable period.
They were at first comparatively short vessels, but seem to have been
decked, the rowers working in the hold. They sat at two elevations,
one above the other, and worked their oars through holes in the
vessel’s side. It was in frail barks of this description, not much
better than open boats in the earlier period, that the mariners of
Phœnicia, and especially those of Sidon, as far back as the thirteenth
or fourteenth century before our era, affronted the perils of the

At first the Phœnicians confined their voyages to the limits of the
western end of the Mediterranean, but even then, notwithstanding their
superiority in seamanship and navigation, they suffered many a disaster
at sea. Three hundred ships were lost in a storm off Mt. Athos when
they first attempted to invade Greece. And on their second attempt
six hundred more ships were lost off Magnesia and Eubœa. In addition
to this, it must be presumed that the rocks and shoals of the Ægean
Sea, the cruel coasts of Greece, Spain, Italy, Crete, and Asia Minor
would account for a good many more losses of ships and men. In those
days, too, when one ship on meeting another used to ask in perfect
candour if the latter were a pirate, and received an equally candid
answer, there was thus a further risk to be undergone by all who used
the sea for their living. If the ship were in fact piratical and her
commander considered himself the stronger of the two, his crew would
waste little time, but promptly board the other ship, confiscate her
cargo, bind the seamen and sell them off at the nearest slave market.
And be it remembered that a Phœnician ship, inasmuch as she was usually
full of goods recently purchased or about to be sold, was something
worth capturing. Her cargo of rich merchandise was deserving of a keen
struggle and the loss of a number of men.

Nor were the Phœnicians averse from reckoning slaves among their
commodities for barter; indeed, this was a great and important feature
of their trade. Away they went roaming the untracked seas with their
powerful oarsmen and single squaresail and their hulls well filled
with valuable commodities, “freighting their vessels,” as Herodotus
relates, “with the wares of Egypt and Assyria” for the Greek consumer.
Year after year the ships sailed forth from Tyre to traverse the whole
length of the Mediterranean and out into the Atlantic northwards to
the British Isles, through storm and tempest, to embark the cargoes of
tin. To be able to perform such a voyage not once but time after time
is sufficient proof of the seamanship and navigation of the crews no
less than of the seaworthiness of the Phœnician craft. Even that most
wonderful circumnavigation of Africa by the Phœnicians as given by
Herodotus is regarded by Grote, Rawlinson, and other authorities as
having actually occurred and being not a mere figment of imagination.
The story may be briefly summed up thus. Neco, King of Egypt, was
anxious to have a means of connecting the Red Sea and Mediterranean
by water, but had failed in his efforts to make a canal between the
Nile and the Gulf of Suez, so he resolved that the circumnavigation
of Africa should be attempted. For this he needed the world’s finest
seamen and navigators with the best ocean-going ships available.
Accordingly he chose the Phœnicians, who, departing from a Red Sea
port, coasted round Africa, and after nearly three years arrived safely
back in Egypt. The obvious question which the reader will ask is how
could such craft possibly carry enough food for three years. The answer
is that they did not even attempt such a feat. Instead, they used to
make some harbour after part of their voyage was accomplished, land,
sow their grain, wait till harvest-time, and then sail off with their
food on board all ready for a further instalment of the journey.
And there is really nothing too wonderful in this long voyage when
we remember that in Africa what is to-day called Indian corn can be
reaped six weeks after being sown; and that three years is not such
an excessively long time for a well-manned craft fitted with mast and
squaresail to coast from headland to headland, across all the bays and
bights of the African continent. A great achievement it certainly was,
not to be attempted (unless history is woefully silent) again until
towards the close of the fifteenth century, when Vasco da Gama doubled
the Cape of Good Hope.

They had for years been wont in the Mediterranean to make voyages by
night. They had steered their course by aid of the Polar star. “They
undoubtedly,” remarks Professor Rawlinson, “from an ancient date
made themselves charts of the seas which they frequented, calculated
distances, and laid down the relative position of place to place.
Strabo says that the Sidonians especially cultivated the arts of
astronomy and arithmetic as being necessary for reckoning a ship’s
course, and particularly needed in sailing by night.” Later on we
shall again call attention to the great surprise which confronted the
dwellers by the Mediterranean when they voyaged into other seas. The
Phœnicians, so long as they cruised only in the former, had no tide
to contend with; but when they set forth into the Red Sea, the Indian
Ocean, the Atlantic, and the English Channel, they found a factor
which, hitherto, they had not been compelled to encounter. But by such
a seafaring race it was not long before even this new consideration
was dealt with and utilised in the proper manner. “They noted,” says
Rawlinson, “the occurrence of spring and neap tides, and were aware of
the connection with the position of the sun and moon relatively to the
earth, but they made the mistake of supposing that the spring tides
were highest at the summer solstice, whereas they are really highest
in December.”

If we omit the Egyptians from our category as being almost exclusively
inland navigators, we must regard these Phœnicians as historically the
first great seamen of the world, and it is nothing short of remarkable
that in an age such as theirs, when there were so few accessories to
encourage and develop the marine instinct, they should have essayed
so much and succeeded so magnificently in their projects. Remember,
too, that they had something of the instinct of the engineer as well
as of the seaman in their nature. It was the Phœnicians whom Xerxes
employed in 485 B.C. for the purpose of cutting a ship canal through
the isthmus which joins Mt. Athos to the mainland. It was they, also,
who constructed a double bridge of boats across the Hellespont to form
the basis of a solid causeway, and in each of these undertakings they
covered themselves with distinction.

They were no amateurs, no mere experimenters. It is certain that,
in their own time, they were, even with their primitive ships, very
far from primitive in their ideas of seamanship. Read the following
exceedingly interesting account of one who went aboard a Phœnician
vessel and has left to posterity his impressions of his visit. The
descriptive narrative reads so true and seems so perfectly spontaneous
and natural that we almost forget the many centuries which have elapsed
since it was set down. Here, then, you have the record of no less a
person than Xenophon, a man who was far too discriminating to allow
any flow of careless words, far too observant, also, to allow anything
worth noting to escape his watchful eye. In “The Economist” he makes
one of his characters refer to a Phœnician trireme, and he is speaking
of that nation’s ships when the Phœnicians were under the Persian

“Or[2] picture a trireme, crammed choke-ful of mariners; for what
reason is she so terror-striking an object to her enemies, and a sight
so gladsome to the eyes of friends? Is it not that the gallant ship
sails so swiftly? And why is it that, for all their crowding, the
ship’s company cause each other no distress? Simply that there, as you
see them, they sit in order; in order bend to the oar; in order recover
the stroke; in order step on board; in order disembark.”

And again:--

“I must tell you, Socrates, what strikes me as the finest and most
accurate arrangement of goods and furniture it was ever my fortune to
set eyes on, when I went as a sightseer on board the great Phœnician
merchantman and beheld an endless quantity of goods and gear of all
sorts, all separately packed and stowed away within the smallest
compass. I need scarce remind you (he said, continuing his narrative)
what a vast amount of wooden spars and cables a ship depends on in
order to get to moorings; or again, in putting out to sea: you know
the host of sails and cordage, rigging as they call it, she requires
for sailing; the quantity of engines and machinery of all sorts she
is armed with in case she should encounter any hostile craft; the
infinitude of arms she carries, with her crew of fighting men aboard.
Then all the vessels and utensils, such as people use at home on land,
required for the different messes, form a portion of the freight; and
besides all this, the hold is heavy laden with a mass of merchandise,
the cargo proper, which the master carries with him for the sake of
traffic. Well, all these different things that I have named lay packed
there in a space but little larger than a fair-sized dining-room.
The several sorts, moreover, as I noticed, lay so well arranged,
there could be no entanglement of one with other, nor were searchers
needed; and if all were snugly stowed, all were alike get-at-able,
much to the avoidance of delay if anything were wanted on the instant.
Then the pilot’s mate--the look-out man at the prow, to give him his
proper title--was, I found, so well acquainted with the place for
everything that, even off the ship, he could tell you where each set
of things was laid and how many there were of each, just as well as
anyone who knows his alphabet could tell you how many letters there are
in Socrates, and the order in which they stand. I saw this same man
(continued Ischomachus) examining at leisure everything which could
possibly be needful for the service of the ship. His inspection caused
me such surprise, I asked him what he was doing, whereupon he answered,
‘I am looking to see, stranger, in case anything should happen, how
everything is arranged in the ship, and whether anything is wanting or
not lying handy and shipshape. There is no time left, you know, when
God makes a tempest in the great deep, to set about searching for what
you want or to be giving out anything which is not snug and shipshape
in its place.’”

There was something, then, so excellent in arrangement in these
Phœnician ships which seemed to Xenophon so superior to the vessels
of his own countrymen; and the sailor-like neatness and systematic
order were to him so striking that even to his disciplined and orderly
mind they were most remarkable. It requires but little imagination to
picture from this scant reference the ship’s company doing everything
according to drill. The seaman-like care for the running gear on the
part of the ship’s husband ready for any emergency is, indeed, highly

The importance of the Phœnicians is considerable, not merely for their
own sake, but because of their permanent influence on the Greeks.
But the latter were rather fighters than explorers as compared with
the Phœnicians. At a very early date there was the sea communication
between the Mediterranean and the North, and we may date this certainly
as far back as the year 2000 B.C., suggests Dr. Nansen, himself an
explorer and student of the early voyagers. The only places, excluding
China, whence tin-ore was known to be procurable in ancient times,
he asserts, were North-West Spain, Cornwall, and probably Brittany.
It is significant that in the oldest pyramid-graves of Egypt tin is
found, and the inference is that the inhabitants of the Mediterranean
from at least this epoch voyaged north to fetch this commodity from
Western Europe. And with the tin came also supplies of amber as well.
Archæological finds, affirms the same authority, prove that as far
back as the Scandinavian Bronze Age, or prior to this, there must have
been some sort of communication between the Mediterranean and northern
lands. One of the earliest trade routes connecting the Mediterranean
and the Baltic was from the Black Sea up the Dneiper, then along its
tributary the Bug to the Vistula, and down the latter to the coast. By
their sea-voyages to distant lands the Phœnicians contributed for the
first time a great deal of geographical knowledge of the world, and
in many ways influenced Greek geography. Up till then the learned men
who applied themselves to such subjects had but the vaguest idea of
the North. But just as in subsequent centuries the Spanish kept their
explored regions to themselves and continued most cautious lest other
nationalities should learn their sources of wealth, so the Phœnicians
did their best to keep their trade routes secret lest their rivals,
the Greeks, should step in and enrich themselves. In the absence,
therefore, of anything sufficiently definite, there was for a long
period a good deal of wild and inaccurate speculation.

But it is when we come to Pytheas of Massilia that we reach the
border-line which separates fact from fable. This eminent astronomer
and geographer of Marseilles brought together a knowledge of northern
countries which was based not on premonition, not on speculation, not
on hearsay, but on actual experience. So original, so accurate, and
so far-reaching was his work, that for the next fifteen hundred years
he dominated all geographical knowledge. We can fix his time if we
remember that he flourished probably about the year 330 B.C. He was
the first person in history to introduce astronomical measurements for
ascertaining the geographical situation of a place, and thus became the
founder of the science of navigation--the science which has enabled
seas to be crossed in safety and continents to be discovered; which has
given to the ship of all species a freedom to employ her speed without
sacrificing safety. Indirectly arising from these may be traced the
development and civilising and peopling of the world which have so
entirely modified history.

By means of a great gnomon, Pytheas determined “with surprising
accuracy” the latitude of Marseilles, and in relation to this laid
down the latitude of more northerly places. He observed that the Pole
of the heavens did not coincide, as the earlier astronomer Eudoxus
had supposed, with any star. What Pytheas did find was that it made
an almost regular rectangle with three stars lying near it. (At that
time the Pole was some distance from the present Pole-star.) And since
Pytheas steered by the stars, the Pole of the heavens was obviously of
the highest importance to him. A gnomon, it may be explained, was the
pillar of projection which cast the shadow on the various Greek forms
of dial. In the case under discussion the gnomon was a vertical column
raised on a plane.

As to the species of ship in which Pytheas sailed we can but speculate.
Most probably it was somewhat similar to the Phœnician type, with
oarsmen and one mast with squaresail. But what is known is that he
sailed out through the Pillars of Hercules. At that date Cape St.
Vincent--then known as the Sacred Promontory--was the furthest of the
world’s limit in the minds of the Greeks. He was the first to sail
along the coasts of Northern Gaul and Germany. He was the discoverer
of at least most of Great Britain, the Shetlands, and Norway as far as
the Arctic Circle. And as he voyaged he studied the phenomena of the
sea--collected invaluable data as to tides and their origin. Himself
a Greek and unaccustomed to tidal movements, he was the first of his
race to connect this systematic flowing and ebbing of the sea with the
moon. Dr. Nansen, himself the greatest explorer of our times, has not
hesitated to describe Pytheas as “one of the most capable and undaunted
explorers the world has ever seen.” But as so often happens in the case
of a pioneer, Pytheas was ahead of his time, and the description which
he brought back of his travels, of the strange lands and unheard-of
phenomena, was not believed by his contemporaries. There followed,
therefore, a gulf of incredulity for about three hundred years till we
come to the time of Julius Cæsar, and from that point we shall, in due
course, continue to trace the development of navigational science.



But before we proceed further, it is essential that we look carefully
into the building, administration, and handling of those fleets of
vessels which made history as they scudded across the blue waters
of the south of Europe. We want to know, also, something of the
composition of their crews, their officers, and the divisions of
control, of the tactics employed in naval warfare, of the limitations
in manœuvring, the methods of working the oars, of rigging the ships,
of steering, and so on.

Greece had accepted the ship as it had evolved in the hands of the
Phœnicians with certain modifications. We are no longer anxious to
trace that development, but rather to see, in the first place, how the
Greeks availed themselves of their inheritance. In the building of
their ships the Greeks gave neither sternpost nor stempost. The timbers
of the ships were held together by means of wooden pegs (or treenails,
as we should call them), and also by metal nails, bronze being chosen
in preference to iron nails for the most obvious of reasons. But in
those days, as any student of Greek history is aware, not infrequently
craft had to be transported. Therefore the fastenings were so placed
as to allow of the ship being divided into sections for carrying
across land to some distant water. The outer framework of the hull was
found in the keel and ribs. The ship’s planking, which varied from the
somewhat ample 2¼ inches to 5¼ inches thick, was fastened through the
ribs to the beams.

The warships had most necessarily to be built of the utmost strength to
sustain the terrible shocks in ramming. To prevent the damage incurred
being disastrous, cables--called hypozomata--undergirded the ship. The
Greek word signifies the diaphragm or midriff in anatomy, but in the
plural it is used to designate the braces which were passed either
underneath or horizontally around the ship’s hull. The reader may
remember that in “Sailing Ships and their Story” I called attention to
the Egyptian ships, which used to be strengthened by stretching similar
cables not girth-wise, but direct from stem to stern across the deck
over wooden forks amidships. Primarily, then, these braces on the Greek
ships were to counteract the effects of ramming; incidentally they kept
the ship’s hull from “working” when she pounded in heavy seas.

And then when the shipwright had finished his construction of the ship
she was coloured with a composition consisting of paint and wax, the
latter serving to give these speedy ships the minimum of skin-friction.
The colours chosen were purple, two whites, violet, yellow, and blue.
Green, for the sake of invisibility, was used for scouts and pirates.
The primitive Grecian ships had only patches of colour at the bows, the
rest of the hull being covered black with tar. Occasionally neither wax
nor tar was employed, but the hull was sheathed with lead outside the
planking, layers of tarred sailcloth being placed in between the two
materials. They made their sails either of linen, or, sometimes, of
papyrus fibre or flax, and there were two kinds of sailcloth which the
Athenian Navy utilised. The bolt-ropes of the sails were of hide, the
skins of the hyena and seal being especially employed. The ropes used
for the different purposes of the ship were of two kinds. Some were of
strips of hide; more frequently they were from the fibre of papyrus or
from flax or hemp. The sails were often coloured--black for mourning,
purple or vermilion for an admiral or monarch. Topsails were sometimes
coloured, the lower sail remaining uncoloured. The green-hulled
scouts also had their sails and ropes dyed to match the colour of the
Mediterranean. And sometimes the interesting sight would be seen of
sails with inscriptions and devices woven in golden thread into the

There is a Greek word _askos_, which signifies a leathern bag or
wine-skin, from which the word _askoma_ is derived. The latter was
the word given to a leathern bag which was attached to the oar so as
to prevent the water from penetrating through into the ship, and yet
allowed, with only slight friction, the oar to be brought backward and
forward. There is something slightly similar to-day in the leather
flap which is found on the Bristol Channel pilot cutters, covering the
discharge from the watertight cockpits, the motion of the ship through
the water causing the flap to be pressed tightly against the hull, and
thus preventing any water from entering. But in the instance of the
Grecian craft the flap was much bigger. There were no rowlocks, but the
oar was fastened by a leathern loop to a thole-pin against which the
rower pulled his oar.

Bear in mind that, whereas the Greek merchant-ship mostly relied on
sails, the warship was essentially oar-propelled. And because she
must needs carry a large number of rowers they needed supervision.
Hence a gangway was placed on either side of the ship, both for that
purpose and also for the placing of the fighting men. Illustrations on
ancient Greek vases clearly show that some warships were fitted with a
hurricane-deck above, and this extended down the length of the ship,
but not from one side to the other. This hurricane-deck, if we are to
give any credence to contemporary illustrations, was a fairly light
affair raised on vertical supports of sufficient strength. In addition
to the human ballast of the oarsmen, gravel, sand, and stone were used
for trimming the ship. For instance, it might be necessary to get the
bows deeper into the water so that the ram came into operation; or,
after ramming and receiving damage, it might be found advisable to
trim the ship by the stern so as to get the bows well out of water. To
what extent these craft leaked one cannot say; but one can reasonably
suppose that as they were built of unseasoned wood, as the shocks from
ramming were very injurious, and as they had to suffer a good deal
of wear and tear through frequent beaching, they made a fair amount
of water. At any rate, it is certain that they provided against this
in arranging an Archimedean screw, worked by a treadmill, or buckets
for getting rid of the bilge-water. It is probable, also, that the
drinking-water in cisterns or skins would be deposited as low in the
hull as possible.

The Greeks, in addition to their technical ability, had inherited a
similar sea-instinct to that of the Phœnicians, and this keenness is
by no means absent from Greek literature. What, for instance, could be
more enthusiastic than the following exquisitely poetic extract from
Antipater of Sidon:--

“Now is the season for a ship to run through the gurgling water, and
no longer does the sea gloom, fretted with gusty squalls; and now the
swallow plasters her globed houses under the rafters, and the soft
leafage laughs in the meadows. Therefore wind up your soaked cables, O
sailors, and weigh your sunken anchors from the harbours, and stretch
the forestays to carry your well-woven sails. This I, the son of
Bromius, bid you, Priapus of the anchorage.”[3]

It is an exhortation, at the return of spring, to refit the ships which
had been laid up since the winter, tethered to the “soaked cables.” It
is an invitation to get the ships properly afloat, to step the masts
and set up the forestay in all readiness for getting under way for the
sailing season.

Or again, listen to Leonidas of Tarentum in a similar theme.

“Now is the season of sailing,” he says, “for already the chattering
swallow is come and the pleasant west wind; the meadows flower, and the
sea, tossed up with waves and rough blasts, has sunk to silence. Weigh
thine anchors and unloose thine hawsers, O mariner, and sail with all
thy canvas set: this I, Priapus of the harbour, bid thee, O man, that
thou mayest sail forth to all thy trafficking.”[4]

“Mine be a mattress on the poop,” sings[5] Antiphilus with no less
ecstasy of the life on board a Grecian ship, “mine be a mattress on the
poop, and the awnings over it sounding with the blows of the spray,
and the fire forcing its way out of the hearth-stones, and a pot upon
them with empty turmoil of bubbles; and let me see the boy dressing the
meat, and my table be a ship’s plank covered with a cloth; and a game
of pitch-and-toss, and the boatswain’s whistle: the other day I had
such fortune, for I love common life.”

Three thousand years, indeed, before the birth of our Lord there were
ships sailing the Ægean Sea, but it was only the progress of time and
experience which made these craft and their crews’ ability anything
more than primitive. As you look through the poems of Homer you
find various significant references to craft, and he speaks of the
“red-cheeked” ships, referring to the vermilion-coloured bows, where a
face was frequently painted, red being the conventional colour in those
early times for flesh. The same idea is still seen in the Chinese junks
and the Portuguese fishing craft.


The earliest Grecian ships were crescent-shaped, and the stern so
resembled the horn of a cow that it was called the _korumba_ or point.
There is a reference in the Iliad to the high-pointed sterns of ships.
From Homer, too, we know that the timber employed in shipbuilding
consisted of oak, pine, fir, alder, poplar, and white poplar; that
the masts and oars were of fir, that the woodwork of the hull was
erected on shipbuilders’ stocks. The word used for the latter was
_druochoi_--meaning the props on which the keel (_tropis_) was laid.
The hull was secured by treenails and dowel-joints, the planking being
laid over the ribs. Further, we know also that the ship of Homer had
either twenty or fifty oarsmen.

The pre-Homeric Greeks did not use thole-pins, but the oars were
fastened to the gunwale by means of leathered hoops. It was not till
a later date that the pins already mentioned came into use. It is
noticeable, too, that Homer uses the word _kleides_ in referring to the
thwarts on which the rowers sat. For the singular of this word means a
hook or clasp, and is used in this sense for the thwart or rowing bench
which locked the sides of the ship together. _Zuga_ is also used in
the Odyssey to signify the same thing. In attempting to piece together
these fragmentary details of the Homeric ship, we must bear in mind
that below the _zuga_ or rowing thwarts the hold was undecked, but that
fore and aft there ran the half-decks--_ikria_, Homer calls them. The
forecastle formed at once a cabin and a look-out post, and helped to
keep the forward end protected when butting into a sea. Right aft, of
course, sat the helmsman, or _kubernetes_, and it is supposed that a
bench here stretched across the poop on which, as he sat on deck, he
could rest his feet and work the _oieion_ or handle of the rudder. A
Greek ship usually had two pedalia or steering oars, one being placed
on either quarter. These were joined together across the ship by means
of cross-bars (_zeuglai_), to which the tiller or handle was attached.
Finally, over the poop rose the tail-piece which is so noticeable
in some of the vase-illustrations of Grecian ships, and had its
counterpart in the lotus-bud seen in the ships of the Egyptians.

Homer speaks of “stepping the mast” (_histos_), and apparently the
step was affixed as low as possible, its heel being supported by a
prop and capable of being easily lowered before the galley went into
battle under oar-propulsion alone. The forestays, which just now we
saw Antipater urging the sailors to stretch, were two in number. The
Homeric word for these is _protonoi_, though the word was used by
Euripides in speaking of the braces which controlled the yards. On the
yard which stretched at right angles across the mast both merchantmen
and warships set the squaresail, and the use by Homer of the word
_meruomai_ for _drawing up_ or furling sails is sufficiently indicative
that the ancient Greek sailors stowed sail not by lowering it on deck
as in a modern fore-and-after, but after the fashion of a modern
full-rigged ship.

We find mention also of the halyards--one on each side of the mast is
shown in the Greek vase designs--which supported the yard to the top of
the mast, the sail being reefed by means of brailing lines. The same
word that we have just mentioned, for “drawing up” or “furling” sails,
was also employed for drawing up the cables. And here again there is a
further connection. The plural _kaloi_ is used to mean (1) cables, (2)
reefing ropes (i.e. brails), or even reefs as opposed to the sheets
(_podes_) and braces (_huperai_). Euripides employs the expression
_kalōs exienai_, meaning to “let out the reefs.” And (3) _kaloi_ also
means not merely generally a rope, but also a sounding line, which
again is evidence that these ancient seamen found the depth of water
as the modern sailor feels his way through shoal seas. The word just
given for sheets was applied to the lower corners of the sail--clews
as we nowadays call them--and thus naturally the ropes attached to the
foot (or lowest part) were also called _podes_. The braces were called
_huperai_, obviously because they were in fact the upper ropes.

As we have just seen from Antipater and Leonidas, the mariner used
cables and hawsers for securing his ship, these being sent out from
both bow and stern. Instead of anchors the early Greeks used heavy
stones for the bow cables, whilst other hawsers were run out from the
stern to the shore and hitched on to a big boulder or rock. If the
former, then there was a hole therein. An endless rope was rove through
this perforated stone, so that thus the ship could be hauled ashore
for disembarking, or when wishing to go aboard again, sufficient slack
of course having been left at the bow cables. A long pole was used for
shoving off, while a ladder, which is seen more than once in Greek vase
illustrations, was carried at the stern for convenience in descending
to the land from the high-pointed sterns.

There were two sailing seasons. The first was after the rising of the
Pleiads, in spring; the second was between midsummer and autumn. When,
after the setting of the Pleiads, the ship was hauled up into winter
quarters on land, she was supported by props to keep her upright, and
then a stone fence was put round her. This afforded her protection
against wind and weather. The _cheimaros_, or plug, was then taken out
from the bottom so as to let out all the bilge-water. The ship’s gear,
the sails, steering oars, and tiller were then stored at home till the
time came once more for the sailors to “stretch” their forestays.

About the year 700 B.C. the Greek warships were manned by fifty rowers;
hence these craft were called _pentekontoroi_. With the existence of
a forecastle and a raised horned poop, one can understand perfectly
well how easy was the transition which caused an upper deck to be added
about this century. This gave to the ship greater power, because it
allowed two banks of oarsmen, one on each deck. As far as possible
these rowers were covered in to avoid the attacks of the enemy. Such
shallow-draught vessels as the war-galleys could not possibly be good
as sailing craft. They must be looked upon as essentially rowing
vessels which occasionally set canvas when cruising and a fair wind was

The _pentekontoroi_ were single-banked, and for a long time the Greek
fleets consisted solely of this type. But then came the additional
deck just spoken of which gave two banks, and subsequently the trireme
succeeded the bireme. The trireme was very popular till after the close
of the Peloponnesian War, when the quadrireme was introduced from
Carthage. Dr. Oskar Seyffert[6] asserts that before the close of the
fourth century B.C. quinquiremes and even six-banked craft, and (later
still) even sixteen-banked vessels are supposed by some writers to have
been in vogue. But as to the latter this seems highly improbable.

And before we proceed any further, let us endeavour to get a clear idea
as to the nature of a trireme. This species of ship had been invented
by those great seamen who hailed from the port of Sidon. About the
year 700 B.C. this type was adopted by the Greeks, and then began to
supersede all other existing types of war-vessels. Themistocles in
483 B.C. inaugurated the excellent practice of maintaining a large
permanent navy. As a commencement he built a hundred triremes, and
these were used at the battle of Salamis. In the Greek word _trieres_
there is nothing to signify that it was necessarily three-banked, and
it is well to realise this fact from the start. The word just means
“triple-arranged,” neither more nor less. It is when we come to the
question as to the details of this triple arrangement that we find a
divergence of theory. It will, therefore, be best if we state first the
prevailing theory of the trireme’s arrangement, and then pass on to
give what is the more modern and the more plausible interpretation.


Showing the disposition of rowers in a trireme.]

The most general idea, then, is that the trireme was fitted with three
tiers of oarsmen. In this case the _thalamitai_ were those who sat and
worked on the lowest tier; the _zugitai_, those who sat on the beams;
whilst the _thranitai_ were the men who sat on the highest tier. (Homer
refers to the seven-foot bench, or _thrēnus_, which was the seat of
the helmsman or the rowers). Each oarsman, it is thought, sat below
and slightly to the rear of the oarsman above him, so that these three
sections of men formed an oblique line. This economised space and
facilitated their movements. A variation of this same theory suggests
that the _thalamitai_ sat close to the vessel’s side, the _zugitai_ who
were higher up being distant from the side the breadth of one thwart,
whilst the _thranitai_, higher still, were the breadth of two thwarts
away. The oar of each rower would pass over the head of the rower below.

But a better theory of the arrangement of the trireme may be presented
as follows, and it has the advantage of satisfying all the evidence
found in ancient literature and pictorial representation. Banish, then,
from your mind all thought of three superimposed tiers, and instead
consider a galley so arranged that the rowers work side by side. Each
of the triple set of oarsmen sits pulling his own separate oar. But
all three oars emerge through one porthole. In front of each bench was
a stretcher, and the rower stood up grasping his oar and pulled back,
letting the full weight of his body fall on to the stroke till at
its end he found himself sitting on the bench. On either side of him,
at the same bench, was another rower doing the same exertion. In each
porthole there would thus be three thole-pins to fit three oars. In
this case, then, the _thalamitēs_ would be he who rowed nearest the
porthole. Because he worked the shortest oar and thus had the least
exertion he received the least pay. Next to him sat the _zugitēs_, and
next to the latter came the _thranitēs_, who worked the longest oar,
and therefore did the most work, having to stand on a stool (_thranos_)
in order to get greater exertion on to his oar at the beginning of the
stroke. It is supposed that the rowers’ benches were not all in the
same plane, but that the second would be higher than the first, and the
third higher than the second.

The number of oars in an ancient trireme was as many as 170. These oars
were necessarily very long, and time was kept sometimes by the music
of a flute, or by the stroke set by the _keleustes_, who was on board
for that purpose. This he did either with a hammer of some sort, or his
voice. And there is at least one illustration showing such a man using
a hammer in an oar-propelled boat for that purpose.[7] The inscriptions
which were unearthed some years ago, containing the inventories of
the Athenian dockyards, belonging to the years between 373 B.C. and
323 B.C., have been collected and published. And it is from them that
we obtain such valuable information as the number of oarsmen which
the biremes carried. This number was usually 200, and was disposed
in the ship as follows: There were 54 _thalamitai_, 54 _zugitai_, 62
_thranitai_, and 30 _perineo_. The exact meaning of the latter word
is supercargoes or passengers, but they were carried perhaps as spare
oarsmen in case any became disabled.

All oars were worked together against the tholes, and as we know from
the old depictions there was a space left both at bow and stern beyond
the oarsmen, this space being called the _parexeiresia_. The number
of oarsmen just mentioned may seem very large, but having regard to
the speed required for manœuvring and for ramming effectively it is
not excessive. But when a war-vessel was employed on transport duty
so great a host of men was not essential. In the case of a vessel
engaged, for instance, in carrying horses in her hold only sixty
oarsmen were needed. Had you found yourself alongside one of the
war-galleys you would have been struck by its length and leanness more
than by anything else. As you passed round by the bows you would have
observed the two great eyes, one on either side of the hull, through
which in all probability the hawsers passed. Behind these two eyes
were very substantial catheads which projected like great ears from
the ship, and were used primarily for slinging the anchors just as in
the old-fashioned sailing ships of Nelson and after; but, secondly,
for convenience when ramming. Thus, when the terrible shock came, the
catheads would protect the oars of the ship from damage and allow the
utmost speed to be maintained till the last minute--a factor that was
naturally of the highest importance. But also they were sometimes
strengthened with supports so that they might catch in the topsides of
the enemy and do him considerable damage.

As to the ram, which was the pivot of all the ancient naval tactics,
there was one projecting spur below, but above it was another ram to
catch the attacked ship at a second place. These rams were made of
bronze and had three teeth; or if not made of bronze they were of wood
sheathed with that metal. The stempost in these craft rose high in the
air, and each ship had a distinguishing sign consisting either of a
figurehead or some relief or painting at the bows. Of the two kinds of
sails which these vessels carried, the larger was put ashore prior to
battle, and only the smaller one retained. And as there were two sizes
of sails, so there were two sizes of masts to correspond. Besides the
halyards, brailing ropes, cables, braces, sheets, and forestay already
alluded to, there were also backstays to support the masts. This was
up to about the year 400 B.C., but, at any rate, by 330 B.C. triremes
had simply mast, yard, sail, ropes, and the loops of brailing ropes, a
simplified form of the earlier brails.


Showing eye and both upper and lower ram, each with triple teeth.]

But additional to the triremes which had been first built at Corinth,
were the quadriremes which first appeared in the year 398 B.C. As to
their nature, their complement, and other details we know nothing. But
it is legitimate to suppose that if the triremes rowed three men to a
bench these were manned by four men on each bench rowing four oars in
a similar manner. In the same year that first saw the quadriremes were
built also quinquiremes. As to their size and complement we know just
this much--that at the battle of Ecnomus the Roman and Carthaginian
quinquiremes carried about 300 rowers and 120 combatants each.
Probably, like the medieval quinquiremes, they rowed five men to each
oar; or, alternatively, the five men each pulled an oar through the
same porthole.

Some of the later developments of the marine instinct in the
Mediterranean and adjacent seas became grotesque. Personal pride and
a keen sense of rivalry caused the King of Sicily and his brother
sovereigns of Macedonia, Asia, and Alexandria during the fourth and
third centuries B.C. to construct men-of-war on a huge scale. A temple
in Cyprus commemorates the builder of a twenty- and a thirty-fold
vessel. But there was even a forty-fold vessel constructed by Ptolemy
Philopator about the year 220 B.C., which was the size of one of our
big liners of to-day. Two hundred and eighty cubits she measured in
length, thirty-eight she was wide. Her stem rose 48 cubits above the
water with only a 4-cubit draught, while the stern-ornament was 53
cubits high in the air. Fitted with a double prow which had seven rams,
a double stern with four steering paddles 30 cubits each in length,
the largest of her oars measured 38 cubits in length, but they were
nicely balanced by weighting them with an equipoise of lead near the
handles. Twelve strong cables 600 cubits long girded her together, and
her complement was far greater than any vessel of modern times, four
thousand oarsmen, 400 sailors, 2850 soldiers, to say nothing of the
retinue of servants and the stores which she carried besides. There
was also an enormous Nile barge 280 cubits long, built by Sesostris,
but such craft as the fore-mentioned must be looked upon less as an
opportunity for practising the seaman’s art than as a vulgar display of

The true war-vessel was made in the proportions of length seven or
eight times her width, and drew about 3 feet of water. Light, shallow,
and flat, not particularly seaworthy, they were utterly different
from the round, heavy, strong, decked merchantman. The war-galley’s
triple-spiked ram had come into use as far back as 556 B.C. The galley
was most certainly fast and built of fir with a keel of oak. Competent
modern authorities agree in estimating the speed of the galley and
merchantman in those days as about 7½ to 4 (or 5) knots respectively.


(In the British Museum.)]

When stone was discarded and metal anchors began to be adopted
about the year 600 B.C., they were made first of iron. Some idea of
the weight of the holding tackle in vogue may be gathered from the
statement that an anchor weighing less than 56 lbs. was used in the
Athenian navy. (For the sake of comparison, it may be added that this
is about the weight of a modern 10-ton yacht’s bower anchor.) Stone
and lead were affixed to these anchors by iron clamps near the bottom
of the shank. The ships of the Athenian navy carried each a couple
of anchors, while large merchant ships carried several, as we know
from the voyages of St. Paul. Cork floats were employed for buoying
the anchors, as to-day, and also served the purpose of lifebuoys.
Usually the ships rode to rope cables, but sometimes to chain ones. It
can readily be imagined that when these light ships pitched fore and
aft into a sea the two large steering oars at the high stern would be
frequently out of the water, and thus quite easily the vessel would
not be under command. In such instances another pair was placed at the
bows. Like the modern Arabs, the early seamen of the Mediterranean
had to go aloft as best they could by climbing the sail, the mast, or
hanging their weight on any rope they could find.

“Curiously,” says Mr. Torr in his invaluable little book “Ancient
Ships,” to which I am considerably indebted, “the practice was always
to brail up half the sail when the ship was put on either tack,
the other half being thereby transformed into a triangle with base
extending from the middle of the yard to the leeward end of it, and
apex terminating in the sheet below.” Apparently, when the yard was
braced round the sail was furled on the arm that came aft, but left
unfurled on the arm that went forward.

It is quite certain that the ancient Mediterranean seamen did perform
voyages at night when they had attained to experience and confidence,
and there is at least one plain reference in Greek literature to a
lighthouse, as in the following passage: “No longer dreading the
rayless night-mist, sail towards me confidently, O seafarers; for all
wanderers I light my far-shining torch, memorial of the labours of the

Some of the early vase paintings show the war-galley not with a ram as
developed subsequently, but a pig’s snout, and the _korumba_ or poop
extremity, shaped like a cow’s horn, could be lopped off by the victor
and retained as a trophy. And in looking at these ancient galleys one
must not forget that they were built not as the English shipbuilders
of, say, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries laid down ships.
Galleys were built far more quickly and easily--whole fleets of
them--when the first rumour of war arrived. Capable as they were of
being put together with greater dispatch, launched with far greater
ease, and needing many tons less material than one of the famous wooden
walls which in later years were to sail the seas, it required not quite
so much enterprise if the ancients desired ships, and consequently
there was no small inducement for men to become expert in the things
of the sea. How important was the shipbuilding industry regarded by
the Mediterraneans may be seen from the careful arrangements made a
long time ahead for obtaining adequate supplies of timber. About the
year 380 B.C. a treaty was made between Amyntas III and the Chalkidians
regulating the export and import of shipbuilding materials; for it
must not be forgotten that southern Makedon, the Chalkidic peninsula,
and Amphipolis were the chief sources whence Athens derived its _xula
naupegesima_--ship-timber--for her dockyards. This record is found in a
marble which was discovered at Olynthos, and is now at Vienna.

At Corinth and other places there were all the accessories of a
shipbuilding yard on a big scale, including proper slips, and even
ship-tramways running down to the sea for hauling ships ashore. At such
yards long, narrow rowing galleys and round, broad sailing merchant
ships were put together with all the skill which the Greeks possessed.
Here hulls were built out of pine, cedar, and cypress, while the
interiors were constructed of pine, lime, plane, elm, ash, acacia,
or mulberry. Here we could have watched the masts and yards being
fashioned out of fir or pine, whilst others were busy caulking seams
with tow, or heating the wax and tar over the cauldrons.

But the picture of the ancient Greek shipbuilding activity is far
from complete owing to the comparatively scant material which
exists. In 1834, when the workmen were digging the foundations for a
building at the Piræus, they came upon a Roman or Byzantine drain,
and discovered it to be lined with slabs of marble which were covered
with inscriptions. These were some of the inventories of the Athenian
dockyards of the fourth century B.C., and will be found published in
August Böckh’s “Corpus Inscriptionum Atticarum,” Vol. II, Part II, p.

In any consideration of the Greek seamen we must think of them as
existing almost exclusively for one purpose--not for trading or
exploring or fishing, but for fighting. Into the latter was poured
practically all their seafaring energy. Their general naval strategy
consisted of two kinds. The first consisted in reproducing afloat the
principles of fighting on shore. To this end the galleys were massed
with troops as many as they could hold, and so soon as the engaging
combatants could get close enough they attacked each other with spears
and shot arrows from their bows. The victory therefore came to that
floating army which had the most numerous and ablest soldiers. Brute
force rather than tactics: energy rather than skill won the day.

And thus it continued until about the end of the fifth century B.C.,
when another method of fighting was introduced and developed by the
Athenians to its most perfect state. This consisted as follows: The
well-manned, quickly-darting galley shot out against the enemy,
pecked deeply--viciously--with its beak, and then hurried out of
the danger sphere as quickly as it had entered. Connected with the
general strategy of ramming there were two distinct schemes of tactics
employed. The first was called _diekplous_, or sailing through. This
consisted of breaking the enemy’s line. A single line of galleys would
pass between the enemy’s line, make a sharp turn, and then swoop down
on to them from astern, doing the utmost damage with their rams. The
other was technically known as _periplous_, or sailing around, and
consisted in outflanking the enemy’s ships so as to charge them with
the beak against their broadside. Thus it will be seen that neither of
these manœuvres involved a direct prow-to-prow attack, for the reason
that the Athenian ships were too light as to the bows. Prior to a fight
protective awnings of sailcloth or horsehair were spread over the open
spaces on these galleys, and every protection that could be afforded
the essential oarsmen was provided. Everything points to the fact that
the Greek fleets were properly organised and drilled. An admiral’s
ship was distinguished by a flag as well as any purple or vermilion
sail which she might carry so as most easily to be discernible across
the waters. When the fleet was at sea doing a passage before a fair
wind bound for the battle area, the admiral’s sail would in itself be
sufficient for a sign. But, as already emphasised, sails were lowered
before the battle commenced, and it is probable that either the flag
was displayed somewhere about the ship in that case, or that some
other method, such as the colour of the hull, was employed to cause
the discrimination. It is probable that the Greek admiral’s ship at
night, like that of the Roman admiral, carried three lights, the other
warships having one light each, except the transports, which were
distinguished by two.

[Illustration: SHIELD SIGNALLING.]

In battle a national flag was used so as to facilitate recognition of
one’s own vessels from those of the enemy. And, as illustrative of
the development of the early naval tactics, it is well to notice that
there existed a signalling code--the displaying of a purple flag, for
instance, being the signal for going into action. Mr. Torr mentions the
interesting fact that attempts were made at semaphoring with a single
flag, and further at signalling by flashing the sunlight from a shield.
In addition to the above, signals were made for getting under way, for
altering the formation of the fleet, for bringing-to, as well as for
disembarking troops.

Their seamanship was necessarily simple, because their ships had no
complicated gear and were primarily rowing craft. We know that they
used the sounding lead armed with grease, and the numerous landmarks
of the Ægean Sea and the neighbouring waters would be more than well
known to those in command of the ships sailing. When one thinks of
the bare simplicity of the Mediterranean galley, the fighting ship of
Tudor times with all its sails and rigging and running gear points
to a far more elaborate species of seamanship with a corresponding
increase of anxiety. As to the division in supervising the ship’s work,
the officers consisted as follows: The captain of the trireme--called
_trierarchos_--was in supreme command of his ship. Under him came the
_kubernetes_ or helmsman. Then forward stood the officer in command of
the bow--the _proreus_ or look-out man. Under these three officers the
ship was manœuvred in such a manner that either the enemy’s hull might
be pierced or, at any rate, his protruding lines of oars smashed into
splinters, thus rendering him an easy prey.

For the most part the representations of ancient classical ships have
been so carefully made that they have every appearance of accuracy,
taking into consideration the possibilities of wind, sails, and sea,
but occasionally mistakes are made which show that the artist certainly
was not a seaman. In the accompanying illustration[9] we have an
instructive picture of a penteconter. She sets two sails with a bowline
shown on the mizzen, but interesting as the picture is in many ways,
yet the sails are clearly not set in accordance with the wind. The
steering oar at the side and the flag on the staff at the bows will be
immediately noticed.


That the artist was not a seaman is obvious from the ludicrous way in
which the sails are depicted.]

To sum up, then, the Greek seamen evolved their ships as follows:
Like the Egyptians and Phœnicians before them, they began with a
penteconter, which means that each man pulled an oar and that there was
but one tier of twenty-five on either side of the ship. Next, inasmuch
as they wanted increased power and speed--possibly because the ships
were being built more strongly and thus needed more vehemently to be
rammed--so they had to increase the number of their oarsmen and to
lengthen their ship. This involved a risk of hogging, so the hull was
engirdled; or when that was dispensed with a deck was added to join
forecastle and poop, and gave facilities for a second tier of rowers.
In the next step we get the introduction of triremes, quadriremes,
and quinquiremes, which multiplied the number of men rowing from each
bench, but placed all the men on one bench pulling their oars through
the same porthole. After this come the monstrosities of the powerful
Egyptian, Sicilian, and other kings, in whose ships each oar was
probably pulled by any number of men from six to forty. But luxury
certainly came afloat at no late date. Professor Flinders Petrie
calls attention[10] to the extraordinary analogy between the work of
the Mykenæans and that of the Egyptians in the grandly embroidered
squaresails painted in the frescoes at Mykenæ. Certainly as far back as
232 B.C. there were mosaics to be seen on the magnificent ship of Hiero
II of Syracuse.[11]

Not less interesting were the ships and ways of ancient Rhodes, which
in like manner had its dieres, trieres, tetreres, penteres, even up to
seven- and nine-fold ships. In addition to these they had a swift type
of their own invention, having one bank of oars, called celoces. They
were wont, also, to use another fast type of craft called triemioliæ,
which had no fighting deck stretching from end to end. The usual
Rhodian naval tactics consisted in endeavouring to run through the
enemy’s line and break the oars of his ships as they passed. Afterwards
the Rhodians would then turn and ram them at the stern or else on the
beam, always carrying away something that was essential for working the
ship unless they could sink her forthwith.

They were very fond of one device in particular. When they were
positively compelled to ram stem to stem they used to make provision
by depressing their own bows as deep as possible in the water, so
that while the enemy’s ram struck them high above the water-line, the
Rhodian teeth holed the other ship well _below_ the water. After the
impact was over and the two ships fell apart the enemy was in a sinking
condition, whereas the Rhodian could, by removing his ballast and some
of his men aft, elevate his bows well above the water-line. But just as
was discovered in modern ironclads fitted with rams, it was found that
the rammer often came off as grievously as the rammed. At the battle
of Chios in 201 B.C. one galley left her ram in the enemy’s ship,
promptly filled and sank. At the battle of Myonnesos in 190 B.C., when
a Rhodian ship was ramming an enemy the anchor of the former caught
in the latter. The Rhodian ship endeavoured to go astern to clear
herself, but as she did so the cable got foul of her oars so that she
was incapacitated and captured. During this same battle the Rhodians
affixed braziers of fire which hung over the bows. In trying to avoid
these, the Syrian ships exposed their broadsides to the Rhodian rams,
so that it became a choice of two evils.

The Rhodians were fine, able seamen, and well they needed to be. But
even with the smart handling of their fast little craft they had all
their work cut out to keep off the embarrassing attentions of the
Cretan pirates during the second century B.C. On the biggest of their
galleys the Rhodians erected deckhouses with portholes for their
powerful catapults and archers. The custom of employing fireships,
which remained in vogue for many centuries down to the time of the
Armada and after, was already being employed by about the year 300
B.C. The Rhodians, too, had their proper organisation in naval matters
as distinct from any desultory measures. In the port of Rhodes they
had their dockyards, which were kept up at a great cost. And there
is something curiously modern in the stringent regulations kept
for preserving the dockyard secrets. Any unauthorised person who
intruded into certain parts thereof was punished with death. And this
strict rule was not peculiar to Rhodes, but obtained at Carthage and
elsewhere. In order to protect their harbours against the assaults
of the enemy, booms were laid across the entrances, and engines were
mounted on merchant ships moored near the harbour-mouth.

The Rhodians were great shipbuilders, and in their sheds was kept many
a craft ready to put to sea. But as Britain to-day builds warships for
nations other than herself, so it was with Rhodes, and to this end she
used to have brought to her immense quantities of timber, iron, lead,
pitch, tar, resin, hemp, hair (for caulking), and sailcloth. Even human
hair was employed in the service of the ship, and at the time of need
the ladies of Rhodes, Carthage, and Massilia cut off their tresses
and yielded it up for the making of ropes. The Rhodian squadrons were
usually of three ships or multiples of three, and every year a squadron
went forth for its sea experiences. The trieres, which carried as
many as two hundred men, each voyaged as far as the Atlantic. Fine
swimmers, fine seamen, their sea prowess was the cause of the greatest
admiration on the part of the Greeks. “It was a proverb,” says Mr.
Torr in his “Rhodes in Ancient Times,”[12] “that ten Rhodians were
worth ten ships,” and we must attribute their natural instinct and
acquired skill for marine matters to that fortunate accident of being
an island nation--a circumstance which has always, in all parts of the
globe, meant so much to the progress and independence of a nation.
Furthermore, the port of Rhodes was an important point on the line of
commerce, and this fact also must be taken into account in reckoning up
the influences at work for encouraging the marine arts, especially in
inculcating an interest and admiration for the things of the sea. For
those great merchant ships which used to sail to Egypt and come back
to Greece laden with corn were accustomed to make Rhodes their port of
call, and we cannot doubt that the sojourn of these big vessels with
their impressive bulk and remarkable spars would make a powerful appeal
to the imagination of the local sailormen and shipwrights always on the
look-out for new ideas. Then, too, they had their own overseas trade,
for large quantities of wine were exported from Rhodes to both Egypt
and Sicily. Even by the third century B.C. the Rhodians were strong
both as a naval and commercial nation. Their maritime laws were so
excellent that they were afterwards adopted by Rome, and even to-day
much of the world’s best sea law can be traced back to the people of
that Mediterranean island.



Marine development under the Romans was largely influenced by Greek
precedent and practice, but there were points of difference.

The transportation of goods across the seas was conducted by
shipowners, who formed themselves into corporations under the style of
_navicularii marini_, but from the middle of November to the middle of
March navigation was suspended until the finer weather returned. Under
the Republic these shipmen worked for the companies of _publicani_, but
Augustus abolished these financial companies, appointing in their stead
superintendents who dealt direct with the owners of ships. The latter
were regarded as anything but unimportant. On them the victualling of
the capital largely depended, and the early emperors granted them, as
owners of important merchant vessels, special privileges; but this was
conditional on their ships possessing a capacity of 10,000 modii, and
on their carrying corn to Rome for the period of six years. Though they
were not in the permanent employ of the State, yet they were liberally
rewarded for their services. In the corporations of the _navicularii
marini_ there was no clear distinction between the shipowner who worked
“on his own” and those engaged in working for the State.

From the time of Diocletian, however, the _navicularii_ were all
servants of the State, and it was their duty to transport cargoes
of corn, oil, wood, and bullion from the provinces to Rome or
Constantinople. In their ships the Imperial post was carried. They
received a fixed percentage and were responsible to the State for the
goods placed in their holds. Membership of these corporations was
handed down from father to son. They were allowed to engage in private
trade and enjoyed the additional privilege of passing their cargoes
duty free through the Customs. Similarly, additional to the overseas
traffic, the internal navigation was organised by corporations of
merchants and barge-owners. For example, the State employed them to
handle the consignments of corn from Egypt on the Nile, Tiber, and the
rivers and lakes of Northern Italy, Spain, Gaul, and Germany. So, too,
the Rhone and Saône were navigated by them.

The reader is aware that we have had necessity to refer more than once
to the corn-ships from Egypt, and in an age that was given up rather
to the development of the fighting galley than to the exploiting of
the cargo ship these trans-Mediterranean grain-carriers stand out
prominently as a class by themselves. It is most unlikely that they
altered much during a space of several hundred years, when even
that much-petted craft, the galley, remained so little modified.
Therefore the following account which has been left to us by Lucian
may be regarded not merely as representative of the corn-ship in his
immediate period, but as characteristic of the ship for probably five
hundred years at least. Lucian lived in the second century, and was
born probably about A.D. 120. In the dialogue from which the following
extract is taken he taunts his friend Timolaus with being ever fond
of a fine spectacle; to which the latter replies that he had had
nothing to do, and being told of “this monster vessel of extraordinary
proportions putting in at the Piræus,” he goes on to explain that “she
is one of the Egyptian corn-ships and bound for Italy.”

[Illustration: THE EGYPTIAN CORN-SHIP “GODDESS ISIS” (_circa_ A.D.

Keenly interested, they went on board her by the gangway, and he goes
on to refer to the ship’s cabins, which he examined, to the shipwright
who conducted them round the ship, calls attention to the lofty mast,
stares in amazement at the sailors “as they mounted by the ropes,
and then with perfect safety ran along the yards holding on to the
halyards.” A hundred and thirty feet long she measured, with 30-feet
beam, whilst from deck to bottom of hold she was 29 feet at her deepest

“What a mast she has!” exclaims Samippus, one of the friends; “and how
huge a yard she carries, and what a stay it requires to hold it up in
its place! With what a gentle curve her stern rises, finished with a
goose-neck all of gold! At the other end, in just proportion, the prow
stands up, lengthening itself out as it gets forward, and showing the
ship’s name, the _Goddess Isis_, on either side.... The decorations
and the flame-coloured foresail, and beyond these the anchor with the
windlass and capstan, and I must not omit the stern cabins. Then the
number of souls would make one think it was a camp. We were told it
carried enough corn to feed all the people of Athens for a year. And
all we saw had so far been carried safe and sound by a little old man,
using a slight tiller to turn that huge rudder. They showed him to
me--a bald-pated fellow with a fringe of curly hair. Hero, I think, by

Then Timolaus still further enriches the narrative:

“The passenger told me of his marvellous seamanship; in all seafaring
matters he out-Proteused Proteus in skill. Did you hear how he brought
his ship home, and all they went through on the voyage, or how the
star guided them to safety?” Lucian answers that he has not heard, so
Timolaus goes on to inform him.

“The captain told it me all himself--an honest fellow, and good
company. Seven days after leaving the Pharos they sighted Cape Acamas
without meeting with any very severe weather. Then the west wind
proving contrary, they were swept across as far as Sidon; and after
Sidon they fell in with a heavy gale; and on the tenth day came to
the Chelidonian Islands, passing through the channel, where they had
a narrow escape of going down, every man of them. I know what that
is, for I once passed the Chelidonians myself, and remember how high
the sea runs there, especially when the wind is in the south-west and
backing south. For the result of this is that the Pamphylian Gulf is
cut in two by the Lycian Sea, and the wave is split up by endless cross
currents at the promontory, the rocks there being sheer and worn sharp
by the wash of water, so that the surf becomes really formidable and
the roar overpowering, and, indeed, the wave (not infrequently) is full
as large as the rock it strikes. This, the captain said, was what they
were surprised by in the midst of night and literal darkness; but, he
added, the gods were moved with pity at their cries, and revealed to
them from the Lycian coast the light of a fire, so that they knew where
they were; and at the same time a bright star, one of the Twins, took
his place at the masthead, guiding the ship to the left towards the
open sea, just as it was bearing down on the rock. After that, having
once fallen off from their true course, they at length succeeded in
crossing the Ægean, and beating up in the teeth of the Etesian winds,
only yesterday, seventy days out from Egypt, put in at the Piræus.
They had so long been off their course in the lower seas that they
missed doing what they should have done, keeping Crete on the right and
steering past Malea. Otherwise they would have been in Italy by this

Further on in the course of the conversation, Adeimantus, one of the
friends, mentions that after stopping to measure the thickness of the
anchor, “though I had seen everything, I must needs stop to ask one of
the sailors what was the average return to the owner from the ship’s
cargo.” “Twelve Attic talents,” he replied, “is the lowest figure, if
you like to reckon it that way.”[13]

I make no apology for giving so full a quotation, for there is in
the narrative something so sincere and yet so curiously modern:
the whole picture is so full of sparkling bits of colour that it
is most pleasing, and we can almost see this mammoth ship with her
hefty spars and beautiful curves and “flame-coloured” sails. The
intervening space of nearly two thousand years seems to have made but
little difference in the type of skippers. I am sure that to many a
sailing man to-day the delightful little sketch of the captain of the
_Goddess Isis_ corn-carrier as “the little old man,” “a bald-pated
fellow with a fringe of curly hair” sitting at his tiller, will at
once suggest the very counterpart in the style and appearance of the
skipper of a corn-barge--“an honest fellow, and good company.” And
the account of the bad weather encountered successfully, the use of
stellar navigation, the good seamanship employed, and the proof of
the corn-ship’s seaworthiness are all too interesting to be lightly
dispensed with. In the present days of accurate charts, ingenious
nautical instruments, and big, sound ships, one is a little too apt to
imagine that the ships and the ability of their crews in ancient times
were scarcely worthy of serious consideration--deserving of little more
than ridicule. So many ill-informed artists, who have drawn on their
imagination in the past to depict what they believed to be the ships
of olden times, have been shown to be wrong and misleading, that there
has been such a reaction as to make it difficult to obtain any definite
legitimate picture in one’s mind. It is just such accounts written by
contemporaries as that of the _Goddess Isis_ that enable us once more
to see the ships of the past in their true likeness and proportions.

But we must return to the warships. Prior to the time of Augustus
there was no fleet in being. Ships were built or fitted out at the
approach of war--a principle that the whole maritime history of the
world has always shown to be the most unmitigated naval heresy. But
by the year 337 B.C. there were certainly docks at Rome--the word
used is _navalia_--so at least there was some provision made for the
accommodation of ships. Knowing what we do of the Romans as magnificent
organisers and soldiers ashore, we are not surprised to find that
the same spirit was manifested in arranging the commands afloat. The
general command at sea was vested in the two consuls. Later on there
were appointed two fleet-masters under the designation, “duoviri
navales classis ornandæ reficiendæque causa.” There was thus a double
squadron consisting usually of twenty ships, ten being under each
duumvir. The coming of the Punic War had this effect, however, that it
caused Rome to think more seriously of her ships and to become in fact
a great naval power. In 260 B.C. there were built 100 quinquiremes and
20 triremes; with these the Romans defeated the Carthaginian fleet of
130 at Mylæ. The method employed was that which thereafter was to be
practised for so many centuries down the history of naval fights; that
is to say, the device consisted in boarding each other and engaging in
hand-to-hand encounter. In the present instance a boarding bridge was
held up against the mast by means of ropes and pulleys and let down
promptly on to the enemy’s deck for the troops of the Roman ships to
rush furiously across. The Greek word for this boarding bridge was
_korax_, the derivative meaning of which was a raven-like beak for
grappling. The Latin word was _corvus_. So powerful had the Romans
become at sea that they also defeated with 330 ships the Carthaginian
fleet of 350 at Ecnomus. Did a violent storm engulf two or three
hundred Roman ships? Then they set to work forthwith to build as
many and more by the aid of voluntary effort. She had such extensive
resources to fall back on that she was destined to win not exclusively
by good seamanship and tactics, but by weight of numbers. The boarding
bridges just mentioned had been found of the greatest value, and yet
prior to their invention boarding tactics had yet been employed. As far
back as 413 B.C. (when they used them against the Syracusans) grapnels
had been in use for hitching on to the enemy and then pouring slaughter
and death into him.


During the second Punic War, Rome had appreciated the value of
retaining permanent squadrons with the same commanders. Thus one
squadron was based on Tarraco, another--that of Sicily--on Lilybæum.
The Adriatic squadron was based on Brundisium. These three squadrons
provided a fleet of about two hundred ships. But when war was
threatening, new quinquiremes were built and the old ones were
refitted. But this excellent system of having a standing navy was
subsequently abolished and Rome’s general sea-command disappeared.

During the first Punic War the fleet was commanded by one or both
consuls in person. Then the separate squadrons were commanded by
prætors or proprætors, though later on by proconsuls or consuls who
sometimes deputed the command to a præfectus. The crews consisted of
three sections--the oarsmen, the sailors, and the marines, designated
respectively _remiges_, _nautæ_, and _milites classici_. It is
important to bear in mind that no Roman ever handled an oar, but that
the rowers and sailors were supplied from the allies and maritime
colonies. This is evidence of the fact that, unlike the Phœnicians or
the Vikings, the Romans were not instinctively seamen, but only took to
the ocean because it was essential for their safety on shore.

The expression _socii navales_ became the stereotyped phrase for
the crew of oarsmen and sailors. Later on--in the third century
B.C.--libertini were to a great extent employed in the crews. Slaves
were used during the Hannibalian War as oarsmen, and sometimes the
ships were manned by prisoners. When it was necessary, the crews were
sometimes armed and used as soldiers. But the Roman naval service
was never popular, and consequently there were many desertions. The
captain of each galley was designated _magister navis_. He and the
steersman (_gubernator_) were _ingenui_, the steersman ranking with
a centurion. The marines were drawn usually from the Roman proletariat,
and there was an arrangement of some sort for the distribution of
prize-money. Additional to the triremes, quadriremes, and quinquiremes,
there were also scouts--_lembi_, which were but light craft--and


By RICHARD COOK, R.A., from Montfarreon’s “Antiquities,” showing
warships with marines and fighting-platform amidships; the lower
sketches show clearly the types of bow and stern.]

Great importance was clearly attached to the quinquiremes, for in such
craft envoys, commissioners, or messengers of victory were carried.
They fought together with the triremes and quadriremes as the capital
ships of the Roman navy, and whilst the State depended on the treaty
towns and allies for their lighter craft, yet the all-important
quinquiremes were kept under immediate control. The description and
arrangement of the different kinds of Greek warships is generally
applicable to those of the Romans. On the deck of the galley the troops
fought, while below them were the oarsmen. These propugnatores were
protected by means of bulwarks (_propugnacula_) as well as by two
wooden towers (_turres_), carried on supports which could be taken down
from the ship whenever required.


Among the Greeks it was customary to divide ships into _kataphraktoi_
and _aphraktoi_, according as to whether they were decked in or
otherwise. The corresponding Latin expressions were _navis tecta_ or
_navis aperta_ respectively. The quinquireme, however, was always
cataphract; that is to say, the planking did not end at the gunwale,
but was continued to the upper deck so as to afford protection to
the rowers from missiles. As to the dimensions and tonnage of the
quinquireme it is impossible to make any statement, but they were of
such a size that, with some difficulty, they could be hauled up on
shore at night.


(Probably belonging to one of the ships which fought in the battle of
Actium, B.C. 31.)]

Augustus realised that a Roman fleet in being was essential to police
the seas and keep down piracy so as to ensure the safe passage
of Rome’s corn supply from Egypt. The two fleets which he based
permanently on Misenum and Ravenna respectively to guard the Western
and Eastern seas were of the utmost utility. He even went so far
as to connect Ravenna with the Po by means of a canal. Manned with
crews and captains who were either slaves or freedmen, the ships were
unfortunately allowed to rot and the service to fall into desuetude,
and about A.D. 6 piracy was again rampant, so that it required once
more to be checked.

During the first century B.C. two new types of warships appeared in
the bireme and the liburnian. The latter was really a lightly built
trireme, and originally was a swift lembos with a ram attached. The
Romans built liburnians also as biremes, which they employed for
scouting and fighting. The name was derived from the Liburnians of
Dalmatia, from whom the shape of the hull was borrowed; but later
on the expression came to denote simply a ship of war. Just before the
dawn of the Christian era the Romans began to build those bigger and
stouter ships, mounting heavy catapults, which were probably not very
different from the tall ships which the Crusaders had to contend with
some hundreds of years later.


By RICHARD COOK, R.A., from Montfarreon’s “Antiquities,” showing Roman
Warship under sail; the lower sketches well illustrate species of stems
and sterns.]

Before the close of the second century A.D. there were afloat not
only the Italian fleets, but also those of the Roman provinces.
There was the Egyptian fleet based on Alexandria, the Syrian fleet,
the Libyan fleet, the Euxine fleet, besides two fleets on the
Danube and the Rhine. Furthermore, there must not be omitted the
Romano-British fleet--the Classis Britannica--which was based on
Boulogne (Gesoriacum), with stations at Dover, Lympne, and Gloucester.
This dated from the invasion by Claudius and assisted Agricola in his
Scottish expedition in A.D. 83. It circumnavigated Britain, discovered
for the Romans the Orkneys, and saw the long line of the outer
Hebrides. The classiarii also on shore helped to build Hadrian’s wall.
But as to the exact nature of such ships we shall speak in greater
detail presently.

Each of the fleets just mentioned was commanded by a præfectus and
had also a sub-præfectus. The Egyptian fleet-præfect was sometimes
also præfect of the Nile revenue boats. Each ship was commanded by
a trierarch, the classiarii being organised as a century under a
centurio-classicus, or fleet-centurion. Thus whenever the men had to
be put on shore for duty their organisation went with them. The term
of service for the classiarii was twenty-five or twenty-six years. The
Roman fleets illustrated at an early date in the world’s history what
every nation has since been compelled to realise: that a standing navy
cannot be dispensed with among the essential attributes of peace and
self-defence. Rome’s fleets kept off Carthage and Philip and enabled
Rome to be mistress of the sea route between Hannibal and Spain; and,
as is usually the case, the decadence of the Government was promptly
followed by the decadence of the fleet.


(From Scheffer’s “De Militia Navali.”)]

The influence of the Roman navy on land was seen in a manner similar
to that in which the Roman army influenced gladiatorial combats. In
Rome there were various “naumachiæ,” which were great reservoirs
surrounded by seats like an amphitheatre and were specially constructed
for holding naval fights. There was one, for instance,[14] built by
Augustus on the trans-tiberine side of the river, and traces of this
naumachia were discovered not many years ago. A naumachia consisted of
an enormous tank or lake excavated in the ground, and measured 1800
feet long by 1200 feet wide. Within this ample area naval battles
containing thirty beaked ships with three or four tiers of oars,
together with many other smaller ships were engaged, and no fewer
than three thousand fighting men, to say nothing of the rowers, were
engaged. It is interesting to add that naval fights were also held
in a gigantic reservoir on the site now occupied by the Colosseum.


(See text.)]

No consideration of the relation of Rome to the sea can be complete
without taking into consideration those important and daring adventures
which Julius Cæsar attempted. Adventures they certainly were, for
here was a land general trying experiments which belonged rightly to
sailormen; and, as was the inevitable result, he made terrible mistakes
as he blundered through towards victory. His expedition against the
Veneti, “the stoutest and the most skilful seamen in Gaul,” taught
him much: taught him that he was matched to play a game whose tricks
he did not understand. But the praise belongs to him, a landsman, for
his ingenuity and resource in toiling with such signal success against
very heavy odds. He recognised quickly that the ships of the Veneti and
their allies were so heavy that no Roman galley with its cruel rams
could have any appreciable effect on them. They were too high out of
the water, too, to enable the legionaries to hurl their missiles with
any telling effect. It has been suggested that the design of these
powerful Biscayan craft had originally been borrowed from the great
Carthaginian merchantmen, “whose commerce in British waters they had
inherited, and their prosperity depended upon the carrying trade with
Britain, of which they possessed the monopoly.”[15]

It was Cæsar’s opportunity to rise to the occasion, and he availed
himself of the chance. Sending instructions to his officers to have
a fleet built in the ports at the mouth of the Loire, he also raised
oarsmen from the province and collected as many local pilots and seamen
as possible. Thus, when the time came, the Roman fleet included ships
impressed from the maritime tribes between the Loire and Garonne. The
Roman engineers also came to the rescue, and, taking long poles,
they armed them at one end with sharp-edged hooks. There was just one
feature in which the galleys surpassed the stout ships of the enemy:
they were far more mobile. So, when the rival fleets approached, two
or more galleys ran alongside the Biscayan craft, thrust out the sharp
hooks, caught the halyards, rowed hard away, with the result that the
ropes snapped, the yard and sail came tumbling down on to the deck
below and enveloped the crew. Springing smartly from the galleys on
to this confused crowd, the enemy was soon slaughtered and the ship
captured. In principle, though not in detail, the tactic was similar to
that used in comparatively modern times when sailing men-of-war aimed
to blow away the enemy’s rigging, leaving him so much out of control
that complete annihilation was a matter only of time.

But far more interesting than his expedition against the Veneti was
Cæsar’s invasion of England. Regarded merely as a naval exploit, it is
deserving of great attention; but to those who have had any experience
of winds, waves, and tides it is most instructive. Picture Cæsar,
therefore, in the summer of 55 B.C. at Gesoriacum, better known to
the reader under its modern name of Boulogne. Here was a port that
was important in even those early days. From this spot the merchants
of Gaul were wont to embark their cargoes and carry them across the
Channel to the shores of Kent, and later on it was destined to become
one of the naval stations for the Classis Britannica. Think of it in
the year we are speaking of as a busy place, lined with shipyards along
its banks and many craft in its haven. From the forest above could be
hewn and floated down the trees for the making of ships. Every mariner
to-day knows that when the heavy north-east gales make it impossible
for the cross-Channel packet-steamers to enter Calais, Boulogne can
be entered with safety by even sailing craft.


But inasmuch as the prevailing wind along the English Channel is
from the south-west, the reader will observe on consulting a chart
that the position of Boulogne for the Gallic traders bound for Dover
or the Thames was singularly well placed, inasmuch as it gave the
mariner a fair wind outward-bound on most occasions. That fact was
doubtless appreciated by Cæsar when he elected to use this port as his
starting-place for Britain. He therefore gave orders that his fleet
was here to be got in readiness, and then sent forth Volusenus in a
galley to reconnoitre the British coast. The ship was a Roman galley
manned by oarsmen who had been trained by years of work for the task,
and with such a craft as this Volusenus could be independent of wind
and accomplish his task with the utmost dispatch. He was away cruising
about the English Channel for a period of three days, during which
time he had doubtless been able to locate a suitable place where his
master’s troops could be disembarked. He had had the opportunity of
taking soundings, and--perhaps most important of all to one accustomed
almost exclusively to the Mediterranean--of noticing both the range
of tide and the force and direction of the strong tidal streams.
Similarly, he was able to make a note of the cliffs of Dover and other
landmarks. With this knowledge he returned to place himself at Cæsar’s

On August 25, then, the transports came out from Boulogne. The time was
midnight, it wanted five days to full moon, and high water that evening
was at 6 p.m., so that the tides were neaps, or at their weakest. We
can be quite sure that, acting on the experience of Volusenus in the
Channel, it was deliberately intended to avoid spring tides. (It is
high water at Boulogne at new and full moon at 11.28.) The transports
thus came out of the haven with the last drain of the ebb. But in the
offing the tide that night did not make to the eastward till 4 a.m., so
there would be the Channel ebb to contend against for some time.

So far all had been splendidly arranged, so that by the time the flood
or east-going tide had begun the fleet would all have got clear of
the harbour and the oarsmen have been getting into their stride for
the passage. Gris Nez and the French cliffs were left behind as the
hulls ploughed their way through the heaving sea and sped onwards.
But it was not to be a quick passage. The tide, of course, turned
against them before they were across, and those transports would not
easily be impelled through the waves; but at nine the next morning the
oar-propelled galleys which had got ahead during the night approached
the cliffs of Dover. Far behind followed the sail-driven transports, so
Cæsar let go anchor in Dover Bay, summoned a council of his generals
and tribunes, gave them instructions as to the landing-place, told them
how to handle both ships and men in disembarking, and then between
three and four o’clock that same afternoon the bulky transports
wallowed up to join the galleys. Between four and five p.m. the Channel
stream off Dover turned to the eastward, and as the wind was favourable
Cæsar gave the signal to weigh anchor. Presently the galleys,
transports, and the smaller craft were stretched out running past the
Foreland with wind and tide to help them. It did not take them long to
skirt past St. Margaret’s Bay, and at some point between Walmer and
Deal the transports were beached and the journey accomplished. Thus,
with careful foresight, Cæsar had got safely across the Channel with
his troops and fleet.

These transports had carried his infantry; now the cavalry were
starting not from Boulogne, but from Ambleteuse, which is about midway
between Boulogne and Cape Gris Nez, and slightly nearer to Dover.
Not till August 30 were these descried approaching the British coast.
A gale from the north-east sprang up and prevented them from keeping
their course, so that some were carried back to Ambleteuse, while
others were swept to the westward down Channel. Some anchored for a
time, but the north-east wind gave them a lee shore, and they had
to put out to sea and make for the Continent. Some scudded past the
gale beyond the South Foreland and the high cliffs of Dover, risking
disaster every minute. Those which had hauled with the wind abeam over
to the Gallic coast managed to heave-to on the port tack, and drifting
past Cape Gris Nez, were in fairly sheltered water, so that they could
carry on and make port. This they did, and re-entered Ambleteuse
without the loss of either a ship or a man. Such a fact proves at once
that Cæsar had been able to get together from somewhere a number of men
who were not novices, but very fine seamen. We must concede that the
Gallic sailors knew their business, at any rate.

Cæsar and his men had already landed near Deal. They had left their
galleys and the infantry transports, and gone inland before this had
happened. The galleys, as was the Mediterranean custom for centuries,
had been hauled up above the mark for ordinary high water; the
transports, because of their weight and size, had been left at anchor.
Now Cæsar, in spite of what he had gathered regarding tides, had
evidently omitted to bear in mind the fact that at full moon or new
moon--“springs”--the rise of the tide is greater than at neaps. Neither
he nor his officers knew the connection between tides and moon, and
there is a difference of several feet on that coast between high-water
springs and high-water neaps. It was full moon, and every seafaring
man knows that when a gale does occur at that time it is worse than
when the moon is not at full or change. High water was somewhere about
11 p.m. Wind and tide rose in great strength on to this lee shore, so
that the galleys which had been hauled up were dashed to pieces, while
transports broke from their anchors and drove on to the beach.

We have no concern with any operations on land; it is enough for our
purpose to add that after spending some time in making repairs to those
ships which remained, Cæsar took his ships and men back to Boulogne.
The expedition had proved a failure. But in the following year Cæsar
again invaded Britain. This time he set forth neither from Boulogne
nor Ambleteuse, but from Wissant, which is about midway between the
chalk cliffs of Cape Blanc Nez and the sandstone cliffs of Cape Gris
Nez, and on the charts of to-day you will still find “Cæsar’s Camp”
marked. Wissant was much nearer to the British coast than either of
the other two ports, and the Roman evidently was not anxious to make
the cross-Channel passage any longer than need be this time. The fleet
at Boulogne had been weather-bound for three weeks with a series of
north-west winds. Anyone who has sailed along this portion of the
French coast knows what a nasty sea a wind from that direction sets up,
blowing as it does directly on shore. A north-west wind would have sent
a strong swell into Boulogne harbour; but apart from that, even had the
ships been at Wissant ready to start it would not have been of much
avail, for the course from there to the nearest British shore was about
north-west--a dead “nose-ender.” June, therefore, came and went.

But about July 6, Cæsar set sail from Wissant about sunset. As the
wind was light from the south-west he had a favourable air. There was
no moon, but the nights are warm and not very dark at the beginning of
July. The tide probably set him down some distance in the vicinity of
Gris Nez, for it did not begin to flow to the north-east till 10 p.m.
Good progress was made this time, and by midnight the leading division
was getting well up to the South Foreland. The wind, as it so often
does on a July night, began to fail and finally dropped utterly, so
that the fleet had barely steerage way. The strong Channel flood took
hold of them, and about 3.15 a.m. Cæsar was abreast of Kingsdown (a
little to the south of Walmer). Eventually he arrived at Sandwich about
noon, having no doubt anchored for six hours, since the Channel tide
was just about to run to the south-west when he had got to Kingsdown.
This time he left his 600 ships not hauled up on the beach, but at
anchor, having disembarked his troops. Yet once more a storm rose which
caused some of the vessels to part their anchors, others to collide
with each other, and others still to be dashed ashore and damaged.
Forty were totally destroyed, but the remainder he managed to patch
well enough. They were hauled ashore, probably by means of windlasses
or capstans, greased rollers being inserted under the keels. They were
then surrounded by earthworks so as to be protected efficiently. About
the middle of September and about nine o’clock at night, Cæsar and his
fleet once more returned from Britain and arrived at Boulogne about

He took back with him a great deal of invaluable information on the
subject of tides, but the cost of obtaining such knowledge had been by
no means small. It is possible that a critical reader may feel disposed
to remark that the Channel tides in Cæsar’s time were not identical in
direction and force with those of to-day. It is impossible to settle
the point with accuracy. Certain it is that for some centuries the
coast between Sandgate and Dover has altered a good deal, but, speaking
generally, this has not been of much consequence, though a good deal of
alteration has taken place between Hythe and Dungeness, which may or
may not have affected the tidal stream. Similarly, it is a matter for
dispute whether the Channel stream in the neighbourhood of the Dover
Straits began to ebb and flow at precisely the same time as to-day.
It is more than possible that the changes in the configuration of the
coast and of the Goodwin Sands may, during the centuries, have modified
the Channel tides hereabouts. Some say that in Cæsar’s time Thanet
was an island, that Dungeness did not exist, that Romney Marsh was
covered at high water by an estuary 50,000 acres in extent, and that
the estuary of the Thames was far wider than to-day. But even when all
these points have been taken into consideration, two facts remain true:
that the tide ebbed and flowed backwards and forwards along the English
Channel, and that because of the narrow neck through which this huge
volume of water has to rush by the Straits of Dover there must have
been not much difference in strength from that which is experienced

The geographical information which Cæsar brought back concerning Gaul
and Britain after his campaigns cannot be lightly regarded. It was the
knowledge which an explorer bestows on a wondering community. Such
items as prevailing winds, tides, currents, the influence of moon and
the nature of harbours along the coast, the depths of water, and so on,
might have been appreciated still more had the Romans been as eager for
scientific knowledge as they were for organisation and conquest.

But if the Romans were not great navigators nor even a race of
seamen, at any rate they were very fine shipwrights. Expert opinion
of to-day, arguing from the evidence of the only Roman craft which
are still in existence, gives the highest praise to the art of the
Roman shipbuilder. The relics of the craft found in Lake Nemi were
discussed by me in another volume,[16] and need be referred to now
only slightly. But the other craft which was recently unearthed whilst
excavations were being made in 1910 at Westminster, on the site for the
new London County Council Hall, is far more instructive, because being
above ground it is get-at-able and capable of intimate study. It now
lies among the collection of the London Museum in Kensington Gardens.
This craft was probably one of the fleet of Carausius, who for a time
was admiral under Maximilian and Diocletian, but subsequently rebelled
against the Imperial authority and proclaimed himself emperor of
Britain in A.D. 287.

[Illustration: Ship of the Roman Period discovered at Westminster.


This boat was found lying on a shell sand which indicated the original
bed of the Thames. The date is approximately fixed by the three coins
which were found with the boat: one of Tetricus the Elder in Gaul (A.D.
268–273), the second of Carausius in Britain (A.D. 286–293), and the
third of Alectus in Britain (A.D. 293–296). It is possible that there
was some ceremony in placing coins in a Roman boat, just as to-day coin
of the realm is placed at the laying of a foundation-stone.

She was probably a single-decked war-galley, built in Gaul, but had
been dismantled before being abandoned to sink in the waters of the
Thames. One expert naval architect, who made a careful inspection of
this relic when first discovered, has gone so far as to state that not
only is the craftsmanship excellent, that probably nothing built in our
own time would look so well after seventeen hundred years’ immersion,
but that finer fitting could not be expected to-day. It shows, further,
not merely good workmanship, but good design.

It is more than likely that this ship was built at Boulogne on one of
the Roman shipyards there, and formed originally a unit in the Classis
Britannica. There is a votive tablet preserved in the Boulogne Museum,
and found in that neighbourhood, depicting two triremes with the stern
steering oar, the beak at the bows, and the banks of oars, which shows
how similar these Romano-British ships were to the Mediterranean model.
The votive offering in question had been made by the crew of a trireme
named the _Radians_. Possibly the Westminster ship was the flagship of

Her timbers were found to have been cut with the grain, and every
other one ran to the gunwale. A rubbing strake ran along outside the
hull which took the thwart ends, the recesses for the same being still
visible. It would appear as if the frames above turned outwards and
formed a support for that gangway along which the soldiers were wont to
fight. Some think there is evidence to show that the ship had a false
keel, and that she carried a mast. As to the dimensions of the vessel,
one authority, judging by the run of the stringer, suggests that when
she was whole she measured about 90 feet long by 18 feet beam. The
material was oak; the treenails, which were perfectly made and fitted,
measured 1¼ inches in diameter.[17]


The two vessels buried at the bottom of Lake Nemi--from the fragments
which have been brought to the surface--belong to the time of Caligula
(A.D. 37), and equally demonstrate the first-class workmanship of the
Romans. Of these two pleasure craft one measured 208 feet long by 65
feet beam, whilst the other was 227 feet by 80 feet. The planking
was of white fir, and the frames were probably of oak. All the metal
fastenings below the water-line were of bronze, but above water they
were iron. The nail heads were cemented over and the planking canvased,
and finally a lead sheathing was laid on with copper nails. It has
been ascertained that the builders had been careful to cut out any
faulty timber, and to fill up the space with sound material. The metal
fastenings connecting the timbers and planking were put through, the
points being laid over and turned back into the wood. The planking in
the first of the Nemi wrecks was of two thicknesses of 1½-inch stuff.
In the larger of the two, three thicknesses of planking were found
to exist, the beams for the decks being found to be attached to the
gunwale as in the method seen on the Westminster ship.

Even if we allow a great deal for the knowledge in shipbuilding which
the Romans acquired from the Veneti and from Gallic shipbuilders, yet
everything points to the fact that Italy knew how to build and how
to fight ships to such perfection that we cannot but feel for them
the keenest admiration. If they were not great explorers such as the
Phœnicians, they accomplished a great deal in other spheres of the
maritime art, and sometimes in the teeth of great obstacles.


Here and there Virgil gives us delightful little sea-cameos which
show how keenly the ancients exulted in their ships, and raced them
against each other past rock and cliff, through wind and spume. What,
for example, could be more interesting than the account of the race
of the four galleys in the fifth book of the Æneid? He gives you the
names of the swift _Pristis_, the huge _Chimæra_, which with her triple
arrangement of oars was so big that she seemed like a floating town,
the _Centaur_, and the dark blue _Scylla_. He draws for you the picture
of the captains standing at the sterns, the crew taking their seats at
the oars and waiting in eager breathlessness for the trumpet to start
them on their race. Almost you can see the strong arms being drawn up
to the breast and thrust smartly away again. The blue _Scylla_ wins,
but it is a splendid struggle. The little touches of the ship which
was “swifter than wind or flying arrow speeds towards land,” and of
the disabled galley which moves slowly (like to a snake which has been
run over), yet hoists her canvas and enters the harbour’s mouth “with
full sails,” are pencilled in by a man who must have often watched
a galley doing her work. He speaks of the lofty sterns which these
galleys possessed, of Palinurus the pilot bidding his men to reef the
sails at the gathering of a “dark storm of rain, bringing with it
gloom and foul weather,” and gives orders to “labour at their strong
oars, and sidewards turn the sails to meet the wind.” Evidently with
the squall came a shift of wind, so that instead of being able to run
with the breeze free, under sail power alone, they were now compelled
to come on a wind, shorten canvas, and get out oars to prevent such
shallow-draught vessels from drifting to leeward.

And in a later passage Æneas, after the sea has calmed down, “bids
all the masts quickly to be raised, and on the sailyards the sails to
be stretched. All at once veered the sheet, and loosened the bellying
canvas to right, to left; at once they all turn up and down the tall
ends of the sailyards; favouring breezes bear the fleet along. Foremost
before them all, Palinurus led the close line; with an eye to him the
rest were bid to direct their course. And now damp night had just
reached the centre of its course in the heavens; the sailors, stretched
on their hard seats beneath the oars, had relaxed their limbs in quiet

There is some indication in the Georgics of the manner in which the
ancient seamen made use of stars and weatherology. “As carefully must
the star of Arcturus, and the days of the Kids, and the bright Dragon
be observed by us on land, as by those who, homewards bound across the
stormy seas, venture to the Euxine and the straits of oyster-breeding
Abydos.” ... “Hence we can learn coming changes of weather in the
dubious sky, hence the days of harvest and the season of sowing, and
when ’tis meet with oars to cut the faithless sea, when to launch our
rigged fleets, and when at the proper time to fell the pine tree in
the woods: nor will you be disappointed, if you watch the setting and
rising of the heavenly signs, and observe the year fairly divided by
four distinct seasons.” ... “Straightway, when winds arise, either the
straits of the sea begin to swell with agitation, and a dry crash is
heard on the high hills, or far in the distance the shores are filled
with confused echoes, and the murmur of the woods thickens on the ear.
The wave can but ill forbear to do a mischief to the crooked keels,
even when gulls fly swiftly back from the high sea, sending their
screams before them.... Oft too, when wind impends, you will see stars
shoot headlong from the sky.... But when it lightens from the quarter
of grim Boreas, and when the home of Eurus and Zephyrus thunders, then
are the dykes filled and all the country is flooded, and every mariner
out at sea furls his dripping sails.... The sun also, both when rising
and when he hides himself beneath the waves, will give you signs;
infallible signs attend the sun ... a blue colour announces rain, or
fiery winds; but if the spots begin to be mixed with glowing red, then
you will see all nature rage with wind and stormy rain together. On
such a night let no one advise me to venture on the deep, or pluck my
cable from its mooring on the shore.”



War has always been a great incentive to shipbuilding. But this
statement requires modification by excluding both civil war and the
merchant ship. Of the former, no better instance could be found than
the disastrous Wars of the Roses. Of the latter, the manner in which
the Romans and others developed the war-galley at the neglect of the
merchant ship is a clear example.

The Vikings, too, were great warriors; hence the wonderful development
of their ships was for hostile purposes. But, unlike the Romans, they
were equally distinguished as maritime explorers. And it is with their
methods on the sea that we are now about to deal. They were so vigorous
in their activities, so dauntless and daring, such genuinely strenuous
shipmen that they were bound to do great things, or fail where none
could have succeeded. “They had neither compass nor astronomical
instruments,” as Dr. Nansen reminds us, “nor any of the appliances of
our time for finding their position at sea; they could only sail by the
sun, moon, and stars, and it seems incomprehensible how for days and
weeks, when these were invisible, they were able to find their course
through fog and bad weather. But they found it, and the open craft of
the Norwegian Vikings, with their square sails, fared north and west
over the whole ocean, from Novaya Zemlya and Spitzbergen to Greenland,
Baffin’s Bay, Newfoundland, and North America, and over these lands and
seas the Norsemen extended their dominion. It was not till five hundred
years later that the ships of other nations were to make their way to
the same regions.”[18]

That being so, how did these men succeed in making such long passages?
The lodestone or compass did not reach Norway until the thirteenth
century. I think that before we attempt a more definite answer we
should make a great allowance for that sea-sense which is partly inborn
and partly obtained by the experience of long years. I remember once
asking a man who had been skipper of a coaster, whose family had lived
their lives on the sea or by it, whose brothers had gone down with
their ships to the port whence there is no returning--how the captains
of such craft managed. Had they any real knowledge of navigation?
“No, sir,” my friend answered, “they’re all mostly self-reliant.” In
other words, they have a rough knowledge of the problems, and the rest
is instinct. Only the other day I was talking to yet another plain,
seafaring man. I asked him how he and his mates managed to find their
way in by night through a certain very tricky and unlighted channel
that was full of dangers and scoured by a strong tide. It was the same
answer. “They managed as best they could,” relied on their instinct,
sometimes made mistakes and got picked up, but on the whole succeeded
in getting through.

I suppose it was much the same with the Vikings. But with this
exception: that, being unfettered by book-learning, they possessed
the instinctive faculty more thoroughly. They knew the Scandinavian
coast-line thoroughly well; and long coasting voyages had taught them
the configuration of other nations’ shores. The rising and setting of
the sun would assist them in clear weather, and the Pole-star at night.
They were wont to carry in their ships a number of ravens, and when
they were expecting soon to make a landfall and it was useless to climb
the mast, they released these birds, which, flying high, spotted the
distant shore and flew towards it. The Viking mariner could thus set
his course to follow their direction of flight.

Of course, with such rough-and-ready methods they made egregious
mistakes and sometimes found themselves sailing in exactly the opposite
direction to that desired, like some amateur yachtsmen who have sailed
through the night by the wind and not known that the wind had veered
several points. Dr. Nansen gives as an instance of a Viking’s mistake
that of Thorstein Ericson, who in starting from Greenland arrived off
Iceland instead of America. And, be it added, there are plenty of
well-found ships to-day, both sail and steam, which, in spite of all
their sextants, their patent logs, and deep-sea sounding leads, have
made landfalls miles off their course.

Their sense of time, too, was another instinct which few of us possess
to-day. “Several accounts show,” says the same Scandinavian authority,
“that on land the Scandinavians knew how to observe the sun accurately,
in what quarter and at what time it set, how long the day or the night
lasted at the summer or winter solstice, etc. From this they formed an
idea of their northern latitude.” It is just possible that they may
even have understood how to take primitive measurements of the sun’s
altitude at noon with a species of quadrant. But it is not likely
that during those long, early voyages they could have been able to
take observations of this kind from their ships. Nor can they have
understood how to reckon the latitude from such measurements except at
the equinoxes and solstices.

From the narrative of a voyage north of Baffin’s Bay, about the year
1267, it appears that they endeavoured at sea to get an idea of the
sun’s altitude by observing where the shadow of the gunwale, on the
side nearest the sun, fell on a man lying athwartships when the sun was
in the south. This shows, at any rate, that the Norsemen did at least
observe the sun’s altitude. Even in thick weather they could get along
satisfactorily provided that the wind did not shift and send them off
their course. But if the breeze veered or backed a few points they
would be heading unconsciously in the wrong direction.

The observations of birds were of no little assistance. If the haze hid
the land off whose coasts they imagined themselves to be, they could
observe the kind of bird which was flying around them. A flight of
wild-fowl, a particular breed of sea-bird, the difference in the fauna,
and so on, when off such coasts as Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, and
Norway, could not fail to assist them greatly. It is true, also, that
in their sailing directions they took notice of the whale. Thus, when
sailing from Norway to Greenland one should keep at such a distance
to the southward of Iceland as to have birds and whales from thence.
Similarly, the drift-ice, icebergs, driftwood, floating seaweed, the
colour of the sea were all separate units in the whole method which
enabled them to perform what they did. The Gulf Stream water, being of
a purer blue than the greenish-brown water of the coastal current, must
also have assisted them in their long voyages. Like the ancient seamen
of the Mediterranean, they relied largely on the sounding lead, and
there is a record that Ingolf and Hjorleif found Iceland “by probing
the waves with the lead.”


Finding the ship’s latitude by the shadow of the gunwale.]

As to the primitive method, referred to above, for finding the ship’s
latitude by observing the shadow of the gunwale, it has been suggested
that they might have measured the length of the shadow of the gunwale
by marks on the thwart, and determined when the boat lay on an even
keel by means of a bowl of water. They could thus obtain a fairly
trustworthy measurement of the sun’s altitude. It has been thought
possible that the Norwegians might have become acquainted with the
hour-glass either from their voyages to Southern Europe, or else by
plundering the monasteries. This would enable them to measure the
length of day approximately, and so, taken in conjunction with the sun,
be able to tell fairly correctly the direction of the cardinal points
of the compass.

There are some who scoff at the idea that the Vikings discovered North
America. But there are first-rate authorities, among whom may be
reckoned Dr. Nansen himself, who are quite convinced that these men did
sail across the sea and land there. Certain incredulous people would
have us believe that an open craft such as the Viking type would never
last out a voyage like that across the Atlantic. But this supposition
is immediately refuted by the Norse craft which was built on the lines
and to the exact dimensions of the Gogstad Viking ship discovered in
1880. Rigged with a squaresail, with a jib added and without any other
ship as convoy, this replica was sailed from Bergen to Newport, Rhode
Island, in the year 1893. The voyage began on May 1, and the United
States were reached on June 13. She was commanded by Captain Magnus
Andersen, who had already, in 1886, crossed the Atlantic in an open
boat. Although bad weather was encountered, yet Captain Andersen and
his crew of eleven men reached Newport in safety. His ship proved that
the Viking type made a very fine seaboat, and furthermore that she was
fast even in the deep furrows of the ocean; for she did an average of
nine knots easily, but when the seas fitted her exactly she could reel
off her eleven knots.

For these old Vikings, intrepid mariners and pioneers of the sea, had
by their skill and experience been able to develop an improved type
of ship which combined the advantages of speed and seaworthiness.
In such craft they voyaged to places as far apart as Palestine and
Greenland. By their travels they completely changed the existing
ideas of geography. When they ceased to make merely coasting voyages
and took to the blue water, they were doing more than perhaps they
realised. They crossed the North Sea to the Shetlands and Orkneys, to
Britain and Ireland, to the Faroe Isles, to Iceland, to Greenland, and
finally to America. Just exactly when first the Northmen crossed the
North Sea cannot be determined; but some authorities believe that it
was undertaken before the Viking age. As early as the third century
of the Christian era, the Eruli sailed from Scandinavia over the seas
of Western Europe and ravaged Gaul and Spain, and even penetrated
during the fifth century to the Mediterranean as far as Italy. During
the sixth century the Vikings voyaged from Denmark to the land of the
Franks, but the first Viking expedition began in A.D. 793. In the year
999, Leif, the son of Eric the Red, sailed from Greenland via the
Hebrides to Norway. This is the first recorded time that such a lengthy
sea voyage was attempted, for prior to this the journey had been made
via Iceland. But it is also clear, from the sailing directions which
have come down to us for navigating the northern waters, that voyages
were made direct from Norway to Greenland. It was this same Leif who,
in the year A.D. 1000, discovered America.

The question must necessarily occur (as in the case of the
circumnavigation of Africa by the Phœnicians) as to the means of
provisioning these Viking ships for such lengthy cruises. If Captain
Andersen and his men in 1893 were able to last out, there is no reason
why the ancient Norsemen should not, even if we make some allowance for
the modern advantages of preserved foods. We know very little as to
the methods adopted to ensure adequate food-supplies, but we do know
that bronze cooking vessels have been found which belonged to these
craft. They used salt meat and salt fish, and these they could obtain
by hunting and fishing in the neighbourhood of Iceland, Scotland,
Greenland, and so on. Nansen asserts that they certainly took cattle
with them on some voyages; and they could also catch seals to keep the
pot from running empty. In sheltered waters, such as the Norwegian
fjords, when at anchor, the crew erected a triangular awning over the
ship and turned-in in leather sleeping bags.

But it is by making a careful study of the Sagas that we are able to
get a true idea of the life and methods of these magnificent seamen,
and from this source I propose to extract the following interesting
data. In these heroic narratives there is much to interest the lover of
the sea and ships. There is a continual clashing of shield and sword, a
slatting of canvas and a splashing of oars, as the long-ships leap over
the cold, silvery seas. The air is full of the deep-throated shouts of
the sea-kings; the horizon is bright with the coloured sails and the
gilded prows. Every man is a picked fighter and seaman; every craft a
thing of beauty and of strength. There are the dark, cruel rocks, and
the crimson blood of the vanquished, the sound of the waterfalls coming
down from the cliffs, the fluttering of pennants, the hammering of the
shipwrights’ men ashore, the cries of the women-folk as they behold the
distant battles. There is nothing subtle in the picture; the colours
are laid thickly, and the tones are crude as a modern poster. But there
is bravery and seamanship, and above all the sweet sea smell which
pervades these accounts and stirs the enthusiasm of the reader to its
full extent. You feel as you read them that ships and men both seem to
have been of the right stuff, that in those days there was a grandeur
about the sea which not easily can be forgotten.

The Scandinavians to this day remain, perhaps, the hardiest race of
sailors to be found anywhere. They have penetrated to the neighbourhood
of both poles, and they put to sea in such leaky, ill-found merchant
ships year after year, that it makes you nervous to think of them
battling against a breeze of wind in craft which have been condemned
by most other nationalities. Even in the Viking days they were great
seamen, without fear, unfaltering. But, like the South Europeans, they
used to leave the sea alone during the winter, hauling their ships by
rollers up the beach in the autumn, and then make them snug in their
shed till the spring tempted them again to fit out. But Harald Hairfair
is recorded as having set the example of remaining all winter afloat in
his warships, a proceeding which was quite contrary to the prevailing

But there were other times when it was fortunate that this type of
ship could be moved about so easily. For example, when King Harald had
learnt that King Svein “was come before the mouth of the firth with a
great host of ships,” the former rowed his vessels in the evening to a
narrow slip, and when it became dark he had the vessels unloaded and
dragged them over the low land-neck before daybreak, and had “arrayed”
the ships again, so that he was able to sail away to the nor’ard
past Jutland, and thus escape out of the Danes’ hands. And there are
occasions on record when the Vikings dragged their ships for two miles
over ice. They loved their ships, these men of the biting north, and
even in the time of personal peril dreaded that their craft should
fall into the hands of the enemy. When Sigurd was being pursued by
King Ingi he was careful to scuttle his ship before abandoning her. He
“hewed off stem and stern of his ship, and sheared rifts therein and
sank it in the innermost Ægis-firth.” So, too, they would treat an
enemy’s ship. Thus Erling Askew “fared away from the land,” “arrayed
them for a Jerusalem-faring and fared west over sea to Orkney,”
and so to the Mediterranean, where they lighted upon a dromon and
attacked her by cutting rifts in her side below, as well as above, the
water-mark--“hewed windows” in her, as the old Saga realistically has

They were masters of cunning, too. Harek of Thiotta was coming along
one evening with his fleet “with the wind blowing a breeze. Then he let
strike sail and mast, and take down the vane, and wrap all the ship
above the water in grey hangings, and let men row on a few benches fore
and aft, but let most of the men sit low in the ship.” This somewhat
puzzled King Knut’s men, who wondered what ship it could be, for they
saw only few men and little rowing. Moreover, she seemed to be grey and
untarred, “like a ship bleached by the sun, and withal they saw that
the ship was much low in the water. But when Harek came forth into the
sound past the host, he let raise the mast and hoist sail, and let set
up gilded vanes, and the sail was white as snowdrift, and done with red
and blue bands.”

And here is another instance where the ships kept afloat during the
winter. The passage is interesting as showing that they shortened sail
by taking in a reef: “On Thomas-mass [December 21], before Yule, the
King put out of the haven, there being a right good fair wind somewhat
sharp. So then they sailed north coasting Jadar; the weather was wet,
and some fog driving about.” But Erling Skialgson sailed after him, and
because his long-ships went faster than the others, “he let reef the
sail and waited for his host.” But Olaf’s ships “were very water-logged
and soaked.” “He let call from ship to ship that men should lower the
sails and somewhat slowly, and take one reef out of them.” They slacked
away the halyards, then tucked in a reef, and then doubtless sweated up
the yard again.

In reading these Sagas, it is necessary to understand the different
species of craft which the Norsemen employed. Firstly, there were the
warships or dragons. Secondly, there were the long serpent or snake
class, which also were men-of-war. Thirdly, there were ships of burden,
ocean-going merchantmen, fishing boats, and small fry. The long-ship,
which was a man-of-war, was not suitable for freight-carrying on
those trading voyages to Ireland and elsewhere. But the kaupskip,
broad of beam and with ample freeboard, was built for service on the
island-sheltered waters of Norway and the Baltic. So also the knörr,
which was used for both ocean trading and overseas warfare, was wont
to sail as far away as to the Orkneys. Such a type was so big that
she could carry 150 men. It should be borne in mind that this was
essentially a sailing ship, while the long-ship was more for rowing.
The smallest of the long-ships were of twenty-five benches, i.e. for
a crew of fifty oarsmen; in other words, about the same as a Roman
penteconter. Some, however, were fitted with only twenty benches for
forty oars. The skuta type of warship rowed from fifteen to twenty oars
aside, but the snekkja, or long serpent class, carried from twenty
to thirty aside, and the skeid from thirty to thirty-five aside.
The word “skeid” signifies originally that it was a craft built of
split wood, or strake-built. This expression was used doubtless in
contradistinction to the craft which were merely hollowed out from the
tree. Sigurd, after scuttling his ships, caused Finns to build him two
cutters sinew-bound, which had no nails therein but had withies for
knees. These craft could each row a dozen men a side. They were so
fast that no ship could overtake them. The dragon type was so called
from the dragon’s head at the stem-head, and the animal’s tail which
ended the ship as the lotus-bud was wont on the ancient Egyptian craft.
The earliest mention of the dragon type dates from A.D. 868.

There was a craft named the _Crane_, which was a long-ship of the
snekkja type. She was high in the stem, not beamy, carried thirty
benches for her rowers, and had been constructed for the use of King
Olaf Tryggvison during the autumn of 998. But the ship which became
a prototype and was the envy of all that beheld her, was a vessel
presently to be named the _Long Worm_. Let me tell the story thus: One
winter King Olaf gave the order for her to be constructed, and there,
under the Ladir cliffs in the cold, bracing air, the shipmen set to
work. “Much greater it was than other ships,” records the Saga, “that
were then in the land, and yet are the slips whereon it was built left
there for a token[19]; seventy-and-four ells of grass-lying keel was
it.[20] Thorberg Shavehewer was the master-smith of that ship, but
there were many others at work: some to join, some to chip, some to
smite rivets, some to fit timbers.... Long was that ship, and broad of
beam, high of bulwark, and great in the scantling. But now when they
were gotten to the freeboard Thorberg had some needful errand that took
him home to his house, and he tarried there very long, and when he came
back the bulwark was all done. Now the king went in the eventide, and
Thorberg with him to look on the ship, and see how the ship showed, and
every man said that never yet had they seen a long-ship so great or so
goodly: and so the king went back to the town.”

But early next morning, when the king and Thorberg returned to the
ship, and the smiths were already there, the latter stood doing
nothing. They exclaimed that the ship was spoilt, for some man had
evidently gone round from stem to stern cutting notches with an axe
along the gunwale. The king was exceedingly angry, and promised
punishment if the offender should be found out. Thereupon, to the
surprise of all, Thorberg instantly owned up as being himself the
culprit, and he set about planing all the notches out of the gunwale.
He went round the side which had been notched with his pattern, but
when he had done so, it was generally agreed that the notching, far
from being a disfigurement, was in fact an ornament. The king decided
that Thorberg’s pattern was an improvement, so his anger ceased, and he
bade him to do the same ornamentation along the other side.

This dragon-ship, built after the manner of the _Worm_ which the king
had got from Halogaland, was a far more excellent and larger ship than
the model; so he named one the _Long Worm_ and the other the _Short
Worm_. On this great vessel were thirty-four benches for the oarsmen.
She was most beautifully finished off with all the affectionate care
and pride which only a Viking could bestow on a ship. Done all over
with gold, with bulwarks as high as on a ship built for sailing the
“main sea,” this _Long Worm_ was the marvel of her age. “The best
wrought and the most costly was that ship of any that have been in
Norway.” Wolf the Red was the man who had the honoured post of bearing
King Olaf’s banner in the prow of that ship. Around this valiant
standard-bearer were four men to fight for that flag. And the crew
were as notable as their ship. As she excelled all other craft, so
they excelled all other men. They were picked men, every one of them,
reputed to be famous for “godliness and might and stout heart.” With
their gleaming shields and fine stature they took up their allotted
positions. Looking down the ship from bow to stern, there were the
standard-bearer and his company in the prow. Then abaft of them were
a dozen forecastle men ready to resist any enemy who thought he might
board the Norse ship at that critical part. Next came the thirty
forehold men, astern of whom were another company in the mainhold.
“Eight men there to a half-berth in the _Worm_, all chosen man by man.”
At the poop was the commander, and immediately below him was the ship’s
arsenal, where the arms were kept ready for immediate service.

But the coming of the _Long Worm_ was not to be taken lightly. There
was some other whom she had moved to jealousy. “King Harald sat that
winter in Nidoyce,” says the Saga. “He let build a ship that winter out
at Eres that was a buss-ship. This craft was fashioned after the waxing
of the _Long Worm_, and done most heedfully in all wise. There was a
drake-head forward, and a crooked tail aft, and the bows of her were
all adorned with gold. It was of thirty-five benches, and big thereto,
and the bravest of keels it was. All the outfit of the ship the king
let be made at the heedfullest, both sails and running-tackle, anchors,
and cables.”




A leather thong was passed through the hole to keep the oar from


And there were others whose ships were a source of wonder and of
admiration. King Knut “himself had that dragon, which was so mickle
that it told up sixty benches, and on it were heads gold-bedight. Earl
Hakon had another dragon that had a tale of forty benches. Thereon
also were gilt heads; but the sails of both were banded of blues and
red and green. These ships were all stained above the water-line.”
Very keen were these North-men in using the sea as well for pleasure
as for service. “Now on a fair day of spring tide was Harek at home,
and few men with him at the stead, and the time hung heavy on his
hands. So Sigurd spake to him, saying that if he will, they will go
a-rowing somewhither for their disport. That liked Harek well: so they
go down to the strand, and launch a six-oarer, and Sigurd took from
the boathouse sail and gear that went with the craft; for such-wise
oft they fared to take the sail with them when they rowed for their
disport. Then Harek went aboard the boat and shipped the rudder.... Now
before they went aboard the craft they cast into her a butter-keg and
bread basket, and bare between them a beer-cask down to the boat. Then
they rowed away from land; but when they were come a little way from
the isle, then the brethren hoisted sail and Harek steered, and they
speedily made way from the isle.”

Both ships and gear were frequently stored in sheds. There is an
account of a man who “went down to the water and took the ship of
burden which he owned, and King Olaf had given him, and ran out
the craft; but all the gear appertaining to it was there in the
ship-house.” And again, one of the North-men remarks: “The ship of
burden which I have had this while, and here stands in her shed,
methinks it is now become so ancient that she rots under her tar.” They
hauled these great ships ashore to the sheds by means of rollers:

            “... heard how the boardlong
    Dane-ships o’er the well-worn rollers
    In the south were run out seaward ...”

so sings one of the Sagas. “After Easter,” runs another of these
narratives, “the king let run out his ships, and bear thereto rigging
and oars. He let deck the ships, and tilt them and bedight them: he let
ships float thus arrayed by the gangways.” For it was the fitting-out
season, you will realise. The word _tilt_ signifies tent. “He let deck”
does not mean quite what it would convey to modern minds; all that it
indicates is that he replaced the floor-boards, which had been removed
at the end of the previous season so that the air could get down below
to the ship. Nor does gangway convey the exact definition. It means
nothing more than the pier or jetty alongside which the ships were
moored after fitting out.

The naval tactics of these men consisted in laying their craft
alongside the enemy, boarding him, and then slashing away at the latter
and hewing off the figurehead or the tail of his ship as trophies. As
they approached, they threw grappling anchors into the other vessel,
just as they were wont to fight in the Mediterranean. Thus there is a
reference to the incident when “the forecastle men of the _Long Worm_
and the _Short Worm_ and the _Crane_ cast anchors and grapplings on
to the ships of King Svein.” And this method survived in Northern
Europe right through the Middle Ages. When they boarded a ship they
did their best to “clear” the ship by cutting down the defenders, or
driving them overboard or else into other ships. That was their main
objective--to get the ship to themselves. “Now in those days,” says one
of the Sagas, “the wont was when men fought a-shipboard, to bind the
ships together and fight from the forecastle.” “Now the most defence on
the _Worm_, and the most murderous to men was of those of the forehold
and the forecastle, for in either place was the most chosen folk and
the bulwark highest.” And again--“Erling Askew set upon the ship of
King Hakon, and shoved his prow in betwixt it and Sigurd’s ship, and
then befell the battle. But the ship of Gregory was swept aground, and
heeled over much, so at first they gat them not into the onset.”


The flagship of King Olaf at the battle of Nesiar, in the year
1016, had on the stem a carved head of the king which he himself had
fashioned. “That head was long sithence in Norway used on ships which
chieftains steered.” At this battle the king had a crew of a hundred in
his ship, and most of them carried white shields “with the holy cross
laid thereon in gold, while some were drawn with red stone or blue;
a cross withal he had let draw in white on the brow of all helms. He
had a white banner, and that was a worm. Thereafter he let blow the
war-blast, and they set off out of the harbour, rowing in search of the
earl.” ... “The king’s men caught the beaks of the [enemy’s] ships with
grapnels, and thus held them fast. Then the earl cried out that the
forecastlemen should hew off the beaks, and even so they did.”

Ten years later this same Olaf was the owner of a vessel named the
_Bison_, which was “the greatest of all ships,” “which he had let make
the winter before.” On her prow “was a bison-head dight in gold.” Aft
there was a tail, and the head, the tail, and both beaks were all laid
with gold. She was a big craft, for she rowed more than sixty men.
Arrows and swords were the weapons with which the Norsemen fought, and
the chests or lockers were kept well filled for the fray. “King Olaf
Tryggvison stood on the poop of the _Worm_, and shot full oft that
day, whiles with the bow and whiles with javelins, and ever twain at
once.... Then went the king down into the forehold, and unlocked the
chest of the high-seat; and took thence many sharp swords and gave
them to his men.” For the poop consisted of a section of the ship with
a floor above the ordinary deck, and commanded a view over the whole
of the ship. Valiant were the fights often enough, but there were
occasions when the contest was so unequal that there was no alternative
but to flee. They would then throw overboard rafts with clothes and
precious articles heaped on the top in hopes that, by attracting the
cupidity of their pursuers, they themselves would succeed in getting
away scot-free.

The capture of the ship _Worm_--this was the _Little Worm_, and not her
bigger sister--happened on this wise: King Olaf stood to the northward
sailing with the land abroad. Wherever he went ashore he christened
the unbaptised. The time came when he turned his ships to the
southward, but it came to pass that then he was harassed by “a driving
storm with brine spray down the firth.” Finally, he spoke to Bishop
Sigurd, and asked him if he knew of any remedy. The bishop answered
that he would do what he could, provided God would strengthen his hands
to overcome the might of these weather fiends. The picture which the
Saga suggests is one that I believe has never yet been attempted by
any artist, but there is a fine subject for anyone who could depict
the northern blue mists, the high rocks, the sea, the great assembly
of Viking ships and men, the bright colours contrasted with the sombre
hues of atmosphere, the bishop in his vestments surrounded by these
stalwart storm warriors. “So took Bishop Sigurd all his mass-array
and went forth on to the prow of the king’s ship, and let kindle the
candles, and bore incense. Then he set up the rood in the prow of the
ship, and read out the gospel and many prayers, and sprinkled holy
water over all the ship. Then he bade unship the tilt and row in up
the firth.” Thereupon all the other ships followed the lead, and lo,
as soon as the men in the _Crane_ began to row, the crew felt no wind
whatever. The driving storm was gone. In that sudden calm the fleet
rowed quietly the one ship astern of the other, and so they arrived at
God Isles. There they came upon Raud the Unchristened, and he was put
to death with little enough mercy. His dragon-ship was captured, and
Olaf called her the _Worm_--the _Little Worm_--“because when the sail
was aloft then should that be as the wings of the dragon. The fairest
of all Norway was that ship.”

The Viking ships had no use for head winds. “But when they sought
east into the Wick,” runs the narrative elsewhere, “they got foul
winds and big, and lay-to in havens wide about, both in the out-isles
and in up the firths.” Dr. Eirikr Magnusson[21] believes that the
Halogalanders were in the art of navigation far ahead of the more
southerly Norwegians about the year A.D. 1000; and interprets the
following to indicate this much. For myself, I have a vague suspicion
that it may signify not so much navigation as seamanship, and that it
means that Raud understood the art of beating to windward. No doubt
these squaresail craft would not haul any nearer to the wind than seven
points, but these ships were in no great hurry to make quick passages.
They could go about on the other tack and so have--to quote the Saga’s
expression--the wind “at will.” This is the statement under discussion:
“Raud rowed out to sea with his dragon, and so let hoist sail; for ever
had he wind at will whithersoever he would sail, which thing came from
his wizardry.” It seems to me that this is exactly explained by beating
to windward when the breeze headed them.

The squaresail was hoisted by the halyard, and the yard was kept to the
mast by means of parrals (_rakki_). The sail when hoisted was said to
be “topped,” while its straining at the halyard was poetically alluded
to as “wrangling with the tackle.” “Topped sails with tackle wrangled,”
is a sentence found among the Heimskringla. There is more than one
illuminating reference to the sails of the Norsemen which can claim our
attention. “But as they hauled up the sail the halliard broke asunder,
and down came the sail athwart the ship, and a long while Thorir and
his must needs tarry there, or ever they got up their sail a second
time.” It is true that the Vikings relied considerably on their oars,
but for long passages it is unquestionable that their large squaresail
was their main means of propulsion. Thus, for example, a fleet might
sail to the fjord under sail-power to meet their enemies, but the sail
would be lowered before the fight. The oar was kept in position against
the thole-pin, and prevented from slipping along the gunwale by means
of a strap, and the sixty odd rowers, with their fine physical strength
and healthy endurance, could make these easy-lined craft leap across
the waves with a speed fully equal to that which their coloured sails
could give to them. There is more than one reference, too, to the
different hues of these sails then prevailing in Northern Europe, the
“English king Knut” having blue sails on the yard of each of his ships.

When they voyaged there was nothing of the modern hurry of seafaring
life. They were not compelled to perform a certain passage within
a specified number of days, and they could wait as long as their
commanders wished for a fair wind to spring up. “After that King Sigurd
fared to his ships, and made ready to leave Jerusalem-land. They sailed
north to that island which hight Cyprus, and there King Sigurd dwelt
somewhile and fared sithence to Greekland, and laid-to all his host
off Angelness, and lay there for half a month. And every day was a
fair breeze north along the main; but he willed to bide such a wind as
should be a right side-wind, so that sails might be set end-long of the
ship, for all his sails were set with pall, both fore and aft: for this
reason, that both they who were forward, as well as they who were aft,
would not to look on the unfair sails.” The meaning of this expression
is quite obvious to a seaman. Sigurd clearly wanted to make his voyage
with the wind in such a direction that it was abeam rather than dead
aft. The logical inference from this extract is that his ships sailed
best on a broad reach rather than when running free. And if we may
judge from the lines and dimensions of those Viking ships which have
been unearthed in Scandinavia in such wonderful preservation, it is
quite certain that these long, straight-keeled craft would be very fast
on a wind.

And how were they steered? The rudder was placed on the starboard
side, the round top of it being secured to the gunwale by means of
a loop which one may call the rudder-strap. At a proper distance
down, says Dr. Magnusson, a cone-shaped piece of wood was nailed
to the side of the boat, the top of the cone being plumb with the
outside of the gunwale. Through the rudder, where it took the form
of a broad oar-blade, a hole was made corresponding to one through
the cone-shaped piece of wood which went right through the side of
the boat. A cord drawn through the hole in the rudder and the conic
piece of wood, and made fast within board, gave to the rudder a fixed
position. By loosening the cord the rudder could be lifted at will
and taken inboard. Through the neck of the rudder a square hole was
made, into which fitted the end of the tiller, by means of which the
helmsman moving it towards him starboarded the rudder, and ported it by
performing the exact opposite.

There was a plank at the back of the seat of the helmsman against which
he could steady himself in handling the helm, just as many a steersman
on small craft to-day get support for controlling the tiller in a
seaway. This was known as the “staying board.” Thus “Einar shot at Earl
Eric, and the arrow smote the tiller-head above the head of the earl,
and went in up to the shaft binding. The earl looked thereon, and asked
if they wist who shot; and even therewith came another arrow so nigh
that it flew betwixt the earl’s side and his arm, and so on to the
staying-board of the steersman, and the point stood far beyond.”

We must picture in our minds the Norse steersman sitting with his face
to the starboard side, his hand on the tiller. The _stjornbordi_--or
steering side--was the starboard. The _bakbordi_ was the port side.
Why _bakbordi_? Because it was the board at the back of the helmsman
when he sat looking to starboard or steering side. And so to this
day, although no longer a ship has her rudder at the side, yet the
right-hand side of a ship is always the starboard.

Notwithstanding the curious fact that in certain parts of Europe, at
an extraordinarily early date, chain cables were actually in use, yet
it is quite clear that those of the Viking ships were of rope. These
cables were twisted round the beaks of the ships, the beaks consisting
of pieces of timber placed upright in and about the prow of the ship.
They were similar to the bitts such as you see in a modern lifeboat or
yacht. So, whenever the Viking vessel was at anchor, or she was lashed
alongside her enemy in pitched battle, the cable of the anchor or the
grapnel was made fast to these timbers. In the account of the flight
of Earl Svein, it is recorded that “when the earl saw to how hopeless
a pass things were come, he called upon his forecastle men to cut the
cables and let loose the ships, and even so they did. Then the king’s
men caught the beaks of the ships with grapnels, and thus held them
fast. Then the earl cried out that the forecastlemen should hew off
the beaks, and even so they did.” And again: “Einar Thambarskelfir had
laid his ship on the other board of that of the earl, and his men threw
an anchor into the prow of the earl’s ship, and thus they all drifted
together into the firth; and after that the whole host of the earl took
to flight, and rowed out into the firth.”

Ships might not bring-up where they liked. There was decided precedence
among the Norsemen, as will be observed from the following incident:
“On a summer Earl Hakon had out his fleet, and Thorleif the Sage was
master of a ship therein. Of that company also was Eric, the earl’s
son, who was as then ten or eleven winters old. So, whenever they
brought-to in havens at night-tide, nought seemed good to Eric but to
moor his ship next to the earl’s ship. But when they were come south to
Mere, thither came Skopti, the earl’s brother-in-law, with a long-ship
all manned; but as they rowed up to the fleet, Skopti called out to
Thorleif to clear the haven for him, and shift his berth. Eric answered
speedily, bidding Skopti take another berth. That heard Earl Hakon, how
Eric his son now deemed himself so mighty that he would not give place
to Skopti. So the earl called out straightway, and bade them leave
their berth, saying that somewhat worser lay in store for them else, to
wit, to be beaten. So when Thorleif heard that, he cried out to his men
to slip their cables; and even so was it done. And Skopti lay in the
berth whereas he was wont, next to the earl’s ship to wit.”

There were a number of small row-boats employed by the Vikings, the
size of which did not allow of more than six oarsmen. No doubt these
were employed for going ashore when the big ships lay some distance
from the shore. But often the Viking craft lay alongside piers.
“Gunnstein said that now was the turn of the tide, and it was time to
sail. Therewith they drew in their cables.... In this they fared on
until they came to Geirsver, the first place where, coming from the
north, one may lie at a pier. Thither they came both one day at eve,
and lay in haven there off the pier.” The mention is also made of
gangways for getting on board from the shore.

But sometimes they lay moored stem and stern in much the same fashion
as the ancient Greeks were wont. They let go their bow anchors in deep
water, veered out cable, took a line ashore from the stern, and then,
each ship having done this, the whole fleet were lashed up together
side by side just as to-day you often see a whole fleet of fishermen
tethered in a small harbour. There are several passages in the Sagas
which call attention to the manner in which their ships were moored.
“Forthwith when Karli, and his, got aboard their ship, they swept off
the tilts, and cast off the moorings; then they drew up sail, and the
ship soon sped off into the main.” Or again ... “said they had seen
King Hakon’s host, and all the arrayal thereof; said that they were
lying up by the stakes and had moored their sterns to the stakes; they
have two east-faring keels, and have laid them outermost of all the
ships; on these keels are masthead castles, and castles withal in the
prow of them both.”

This last quotation, belonging to the twelfth century, has reference
to the mode of fighting which was in vogue during the Middle Ages,
when the fighting tops, the castellated structures at both bow and
stern, were such significant features on these long, narrow ships. The
word “keel” is used not, of course, in reference to any particular
portion of the ship’s structure, but to the ship as a whole. The word
is still in active use to-day on the Humber as applied to a species of
craft which, with its large squaresail as its only canvas, bears some
similarity to the old Norse _ceols_ or keels.


The crews of these ships slept under those “tilts” or awnings which
were spread across the ship in an inverted V-shape. In harbour the
tilts were spread over the entire vessel. But in less sheltered
anchorages, and when at sea, tilts were rigged over only portions of
the ship to afford sufficient protection to the men. But in all cases
these _tilts_ or _tjalds_ were struck before the ship went into action,
for the obvious reason that it was desirable to have the entire ship
clear for fighting. The food-supplies, both solid and fluid, were
carried in casks, and the mess system is well described in one of the
Sagas entitled “The Story of the Ere-Dwellers.” “In those days,” runs
the narrative, “was it the wont of chapmen to have no cooks, but the
messmates chose by lot amongst themselves who should have the ward of
the mess day by day. Then, too, was it the wont of all the midshipmen
to have their drink in common, and a cask should stand by the mast with
the drink therein, and a locked lid was over it. But some of the drink
was in tuns, and was added to the cask thence as soon as it was drunk

We know nothing as to whether these Norse ships possessed bilge pumps.
The probability is that they did not, but a bailing butt was certainly
part of their inventory. Evidently there was a well some distance aft,
into which any water shipped was allowed to drain and thence bailed
out, as the reader shall presently see from the following quotation.
The description refers to the time when King Harald manned his new
dragon-galley. “The said dragon he manned with his court-guard and
bareserks,” runs the Saga. “The stem men were the men most tried,
because they had with them the king’s banner; aft from the stem to the
bailing place was the forecastle, and that was manned by the bareserks.
Those only could get court-service with King Harald who were men
peerless both of strength and good heart and all prowess; with such
only was his ship manned.”

Each oarsman had about three and a half feet to work in. There is more
than one reference in these Sagas to the beds and berths on the Viking
ships. “When the ship of Magnus was much ridded, and he was lying in
his berth,” etc. In the ships of war the rowing benches did not stretch
right across the vessel, as this would interfere with the mobility of
the fighting men, who must needs be left free to rush forward or aft as
the case might be during the battle. The oarsmen therefore had each a
bench just roomy enough to sit down and do their work whilst pulling at
the oar. Little enough is told us of the commander, but we know that
in the ship’s inventory was included his mess-table or “meat-board.”

They were strong of body, these Norsemen, like their ships, brave and
valiant fighters, and they were not altogether bereft of wit, as for
instance when, wishing to convey an insult, someone fashioned an anchor
from a piece of cheese, and said that “such would hold the ships of
Norway’s king.” They were adaptable, too, as in such cases when they
readily took their anchors ashore, bound them to long staves, and
employed them for razing an enemy’s wall to the ground. But, most of
all, they were seamen of the very finest type which the world has ever



When we consider all the wondrous achievements on the part of the
Ancients, when we consider how many centuries they were engaged in
maritime matters, it is a matter for some surprise that, with the
exception of what was done by the Phœnicians, there was practically no
maritime discovery made by them. They were content with the limitations
of the Mediterranean, and beyond the Gaditan Straits they did not

At first sight it certainly is a little strange. But the reason
is quite obvious. Their seamanship was good enough, but their
navigation was of an inferior order. The Romans, for example, were not
geographers, and without some knowledge of geography even the crudest
navigational methods lose their value. Among the Greeks and Romans
there existed curious and uncertain ideas concerning the earth. Some
thought that it floated on the water like a bowl. Some believed that
it was like to a column or stone pillar; others that it was hollow as
a dish. Some said it was as flat as a table; some that its shape was
similar to a drum. So with all these conflicting ideas there was no
accurate knowledge of the world.

Further, though there were astronomers, yet they were incompetent and
of little value from a practical point of view. Lastly, the ancients
had yet to learn the essential value of the loadstone. Hence their
mariners were not fitted for such long voyages as were to be made later
on by the Portuguese. The early Mediterranean mariners were efficient
so long as they kept within the confines of their own enormous lake,
for their voyaging was practically coastal. Even when they had to
sail North and South they had such places as Rhodes to enable them to
break their journey and make a good departure from. They could never
lose themselves for long, for they knew the aspect of the various
promontories and bays. They could “smell” their way through most
channels even when the light failed them. And remember, too, that
theirs were not big ships if compared with the caravels which were to
come later. There were plenty of oarsmen in the warships if it became
necessary to claw off a lee shore, and these shallow-draught vessels
could float in the most shallow channels.

But if they had been called upon to cross the Atlantic or, rounding
the South of Africa, traverse the Indian Ocean, they would have soon
lost themselves when out of sight of land for many days; so they kept
to their own sea and left the discovering of the world to others who
should come centuries later. Hipparchus had been the first to make a
catalogue of the stars about the year 150 B.C. Pass over a somewhat
barren interval till you come to the year A.D. 150 and you find Ptolemy
correcting the tables of Hipparchus. In Ptolemy we have the summit
of classical knowledge as reached during the times of the ancients.
His account of the universe and the movements of the heavenly bodies
had a great influence on the seafarers in the Middle Ages, and so on
the world’s discoveries. Now Ptolemy’s geography was based for the
most part on “itineraries.” These, in modern parlance, were simply
guide-books for travellers: that is to say, they consisted of tables
and routes showing the stopping-places. Such data as these afforded had
been obtained for the most part from military campaigns--especially
Roman--and from the voyages made by sailors, but also from merchants.

Ptolemy made a wonderful improvement in cartographical representation
by introducing correction with converging meridians, this method having
been commenced by Hipparchus. But Ptolemy was singularly fortunate to
have been living at the time when the Roman Empire was at its height,
and so enabled to obtain a mass of geographical details through the
extensive administration of this far-reaching dominion.

In Northern Europe the mists had not yet cleared. It was a long time
before they did. It is not till the eighth century of our era that
there is any certain mention in literature concerning the voyaging to
the Arctic Circle. This was when the good monks from Ireland discovered
the Faroe Isles and Iceland after setting forth across the sea, and
settled down there, baptising the inhabitants and teaching them
Christianity. Indirectly, they were doing more than this: they were
linking up one portion of world that was unknown to or by the other.
Already King Arthur, by his conquest of Scandinavia, Ireland, Gothland,
Denmark, and other northern territories, had caused an addition to
geographical knowledge by intercommunication. “Now at length,” to
quote Hakluyt, “they are incorporated with us by the receiving of our
religion and sacraments, and by taking wives of our nation, and by
affinitie, and mariages.”

Add to these the northern voyages of Octher, King Edgar, together
with the frequent raids of the Norsemen and the increasing number of
missionaries, and it is easy to see the world’s geographical knowledge
accumulating. But these, again, were mostly coasting voyages; or, at
any rate, the voyagers were not out of sight of land for many days.
The Norse discoveries are, in fact, the first great achievement of the
western maritime world between the time of Constantine and the first
Crusade. We have already alluded so fully to their seamanship that it
remains only to remind the reader that as early as A.D. 787 they had
landed in our country; in 874 had begun to colonise Iceland; in 877
had sighted Greenland; and in 888, or thereabouts, had reached the
White Sea. In Southern Europe there was nothing comparable to this.
Notwithstanding that the workmanship of the Italian shipbuilders was as
good as, if not better than, the work of the Norsemen; notwithstanding,
also, that the latter were further away from civilisation and
scientific knowledge, yet for all that the Vikings were peering into
the Unknown World, while the Southerners were content to leave the
curtain to hide a little longer the wonders of the universe from the
eyes of mankind.

As we look at the manner in which the world has been opened out,
discovered, revealed, linked up, we shall find that this was brought
about as follows: The Southerners, then, were too content with their
Mediterranean to leave it in quest of other seas, while the Vikings
were exactly the reverse in their own sphere. Then comes the influence
of Christian devotion. Not merely the missionaries, but the bands
of pilgrims begin for the first time in their lives to travel long
distances. The Crusades astound the Crusaders themselves. They marvel
at the possibilities of the world. A permanent link is forged between
the North and the near East. The Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean
are accomplished in safety. Why should they not come back again, after
their vows have been filled, to trade? They have fought, they have said
their prayers. Why might they not buy and sell? Thus there is formed a
connection between the Levant and England which time was to develop.

We see, then, the merchants of the world getting restless for greater
wealth: anxious for new markets for their wares, new places whence to
gather fresh imports. Owing to the natural dread of the sea the land
routes were frequently patronised in preference to the sea lanes,
though this was not always. Now the great treasure-house of the world
in men’s estimation lay in India. There was to be found a rich store of
commodities, so thither merchants repaired by the long overland routes.
But there was a growing feeling among the Genoese, the Venetians, and
the Spanish that there ought to be a sea path to India just as there
was to Northern Europe. There was a great risk attached to the present
method of bringing goods across from India by land. There was the risk
of pilfering or of bandits, besides the great cost of transportation.
Furthermore, these sons of the Catholic Church longed to crush the
power of Islam, longed to place the ruling of the world in the hands
of a Christian Empire. It is necessary to bear in mind this potent
desire to find a sea route to India, because by this desire was given
an impetus which not only revealed India to seamen, but unfolded the
New World in the Western Hemisphere. As far back as the year A.D. 1281,
Vivaldi set forth from Genoa in his fruitless endeavour to reach the
Indies via the west coast of Africa; so also Malocello had sailed as
far as the Canary Isles about the year 1270; and there were numbers of
other gallant adventurers who had started forth optimistically. But the
sea route to India had not yet been ploughed by the ships of men.

Meanwhile there arrived on the scene the best friend mariner ever
had. Up till now the compass had not been used. It is possible and
extremely probable that from very early times the Chinese understood
the communicating of the magnetic fluid to iron, and the marvellous
and mysterious power which that iron possesses when thus magnetised.
One may take it that the Chinese introduced this notion to the famous
Arabian seamen sailing between the Far East and the east coast of
Africa. Thus, via the Red Sea, this information of the utility of the
magnetised needle for the use of seamen was brought into Europe. Prior
to the tenth century the invention had gone no further than placing a
bar of magnetised iron in the arms of a wooden figure on a pivot. In
China the South took the place of North, and the former was indicated
by the outstretched hand of the little man erected on the prow of the
vessel, or by the bar of pulverised iron which the image held like a
spear in its hands. With such magnetic indications the Chinese from the
third century A.D. voyaged from Canton to Malabar and the Persian Gulf.

By the second decade of the twelfth century the Chinese were using the
water-compass. It was not seen in Europe till about the year 1190; or
rather it is not mentioned till about that date. What is most probable
is the suggestion that the sailors of Northern Europe first saw it
at the time of the Crusades, and took back to their own ports the
idea which the Arabian dhow skippers had employed for so many years
in navigating the Indian Ocean. There is a clear reference in an old
French ballad of the late twelfth century to the Pole-star and magnet:--

   “By this star they go and come
    And their course and their way do keep:
    They call it the polar star.
    This guide is most certain.
    All the others move
    And change positions and turn;
    But this star moves not.
    An art they make, that cannot deceive,
    By the power of the magnet:
    A stone ugly and brown,
    To which iron spontaneously is drawn,
    They have: observing the right point.
    After they have touched it with a needle
    And in a straw have placed it
    They put it in water without other support,
    And the straws keep it afloat.”

This ballad was afterwards known as “The Song of the Compass.”
Doubtless this crude compass was used only when the sailors could not
see the sun in cloudy weather, or it may have been also used when
making night passages. It certainly cannot have been more than a frail
aid in stormy weather, when these clumsy ships were pitching and
rolling in the trough of the sea. Still, excepting this innovation,
there is not between the time of the ancient Greeks and that of the
fourteenth century more than the slightest advance in the seaman’s art.
Frankly, they hardly needed the compass in their coasting voyages,
and when its utility was demonstrated they declined, for a long time,
to put to sea in any ship having such an infernal and superstitious
article on board. Although the date 1190 has just been given as
the approximate period when the lodestone was employed in European
navigation, yet it was not till the beginning of the fourteenth century
that a Neapolitan pilot suspended the needle on a fixed pivot in a
box, though some authorities deny that this man accomplished so much.
The origin of the fleur-de-lys, which the reader still sees on every
compass card to this day--flower-de-luce, as the rude Elizabethan
sailors used to call it--is variously attributed to the fact that
this pilot was a subject of the King of Naples, who was of the
junior branch of the Bourbon family. Or it is possibly a conventional
representation of the dart which the Arabians called the needle.

Let us then sum up. Thanks to the Vikings and Crusaders, the warriors
and the traders, there was a greater knowledge of the world’s
geography. And now also men had the instrument which would enable
them to find their way across trackless oceans and reach home again
in safety. Concerning those places which they had never seen, they
had much hopeful curiosity, but there was little actual information.
All the time the East was calling in its magical way to the European
adventurers. The land travellers of the twelfth, thirteenth, and
fourteenth centuries had drawn back the veil hiding the golden harvest
of the East. Those who had been and seen related such wondrous yarns
that men of action and ambition longed to be away thither at once. The
effect of the Crusades had not yet passed away. The desire for travel
which has spread so enormously till it has reached the present-day
obsession was growing rapidly.

Understand, that since the time when those Phœnicians circumnavigated
the Continent there had been no repetition of this achievement,
and in fact no serious attempts. In 1270 Malocello had found the
Canaries. Ten or twenty years later the Genoese had made some sort of
effort to find a sea route to India, but they only reached Gozora in
Barbary. Various other explorers also found their way to the islands
of the Atlantic adjacent to the West African coast. In the history of
exploration there are plenty of instances where one man in a certain
century has discovered a new region. Many years later, after this has
been forgotten, some other explorer lands on this territory and claims
to have been there first. In other instances the secret of the first
adventurer has been well kept and well utilised by those who lived long
after the first man had died.

Take Madeira as a case in point. This was discovered not by a Genoese,
a Venetian, or a Portuguese, but by an Englishman of the name of
Macham. He eloped from England with a certain lady, went on board his
ship, reached Spain, and then arrived “by tempest” in Madeira, “and did
cast anker in that haven or bay, which now is called Machico after the
name of Macham. And because his lover was sea-sicke, he went on land
with some of his company, and the shippe with a good winde made saile
away, and the woman died for thought.” This was about the year 1344.
For years after, Madeira remained unknown to men’s minds. But Prince
Henry the Navigator knew of the Macham incident, and he put it to good

It is true that before the close of the Middle Ages the tendency of
the Italian seamen-traders was to emerge from the limits of their
Mediterranean Sea. The voyages to the Canaries and to Barbary are
instances of this growing enterprise. They had for years established an
overseas trade also with Northern Europe, and every year the Venetians
made a voyage to Flanders and back. We have not space to deal in detail
with the voyage of the two Venetian brothers Zeno to Greenland in the
fourteenth century, though the record is still in existence for those
who wish to read.


But still, in spite of the voyages of Viking and Venetian, the
Crusading expeditions, and the enterprising travels which had been
undertaken, yet the real progress in navigation, as a science and an
art, was made not by the sailors of Christendom, but by the Arabians.
The latter had calculated their tables of latitude and longitude by
astronomical observations. They had produced rough coast-charts; and
what was more, they had been using the compass and other nautical
instruments for some time. But thanks to the travel craze which had
set in, the Christian ships which were seen in the Mediterranean about
the beginning of the fifteenth century were supplied with the compass,
an astrolabe, a timepiece, and charts just as you would have found on
board an Arabian trading to the Indian Ocean. At length the Christian
seamen overcame their prejudice, and were glad to avail themselves of
the magnetised needle; but its use was by no means universal.

Bear in mind, also, the wave of the New Learning that was spreading
over Europe. Mathematics and astronomy had already begun to be studied
in Portugal at the beginning of the fourteenth century. And with regard
to cartography, or map-making, something new was happening. Already
by 1306 a Venetian map had been made which put into form the ideas
which inspired the first Italian voyages in the Atlantic. These charts
were made for the purpose of recording the discoveries of the great
contemporary seamen. It is indeed surprising to note how accurate
these charts really are. The Italians with all their artistic ability
were now the great map-makers, and they managed to produce a number of
portolani which were of the greatest use to the mariners and merchants
of the Mediterranean. These were made by means of the knowledge and
assistance of seamen, and were intended to be of service to the latter
in their navigation.


Showing vague idea of the shape of Africa]

A portolano was nothing more or less than a plan or map-sketch. That
which is here given is from a reproduction in the Map Room of the
British Museum. When we consider that this was made as far back as the
year 1351, or one hundred and thirty-five years before the Cape of
Good Hope was rounded, it is wonderfully accurate, and the shape given
to Southern Africa is a curiously clever guess. But it should be
remembered that though the continent had never been rounded (except
in Phœnician times), yet there was a vague idea of the probable shape
of the west coast from those who had been to Barbary; and it is most
probable that by the information received from the Arabs, who knew the
East African coast intimately, this side of the continent would be
described to them. Thus a not wholly incorrect idea was conveyed of the
shape of the whole of Africa’s coast-line.

But if we examine the configuration of the portions depicted as being
in Europe, notably the northern shores of the Mediterranean, this
portolano is most pleasing and accurate, and cannot have failed to have
saved the skippers of that time many an anxious moment. That which is
here reproduced dates from the year 1351, but portolani were in use
as far back as the twelfth century as practical guides to seamen. The
next improvement occurred when the compass began to be used in the
Mediterranean, and so the portolani began to be drawn with this aid.
Gradually, with practice, they were beautifully finished, and contained
practically no large error or any wrong proportion, while the mariner
had very full details given him regarding the coastlines, rivers,
mouths, headlands, bays, and so on.

But everything that we have written in this chapter has been leading
up to a consideration of the most important epoch in the whole history
of seamanship or navigation. It is necessary to have in mind that
south-west extremity of Portugal which is now so well known to students
of naval history as Cape St. Vincent. On this strip of territory were
to dwell a community that would, so to speak, dictate the maritime
policy of the world. Here was to be the finest naval college which
ever existed even to this day. Here were brought together the pick
of the world’s seamen and navigators of that time. From here were to
issue both great explorers and the influence which caused all those
other navigators to open up the world as a man opens a closed book.
To this day civilisation has not realised one tithe of what it and
the seafaring nations especially owe in respect of shipbuilding,
navigation, and overseas commerce to that small stretch situated at the
end of the Spanish peninsula. The success which followed was the result
of a wonderful personality. It was the triumph of a man who possessed
in one combination the gifts of a far-seeing imagination, a scholarly
mind, and a genius for organisation allied to a passion for the sea and
the finding of new lands.

This man was Prince Henry, the third son of King John I of Portugal and
nephew of Henry IV of England. His life is the old story of a man who
wishes to do good work, and in order to bring out the best which is in
him, finds it essential to retire from the world. Just as the monastic
finds it desirable to withdraw from the hurly-burly of his age; just
as the scientist in search of some new invention applies himself to no
other study and lets every other consideration slide, so Prince Henry
the Navigator, as he came to be called, thrust aside the attractions of
Court life and wedded himself to a work which has benefited humanity
to an extent that it does not yet and perhaps never will appreciate.
It is not too much to say that it is entirely owing to Prince Henry’s
influence that ships now sail backwards and forwards to India, South
Africa, America, Australia, and elsewhere. If only people understood
half they owed to this man they would commemorate his name in every
important seaport of the world.


After a print by SIMON DE PASSE.]

By nature a student and seaman, he retired (as his biographer, Mr.
Raymond Beazley, appositely remarks) “more and more from the known
world that he might open up the unknown.” That exactly sums up his
life. In olden times, what is now called Cape St. Vincent was known
as the Holy Promontory. Just to the right of this comes Sagres, and a
little further east is Lagos. In the year 1415 Prince Henry settles
at Sagres, a cold, barren, dreary, inhospitable promontory, but one
singularly suitable for quiet study and research, with the whole
extent of the Atlantic to look out upon, and the fresh sea breezes to
invigorate the mind away from the insincerities of civilised life. The
fifteenth century has always been regarded as the last of the “Dark
Ages,” but few more wonderful things happened either then or after than
the activities which emanated from the Sagres community. For here the
Prince had brought and sifted all the geographical knowledge inherited
from the ancients. Here were studied the subjects of mathematics,
navigation, cartography in a manner and on such a scale as had never
before been attempted. From Italy and Spain were sent the practical
men--the boldest and most experienced seamen and navigators that could
be found.

Sagres was a kind of international bureau created for the future
development of the world, but especially and primarily it had for its
object the reaching of India. Henry’s countrymen who had been about
over the continent of Europe had encountered in the markets of Bruges
and London travellers and merchants from other parts of the world, and
in course of conversation managed to pick up a good deal of information
regarding the overland trade to India and the Far East. Henry’s
chief-of-staff was his own brother Pedro, who also had travelled
extensively and had visited all the countries in the west of Europe.
He, too, had come back not empty-handed, but with maps and plans, books
and much verbal information regarding the places visited. All this
information went to swell the general geographical knowledge which
Henry was accumulating and systematising.

Close to Sagres was the naval arsenal of Lagos, over which the Prince
was governor. Here he built those caravels which were to carry out
the theories that he had worked out for his captains. On their return
he set to work to sift the data which his ships and men had brought
back with them, to correct the maps according to this new information,
to readjust the instruments, to compare the accounts of travellers
ancient and modern, and then to hand the conclusions of all these
to the captains of the next ships that went forth to explore. Thus
the Sagres naval college was at once highly theoretical and highly
practical. It was also founded on a strong religious basis. Besides the
palace, observatory, and study which he built for himself, Henry had
erected a chapel, a village for his helpers, and among the instructions
to those whom he sent out to explore was the admonition to bring
Christianity into all new territory. Here were men engaged in teaching
navigation to seamen; here were others instructing pupils how to draw
maps and nautical instruments. Even Arabians and Jews were imported
to give the Portuguese the benefit of their learning in astronomical
and mathematical subjects. It was indeed a cosmopolitan crowd which
collected at this Atlantic village. Orientals and Portuguese, veteran
pilots from Italy, shipbuilders, seamen, and students of all kinds,
cartographers and instrument-makers. But they were assembled there
for one purpose. Led by the example and patience and single-hearted
enthusiasm of their governor, who guided their labours with prudence
and forethought, this little band was to be the nucleus which should
form that magnificent race of Portuguese seamen who were to achieve so
much during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

We cannot but admire Prince Henry for his admirable enthusiasm, for his
patience, his wisdom, and his solid hard work. Nevertheless we respect
him possibly even more for having begun at the right end. Instead of
sending out his fleets to blunder their way along, they set forth more
adequately fitted both as to ships and men than any which had ever put
to sea since the beginning of the world. In the schools of Sagres, the
shipyards of Lagos, and the voyages of Prince Henry’s ships, we have
one of the finest combinations of theory and practice which the mind
of man could ever devise. It must indeed have been a most fascinating
institution. From this school graduated a fearless race of sailors,
who for their daring and enterprise have never been surpassed either
in Elizabethan or Nelsonian times when we consider the limitations of
their equipment.

Here at last, then, the seaman’s art, for the first time in the history
of the world, had a chance of being taught properly. From 1415 to 1460,
with the exception of brief intervals, Prince Henry remained here doing
this splendid work till death released him from his labours. What then
was the aim of his life’s labour? What, in fact, were the results which
accrued? Let us see first of all his aims.

He wished to find a way round Africa to India partly for the love of
the new knowledge itself, just as any scientist shares the world’s
delight in having discovered some invaluable invention. But also it
would mean greater dominion, and Portugal would add to her distinctive
position among the nations of the world. Already at least a century
before his time it had been suggested by Raymond Lulli, a famous
Majorcan alchemist, who lived from 1235 to 1315, that India might
probably be reached by rounding Africa on the west and east, and it
is curious how that idea persisted without any apparent reason or
justification before it was actually proved to be correct. Secondly,
Henry wanted to find out what was the shape of the world, and to put an
end to the rival theories which existed. Marco Polo had done something
for the southern coast-line of Asia, and the shape of Africa had been
fairly guessed by the portolano, as already seen. On the east coast
of Africa there were the Arab settlements, and there was a vague sort
of knowledge concerning the west coast so far south as Guinea. This
information had been obtained through the Sahara caravan trade.

But there was a third reason for Henry’s enterprise. The research
work, the education of his seamen, the making of maps, the providing
of instruments, the building and fitting out of ships and so forth
could not possibly go on without some sort of financial basis. Such
a project, however philanthropic, could not be allowed to continue
without some means of sustenance. Henry’s idea was to make the overseas
trade pay for all of this. There were riches enough in India and
elsewhere to cover handsomely the cost of making Portugal a race of
sailors, the leader of the world in maritime exploration. The land
route across Asia along which were brought such rich commodities of
eastern goods alone proved that India was worth aiming at. If only
these goods could be brought by water, then not only would delay,
pillage, and money be saved, but Portugal would become the owners of
the Indian carrying trade, and the richest of the eastern merchants.
One cannot emphasise too strongly the fact that in the minds of the
people of the Middle Ages India was the prize of the world, the
depository of the greatest wealth. India, then, was the inspiration,
Sagres the medium by which the countries of the globe outside Europe
have been discovered and developed.

And there was another reason. The political power of the Catholic
Church was very considerable. A Portuguese seaman was a true son of
the Church, whether skipper or deck-hand. Wherever he colonised,
wherever he discovered or traded, he was anxious to spread the Catholic
religion. He hated Islam, he wanted to add the territory of the world
to the great Christian empire. In no heart did such aspirations
flourish so strongly as in Prince Henry the Navigator. India was to
become not merely the means of encouraging seafaring, but an invaluable

But what were the results of Henry’s great organisation and activities?
Indirectly he was the cause of Columbus finding the New World when
looking for India in 1492; of Da Gama reaching India in 1498; of
Magellan encircling the globe in 1520–2: less directly still to him
may be traced the round-the-world voyages of Drake and Anson. To
Prince Henry the Navigator may be ascribed at least half the honour in
conquering the islands of the Atlantic and the western coast of Africa,
the doubling of the Cape of Good Hope, the founding of transoceanic
empires and magnificent cities. To his genius may be traced the opening
up of the Western Hemisphere, and the sea path to India and the Far
East, the discovery of Australia, and other voyages embraced within the
limits of a century. In fact, but for Henry the Navigator we should
have remained for a much longer period ignorant of one-half of the
world. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are essentially a sea
epoch more than any age in history, and their influence was felt in
all subsequent periods even down to the present day. Sagres focussed
all the world’s knowledge of the nautical arts, and shed a powerful
searchlight which revealed to nations the wonderful possibilities that
lay by way of the sea. It led to India and America, to gold mines and
rich plantations, to wealth, to prosperity, to power. The seamanship,
the navigation, and the shipbuilding in that narrow strip of Portugal
were the best which existed anywhere.


Hence Prince Henry’s pupils, even at such a late date in the world’s
history, were the first to break through all the superstitious ideas,
the ignorance, the myths, and even terror with which the African
unknown was regarded. If his own men did not actually reach India, at
any rate they prepared the way thither by sailing for two thousand
miles to the southward where no other ships and sailors had been
before, with the sole exception of the Phœnicians. Thus they went
half the way to the Indian peninsula; in fact, we may add, the most
important half. For when at last Vasco da Gama had got round the
south of Africa from west to east he was in an ocean that had been
regularly traversed by Arabian seamen for centuries. But it is not
so much the exploits of Henry’s direct pupils which really matter;
it is the influence which he began to exert in the fifteenth century
and continued to exert even after his death. He created a new school
of nautical thought and practice. All maritime progress prior to the
fifteenth century leads up to Henry the Navigator: from him radiate all
the wondrous improvements which followed after the date when his Sagres
school was inaugurated. There is not a man or woman to-day who ought
not to feel grateful to this illustrious and able man. The expansion
of Christendom, the increase of national wealth, the development of
the colonial idea--these are but a few of the achievements which
belong to him. From Portugal to Spain the excellent idea spread of
carefully instructing the nation’s seamen. It was Charles V who founded
a lectureship at Seville on the Art of Navigation. Such authoritative
men as Alonso de Chavez, Hieronymo de Chavez, and Roderigo Zamorano
are referred to by Hakluyt as among those who, by word of mouth no
less than by published treatise, were wont to instruct the Spanish
mariners. Not only did Charles V establish a lectureship, but owing to
“the rawnesse of his Seamen, and the manifolde shipwracks which they
susteyned in passing and repassing betweene Spaine and the West Indies,
with an high reach and great foresight, established ... a Pilote Major,
for the examination of such as sought to take charge of ships in that

Similarly, owing doubtless to this influence, Henry VIII, recognising
something of the importance of the naval side of a nation, founded
three seamen’s guilds or brotherhoods on apparently somewhat similar
lines at Deptford-on-Thames, Kingston-on-Hull, and Newcastle-on-Tyne.
The object was that English seamen might become more apt in seamanship
and navigation both in peace and war. And following up the same idea,
we find his successor, Edward VI, promoting Sebastian Cabot to be Grand
Pilot of England.

Before we pass on, it may be advisable to run briefly through the
different stages which led to the final opening up of the sea route to
India from European ports. The whole project is so intimately bound up
with the development of seamanship and navigation, that we cannot well
afford to omit this sketch from our purview. It was not by one single
effort, but by a series of attempts that the task was performed. The
doubling of the Cape of Good Hope by Vasco da Gama in 1497 was notable
not merely in itself--not merely because of the long voyage and the
attainment of Africa’s southern cape--but because it showed that that
ancient instinct was right: there was a sea route to India for those
who had the daring to venture.

In the year 1415 the furthest south reached was Cape Nun, which is
at the south-west extremity of Morocco. Three years later, thanks to
the secret which Henry possessed of Macham’s early voyage, two of
the Prince’s courtiers were able to rediscover Madeira. In 1433 Cape
Bojador, which is on the west coast of the Sahara to the south-east
of the Canaries, was doubled by Gillianez. Thus these voyagers
were gradually getting nearer to the Equator. The doubling of the
last-mentioned headland made such an impression on Pope Martin V that
His Holiness bestowed on the King of Portugal all that might thereafter
be discovered in Africa and India. This concession led to international
disputes in later years.


In the year 1441 still more southing was achieved when Gonzales and
Tristan reached Cape Blanco on the same West African coast. Three
years later and the River Gambia was discovered, and in 1446 the Cape
Verde Islands were visited. All this shows the considerable amount of
activity which went on during those years when the Prince was at the
head of his naval school. We can see, by referring to a map, how
steady and persistent was the advance along the west coast of this
unknown continent. But then there comes Henry’s death, and there
follows a gap in this chain of discoveries. Still, before long this
series of southerly voyages was resumed. The aim was ever in the same
direction, but the cause of failure is unknown; whether they feared to
go too far, whether their provisions ran out, whether their crews were
diminished by sickness and death, whether they were not too sure of
the condition of their ships one cannot say. Their intention seems to
have been to proceed with caution, and possibly they aimed at a more
detailed exploration than some of their successors. Perhaps this was
owing to the instructions of the Prince.

At any rate, with the invaluable data which they brought back, each
expedition made it easier for the next, so that by the year 1470
the Portuguese were able to reach as far south as almost to the
Equator, and fourteen years later the Congo River was attained. But,
with so much successfully accomplished, the impetus to do very much
more became strong, and in 1486 the King of Portugal sent forth two
expeditions, having for their object the discovery of an eastern route
to India, and also to find if possible the whereabouts of a mysterious
personality, Prester John. The latter was not discovered. One of these
two expeditions proceeded through Egypt, then down the Red Sea, and
so across the Arabian Sea. Its members encountered many a hardship,
but they did succeed in making Calicut in the south-west of India.
The other expedition was under the leadership of Bartholomew Diaz. It
was of no great size, consisting merely of a couple of caravels and
one store-ship. This little squadron did not reach India, but made a
wonderful advance on all those previous voyages which had never got
further south than the Equator and the Congo. Diaz sailed south beyond
the latitude of the Cape of Good Hope, and doubled it without knowing
it. He coasted for a thousand miles along African shores which had
never been seen by European sailors hitherto. And although he was not
lucky enough to reach across to India, yet, when he returned, he had
the great happiness of realising that he had passed at last that cape
which is the southern African extremity. Probably you know the story:
how that Diaz, mindful of the bad weather for which this region is
famous, had called it the Cape of Torments, and how that the Portuguese
king would not suffer this to be the name, but rather that it should be
called the Cape of Good Hope, since the discovery was so promising.

And then we come to that ever memorable year of 1497, when all these
preliminary voyages sink into insignificance before that of Vasco
da Gama, who doubled the cape on November 20, then sailed to the
northward, discovered Mozambique, Sofala, and Melinda; and finally,
with the help of an Indian pilot, crossed the ocean from Melinda to
Calicut in twenty-three days, so that this Vasco da Gama had the
supreme honour of being the first seaman in the world’s history, so
far as any record has been preserved to us, to make the entire lengthy
voyage from Western Europe to the land of the Indian treasure.

With the seamanship and navigation of Columbus we shall proceed to deal
presently. Although he comes within the fifteenth century, and his
famous voyage was really concerned with a desire to find India, yet it
will be more convenient to be able to watch his methods with greater
detail in the following chapter. He is the connecting link between
the fifteenth-century Henry the Navigator and that wonderful epoch of
sixteenth-century seamen. It would not be inaccurate to describe him
as the last of the medieval sailors and the first of the moderns. But
our present aim is, now that we have seen the wonderful improvement in
navigation which had set in, to obtain some idea of the contemporary
seamanship in the Middle Ages.

From the coming of the Viking type of craft to the universal adoption
of the caravel class of vessel there was but little variation in the
kind of seamanship. In the Mediterranean the lateen sail involved a
knowledge of fore-and-aft seamanship, but while this was used chiefly
on the smaller craft, yet the bigger ships carried a squaresail forward
and the lateen aft. This was the beginning of the caravel, which was
to develop into a three- and even four-masted ship, with always a
lateen at the stern. But in Northern Europe, where the single (square)
sail type of ship and the Viking-like hull had continued without
intermission and with only slight alterations such as the addition of
stern- and fore-castles, the seamanship was practically identical with
that of the Norsemen.

In what did this seamanship consist? It was exceedingly simple, and
may be summed up briefly thus: The ships were made fast by big anchors
and thick cables. This is evident from the pictures of the Bayeux
tapestry. They quanted themselves off into deep water by pushing from
the stern with a pole. The men then rowed with their oars, and as soon
as clear of the shallows up went the mast and sail, the latter with
its yard being fixed permanently to the former. A number of the crew
would haul on to the backstays aft as the mast and sail were brought
into position, the mast being inserted in its step and tabernacle.
Apparently there were no braces, but the sail was controlled with a
sheet from each clew. Similarly when making land and about to bring up
or beach the vessel, sail and mast were bodily lowered and allowed to
come forward, part of the crew remaining aft to steady the mast and
sail as they came down to the deck. The steering was done by a single
paddle or side-rudder placed on the starboard side. As a protection
for the oarsmen a line of shields--doubtless those which they actually
wore in battle--ran round the gunwale overlapping each other. A small
jolly-boat was sometimes towed astern for landing from the bigger type
of craft, while for greater convenience a look-out man was sent to the
top of the mast. This is distinctly shown in the Bayeux tapestry.

It is more than likely that North European seamanship had not reached
a very high stage of perfection, excepting among the Norsemen, at
this time. Otherwise William the Conqueror would probably not have
lost part of his fleet in a summer’s gale off the French coast when
preparing for his invasion of England. Nor, some years later, would
the _Blanche Nef_ have been handled so negligently among the rocks
round Cape Barfleur as to founder. It is pretty clear that there were
too much drink and frivolity on board; but a careful skipper would
scarcely have allowed such a dereliction of duty if he realised fully
what sort of a task it was to take a ship through such tricky waters
as the Race of Catteville. But the finest and, in fact, the only way
to make good seamen is to take them for long voyages. And so, in spite
of the fact that less than a century and a half later the type of
ships had scarcely changed, yet there is an evident improvement in the
seaman’s skill. For everyone must concede that to take a fleet of over
a hundred twelfth-century ships on such a long voyage as from Dartmouth
to the Holy Land was in itself a very fine feat of endurance and skill.
Considering the nature of these craft, the absence of navigational
facilities, the crowded condition of their hulls, the bad weather they
had to encounter, the sufferings of their crews, and a host of minor
difficulties which had to be borne, one can only wonder that they ever
reached their destination and returned to their native country. Richard
I was certainly a seaman. You will remember that on that terrible night
of Easter Eve, April 13, 1190, his fleet were in the Mediterranean and
caught in a heavy gale. His mariners were prostrate with sea-sickness,
some of his ships were ungovernable, the horses in the holds of others
would be causing the crews endless anxiety in addition to the troubles
of the wind and wave. But not a ship was lost. They all came through
the ordeal. All night long Richard kept a light burning at his masthead
and hove-to, waiting for his chickens to gather round the mother hen.


If ever a fleet of ships was tried it was this expedition from the
Devonshire village. They were not many days out and had not yet
said farewell to the Bay of Biscay before they were caught in bad
weather and the fleet scattered. But it is certain that this fleet
accomplished what it did partly owing to the fact that every day at sea
gave them greater experience, and partly because they were well found,
or as well found as ever ships of that period could be. We can note
the mind of a far-seeing man in the care with which these craft were
fitted out. Thus, for example, in bad weather there was every chance
of the steering oar being carried away or being broken into half. To
guard against such an awkward possibility each ship went forth from the
cliffs of Dartmouth with a number of spare steering oars. Another very
likely article to carry away on a long voyage, involving bringing-up in
all sorts of places, was the anchor. Each principal ship, therefore,
carried no less than thirteen of such, though it should be added that
of these some consisted of grapnels used in getting alongside the enemy
and fighting hand to hand. There were spare oars also, two spare sails,
three sets of halyards, stays, and other ropes--everything, in fact,
except the mast and the ship’s boat was carried in duplicate. There
were knights in armour, infantry, horses, and victuals for a whole year
to be stowed away in these ships, so a great deal of thought had to be

If we had been able to look down on to the harbour of one of the Cinque
Ports of the thirteenth century and watched some of the contemporary
ships getting under way, we should have been struck with the extreme
simplicity of their seamanship. And in the fewest words I propose
now to sketch very roughly the manner in which such craft would put
to sea. I am assuming nothing which cannot be verified by actually
existing historical data. Picture, then, a modified Viking type of ship
with good freeboard, high stem- and stern-posts, with a castellated
structure at each end, and a mast stepped about midships and supported
by shrouds and backstays. The crews go on board. These consist of the
masters or “rectores.” Under them come the steersmen or “sturmanni,”
who were responsible for the piloting of the ship. They would possess
more knowledge than anyone else of their own waters and adjacent havens.

The crew consisted of three classes. First of all were the “galiotæ”
or galley-men. These I understand to be the men who did the rowing as
in the Viking ships. The second class consisted of “marinelli,” who
may have been the fighting men of the ship; and the third division was
found in the “nautæ” or sailors, who were obviously the men that went
aloft, got up anchor, set and furled sail, worked the sheets, and did
the deck work. On these ships there were usually about forty hands
carried; but there are instances of seventy being the full complement.
In such cases as the last-mentioned there was a superior officer
carried in addition to the usual officers and crew. Life on board these
ships was certainly very different from that which the modern seaman
finds on the sail-less steamship. But these rude, virile seamen were
well paid for their work; they had plenty of excitement to keep up
their spirits, they were given their food and wine, even though their
clothes were scanty and probably had to be found by themselves. But
when they were wounded they had the satisfaction of being pensioned off.

Having repaired on board, then, we see the “rector” at the helm, while
some of the crew are forward hauling up the ship’s cable by the bows.
This cable leads aft, where it passes round a windlass that is turned
by other members of the crew with handspikes. Meanwhile one of the
crew by the aid of his hands and knees climbs up the backstays to
let loose the lashing which keeps the squaresail furled to the yard.
Note that the sail is not lowered or raised to or from deck, but kept
permanently aloft. Before he has allowed the canvas to be unfurled,
and before the anchor has been broken out from the ground, a couple of
trumpeters mount the top of the stern-castle and blow their notes to
warn any incoming craft that they are emerging. It is exactly analogous
to the blowing of a modern steamship’s syren when the big liner is
clearing from her port.

The thirteenth-century ship, then, puts to sea. She has both oars and
a sail, she has an able crew, she has a good, strong hull of a healthy
seaworthy type. She is ready for anything that comes along. If the wind
fails, then she can send a man aloft to furl the sail and her crew can
get out their oars. If it comes on to blow very hard indeed, she can
take in one, two, or three reefs by means of reef-points as to-day.
And then when the enemy is espied and the time comes for battle, the
fighting men can prepare swords, axes, bows and arrows, lances, and
engines for throwing heavy stones, while some of the men go aloft and
climb into the fighting top, from which they are ready to hurl down
those heavy stones which crashed through an enemy’s decks. For it is
certain from contemporary illustrations that these ships were now no
longer mere open craft.

In their fighting methods brute force was chiefly relied upon; but
not always. That deadly mixture known as Greek fire, which was some
sort of mixture containing principally pitch and sulphur, was a very
efficacious method of routing the enemy when the methods of grapnels,
swords, arrows, and stones were not all-availing. As soon as this
Greek fire was exposed to the air it became ignited, and there flowed
a stream of fire over ships and sea creating wholesale panic. It could
not be extinguished by water; only vinegar or sand or earth could
put it out. Wherever it went it burnt up hulls, spars, and sails,
suffocating the terrified crews in a very short time. Ramming, as a
naval manœuvre, was far from obsolete in the Middle Ages, as we know
from actual incidents in literature and pictorial representation.

It would not be correct to assert that there was a total disregard
of tactics in medieval times. When Richard was cruising with his
fleet in the Mediterranean at the time of the Crusades, he caused
his ships to sail in eight separate lines, each line being within
trumpet call of the other. Richard himself was in the eighth line as
commander-in-chief. Treatises on naval tactics had been written by
Mediterranean experts, but I do not think that there is any evidence
for supposing that the English seamen ever learnt such a thing until
Richard’s ships went to the Mediterranean. So much happened for
improving maritime matters subsequent to that Crusade that we need not
be surprised to find, less than thirty years later, the English seamen
for the first time in northern waters exhibiting an appreciation of all
that tactics meant in battle. We have not space here to go into the
battles, but you will find the first instance of this new knowledge
in that naval encounter which took place in August of 1217 off the
South Foreland. Notwithstanding that the fleet of Eustace the Monk was
numerically far stronger than ours, yet by clever tactical manœuvres
our ships and men not only prevented his from landing, but inflicted
a heavy slaughter and defeat upon the invaders. The English commander
was Hubert de Burgh, and to his cleverness the success was due. Sixteen
large, well-armed craft were his ships, with twenty smaller ships;
or a total of thirty-six. Eustace had eighty, or more than twice as
many. The key to the victory was simply this. When the enemy’s ships
were seen to be sailing with a fresh southerly breeze from the French
coast, the English fleet put to sea, stood on till they were well to
windward, and then easing their sheets bore down on to the invaders
with a fair wind, hooked on to them with grapnels, shot at them with
arrows and threw unslaked lime at the Frenchmen, with the result that
the breeze carried both arrows and lime exactly where the English had
wanted--to leeward. With this confusion the English boarded them and
hacked away at the halyards so that mast and sail came down, burying
many on the confused deck. After that the victory was easy.

Now such a well-thought-out plan of fighting shows that naval warfare
had in England already reached the scientific stage. If the reader
will take his chart of the Straits of Dover and work out the manœuvres
which I have given in greater detail elsewhere,[22] he will see that
the English admiral displayed a perfect knowledge of the Channel tides,
seamanship, and naval tactics in thus outwitting a force twice his own
strength. And again, at the battle of Sluys, the victory was won by the
superior tactics of the English, which showed excellent seamanship,
perfect knowledge of the Flemish tides, and sound judgment in the
problems of the sea. The English in 1340 played the same game as they
had in 1217. They confused the enemy, who wondered why the English
fleet were apparently going away from them. They wondered still more
when, after standing out to sea, the English went about and came down
on them like a pack of sea-monsters eager to devour them and successful
in the attempt. So also exactly ten years later, in that very
interesting battle of Les Espagnols sur Mer, which is unknown to many a
modern layman, when Edward II commanded in person, we find everything
being done by system and plan. He comes down with his Court to lodge
near the sea. He himself goes afloat, spends a long time in training
manœuvres, keeps a look-out man at the masthead who suddenly spies
the enemy coming down Channel, when, to quote the words of Froissart,
he ordered the trumpets to be sounded and the ships “to form a line
of battle.” The rest is merely a narrative of collisions between ship
and ship, with masts and sails falling, chains and grapnels straining,
the hurling of stones and iron bars from the castle at the masthead,
the felling of one another’s masts, the cutting adrift of the enemy’s
halyards and shrouds, the heaving overboard (a favourite and regular
habit in war) of every man and boy of the enemy they could lay their
hands on, and finally victory to the English.

Even coasting voyages during the Middle Ages were risky proceedings,
with no charts of the English coast--at any rate, none that were
of much good--and with no regular lighthouses to warn the mariner
off outlying dangers: only through the charity of the monastic
establishments, such as that on St. Albans Head, were lights kept
burning at night on a few promontories. It may be that it was out
of gratitude for such kindness that the mariner lowered sail when
he passed a monastery on the shore. As to the ships themselves of
this time, we know that the planking was fastened not by iron and
copper nails, but by wooden pegs called treenails. The hulls were
painted with pitch, tar, oil, and resin. In these early accounts there
is a reference to the “seilyerdes,” and the sail itself consisted
of twenty-six cloths. The latter was painted red, possibly tanned
something like the modern sailing trawlers, and the canvas was fitted
with “liche-ropes,” “bolt-ropes,” and “rif-ropes.” From Viking times
bonnets were laced to the foot of the sail to give increased canvas for
use in fine weather.

When it was that the word reef was first employed cannot be
ascertained, but it is found in literature (“Confessio Amantis”) in
the year 1193, or three years after Richard’s fleet set out to the
Mediterranean. Here the word “ref” or “rif” clearly denotes something
that could be slacked off. But there seems to be some possibility of
confusion between the device by which sail can be shortened and that
“bonnet” by which the sail’s area can be increased. During the early
part of the fourteenth century the rudder began to disappear from the
quarter where it had been since the times of the Egyptians, and to be
placed astern in the position it occupies to-day. This necessitated the
use of chains, the iron for which, as also for the anchors, was fetched
from Spain. But there is reference concerning these medieval ships to
such items as “steyes” and “baksteyes,” “hempen cordage,” “cranelines”
for securing the forestay at its foot, “hauceres” (hawsers),
“peyntours” (painters, derived from the French word signifying a
noose), “boyeropes,” for the cables, “seysynges,” “botropes,” “schetes”
for the clews of the sail, “boweline,” “saundynglyne” for the use of
the pilot-leadsman, “shives” and “polives,” tallow, hooks, and so on.

The anchors of the king’s galleys were 7 feet long, and his great ship
carried five cables. Under the “rectores” were the “sturmanni” or
steersmen, who were responsible for the supervision of the seamanship
on board. Next in order came the “galiotæ” or galley-men, and finally
the “marinelli” or mariners and the “nautæ” or common sailors. Later on
the “rector” became “magister,” a constable was chosen to look after
the arms, and there were added also a carpenter, a clerk who presently
became purser, and a boatswain.


But if we would wish to get an insight into the life and conditions
on board an English sailing ship of the Middle Ages, we can find no
more illuminating information than is contained in a MS. now in the
possession of Trinity College, Cambridge. This depicts the troubles
and tribulations on board a pilgrim ship of the time of Edward III,
written by a contemporary. In explanation of this poem given below,
it should be added that the carrying of pilgrims to the shrine of St.
James was a regular branch of the shipping trade. In those days no less
than in the present century the miseries of sea-sickness and general
discomfort associated with sea-travel were a nightmare to the landsman.
But this quaint poem, which is the earliest sea-song in existence, so
well portrays the life of the seafaring man that it is most probably
the composition of a sailor accustomed to pursue his calling on one of
these merchant ships. Alternatively the author was a landsman who had
kept his eyes and ears open during the voyaging and noted accurately
the work on shipboard. The poem begins gloomily enough and describes
the getting under way, the hoisting of the ship’s boat, the setting
sail, trimming sheets, and the accommodating of the passenger-pilgrims.
In spite of the archaic spelling and phraseology it is surprising
how modernly this sea-song reads and how truly it seems to depict
contemporary ship life.

   “Men may leve all gamys
    That saylen to Seynt Jamys:
    For many a man hit gramys[23]
        When they begyn to sayle.

    “For when they have take the see,
    At Sandwyche, or at Wynchylsee,
    At Brystow, or where that hit bee,
        Theyr herts begyn to fayle.

    “Anone the mastyr commaundeth fast
    To hys shyp-men in all the hast[24]
    To dresse[25] hem sone about the mast,
        Theyr takelyng to make.

    “With ‘howe! hissa!’ then they cry,
    ‘What, howe! mate, thow stondyst to ny[26]
    Thy fellow may nat hale the by’:
        Thus they begyn to crake.[27]

    “A boy or tweyne anone up-styen,[28]
    And overthwart the sayle-yerde lyen:--
    ‘Y how! taylia!’[29] the remenaunt cryen,
        And pull with all theyr myght.

    “‘Bestowe[30] the boote, bote-swayne, anon,
    That our pylgryms may pley thereon:
    For som ar lyke to cowgh and grone,
        Or hit be full mydnyght.’

    “‘Hale the bowelyne! now, vere the shete!
    Cooke, make redy anoon our mete,
    Our pylgryms have no lust to ete,
        I pray God yeve hem rest.’

    “‘Go to the helm! what, howe! no nere![31]
    Steward, felow! a pot of bere!’
    ‘Ye shall have, sir, with good chere,
        Anone all of the best.’

    “‘Y howe! trussa! hale in the brayles!
    Thou halyst nat, be God, thow fayles![32]
    O se howe well owre good shyp sayles!’
        And thus they say among.

    “‘Hale in the wartake!’[33] ‘Hit shall be done.’
    ‘Steward! cover the boorde anone,[34]
    And set bred and salt thereone.
        And tary nat to long.’

    “Then cometh oone and seyth, ‘be mery:
    Ye shall have a storme or a pery.’[35]
    ‘Holde thow thy pese! thow canst no whery,[36]
        Thow medlyst wondyr sore.’

    “Thys menewhyle the pylgryms ly,
    And have theyr bowlys fast them by,
    And cry aftyr hote malvesy,[37]
        ‘Thow helpe for to restore.’

    “And som wold have a saltyd tost,
    For they myght ete neyther sode ne rost[38]:
    A man myght sone pay for theyr cost,
        As for oo day or twayne.

    “Some layde theyr bookys on theyr kne,
    And rad so long they myght nat se:
    ‘Allas! myne hede woll cleve on thre,’[39]
        Thus seyth another certayne.

    “Then cometh oure owner lyke a lorde,
    And speketh many a royall worde,
    And dresseth hym to the hygh borde
        To see all thyng be well.

    “Anone he calleth a carpentere
    And biddyth hym bryng with hym hys gere[40]
    To make the cabans here and there,
        With many a febyll cell.

    “A sak of strawe were there ryght good,
    For som must lyg[41] them in theyr hood:
    I had as lefe be in the wood,
        Without mete or drynk.

    “For when that we shall go to bedde,
    The pumpe was nygh our beddes hede,
    A man were as good to be dede,
        As smell thereof the stynk.”[42]



It is curious to observe, as one reads history, that many an invention,
or a practical idea belonging to modern times, has really existed for
century and century, though in an undeveloped condition. The modern
liquid compass is an excellent instance.

   “Ere men the virtue of the magnet found,
    The ocean scarcely heard a human sound.”

But inasmuch as the ship is at the mercy of the sea, and since the
sea is a continually undulating entity, a compass which does not have
a corresponding adaptability is inadequate. This fact, as one might
naturally suppose, was appreciated by the early navigators. Ford[43]
quotes Bailak Kibdjaki, an Arabian writer of A.D. 1242, and shows that
at least a crude kind of liquid compass was in use by the Oriental
navigators. “The captains navigating the Syrian Sea,” says Kibdjaki,
“when the night is so dark as to conceal from view the stars, which
might direct their course according to the position of the four
cardinal points, take a basin full of water; they then drive a needle
into a wooden peg or cornstick, so as to form the shape of a cross,
and throw it into the basin of water, on the surface of which it
floats. They afterwards take a loadstone of sufficient size to fill
the palm of the hand, or even smaller, bring it to the surface of the
water, give the hand a rotary motion towards the right, so that the
needle turns on the water’s surface. They then suddenly and quickly
withdraw the hand, when the two points of the needle face north and
south. They have given me ocular demonstration of this process during
our sea voyage from Syria to Alexandria in the year 640 of the Hegira.”

By the thirteenth century the people dwelling along the Mediterranean
littoral had long since become skilled seamen if not consummate
navigators. There is in the British Museum a volume by Francesco da
Barberino, entitled “Documenti d’Amore.” The author was born in 1264,
and in the ninth lection of this volume has so much to say about
nautical service that this forms what is really the first work on
seamanship that was ever written. Space will not allow more than a
cursory reference to this, but it contains evidence of the system into
which the Mediterranean sea-service had developed. The old custom which
was in vogue during classical times of limiting the sailing season
to certain months was retained. Thus Barberino remarks that the time
for navigation was from April to the end of September. Furthermore it
was not custom merely, but actual law. For maritime legislation had
originated during the twelfth century, and was continued in the “Loi de
Trani,” the “Code Navale des Rhodiens,” the “Code de la Mer,” and the
famous Laws of Oleron. In fact only the lawless, avaricious merchant
captains ventured to put to sea in the other six months of the year;
none but these cared to venture forth sailing through the long dark
nights, and the fogs, storms, and snow.

Before the Iberian peninsula became so intimate with the problems of
navigation, Venice was, of course, the great medieval home of the
southern sailor, and those in authority saw that the marine affairs
were properly looked after. The captains of all commercial ships
sailing under the Venetian flag were, in 1569, forbidden to leave
Alexandria, Syria, or Constantinople any time between November 15
and January 12. Such was the motherly care displayed for the State’s
shipping; but it is only fair to add that before very long such
restrictions on navigation were removed.

Very interesting, too, is the advice which Barberino gives to pilots.
Remember, if you please, that the Mediterranean was the happy hunting
ground of professional pirates, and never a merchant ship put to sea
on a long voyage but she ran the risk of encountering these corsairs.
Therefore all pilots of trading craft were advised to make their ships
as little visible as possible. It is well for them to lower the white
sail when clear of the land and to hoist a small black one. Especially
at break of day is it unsafe to lower sail until out of sight of the
shore. “Then,” suggests Barberino, “send the top-man aloft to see if
an enemy be in sight.” Many another useful “wrinkle” is given, as, for
instance, how to act when the rudders carry away. Apparently the old
classical custom of a rudder affixed to each quarter, and both a small
and large mast and sail, was still retained. That smaller black sail
just mentioned was known among the Venetian seamen by the nickname of
“wolf,” from its colour and cunning. The mainmast being carried away,
then the smaller one, usually employed for the “wolf,” was stepped and
used. And if, in turn, that also went by the board, then the lateen
yard was to be used until dawn returned. There are directions, also, to
make a jury-rudder by towing a spar astern.

During the night, as these ships sailed along over the heaving
Mediterranean and Adriatic with a great belly of canvas reaching down
from the massive lateen yard, strict silence was maintained on board.
After dark not even the boatswain was allowed to use his whistle, nor
were bells to be sounded--not an avoidable noise of any kind was to be
suffered lest the presence of the richly laden trading ship should be
suddenly revealed to some pirate hovering in the vicinity. The earliest
Venetian statutes affecting ships belong to the year 1172, and these,
after being considerably amplified in the thirteenth century, were
again added to in the fifteenth, after the conquest of Constantinople.
Every possible detail seems to have been regulated in connection with
these merchant ships. The general supervision was attended to with
the most meticulous care. The construction of these merchant ships
themselves, the quantity and quality of their cargo, the number of
their crew, their anchors, ropes, and gear generally, all came under
this control.

Additional to the crew there were carried a couple of scribes on each
of these trading ships, for the purpose of keeping an exact account
of the freights. The skipper, or _padrone_, was compelled to be on
board his ship by the hour of departure, and was not allowed to quit
his ship till she reached her port. The accommodation for passengers
and crew was probably but primitive, and they apparently catered for
themselves; for each man, whether one of the crew or the passengers,
was suggestively permitted to bring with him a mattress and cushion,
a trunk for his belongings, a flask of wine, a flask of water,
together with flour and biscuit. Even in the early seventeenth century
the men on the Spanish warships used to cook each for himself, in
contradistinction to the English seamen, who had their meals prepared
by the ship’s cook. Though the Venetian ships up till the fifteenth
century did not dare to venture out into the “Green Sea of Darkness,”
as the Arabs termed the Atlantic, yet we cannot afford to despise ships
and men who regularly traded between the Adriatic and the Levant. Even
a modern sailing ship would have some difficulty in beating the passage
which one of these craft made in the year 1408, when she sailed from
Venice to Jaffa in thirty-three days, calling at various ports on the

Venice might have continued to hold the supreme position on the
sea had not Portugal and Spain taken to the ocean, and studied the
problems of navigation on a much grander and more scientific scale.
The discovery of America, and the doubling of the Cape of Good Hope,
the opening up of a sea route to India, all combined to take away
from Venice her commercial prestige, at any rate afloat. Relying
partly on the newly adopted magnetised needle, partly on their crude
astronomical instruments and tables of the movements of sun and moon;
trusting also to the most careful observations of weather, colour of
the sea, seaweed, tree branches and other objects found floating on
the surface of the ocean; noting carefully by night, as mariners for
centuries before them had been careful to notice, the north star and
other stellar bodies; but at the same time lacking reliable knowledge
of ocean currents and trade winds--the Portuguese discoverers were able
to keep the sea for months, independent of and out of sight of land,
an achievement which had not been brought about since the days when
the Phœnicians circumnavigated Africa. Venice had had her day; just as
Egypt, Phœnicia, Greece, and Rome before her, just as Spain, England,
Holland, and France later on were to become great maritime Powers.

And so we come to that prince of navigators, that consummate seaman,
that greatest of all maritime discoverers, Columbus, and we shall
proceed to learn from contemporary accounts the kind of seamanship
and navigation which he employed on his memorable voyages, the life
which he and his companions lived in those historic cruises into the
unknown. Happily Columbus’s log is still preserved to us. Even though
it is somewhat mutilated, yet it is full of illuminating information,
and must be regarded as “the most important document in the whole
range of the history of geographical discovery.” The methods, the
instruments, even the ships employed by Columbus were merely typical of
the best which then were used. Emphatically they were not otherwise.
Therefore if we note carefully the ways of the _Santa Maria_, the
_Pinta_, and _Nina_, we are really focussing the most expert seamanship
and navigation of the fifteenth century. There were certainly ships
afloat as good as, if not better than the _Santa Maria_; but what is
to be remembered is that those illustrious explorers of the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries were really expert navigators, and not merely
daring seamen, astute traders, or courageous soldiers. Columbus, Drake,
Davis, and so on were, according to their times, really scientific
men. I wish to emphasise this because the world is wont to admire
their valour and enterprise while forgetting their mental abilities
and achievements. As we shall see presently, Columbus’s navigation was
always better than that of the skippers of the _Nina_ and _Pinta_.
Drake was an excellent navigator, especially in regard to astronomical
navigation. Davis, as anyone who cares to read his works may see for
himself, was most learned in the theory of finding one’s way across the
trackless sea.

In the light of modern knowledge, modern practice, and modern nautical
instruments, some of the errors in navigation of those days may
seem to us ridiculous, until we recollect that these men were really
fumbling in the darkness with nothing to guide them except moderate
knowledge, inefficient aids, and their own natural instincts. Long
before Christopher Columbus set out to the westward he had studied
cosmography and astrology at the University of Pavia. He had also
visited Lisbon, whither the fame of the achievements of Prince Henry
the Navigator’s illustrious captains had attracted other capable
seamen, among whom were such men as Da Gama, and his own elder brother
Bartolomeo. At this time Lisbon was still the centre of all nautical
and geographical enterprise. Here Bartolomeo was working as the head of
a school of cartography, and here Christopher had every opportunity for
studying the charts and logs of the greatest living sea captains after
Bartolomeo had returned home. He had the dual advantage of learning
all that both Genoa and Lisbon could teach him. Furthermore, he was a
practical seaman, and had already sailed as far to the north as Iceland.

We need not stop to inquire whether Columbus was aware that already
many years before his time the Vikings had discovered North America.
It is at least most improbable that he was aware of this fact. What is
certain is that, fortified with all the nautical lore obtainable from
the greatest living Peninsular sea captains, he set out with a firm
conviction that the world was a sphere, and he was hoping to prove that
conviction. Himself a gifted cartographer, he would make his charts as
he went along. From Palos, then the most flourishing port of Andalusia,
a village that contained little else among its inhabitants than some
of the finest seamen-explorers in the world, he set sail with a fair
wind on August 3--a Friday--1492, in the _Santa Maria_. Accompanying
her were the two smaller craft _Nina_ and _Pinta_. “Carabela” was
not then applied to a particular species of ship, but only to certain
vessels of medium tonnage suitable for the diverse purposes of fishing,
coasting, and exploring.[44] In the Columbine Library at Seville there
is a map of Española drawn with a pen. In two places are seen outline
sketches of three sailing craft. Competent critics affirm that these
sketches were made by Columbus, and depict his squadron of three during
his first voyage to the West in 1492. If this opinion be correct,
then it is certain that the first ship was three-masted, so was the
second--doubtless the _Santa Maria_, the biggest of the three--but the
third ship is only two-masted. The first and second ships have a small
square foresail on the foremast; square mainsail and topsail on the
main, with a lateen on the mizzen. But the third ship has a lateen on
both masts.

The _Santa Maria_ carried a crew of seventy, together with artillery
and stores enough for one year. In addition she had a large amount of
merchandise, which she could barter with the natives. Her displacement
has been estimated as about 200 tons, and some modern writers have
suggested that this was all too small a ship to cross the Atlantic.
Columbus, however, thought otherwise; for on his second voyage he had
demanded smaller vessels, his reason being that those of his first
expedition, on account of their size and draught, had caused him so
much anxiety. As to the canvas which the _Santa Maria_ carried, this
matter is instantly settled by reference to Columbus’s own log. If
we refer to his entry dated Wednesday, October 24, we find that: “I
remained thus with little wind until the afternoon, when it began to
blow fresh. I set all the sails in the ship, the mainsail with two
bonnets, the foresail, spritsail, mizzen, maintopsail, and the boat’s
sail on the poop.” (The bonnets were additional pieces of canvas laced
on to the foot of the sail)[45].

The time on board was evidently kept by hour-glasses of half or a
whole hour. Thus under date of Tuesday, January 22, when homeward
bound, his log reads: “They made 8 miles an hour during five glasses
... afterwards they went N.E. by N. for six glasses.... Then during
four glasses of the second watch N.E. at six miles an hour.” But the
reader must be cautious not to accept the speed given as conclusive.
One of the greatest drawbacks to navigation in those days was the
absence of any instrument which would record the speed through the
water. The log had yet to be invented, and the mariner could only make
a conjectural estimate of the ship’s speed by looking over the side and
noting the time it took the bubbles to come aft from the bow, or by
throwing a piece of wood overboard from the bows and noticing how long
it took for the stern to be abreast of that object. Many a steamship
traveller gambling on the ship’s speed does the same thing to-day; many
a fore-and-aft sailorman with no patent log still employs a similar

Columbus’s journal shows the kind of helmsman which he had to put up
with. On September 9, when the ship’s course was west, the narrator
on board wrote: “The sailors steered badly, letting the ship fall off
to N.E., and even more; respecting which the Admiral complained many
times.” On September 13 Columbus observed a variation in the compass.
“On this day, at the commencement of the night, the needles turned a
half point to N.W., and in the morning they turned somewhat more N.W.”
For up till then no one had observed the variation of the needle.


Drawn from a woodcut after a delineation by Columbus in the Latin
translation of his letter dated March 1, 1493, to Don Raphael de Sanxis
(Treasurer of the King of Spain), in the Library at Milano.

(See next plate.)]

No navigator could have been more careful than Columbus. Ever on the
alert, he was far too anxious about the safety of his fleet to neglect
one single precaution. As they voyaged, the difference in the saltness
of the sea was noted; and though for eleven days the wind blew steadily
from aft so that the sails required no trimming, yet all the while
Columbus was busy with astrolabe and sounding lead endeavouring to fix
his position in regard to the land which they had long since left. From
Wednesday, February 13, till the following Saturday, he never slept
a wink, being far too anxious to leave the navigation to others. The
pilots of the _Nina_ and _Pinta_ on the voyage out used to work out
their positions for themselves. On September 19 the _Nina_ made the
Canaries to be 440 leagues astern, the _Pinta_ estimated the distance
as 420, but on board Columbus’s ship the reckoning was 400 leagues,
and this was the most correct of the three. (It should be added that
Columbus used Italian miles, reckoning four Italian miles to one
league.) He compared notes with the pilots under him, and manœuvred
his ship so that the captain of the _Pinta_ was able to pass his chart
on board the _Santa Maria_ at the end of a line. Columbus, after
conferring with his own pilots and mariners, plotted on the chart the
position of the ship. Here and there all the way through Columbus’s
journal, both in those lines written by his own hand and in those in
another handwriting, there rises up, quite clearly, evidence of the
knowledge which this man had been collecting before setting out. “The
admiral was aware,” says the Journal, “that most of the islands held by
the Portuguese were discovered by the flight of birds.” Just as the
Viking seamen had discovered land in exactly the reverse manner--by
letting loose birds from the ship.

Nor are there lacking plenty of references to the seamanship of these
times--the kind of seamanship, we may not unjustly assume, that was
employed alike by the Spanish traders who crossed the Bay of Biscay,
and sailed up the English Channel to Flanders, and those who went
exploring to the southward. No one better than these medieval and
Elizabethan sailormen appreciated the importance of having a ship
that would heave-to in bad weather or at night. You will remember
that dramatic incident at the end of Columbus’s first voyage across
the Atlantic, when the distant light, as of a candle going up and
down in the hand of someone proceeding from one house to another,
indicated that at last the new land had been found. “At two hours after
midnight,” says the log, “the land was sighted.” Then (continues the
narrative), “they shortened sail, and lay by under mainsail without the
bonnets. The vessels were hove-to waiting for daylight.”

And again, when on the homeward voyage after the loss of the _Santa
Maria_ the _Nina_ was caught in a heavy gale of wind, we find from her
log that she stowed canvas, but “carried the mainsail very closely
reefed, so as just to give her steerage-way, and proceeded thus for
three hours, making 20 miles.” During that same dreadful night, when
they all but foundered, Columbus kept showing lanterns to the _Pinta_,
which answered back by the same method. “The want of ballast increased
the danger of the ship, which had become light owing to the consumption
of provisions and water,” so they filled with sea water the barrels
which had contained wine and drinking water, and employed these to
steady the vessel. “Afterwards,” continues the same narrative, “in the
showers and squalls, the wind veered to the west, and they went before
it, with only the foresail, in a very confused sea for five hours.
They made 2½ leagues N.E. They had taken in the reefed mainsail, for
fear some wave of the sea should carry all away.” And when the weather
presently moderated, Columbus “added the bonnet to the mainsail.”

The _Santa Maria_, with her high poop and forecastle, was not a
particularly dry ship. On September 8, when outward bound, her log
admits that near Teneriffe she “took in much sea over the bows.” But
whether that was through bad seamanship or bad luck one cannot say. It
is certain that, at any rate, the crew were very far from perfect in
their art; otherwise the _Santa Maria_ would never have been wrecked
in that totally inexcusable manner. It was not the fault of Columbus.
He had not had any rest for two days and a night, and those of us who
have been ceaselessly on watch for that time, know how great a strain
it puts on a man’s eyes and nerves and physical endurance. So, as
the wind was very light, Columbus went below at eleven o’clock that
night. It was so beautifully fine, and the sea was so calm, that the
steersman also was tempted to sleep; and, giving the tiller in charge
of a boy, he shut his eyes and dozed off. This was distinctly contrary
to Columbus’s orders, for the boys were forbidden ever to touch the
helm. At midnight, you will remember, there was a flat calm, but still
imperceptibly the poor _Santa Maria_ was being carried on to a sandbank
by the current. Very gently she took the ground, but when the boy
noticed that the helm refused to move, but that the tide was rushing
by the ship and tumbling over the shoal, he became alarmed and cried
out. Up came Columbus from his cabin under the poop, who, taking in
the situation at a glance, began to give his orders in a cool and
seaman-like manner. The first command showed that he knew his business,
when he had ordered a boat on the poop to be lowered, and the crew to
“lay out an anchor astern,” as the log states, to haul her off. But the
men in the boat, being less anxious for the safety of the ship than for
their own bodies, paid no regard to the kedging of the _Santa Maria_,
but rowed off to the next ship. Then, finally, Columbus was compelled
to order the masts to be cut away, and the ship to be lightened; but
it was of no avail. The water rose inside, and her timbers opened. But
right to the end Columbus the discoverer showed that he was every bit
as fine a seaman as he was a clever navigator.


If we would endeavour to fill in the details to our mental picture
of the _Santa Maria_, we can find much that is interesting. We have
already been thinking of her as a three-masted caravel. Let us step
on board and tread her single deck at the waist between the foremast
and main. As we examine the gear we shall find it rough but strong.
The cordage is of hemp, the masts are serviceable, but only rudely
finished. The mainmast measures 2½ feet in diameter, whilst the
yards--like the yard of the lateen-rigged craft--follow the historic
custom of the Mediterranean of being made of two pieces lashed together
at the centre. Aloft flies the admiral’s flag of Columbus, and this
he always carried in his hand when going ashore to take possession of
newly discovered territory.

The hull seems to have been constructed somewhat roughly, and iron
nails are already showing their rusty contact with the sea water.
There is precious little ornamentation, too, for there was not much
decoration expended on ships in those days, and certainly not on a
Flemish merchantman. The hull was painted with tar, whilst below the
water-line it was greased so as to minimise the friction through the
water. To do this it was customary to beach the ship, and on two
occasions during his voyage Columbus saw that this was done. On deck
a couple of hatchways led to the hold. The quarter-deck extended from
about midships to the stern, and above this rose the poop-deck. On the
latter were the quarters of the admiral. We know from this journal that
Columbus’s bed was draped in red, and that there was certainly room
for several persons to be seated in this cabin. There was a press for
his clothes, a stool, a couple of chairs, and a dining-table for two
persons, the furniture being all fashioned in the Gothic style which
was then prevalent. Add to this inventory charts and books, as well as
an astrolabe, and you have the picture of his cabin complete.

When getting under way, the _Santa Maria_ shipped her anchor by means
of the fore yard-arm. In those days there was of course no steering
wheel, but the tiller came right in under the quarter-deck, and a bar
was attached to the forward end of the tiller. There is and has been
for so many centuries such a close relation between ships and hammocks
that it is interesting to observe that hammocks were introduced by
Columbus and his companions after contact with the West Indians, who
were accustomed to use them. We cannot, indeed, envy the life of the
seamen on these Columbine ships. There was certainly a galley made of
brick with an iron cross-piece, but the food, which consisted of bacon,
beans, salt fish, cheese, and bread, was, thanks to the heat and damp
of the hold, in a very bad condition.

We shall speak in greater detail on a later page concerning the
astrolabe, but whilst we are considering these fifteenth-century ships
and the surprisingly good landfalls which Columbus made, it is worth
while to remember that observations were frequently made only with
great difficulty. “The North Star,” says the log, “appeared very high,
as it does off Cape St. Vincent. The Admiral was unable to take the
altitude either with the astrolabe or with the quadrant, because the
rolling caused by the waves prevented it.” We cannot be positively sure
of all the crew which sailed on board the _Santa Maria_, for some of
the papers which could have helped the historian are missing. But, in
addition to Columbus, she carried one master, two pilots, a surgeon,
a quartermaster, a clerk, an interpreter, a carpenter, a caulker, a
cooper, a steward, a gunner, and a bugler, as well as the gentlemen
adventurers, their servants, and the seamen.


This is the same ship as in the preceding plate, but shows mizzen set.]

There was a never-failing fear of fire on these ships, and stringent
rules forbade lights after dark, except one for the helmsman and
one below deck when carefully protected by a lantern. Columbus’s
ship carried a lantern at the stern, mica being used at first and
subsequently glass. There was a strong religious atmosphere that must
not be lost sight of in considering the ship life as exhibited on board
Columbus’s fleet. Dominating the whole expedition was the intention to
glorify God, to spread His kingdom on earth. As you read through this
log you find the crew mustering to sing the “Salve” before the statue
of Our Lady--“Stella Maris.” On her festivals, and on such historic
occasions as when he made land, Columbus was wont to dress ship. So,
too, before the expedition left the mother-land for the Indies, every
man made his will and went to confession and communion, so that he
might come on board in a state of grace. And there were stringent rules
on board to prevent blasphemy, excessive gambling, or doing anything to
the dishonour of the king.

Equally illustrative of the ways and methods of the seamen at the end
of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries are
Columbus’s letters dealing with his subsequent voyages. One of these
letters he concludes thus: “Done on board the caravel off the Canary
Islands,” and signs himself “The Admiral.” Some idea of the speed of
his ship during his second voyage to the West Indies may be seen from
the letter addressed to the Chapter of Seville by Dr. Chanca, physician
to the fleet, in which he states that in two days, with fair wind and
weather, they made fifty leagues. But the _Capitana_ was such a slow
sailer that many times the others had to shorten sail. On the first
voyage the _Nina_ similarly had to wait for the _Pinta_ to catch her
up, and this lack of homogeneity in the fleet certainly lost them much

In order to ensure a careful look-out being kept, a handsome reward had
been promised to the first man sighting land. This was claimed “on the
first Sunday after All Saints, namely, the third of November, about
dawn,” when a pilot of the _Capitana_ cried out: “The reward! I see the
land.” Of all the ship’s company, Columbus himself excepted, the pilots
were the smartest and most skilful men, who “could navigate to or from
Spain” “by their knowledge of the stars.” We see Columbus on his third
voyage displaying all those characteristics of the cautious manner
which had distinguished him already. There was little enough that he
left to chance. When he was entering a strange haven, he used to send a
boat out ahead in order to take soundings. (His ship the _Santa Maria_
had a large boat about 30 feet long which was usually towed astern, and
a smaller boat about 10 feet long which was hoisted on deck.) “I passed
thirty-three days without natural rest,” he writes in connection with
his second voyage.

Speaking of his navigation during the third voyage, he tells us that
“at the end of these eight days it pleased our Lord to give me a
favourable east wind, and I steered to the west, but did not venture to
move lower down towards the south, because I discovered a very great
change in the sky and stars.... I resolved, therefore, to keep on the
direct westward course in a line from Sierra Leone, and not to change
it until I reached the point where I had thought I should find land.”
On the return journey he writes: “As to the Polar Star, I watched it
with great wonder, and devoted many nights to a careful examination of
it with the quadrant, and I always found that the lead and line fell
to the same point!” And as he sailed he wondered in his mind. Where
never a ship, never a man had voyaged before Columbus had gone. What,
after all, was the shape of this earth? “I have always read,” he says,
“that the world comprising the land and water was spherical, and the
recorded experiences of Ptolemy and all others have proved this by the
eclipses of the moon, and other observations made from east to west,
as well as by the elevation of the pole from north to south. But ...
I have come to another conclusion ... namely, that it is not round as
they describe, but of the form of a pear.”


Drawn from a woodcut after a delineation by Columbus in the Latin
translation of his letter dated March 1, 1493, to Don Raphael de Sanxis
(Treasurer of the King of Spain), in the Library at Milano.]


After the woodcut of Hansen Burgmair, in the History of Emperor
Maximilian the First, compiled by Marx Freithsauerwein in the year

For his fourth voyage he had most favourable weather. He got from
Cadiz to the Canaries in four days, and thence to the West Indies in
sixteen days. But then a great storm came down and lasted eighty-eight
days, during which “my ships lay exposed, with sails torn, and
anchors, rigging, cables, boats, and a great quantity of provisions
lost.” Finally, on January 24, his ship broke both her cables and
her bollards. “I departed in the name of the Holy Trinity, on Easter
night, with the ships rotten, worm-eaten, and full of holes” ... “and
in this condition I had to cross 7000 miles of sea.” “My ships were
pierced with worm-holes, like a bee-hive.” “With three pumps, and
the use of pots and kettles, we could scarcely with all hands clear
the water that came into the ship, there being no remedy but this
for the mischief done by the ship worm ... the other ship was half
under water.” But Columbus never lost heart, never failed to believe
in scientific navigation. Where had he got to; whither had his ship
attained? “I ascertained, however, by the compass and by observation,
that I moved parallel with the coast of terra firma.” “There is a mode
of reckoning,” he observes, “derived from astronomy which is sure and
safe, and a sufficient guide to anyone who understands it.”

And there are two very interesting comments which he makes as a seaman
rather than a navigator that ought certainly to be noticed. The first
occurs in his initial voyage across the Atlantic; the second in a
letter dealing with this last cruise. “Many times the caravel _Nina_
had to wait for the _Pinta_,” runs the narrative, “because _she sailed
badly when on a bowline_,[46] the mizzen being of little use owing to
the weakness of the mast.” ... “The India vessels do not sail except
with the wind abaft, but this is not because they are badly built or
clumsy, but because the strong currents in those parts, together with
the wind, render it impossible to sail with the bowline, for in one
day they would lose as much way as they might have made in seven; for
the same reason I could make no use of caravels, even though they were
Portuguese lateens.”

It will be remembered that the _Nina_ had started out originally as a
lateener, but this triangular-shaped sail was changed at Grand Canary
to a squaresail before crossing the Atlantic. To “sail on a bowline”
was to sail on a wind. In those days, when the cut of the squaresail
was very bad, bowlines were really necessary for stretching the sails
so that they set a flat surface without too much belly. The _Pinta_ was
apparently all right when running before the wind, but not much good
close-hauled, owing to the fact that the mizzen-mast could not endure
the strain. And similarly with reference to the second statement,
Columbus makes it perfectly clear that these vessels had to be sailed
“ramping full,” as we should say nowadays; it was useless to try to
“pinch” them.



I make no apology to the reader for having taken up so much of his time
in a consideration of the methods which obtained during the time of
Christopher Columbus, not merely because by his splendid seamanship and
navigation a new world was revealed to the old, but because of the two
arts in question at the time when the Middle Ages were beginning to ebb
into obscurity, he was one of the finest if not the very best exponent.
Not that he was very amply rewarded for his wondrous achievements.
Although it is true he did receive other remuneration, yet his pay was
only at the rate of 1600 francs per annum, and that of his two captains
was but 960 francs. The crew’s wages were from 12 to 25 francs a month
in addition to their mess allowance.

But now we find ourselves in the sixteenth century. Thanks to the new
interest in nautical matters which had been aroused by Prince Henry the
Navigator, thanks to the marvellous and true yarns which ocean-going
skippers brought back of their discoveries, there began a new sort
of profession for men who were at all attracted to the sea. It was a
profession which, obviously, could not exist for many, nor last for
many centuries. But for those who were wearied of shore monotony, who
had ambition and dash and loved adventure, there was a keen fascination
in becoming one of that great band of “new land seekers.” Charles V,
you will remember, became King of Spain in the year 1517, while the
period of 1485 to 1547 was covered by the reigns of Henry VII and Henry
VIII of England. Not till the year 1555 did Charles V retire into the
monastery of Yuste. Besides the influence of these three remarkable men
at a critical time of the world’s history, there was also roaming over
Europe that Renaissance movement which, checked here and there, could
not be utterly constrained when it spread itself over shipping. Or, to
change altogether the metaphor, spring was in the air: the buds were
about to burst forth into the glorious flowers of new colonies.


After the Woodcut of Hansen Burgmair.]

And since it was obvious that discovery had to be made by traversing
long expanses of ocean, and that this could only be done by a sound
knowledge of navigation, those in authority were not slow to realise
that lectures and instruction on this subject at home meant presently
an increase of territory and wealth across the seas. Prince Henry on
his promontory had been the first to grasp this. Now also Charles V not
only established a Pilot Major for the examination of those who sought
to take ships to the West Indies, but also founded a lecture on the art
of navigation which was given in the Contractation House at Seville.
Those anxious to qualify as pilots had to learn thoroughly the use of
the astrolabe and quadrant, and obtain a thorough grasp of the theory
and practice of sailing a ship from one port to another out of sight of
land. For this instruction they had to pay fees, but it more than
repaid them many times over when they were able to bring back such
valuable commodities. Furthermore, as experience gains knowledge, so
every voyage taught them something of their art which hitherto they had
not known--the direction of a current, the state of the moon when high
tide occurred at such and such an hour, the depth of those new harbours
they had entered, the position of the outlying shoals, the landmarks on
shore, the temper of the natives, the kind of commodities which could
be obtained in the districts, and so on. The pilots brought all these
details home at the end of every voyage, made the necessary corrections
in the charts (and this not by choice, but by compulsion), so that
always there was being compiled a set of sailing directions and an ever
improving bundle of charts which were simply invaluable to State and
seamen alike.

Thus also there came to be published treatises and manuals on the
seaman’s art, for the instruction of a community that numbered very
few sailors in proportion to its landsmen. Such authors as Martin
Cortes, Alonso de Chavez, Hieronymo de Chavez, Roderigo Zamorano in
time wrote these works, and their influence not merely on Spain, but
upon England, was considerable, until the English seamen of the time
of Elizabeth had produced such nautical experts of their own that they
were able to write better books themselves. But even prior to that
time England had begun to see the wisdom of Spain; and Henry VIII,
following the example of Charles V, “for the increase of knowledge in
his Seamen, with princely liberalities erected three severall Guilds or
brotherhoods, the one at Deptford here upon the Thames, the other at
Kingston upon Hull, and the third at Newcastle upon Tine.” So, indeed,
states Hakluyt. That at Deptford was licensed in 1513, “in honour of
the Holy Trinity and St. Clement in the Church of Deptford Stronde for
reformation of the Navy lately much decayed by admission of young men
without experience, and of Scots, Flemings, and Frenchmen as loadsmen.”
Navy is used here in its literal sense, meaning shipping as a whole.
The word “loadsmen”--otherwise “leadsmen”--was the customary expression
in the North of Europe for pilot. To this day the Dutch word for pilot
is “loods,” “lood” being the Dutch for lead. What does this signify?
It shows--does it not?--that until, thanks to Spain, the astrolabe
began to be used in Northern Europe, the pilot was not so much he
who found his way by fixing his position from the heavenly bodies,
but he who felt his way by the sounding of the lead. In a sentence,
then, whilst of course the lead and line are essential even to modern
navigation, yet historically they belong to the Middle Ages and right
back to Greece and even earlier; while the astrolabe and the finding of
a ship’s latitude are essentially the beginning of that new order of
things which we have already noted. So long as ships were content to
do little more than coasting they had no need of an astrolabe; but as
a lead and line are not much good to one who navigates the Atlantic to
the West Indies, so the new species of voyaging coincided with the new
instrument for ascertaining a ship’s position.


This instrument, in the S. Kensington Museum, is supposed actually to
have been on board one of the ships of the Spanish Armada.]


What, then, was the astrolabe? It was an instrument used for taking
the altitude of the sun and stars. For two hundred years before it was
used by the Christian seamen of the Mediterranean, it had been employed
by the Arabian pilots in the eastern seas. The derivation of such a
curious word is not without interest. The Arabic is “asthar-lab,” and
this in turn came from the two Greek words, ἀστήρ and λαμβανω, meaning
“to take a star.” It consisted of a flat brass ring, some 15 inches
in diameter, of which an excellent illustration can here be seen.
It was graduated along the rim in degrees and minutes, fitted with
two sights. There was a movable index which turned on the centre and
marked the angle of elevation. When the mariner wished to take the
height of the sun with this instrument he proceeded as follows: The sun
being near the meridian or south, the pilot observed the same until
it reached its greatest height. Then, holding the ring on one of his
fingers, he turned the alhidada up and down until he saw the shadow
of the sun pass through both the sights thereof, being sure that the
astrolabe hung upright. The astrolabe was best for taking the height
of the sun when the sun was very high at 60, 70, or 80 degrees; for
the sun, coming near “unto your zenith,” has great power of light for
piercing the two sights of the alhidada of the astrolabe, and then it
was not good to use the cross-staff (reference to which will be made
below), because the sun hurt a man’s eyes and was also too high for the
cross-staff. Furthermore the astrolabe, was a more correct method than
that of the cross-staff.

It was thanks to the aid of Martin Behaim, a distinguished cosmographer
who came to Lisbon to co-operate with the learned men there assembled,
that an improved _sea_ astrolabe was adapted for the purpose of
determining the distance from the Equator, by means of the altitude of
the sun or stars at sea. There had, indeed, been in use for some time
a _land_ astrolabe for finding the latitude of a place, and it was but
a natural advance that this instrument should be adapted for use on
board ship, so that the mariner might be able to ascertain his position
on the vast expanse of trackless ocean. We are all most ready to
admire and extol the men and the ships which made such daring voyages
and discoveries in the past; but I submit that nothing like adequate
recognition has been paid to the essential value of the astrolabe and
cross-staff, or their successor, the modern sextant. Even if in those
days which marked the close of the Middle Ages there had suddenly been
invented and built a whole fleet of turbine steamships with capable
crews, yet still without the instrument of finding latitude they could
have had only vague ideas as to their position and would only have been
able to produce unsatisfactory charts. Indeed, as a modern writer has
remarked, it was this improved sea astrolabe which “removed the last
doubt in Columbus’s mind as to the possibility of carrying out his
plans of discovery.”

Thus it came about that the man who could work an astrolabe was a
person of some importance. He was held in high honour by the crew,
since he alone was able to state the ship’s position and her course
thence to her nearest port. Naturally, therefore, those Arabian pilots
and Oriental astronomers who had been brought to the Iberian peninsula
would go swaggering along the streets of Lisbon wearing these sea-rings
conspicuously both as their badge of office and as indicative of their
dignity. It was Behaim’s astrolabe which was used by Columbus, by Vasco
da Gama, by Diaz, and others in their stupendous voyages: and still
more valuable was it with the addition of the tables of the sun’s
declination, first reduced by Behaim also. Nevertheless, we must not
omit to bear in mind that as far back as the eighth century Messahala,
a learned Rabbi, had already written a treatise on the astrolabe, and
that even earlier still--in the sixth century B.C.--the astrolabe for
use on shore had been invented by Hipparchus. But had the achievements
of the ancients much influence, do you ask, on the cosmographers and
astronomers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries? The answer is
most certainly in the affirmative; and the greatest experts of this
period had a very complete knowledge of the work of their predecessors.

But for the same purpose of taking the height of the sun there was
employed an instrument called the cross-staff; of which the Spanish
word (adapted from the Greek) was the “balla stella.” The drawback to
the astrolabe was that it was difficult to use it with accuracy owing
to the rolling and pitching of the ship. Therefore the cross-staff,
being more steadily held in the hand, began to supersede the astrolabe.
Bourne, the famous Elizabethan navigational expert, insisted that
because the sea “causeth the shippe to heave” the best way to take the
sun’s height was with the cross-staff: furthermore, the degrees on
this instrument were marked larger than on the astrolabe. Also in a
larger instrument an error was seen sooner. The method of use in taking
the height of the sun, he explained, was as follows: Note with your
compass the sun when the latter approaches the meridian. When it has
arrived at S. by E. then begin to take the sun’s height thus: Put the
“transitorie” (or cross-piece) on the long staff, set the end of the
long staff close to the eye, “winking with your other eye,” and then
move the transitory forwards or backwards until you see the lower end
of it (“being just with the horizon”) and the upper end of it (“being
just with the middle of the sun”), “both to agree with the sunne and
the horizon at one time.” Observe the same until you see the sun at the
highest and beginning to descend. You have then finished.



It is not my intention to digress from the path of historical
continuity, but let the reader bear in mind how very little the
navigator of this period had to help him. He had the compass for
indicating the direction of the ship’s head, and he had the astrolabe
and cross-staff for showing him his altitude. But two intensely
important data he could not yet obtain accurately: (1) his longitude,
and (2) the distance run by the ship in any given time. Very great
errors were made in both of these. It was not until the introduction
of the log-line in the seventeenth century that a ship could tell
with even approximate accuracy her daily run. For many a long year
all the cunning Jews and Arabs, all the philosophers, the astronomers
and physicians, all the cleverest men out of Portugal, Spain, Genoa,
Venice, and the Balearic Isles had tried but failed to solve this
proposition. And the coming of the perfect chronometer for finding the
longitude was delayed even longer still.

Every modern deep-sea navigator is familiar with what is known as Great
Circle Sailing. For the landsman it may be sufficient to explain that
this principle seems to contradict Euclid’s assertion that the shortest
distance between any two points is a straight line. In the case of a
globe this statement of Euclid does not apply. Every steamer between
Liverpool and New York to-day sails on a great circle for the most part
of her passage. “Great circles” are those whose plane passes through
the centre of the earth: for example, the Equator is a “great circle.”
Now as far back as the year 1497 Pedro Nunez made the startling but
true announcement that in sailing from one port to another the shortest
course was along an arc of a great circle of the terrestrial sphere.
And this fact was appreciated by such Elizabethan navigators as John
Davis in his voyaging across the North Atlantic.

[Illustration: AN OLD NOCTURNAL.

In the S. Kensington Museum.]

The training of a navigator such as went on in Seville was very
thorough, so that it formed an excellent precedent for all who had at
heart the education of the complete navigator. The training in the year
1636 was a three-year course, and the following curriculum is given for
that year by Sir Clements Markham in his “Sea Fathers”:--

First Year: (1) The sphere of Sacrobosco. (2) The four rules of
Arithmetic: Rule of three, extraction of square root, cube root, and
fractions. (3) The theory of Purbach, or planets and eclipses. (4) The
spherical trigonometry of Regiomontanus. (5) The Almagest of Ptolemy.

Second Year: (1) The first six books of Euclid. (2) Arcs and chords,
right sines, tangents and secants. (3) To complete Regiomontanus and

Third Year: (1) Cosmography and navigation. (2) Use of astrolabe. (3)
The methods of observing the movements of heavenly bodies. (4) The use
of the globe and of mathematical instruments. (5) The construction of a

It must not be forgotten that the life on board a Tudor ship was, even
for rough, rude, untutored seamen, full of hardships, even if full
of adventure. Anyone who cares to look through the records of the
voyages can see this for himself. We are accustomed to regard that as
a romantic age; but the romance is only visible through the avenue of
distance which now separates us from those times. The victualling was
disgracefully mismanaged at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The
crews of ships were actually allowed to fight in the English Channel
for their country in a condition that was almost sheer starvation.
Actually the commissariat department was so bad that ships had to
return home from the region of battle to fetch supplies. There was
nothing very romantic, either, in having to serve on ships which exuded
a terrible stench from their holds. A horrible mixture of bilge-water
and decayed food, coupled with the heat of the galley, helped to make
the health of the Tudor sailorman anything but good.

Henry VII had done his best to encourage enterprising shipbuilders by
giving them a bounty on the tonnage built, and there is a record of
at least one ship’s smith being given an annuity for his services to
the king’s ships. This, like many other customs, had been derived from
Spain. Still, for all that, the warships put to sea with so many leaks
that “the water cam in as it wer in a seve.” And there was no dry dock
until Henry VII built the first at Portsmouth with timber gates and
“one ingyn to draw water owte of the seid dokke.” When they went forth
to the naval wars of this period they fought with bows, arrows, spears
and demi-lances, morris-pikes, halberds, bills, guns (including falcons
and harquebuses). There were rammers and powder for the guns, and shot
of iron, stone, and lead, artillery having been recently introduced.
Portholes had also been introduced in the reign of Henry VII, and the
passing of the Viking type of ship to that of a bigger, more seaworthy
type, with high-charged stern and bow, was the beginning of a new order
of things. Gradually the merchantman became separated from the pure
warship, and cannon took the place of the hand-to-hand encounter. But
these changes came only by slow stages.

In the time of Henry VIII England was still leaning on the work of the
foreign shipwright. Spain, Genoa, Venice, and the Hanseatic League all
helped. The arsenal at Venice at this time was a wonderful depôt for
shipping--wonderful in its completeness and systematisation. There was
everything always ready here for the ship to be used at a moment’s
notice. Over a hundred ship-houses were there, containing all the
component parts of craft. Armouries, foundries, rope-works, workshops,
stores of timber, provisions, and munitions of war--it was all done
on a big scale. Such was the perfection of organisation that the
master-carpenters and their men actually demonstrated their ability to
put together all the detached parts of a galley--rigging included--in
less than a couple of hours.

Spain supplied a good deal of the iron for the anchors and guns of
England until our forefathers quarried for themselves. Thanks to
Continental influence, a knowledge of artillery was growing up in
England and employed usefully on board our ships of war. Had you met
any of these craft at sea you would have been struck by the painted
sails, bearing the picture of a saint or whatever device the admiral
preferred. Those high forecastles and poops were also most splendidly
decorated, so likewise the shields round the upper part of the castles
were emblazoned with the arms and devices of the admiral. There were
flags bravely flying on the forecastle, on the poop, and amidships;
from the main-top a broad swallow-tailed standard flew bearing the
admiral’s devices and reaching down to the water. Every mast had its
bunting, and for celebrating a triumph the ship was still further
draped with rich cloth. Thus she looked, with her many flags fluttering
in the wind, more like a fair-ground than an instrument of war.

Such a ship as the famous _Great Harry_ (1500 tons) carried quite
a big company--400 soldiers, 260 sailors, and 40 gunners. Admirals
and captains were still rather military officers and courtiers than
sailors, though the masters were responsible for the handling of the
ship. On this same vessel there were below the rank of master the
following ratings: master’s mate, four pilots, four quartermasters,
quartermasters’ mates, boatswain and boatswain’s mate, cockswain and
his mate, master-carpenter and his mate, under-carpenter, two caulkers,
purser, three stewards, three cooks, cooks’ mates, two yeomen of the
stryks (ropes) and their mates, and two yeomen of the ports with their
mates. Some sort of uniform was worn by the officers, consisting of
green and white coats--the Tudor colours.

In Henry VIII’s time dockyards were established at Woolwich, Erith, and
Deptford, as well as at Portsmouth. Originally the custom was to lay
up the ships in the autumn and fit out in the spring; but at this time
the excellent practice of keeping some ships cruising the Channel in
the winter months was developed. The rate of pay in Henry VIII’s navy
allowed the admiral ten shillings a day and a captain one and sixpence
a day, while the wages of each soldier, mariner, and gunner were five
shillings a month plus five shillings a month for victuals. Conduct
money for those who had to travel long distances to join their ships
was at the rate of sixpence a day, twelve miles being reckoned as one
day’s journey.

Copper and gilt ornamentations were added to the end of the bowsprit
on Henry VIII’s ships, says Mr. Oppenheim, whilst gilt crowns for the
mastheads had been the practice for centuries. Before going into action
a ship would sometimes coil her cable round the deck breast high and
hang thereon mattresses and blankets as a kind of protection. And here
we must say a word concerning the development of naval tactics. As in
other maritime departments, so in regard to this England owed a great
deal to Spanish influence. Naval warfare in the Mediterranean was
already a science, and learned treatises had been written thereon. If
the Spaniards were not a race of seamen by nature, at least they had
developed the scientific side of the sailor’s life in advance of the
English. The awakening from medievalism in marine matters which had
spread to our own shores not unnaturally aroused an interest in the
proper manner of controlling a fleet. The earliest set of fleet orders
in English was that which appeared about the year 1530, written by
Thomas Audley, and still preserved in a Harleian MS. This Thomas Audley
wrote “A Book of Orders for the War both by Land and Sea,” at the
command of Henry VIII. In effect these orders are the final expression
of English medieval ideas before the introduction of artillery and the
practice of broadside fire had started a new school of modern tactics.
Audley’s fleet orders, based on the practice of previous centuries,
insisted on the importance of getting the weather-gage of the enemy,
laid down how to board an enemy--boarding in those days meaning, of
course, engaging him in combat alongside--and denoted the sphere of an
admiral’s action.

In 1543 appeared the “Book of War by Sea and Land,” written by Jehan
Bytharne, Gunner in Ordinary to the King. This contained a number of
regulations for governing the fleet, for ornamenting and painting
the ships, and for the use of flags both for celebrating a triumph
and--this is important--for the purpose of signalling, as, for example,
informing the flagship when the enemy had been espied. Bear in mind
that in the Spanish Navy flag signalling had, following the Spanish
advance towards science, become already a fine art. It is true that
even in England this had been in vogue for centuries, and the earliest
code is to be found in the “Black Book of the Admiralty,” and dates
from about 1340. But the Spanish system was less crude and elementary.

By the middle of the sixteenth century naval tactics in England had
advanced even further still, as the instructions issued in connection
with the Battle of Shoreham indicate. They are too long to detail here,
but it is noticeable that they show both a knowledge of the handling of
ships and a mind that has escaped from medieval muddle. The arranging
of the fleet in proper divisions, each with its own work to perform,
the exact position which was to be maintained, and so on, are well
worth consideration. And each division was to wear the St. George’s
ensign at a different place for purposes of recognition. Those in the
first rank were to fly it from the fore-topmast, those in the second
rank to wear it on the mainmast, and so on.

During the latter half of the sixteenth century, when the autumn came
round each year and most of the royal ships had ended their cruising
till the following spring, it was customary to take these vessels round
to the Medway. Even ships from Portsmouth were hither brought, and they
lay moored in Gillingham Reach. This made a convenient and sheltered
anchorage, and yet was not too far from the Tower of London. When the
time arrived again for fitting out, the ammunition was put on board
barges at the Tower and these, taking the ebb down the Thames and the
flood up the Medway, discharged their load when tied up alongside the
warships at Chatham.

The great achievements of the Elizabethan seamen could not have
occurred unless the English had been engaged in the seafaring life for
years, since it is impossible to make a landsman a sailor except after
much training. The Armada would never have been defeated except for
the superior seamanship and gunnery of our forefathers. Slowly, but
surely, since the history of our country began, there had been growing
up a nucleus of professional seamen. In Tudor times had there been no
race of freight-carriers and fishermen, there would have been no virile
body of men to fall back on in the hour of danger on the sea, for the
merchant sailor often enough had an exciting passage before he landed
his cargo safely in port. Both he and the simple fisherman were liable
to be assaulted on the sea by hordes of pirates. In the North Sea, the
English Channel (especially in the vicinity of the Scilly Isles, where
they swarmed), and off the Irish coast these sea-rovers were a terror
to the peaceful, honest seaman.

In addition to this, however, there sprang up what is nothing better
than a legalised piracy. By a proclamation of 1557, any Englishman
could fit out a squadron of ships against the enemies of the Crown,
and when he had located these enemies on the high seas, could attack
them and confiscate their ships and contents. Now this afforded a
fine outlet for those imaginative seafarers who yearned for something
more adventurous than catching fish. It was just the kind of life for
those who gloried in adventure and wanted it on sea. It helped to turn
the fisherman into a fighting man; it was a training school for those
who were presently to become the great sea captains and admirals, the
gunners and able seamen of the great Elizabethan age.



The seamanship, the navigation, and the gunnery of the Elizabethan
age will ever be memorable, not merely because they attained such
excellence after centuries of imperfection, but because by a
combination of these three arts the whole future of England was mapped
out, her supremacy assured, and her colonial expansion begun.

A four-masted warship of her reign was not a handy creature to control.
She could fight and she could ride out an Atlantic gale, but she was
clumsy; she was--even the best of her class--much addicted to rolling,
owing to the fact that she possessed such immense weights above the
water-line. She was certainly an improvement on the ships of Henry
VII and VIII, but she was too cumbrous to be considered in any degree
satisfactory. Before we proceed to discuss the way they were handled,
let us briefly survey the principal types of vessels on board which the
men of this reign had to serve.


By a Contemporary Artist.]


There was, firstly, the “high-charged” man-of-war with her lofty poop
and forecastle. A contemporary illustration shows such a vessel with
guns protruding from the stern and two tiers of guns running along
either side of the ship. There were light guns in the forecastle as
well. That portion on the main deck between the break of the poop and
forecastle was the waist, where the crew moved about and the ship’s
boats were stowed. In those days, when so much of the fighting was
done at close quarters, and the enemy endeavoured so to manœuvre
his ship as to come alongside and pour his men on the other’s deck,
dealing out slaughter to all who should bar his way, it was the aim of
the attacked ship to catch the invaders between two fires. The poop
and forecastle being so well guarded and, by reason of their height,
so difficult to assault, the enemy might possibly board the ship at
the waist. But inasmuch as the after bulkhead of the forecastle and
the forward bulkhead of the poop were pierced for quick-firing guns,
the boarding party was likely to meet with a warm reception. As an
additional obstacle to boarding, it was customary before a fight to
stretch long red cloths over the waist. These cloths were edged on
each side with calico, says an Elizabethan writer, and were allowed to
hang several feet over the side all round the ship, being sometimes
ornamented with devices or painted in various colours. Wooden barriers,
called “close-fights,” were also built across the ship’s deck for
repelling boarders, and were loopholed like the bulkheads. Furthermore,
nettings were stretched across the ship to prevent any falling spars
from dealing death to the crew.

The tumble-home on these ships was excessive, but since they carried
so many decks it was essential that the topmost should be as light
as possible. But just as on a modern steamship the master can survey
everything forward from the eminence of his bridge, so the Elizabethan
captain, standing on the poop, was able to command the whole ship, to
see ahead and to keep an eye on his men. There was no uniform colour
for painting the Elizabethan hulls, Mr. Oppenheim says. Black and
white, the Tudor colours green and white, red, and timber colour were
all used. Sometimes a dragon or a lion gilded was at the beak-head,
with the royal arms at the stern. On either side of the stern was a
short gallery, on to which the captain could emerge from his cabin
under the poop. The long tiller from the rudder came in under the poop,
and was controlled by a bar or whipstaff attached to this same tiller.
“The roul,” says James Lightbody in his “Mariner’s Jewel,” published
in 1695, “is that through which the whipstaff goeth, which is a piece
of wood the steersman holdeth in his hand to steer withal.” The man
received his orders, as a rule, from the master of the ship, but when
entering port the pilot would instruct him how to steer.


(Sketched on board the replica of the _Revenge_ at Earl’s Court.)]

There was not very much room in the fo’k’sle--just enough to sleep a
few of the crew and for stowing coils of rope and the like. The galley
was erected at the bottom of the hold on a brick floor. Below the
upper deck came the main deck. Here were disposed the heavier guns,
and here the crew were berthed. Between this and the hold was a false
orlop, where the bread-room and the cabins of the petty officers were
placed. But what was perhaps especially noticeable about these ships
was the extent to which the poop and the beak projected away from the
hull. Consequently, not only did these craft roll, but they pitched
considerably as well. The interiors of the cabins were painted green,
and there was a certain amount of carving externally both at beak and
stern. So much for the “high-charged” type of ship.

But there was also the pinnesse or flush-decked species, such a craft
as brought home to England the body of Sir Philip Sidney, and such a
craft as often formed a unit in those long, perilous transatlantic
voyages of discovery. These craft had no raised forecastle other than a
small platform, and only a short quarter-deck. There was no such thing
as triangular sails on the full-rigged ships of those days. There was,
indeed, a spritsail, which was a squaresail set on a yard depending
from the long, steeved bowsprit, and this was the only headsail.
The foremast and mainmast each set a course and topsail, while the
mizzen and bonaventure each carried a lateen fore-and-aft sail. The
fore-topmast and main-topmast could be struck if necessary. Elizabethan
prints show, situated just above the lower yard on the bigger ships,
a round top or platform from which quick-firing guns and arrows could
be fired. At the yard-arms were sometimes fitted hooks, which, catching
the enemy’s rigging and sails, would do him considerable damage.


By a Contemporary Artist. The lead of the ropes, the parrals round the
masts, the rigging and other details are here most instructively shown.]

The following represent the different types of “great ordinance”
carried by a ship of war at this period:--


                       Weight         Shot
  Ordnance.            in lbs.      in lbs.

  Cannon               8000            63
  Demi-cannon          6000            32
  Culverin             5500            18
  Demi-culverin        4500             9
  Saker                3500             5¼
  Minion               1500             4
  Falcon               1100             2¼
  Falconet              500             1¼

But it was seldom that any ordnance greater than a demi-cannon was used
on board ship.

The guns were made of brass or iron, and were mounted on wooden
carriages which had four wheels. They could be run in and out by means
of tackles. In his interesting little book, “The Arte of Shooting in
Great Ordnance,” by William Bourne, published in 1587, the author
significantly speaks of “this barbarous and rude thing called the
Art of Shooting in great Ordnaunce.” This was the period, you will
remember, when arrows, bills, and pikes had not yet lost their
admirers. He tells you in his preface that he has written this book
because “we English men haue not beene counted but of late daies to
become good Gunners, and the principall point that hath caused English
men to be counted good Gunners hath been for that they are hardie or
without fear about their ordnaunce: but for the knowledg in it other
nations and countries haue tasted better therof, as the Italians,
French, and Spaniardes, for that the English men haue had but little
instruction but that they haue learned of the Doutchmen, or Flemings in
the time of King Henry the eight.”


(Elizabethan period.)]


By a Contemporary Artist. The date on the stern is 1564. Notice the man
in the maintop dowsing maintopsail.]

He goes into the subject with great thoroughness and points out that
allowance must be made for the wind, and how to secure good aim. The
cannon are to be placed so as to be right in the middle of the ports of
the ship, and care is to be taken that the wheels of the gun-carriage
are not made too high. He advises that when shooting from one ship
at another, if there is any sea on it is essential to have a good
helmsman “that can stirre steadie.” The best time to fire at the other
vessel is when the latter is “alofte on the toppe of the sea,” for then
“you have a bigger marke than when she is in the trough.” If the ship
rolls, “then the best place of the ship for to make a shotte is out of
the head or sterne.” The shorter ordnance is to be placed at the side
of the ship because they are lighter, and if the ship should heave
“wyth the bearyng of a Sayle that you must shutte the portes,” then you
can easily take the guns in.

“In lyke manner,” he proceeds, “the shorter that the peece lyeth oute
of the shyppes syde, the lesse it shall annoy them in the tacklyng of
the Shippes Sayles, for if that the piece doe lye verye farre oute of
the Shyppes syde, then the Sheetes and Tackes, or the Bolynes wyll
alwayes bee foule of the Ordnaunce, whereby it maye muche annoy them in
foule weather.” Therefore the long guns are best placed so that they
are fired from the stern. But a gun so placed must be “verye farre oute
of the porte, or else in the shooting it may blowe up the Counter of
the Shyppes sterne.”

In another equally delightful volume entitled “Inventions or Devises,”
the same author tells his reader how to “arme” (i.e. protect) a “ship
of warre.” You are to keep your men as close as you may, and have
the bonnet off the sail or other canvas stretched along the waist
and decks, as I have shown on an earlier page. The forecastle and
poop, Bourne says, you may “arm” with “manlets or gownes” “to shaddow
your men”; so also the tops, “but now in these daies,” he adds, “the
topfight is unto little effect, since the use of Calivers or Muskets in
Ships,” for the latter could do so much damage. He therefore advises
against having many men in the tops. After alluding to the netting,
which I explained just now, Bourne suggests that the captain must send
the carpenter “into the holde of the Ship” “to stop any leake if any
chance. And also to send downe the Surgion into his Cabin, which ought
and must be in the holde of the ship.”

The supreme head of the ship was the captain, who was not necessarily
a navigator nor even a seaman; but he was the wielder of authority and
discipline. He it was who had to keep under control a crew that was
prone to swearing, blasphemy, violence, mutiny, and other sins. Sir
William Monson has left behind in his most interesting “Naval Tracts”
many an entertaining detail of sea life during the Elizabethan period,
and tells that a captain might punish a man by putting him in the
“billbows during pleasure,” ducking him at the yard-arm, hauling him
from yard-arm to yard-arm under the ship’s keel (otherwise known as
keel-hauling), fastening him to the capstan and flogging him there,
or else fastening him at the capstan or mainmast with weights hanging
about his neck till his poor heart and back were ready to break.
Another brutal punishment was to “gagg or scrape their tongues for
blasphemy or swearing.”

Elizabethan captains, says Monson, “were gentlemen of worth and
means, maintaining their diet at their own charge.” In a fight the
lieutenant had charge of the forecastle. It was not till the latter
part of Elizabeth’s reign that the rank of lieutenant was created for
the training of young gentlemen destined ultimately for command. He
came aboard quite “green” in order to learn what seamanship he could,
and to assist the captain in the discipline of the ship; but he was
not allowed to interfere with the navigation, which was entirely the
work of the master. Not unnaturally there was a good deal of friction
between the lieutenant and the master. Even the common seaman had an
ineradicable contempt for this landlubber, more especially in the
seventeenth century during the Anglo-Dutch wars.


(Elizabethan period.)]

In his “Accidence, or The Path-way to Experience necessary for all
Young Seamen,” written by Captain John Smith, the first Governor of
Virginia, we have a great deal of information which tells us just what
we should wish to know. Of the captain and master we have already
spoken. The latter and his mates are to “commaund all the Saylors,
for steering, trimming, and sayling the Ship.” The pilot takes the
ship into harbour, the Cape-merchant and purser have charge of the
cargo, the master-gunner was responsible for all the munitions,
while the carpenter and his mate looked after the nails, pintles,
saws, and any caulking of seams as well as the splicing of masts and
yards. The boatswain had charge of the cordage, marlinespikes, and
sails, etc., while his mate had command of the longboat for laying
out kedge anchors and warping or mooring. The surgeon had to have a
certificate from the “Barber-surgeons Hall” “of his sufficiency,” and
his medicine-chest must be properly filled. The marshal was to punish
offenders, and the corporal was to see to the setting and relieving
of the watch. Every Monday the boatswain was to hear the boys box the
compass, after which they were to have a quarter can of beer and a
basket of bread.

The men messed in fours, fives, or sixes, and the steward’s duty was
“to deliuer out the victuall.” The quartermasters had charge of the
stowage, while a cooper was carried to look after the casks for wine
and beer, etc. The large ships had three boats, viz. (1) the boat, (2)
the cock, and (3) the skiff. These were respectively put in charge of
(1) the boatswain, (2) the cockswain, and (3) the skiffswain. Hence
the origin of these designations. A cook was carried, and he had his
store of “quarter cans, small cannes, platters, spoones, lanthornes,”
etc. The swabbers’ duties were to wash and keep clean the ship. But the
first man that was found telling a lie every Monday was indicted of
the offence at the mainmast and placed under the swabber to keep the
beak-head and chains clean. The sailors were the experienced mariners
who hoisted the sails, got the tacks aboard, hauled the bowlines,
and steered the ship; while the younkers were the young men called
“foremast men,” whose duty it was to take in topsails, furl and sling
the mainsail, and take their trick at the helm.


This contemporary design conveys an excellent idea of the interior
of an ocean-going vessel. Notice the pilot’s place at the stern; the
tiller and whip-staff; the capstan; the lower deck; the holds, etc.]

In those days the custom of dividing a ship’s company into watches was
already in vogue. “When you set sayle and put to sea, the Captaine is
to call up the company; and the one halfe is to goe to the Starreboord,
the other to the Larboord, as they are chosen: the Maister chusing
first one, then his Mate another, and so forward till they bee diuided
in two parts.” In those days the reckoning by tonnage was far from
reliable as indicating the true size of a ship. Columbus, after his
second voyage across the Atlantic, writes to Captain Antonio de Torres
of the ship _Marigalante_, and refers to the freighting of ships by the
ton “as the Flemish merchants do,” and this, he suggests, would be a
better and less expensive method than any other mode. But when after
the capture of a prize the division of shares was made, it was to the
advantage of the crew to make the tonnage as big as possible. The
custom was to allot the share in proportions. The ship took a third,
the victualler took another third, and the remaining third was divided
up among the crew. Of this latter third the captain received nine
shares, the master seven, and so on down to the boys who had one share,
and there was a reward given to the man who first descried the sails of
the ship ultimately captured. A reward was also paid to the first man
who rushed on board the enemy.

According to Monson, every man and boy was allowed 1 lb. of bread a day
and a gallon of beer a day, viz. a quart in the morning, a quart at
dinner, a quart in the afternoon, and a quart at supper. On flesh-days
each man could have 1 lb. of beef or else 1 lb. of “pork with pease.”
Flesh-days were Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The other
days were fish-days, and on these every mess of four men was allowed a
side of salt fish, “either haberdine, ling, or cod,” 7 oz. of butter,
and 14 oz. of cheese. Fridays were excepted, for on these days they
had but half allowance. Monson was naturally prejudiced against the
Spanish ships, which he accused of being badly kept--“like hog-sties
and sheep-coats”--and of giving an allowance of diet far too small.
Every man cooked for himself and there was no discipline, although they
carried more officers than the English ships. In the latter the captain
inspected his ship twice a day to see that she was kept sweet and clean
“for avoiding sickness,” but the holds were so badly ventilated, dark,
and smelly, the beer was so frequently bad, the food so often putrid,
and the crew themselves so lacking in habits of cleanliness, that
scurvy, dysentery, and other diseases frequently broke out and men died
in large numbers. One has only to look through the logs of some of the
Elizabethan voyages of discovery to see this for oneself.


By a Contemporary Artist. Showing method of embarkation and many
fascinating details.]

In addition to the officers already mentioned must be given two more.
These were first the ship’s chaplain, who celebrated the Holy Communion
on Sundays, read prayers two or three times on week-days, preached, and
visited the sick and wounded. And secondly a trumpeter, who blew on his
silver instrument when the ship went into action, at the changing of
the watches, and at the coming and going of a distinguished guest. His
place was on the poop, and it was customary for “himself and his noise
to have banners of silk of the admiral’s colours.” The watch was set at
eight, and so on through the night and day. When on these occasions the
trumpeter sounded his blast he was to “have a can of beer allowed for
the same.”

And now that we have got some idea in our minds of the details of the
seaman’s life on board an Elizabethan ship, let us be rowed off from
the shore in one of her three boats which is bringing water and wood
and provisions. The good ship is lying to her anchor in the roadstead
about to get underway. Transport yourself, then, in imagination to that
epoch when England’s seamen made such wonderful history, and endeavour
to believe that the cock-boat actually bumps up alongside the English
galleon. You clamber up the ship’s side and find yourself on her deck,
where the crew are standing about ready to hear the commands of the
master. And now let us watch them get under way. I shall quote not from
fiction of to-day, but from an account written by an Elizabethan, this
same Captain John Smith, as he wrote it for the edification of young

“Bend your passerado to the mayne-sayle, git the sailes to the yeards,
about your geare on all hands, hoyse your sayles halfe mast high,
make ready to set sayle, crosse your yeards, bring your Cable to the
Capsterne. Boatswaine, heave a head, men into the tops, men upon the
yeards. Come, is the anchor a pike? Heave out your topsayles, hawle
your sheates. What’s the Anchor away? Yea, yea. Let fall your fore
sayle. Who’s at the helme there? Coyle your cable in small slakes.
Hawle the cat, a bitter, belay, loufe (= luff), fast your Anchor with
your shanke painter, stow the boate. Let falle your maine saile, on
with your bonnets and drablers, steare study before the wind.

“The wind veares, git your star-boord tacks aboord, hawle off your ley
sheats ouerhawle the ley bowlin, ease your mayne brases, out with your
spret-saile, flat the fore sheat, pike up the misen or brade (= brail)
it. The ship will not wayer, loure the maine top saile, veare a fadome
of your sheat. A flown sheate, a faire winde and a boune voyage! The
wind shrinks. Get your tacks close aboord, make ready your loufe howks
(= luff hooks) and lay fagnes, to take off your bonnets and drablers,
hawle close your maine bowline.

“It ouervasts. We shall have wind. Sattle your top sailes, take in the
spret sayle. In with your topsayles. Lower your main sayles, tallow
under the parrels, in with your maine sayle, lower the fore sayle.
The sayle is split, brade up close all your sayles, lash sure the
Ordinances, strike your top masts to the cap, make them sure with your
sheepes feete. A storme, hull,[47] lash sure the helme a ley, lye to
try out drift.[48] How capes the ship? Cun the ship, spoune before the
winde. She lusts, she lyes under the Sea. Trie her with a crose jacke,
bowse it up with the outlooker. She will founder in the Sea, runne on
shore, split or billage on a Rocke, a wracke. Put out a goose-winge, or
a hullocke of a sayle.

[Illustration: DRAKE’S “REVENGE” AT SEA.]

“Faire weather! Set your fore sayle. Out with all your sailes. Get your
Larboard tackes aboord, hawle off your Starboord sheats, goe large,
laske, ware yawning. The ship’s at stayes, at backe-stayes. Ouer-set
the ship, flat about, handle your Sayles, or trim your sayles. Let
rise your tacks, hawle of your sheats. Rock-weede, adrift, or flotes!
One to the top to looke out for Land. A ship’s wake, the water way,
the weather bow, weather coyle. Lay the ship by the Ley, and heave the
lead, try the dipsie (= deep-sea) line. Bring the ship to rights,
fetch the log-line to try what way shee makes. Turne up the minute
glasse, observe the hight. Land, to make land, how beares it. Set it by
the Compasse. Cleare your leach-lines, beare in, beare off, or stand
off, or sheare off, beare up.

“Outward bound, homeward bound, shorten your Sailes, take in your
Sailes, come to an Anchor under the Ley of the weather shore, the Ley
shore, nealed too, looke to your stoppers. Your anchor comes home,
the ship’s a drift, vere out more Cable. Let fall your sheat Anchor,
land locked, mo(o)re the ship. A good Voyage, Armes, arme a skiffe, a
frigot, a pinnace, a ship, a squadron, a fleete. When you ride amongst
many ships, pike your yards.

“To the boat or skiffe belongs oares, a mast, a saile, a stay,
a halyard, sheats, a boat-hook, thoughts (= thwarts), thoules
(thole-pins), rudder, irons, bailes, a trar-pawling or yawning,
carlings, carling-knees, for the David (davit), the boates-wayles, a
dridge. To row a spell, hold-water, trim the boate, _vea, vea, vea,
vea, vea_, who saies Amen, one and all, for a dram of the bottle?”

Impressionist-writing you describe all this? Yes, certainly. But it
has the effect, has it not, of conveying just what we are attempting,
a general idea of the life of Elizabethan sailors at sea? “Many
supposeth,” writes this same author, “any thing is good enough to serve
men at sea, and yet nothing sufficient for them a shore, either for
their healthes, for their ease, or estates, or state.” ... “Some it may
bee will say I would have men rather to feast than fight. But I say the
want of those necessaries occasions the losse of more men than in any
English fleet hath bin slaine in any fight since (15)88: for when a man
is ill sicke, or at the poynt of death, I would know whether a dish
of buttered Rice, with a little Cinamon and Sugar, a little minced
meate, or roast beefe, a few stewed Prunes, a race of greene-ginger, a
flap Jacke, a can of fresh water brued with a little Cinamon, Ginger
and Sugar, be not better than a little poore John, or salt fish, with
oyle and mustard, or bisket, butter, cheese or oatemeale pottage on
fish dayes, salt beefe, porke and pease. This is your ordinary ship’s
allowance, and good for them are well, if well-conditioned, which is
not alwayes, as seamen can too well witnesse: and after a storme, when
poore men are all wet, and some not so much a cloth to shift him,
shaking with cold, few of those but will tell you a little Sacke or
Aquvitæ is much better to keepe them in health, then a little small
beere or cold water, although it be sweete.”

The sea literature of the Elizabethan period is rich in illustrations
of the ways employed. Shakespeare, whom some critics verily believe
to have been a sailor--so unfailingly accurate are his numerous sea
terms--here and there, and especially in “The Tempest,” reflects a good
deal of the life on board ship. In such logs as the voyages of the
great Arctic explorer John Davis, there is many a nautical expression
that cannot fail to arrest our attention. And in order to complete the
impressionistic sketch of Captain John Smith, permit me here to bring
to the reader’s notice some of the phrases which I have collected from
other sources of this period.

There were various expressions used to mean heaving-to: thus “strake
suddenly ahull” to signify “suddenly hove-to.” So also “tried under our
maine course, sometimes with a haddock of our sail,” as Davis has it,
or “a hullocke of a sayle,” as Smith expresses it. Perhaps it was thus
that the synonym “try-sail” originated, signifying a small handkerchief
of canvas with which to lie comfortably hove-to. “The third day being
calme, at noone we strooke saile, and let fall a cadge anker.” “Cadge”
is spelt “kedge” nowadays. They used to “let slippe” their cables--made
of hemp--from the “halse” or hawse-pipe. But sometimes “the cable of
our shut (= sheet) anker brake.” “For the straines (= strands) of one
of our cables were broken, we only road by an olde junke!” (Junk is
still sailor’s slang for worn-out rope.) In those days when there was
no such thing as telegraph or post, when ships traversing the ocean
were so few as unlikely to meet except rarely, months and years went by
without news of mariners. But sometimes when an outward-bound English
ship met a fellow-countryman homeward-bound, an effort was made to send
letters back. There was an instance of this during Davis’s third voyage
when two days out from Dartmouth. They met the _Red Lion_ of London
sailing home from Spain. So they hailed the latter and asked her master
to carry letters back to London. “And after we had heaved them a lead
and a line, whereunto wee had made fast our letters, before they could
get them into the ship, they fell into the sea, and so all our labour
and theirs was also lost.”

Happily there still exists the “Traverse-Booke,” which Davis made
during his third voyage, when he set out to discover that north-west
passage which was only found in the present decade by Captain Roald
Amundsen, who also was the first to reach the South Pole. And I
cannot believe that even a brief extract of Davis’s sailing will fail
to be of the greatest interest to modern seamen, whether amateur or
professional. I have therefore thought fit to append the following,
which covers the first nine days beginning from the time when his
little fleet of three, consisting of the “barke” _Elizabeth_, the
“barke” _Sunneshine_, and the “Clincher” _Helene_, weighed their
anchors and set sail from Dartmouth.

A Traverse-Booke made by M. John Davis in his third voyage for the
discoverie of the North-West passage, Anno 1587.

  Moneth.  |       |         |        |ELEVATION |  THE   |
           |HOURES.|COURSE.  |LEAGUES.|  OF THE  | WINDE. |
     DAYES.|       |         |        |  POLE.   |        | THE DISCOURSE.
           |       |         |        |          |        |
  MAY.     |       |         |        |Deg.|Mins.|        |
       19  |       | W S W   |        | 50 | 30  |  N E   |This day we departed
           |       |Westerly |        |    |     |        |  from Dartmouth at
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |  two of the clocke
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |  at night.
       20  |       |         |        |    |     |        |
       21  |  35   | W S W   |   50   | 50 |     |  N E   |This day we descried
           |       |Westerly |        |    |     |        |  Silly N W by W
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |  from us.
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |
       22  |  15   | W N W   |   14   |    |     |N E by E|This day at noone
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |  we departed
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |  from Silly.
       22  |   6   | W N W   |    6   |    |     |N E by E|
       22  |   3   | W N W   |    2   |    |     |        |
       23  |  15   |N W by W |   18   |    |     |  N E   |
           |  39   | W N W   |   36   | 50 |  40 |        |The true course,
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |  distance and
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |  latitude.
           |   3   | W N W   |    2   |    |     | N N E  |
           |   6   |N W by W |    5   |    |     |N E by N|
           |   3   | W N W   |    3   |    |     | N N E  |
           |  12   | W N W   |   12   |    |     |  N E   |
  Noone the|  24   | W N W   |   25   | 51 |  16 |        |The true course,
     24    |       |Northerly|        |    |     |        |   distance, and
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |   latitude.
           |   3   | W N W   |    3   |    |     | N N E  |
           |   3   | W N W   |    2½  |    |     | N by E |
           |   6   | W by N  |    5   |    |     |   N    |
           |   6   | W by N  |    5   |    |     |   N    |
           |   2   |   S     |    ½   |    |     |   N    |Now we lay upon the
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |  lee for the
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |  Sunshine, which
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |  had taken a leake
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |  of 500 strokes in
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |  a watch.
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |
           |       |         |        |    |     |        |

The phrase “lay upon the lee” is just another way of saying they
hove-to. “A leake of 500 strokes in a watch” was identical with saying
that they had to work the pumps to that number in such a period.
It should be added, further, that by “elevation of the pole” is, of
course, meant the ship’s latitude.

Some of the vessels of the sixteenth century were terribly slow
creatures. There was a nickname given to those lethargic coasters
which, because they could not do much against the current and had to
proceed from one roadstead to another and there anchor till the tide
turned, were known as “roaders.” No one who has made himself familiar
with their long and trying voyages could ever accuse the Elizabethan
seamen of cowardice in bad weather. Once, Davis relates, when his ship
was fighting her way through a storm, her mainsail blew right out of
her; whereupon the master of the ship crept along the mainyard, which
had now been lowered down to the rails, and gathering the sail as it
was hauled out of the sea, gallantly fought with it and succeeded in
bending it again to the yard, “being in the meane while oft-times
ducked over head and eares into the sea.”

The reader will remember just now in the extract from Smith the
expression “she lusts” for “she lists.” Among hundreds of our English
seamen in this twentieth century “lust” is still used to mean “list.”
Smith, as we saw, also wrote “spoune before the wind.” Davis, too,
related that “we spooned before the sea,” the exact meaning being that
they drove before the gale under bare poles. The latter also uses the
expression “a mighty fret of weather” to mean “a mighty squall.” Those
who are familiar with the language of the fishermen on the north-east
coast of England will call to mind their word “sea-fret” to denote a
fog approaching the land.


After a Contemporary Artist.

Notice the compass, the hour-glass, globes, cross-staff, charts, etc.]

Few nautical words are so well known to us as “skipper.” Before the
sixteenth century was ended the Dutch seamen had fraternised a good
deal with the sailors of England. The Low Countries were fast
becoming great shipbuilders and navigators, and not unnaturally some
of their phrases began to be used by our men. The Dutch word to this
day which is used to mean captain is still “schipper,” and among the
English seamen at the end of the sixteenth century the equivalent
“shipper” was employed to refer to the same personage. There were
other slang phrases prevalent, such as a “light-horseman” to mean
a fast-pulling gig. So also Davis speaks of a “trade” wind to mean
regular and steady. “The wind blowing a trade,” he remarks. But some
of these phrases employed by seamen of those days are a little less
obvious. “Tressle-trees,” for example, might puzzle many a modern
sailorman. “This night we perished our maine tressle-trees, so that
wee could no more use our maine top-saile.” These trestle-trees were
just a couple of strong pieces of wood, or of iron, and were fitted one
on either side of the lower masthead so as to support the heel of the
topmast. Such expressions as “ground-tackle” are as frequently employed
to-day as then, but over and over again we find that a ship “came
roome,” “bare roome with her,” to mean that the former came to leeward,
put up her helm and bore away.

Anxious as he naturally was concerning a thousand matters, the life
of the captain at sea was many degrees happier than that of his crew.
At least he had a decent cabin and bed in which to sleep and take his
meals and sip his punch, otherwise known as “Rosa Solis,” consisting
of brandy, spices, and hot water. But the seamen’s comforts were
disgracefully neglected, with the result that they died in dozens. Some
more humane captains such as John Smith did their best for the men;
but this was exceptional. And yet it was a thoroughly unsanitary age.
Davis himself admits that many of his crew were “eaten with lice” as
big as beans. Monson includes among the causes of the discouraging of
seamen the inexperienced commanders who were put over them, the bad
victuals which they had to endure, the dishonesty in serving them--the
beef, for instance, given so that five men had to partake of four
men’s allowance--and the delay which was made in paying their wages.
Especially were these abuses noticeable during the early years of
the seventeenth century. Men were impressed into the service even in
those days, though there were volunteers as well. At the time of the
Armada our sailors received as wages fourpence a day, but this was paid
quarterly. In addition, of course, there was sometimes prize money
in the proportions already mentioned. In Monson’s time complaint was
made of the kind of foremast men who were pressed into the service “to
pleasure friends.” Such men as “taylors, porters, and others of that
rank, unworthy of the hatches to lie on,” were brought aboard and given
no less than £1 11s. a month. And yet, when opportunity allowed, the
captain used to send his crew ashore in the ship’s boats “to walk in
the fields ... to take the air.” But among the officers there was too
much “excessive banqueting on board” and a great waste of powder, as,
for instance, when guns were fired at the drinking of a man’s health.

And the same authority has something very interesting to tell us
concerning the ceremonial wearing of the flag on board ship. I have
no intention of confusing our chronological sequence, but I must ask
the reader for a moment to recall that incident which was one of the
indirect if not the real causes of the first Anglo-Dutch wars. It will
be remembered--which English schoolboy does not remember it well?--that
when Captain Young, one May Day in 1652, was bound down Channel
and met a convoy of Dutchmen coming up, he was angered to find the
foreigner declined to salute, and an engagement immediately followed.
Now, writing long before that incident had ever occurred, Monson
definitely states that if a foreign fleet should pass on our seas
and meet our admiral’s ship, the former were expected to acknowledge
our sovereignty by coming under the lee of the admiral, by striking
their topsails and taking in their flag. “And this hath never been
questioned,” he adds, except out of ignorance, as in the case of Philip
II, when he met the Lord Admiral of England when the former was sailing
to England in order to marry Queen Mary. The custom was that if any
foreign ship were to arrive in one of our ports or to pass a fort or
castle, she must, as she entered, and before coming to anchor, take in
her flag three times “and advance it again.” But should the English
admiral be in the harbour, the foreigner was not to display his flag at

Prior to the reign of James I, all admirals wore the St. George’s flag
at the topmast head. But when the Union of Scotland had been effected
there was added the cross of St. Andrew. An admiral at anchor took in
his flag in the evening and fired a gun and set the watch. “The flag
carried under the poop of a ship,” he remarks, “shews a disgrace,” and
is never used except when it is won or taken from an enemy.

Jealousy of Spain and greed of gold had as much to do with the impetus
given to English seamanship and navigation during Elizabethan times as
any inherent love of the sea. To meet this new zeal various writers,
some of whom we have already mentioned, set to work to write treatises
that would turn raw agricultural labourers and tavern-haunters into
fighting sailors and navigators. William Bourne, from whom we have
already quoted, in his “Regiment for the Sea” was the first to give
a book on navigation written by an Englishman. This was in the year
1573, and a rare example of this little work is still preserved in
the British Museum. In it he pointed out the various ways for finding
the variation of the compass, exposed the errors of the plane charts,
and advised mariners in sailing towards high latitudes to keep their
reckoning by the globe, as in those regions the plane chart was most
likely to land them into trouble.

In 1594 John Davis, the Arctic explorer, published his “The Seaman’s
Secrets.” This book became very popular, and took the place of the
Spanish Martin Cortes’ handbook, which had been used in the English
translation. There is a vast amount of matter in Davis’ “Secrets” which
is worth perusing even by the modern navigator. He speaks of “great
Circle navigation,” and gives a whole host of valuable practical hints.
“The Instruments necessarie for a skilfull seaman,” he explains, “are
a Sea Compasse, a Cross staffe, a Quadrant, an Astrolabe, a Chart, an
instrument magneticall[49] for the finding of the variation of the
Compasse, an Horizontall plaine Sphere, a Globe, and a paradoxall
Compasse”[50] ... “but the Sea Compasse, Chart and Crosse staffe
are instruments sufficient for the seaman’s use, the astrolabie and
quadrant being ... very uncertaine.” In this book he gives instruction
as to tides, stars, and how to use the astrolabe. And it is worth
noting that he speaks of the English Channel after the fashion of our
Gallic neighbours, who still refer to “La manche.” “Our Channell,” he
explains, “commonly called the Sleue” (sleeve).

[Illustration: CHART OF A.D. 1589.

Showing the dividing line between the Old World and the New.

It will be recollected that the Pope had drawn an imaginary line North
and South, a hundred leagues west of the Azores, leaving all that lay
east thereof to the Portuguese, and all that lay west to the Spanish.]

Everyone knows that longitude is the distance east or west of a given
meridian. In those days Greenwich did not enter into the matter: the
observatory there had still to be founded. When Davis wrote in the year
1594 there was no variation at St. Michael’s in the Azores, and so the
longitude was reckoned from there. “Longitude,” he defines, “is that
portion of the Equator contained betweene the Meridian of S. Michel’s,
one of the Assores, and the Meridian of the place whose longitude is
desired: the reason why the accompt of longitude doth begin at this Ile
is, because that there the compasse hath no variety.”

Be it remembered, also, that it was Davis who improved the cross-staff
and superseded the clumsy astrolabe for taking meridian altitudes at
sea. It was commonly spoken of as Davis’s quadrant, and was afterwards
improved by Flamstead with the addition of a glass lens. Subsequently
it was further improved by Halley, and as such was used almost
exclusively till the year 1731, when it was in turn superseded by
Halley’s quadrant. When we read again the entrancing narratives given
in Hakluyt and elsewhere of the Elizabethan voyages into the unknown,
let us note that reposing somewhere in the high poop of these ships
there were most probably all the following instruments for navigating
the trackless seas. There was a calendar, an astrolabe, a cross-staff,
a celestial globe, a terrestrial globe, a universal horloge for knowing
the hour of the day in every latitude, a nocturne labe for telling the
hour of the night, one or more compasses, a navigation chart, a general
map, and a printed chart.


This illustration belongs to the latter half of the sixteenth century,
or the beginning of the seventeenth, and is among the Pepysian MSS. in
Magdalene College, Cambridge. Pepys’ own title for this is “Fragments
of Ancient English Shipwrightry.”]

It was in 1599 that Edward Wright published his “Haven-finding Art.” In
his volume “Certaine Errors in Navigation,” he complains of the errors
in the proportions of the existing charts. These consisted in wrongly
showing the distances of places. He speaks also of sailing “by a
great Circle, which is to bee drawne by those two places,” and asserts
that this is a better method than sailing always at right angles to
the meridian. In practically all the charts of this age the surface
was ruled with rhumb-lines from the thirty-two points of the compass,
as is still the case to-day on certain Dutch charts. The origin of the
word “rhumb” was Portuguese, and doubtless these lines appeared on the
earliest Portuguese charts. In the first of these two books, Wright
also furnished a table of variations of the compass in different parts
of the world.

As to the practical side of navigation, Bourne exhorted his mariners to
remember that the earth is a globe and not a “platforme,” as “generally
the most parte of the seamen make their account.” The meridians, he
reminded them, grow narrower towards the two poles. If one had occasion
to voyage northward it were better to sail by the globe, he suggested.
Therefore you should keep a perfect account of the ship’s course. Then
resort to your globe and consider what place and parallel you are in
(by means of the sun at day and the stars at night). Knowing where you
are, set your globe to the elevation of your pole, and then turn to the
place of your zenith and seek the opposite of it in your parallel, for
then you know that in the same parallel is your east and west line.
Then the just quarter of that circle to the pole must be divided into
the eight points of your compass, doing so likewise on the other side.

From the southern voyages the “plats or cardes for the sea” were
recommended. Bourne strongly advised against painting their compasses
with so many colours on these charts and so many flags on the land, but
bade them use the vacant places left on the paper for better objects,
such as the time of high water at certain states of the moon, and the
elevation of the land, in order that the appearance of the latter
might not be mistaken. The use of sea cardes for navigating during long
voyages he regards as very necessary for three reasons: they show you
(1) how one place bears from another; (2) the distances between the
places; (3) in what latitude any place is. But the master or pilot of
the ship is also to bear in mind the effect of tides, currents, the
surging of the sea or scantiness of the wind, which might put the ship
to leeward of her course. Also in long voyages the wind might shift
ahead, so the mariner must keep a perfect account of his courses and
mark each new course on the chart, and pay regard to the “swiftnesse”
or “slownesse” of the ships. If the weather be clear he was to take the
true altitude of the pole, which will correct the ship’s course and
give “a very neare gesse” how the port of destination bears and how far.

The compass was variously known in the Elizabethan age as the
“sea-directorie,” the “nauticall box,” and the “sea-compasse.”
Lightbody describes the bittacles as “little wooden pins for nailing
the compass-box withal.” The first atlas was published in Dutch at
Leyden in 1585 by Wagenaer. In this are to be found excellent coloured
charts of the Narrow Seas. It is evident from these that there was
a system of buoyage even in those days. There are barrel buoys, for
instance, and basket beacons such as you can still find in use to-day
in different parts of Holland. The sands on the port hand of the Swin
Middle at the entrance to the Thames Estuary are shown marked by
staff-and-triangle marks. This excellent atlas was soon translated into
English, so that the elaborate sailing directions and the admirable
little contours of the coast--crude but useful--could be placed at
the service of English mariners. This English version was known
as Wagenaer’s “Mariner’s Mirrour,” and there was also “The Sea
Mirrour,” translated from the Dutch of William Johnson Blaeu by Richard
Hynmers in 1625, which was another of the numerous nautical books of
this time, containing instruction in practical navigation, sailing
directions, charts, and contours.


(Dover to Orfordness.) This is taken from the first Atlas ever
published, viz., in 1585.]


    This is from Lucar’s sixteenth-century treatise on gunnery, and
    illustrates the use of the “geometricall square” for finding the
    distance between the galley and the ship, viz. 300 yards. This
    instrument was made of metal or cypress, the quadrant being divided
    into 90 degrees. It was used for measuring “altitudes, latitudes
    and profundities,” and so very valuable for all gunnery work.

The hourly or half-hourly glasses used on board were turned by the
sentry, who struck the ship’s bell at every half-hour just as on
shipboard to-day. The only means of keeping correct time in those days
was by observing the heavenly bodies, and this gave time at ship. But
frequently the navigators were many miles out in their longitude, since
the latter is found by comparing the exact time at ship with the time
by a chronometer showing the time at the prime meridian.

Nicholas Tartaglia, in his “Three Bookes of Colloquies concerning
the Arte of Shooting,” published in the year of the Armada, gives
an interesting illustration to indicate how one could know by the
help of a gunner’s circle the number of miles or feet any ship lying
in the roadstead was distant; and also how to measure height with
a geometrical square. And Bourne, in his “Treasure for Traueilers”
(1578), had a method for ascertaining the “waight of any shyp swimmyng
on the water.” The reader will remember that when we were discussing
Columbus we pointed out the lack of that useful instrument, the log and
line, for indicating the distance which a vessel sailed. It was William
Bourne who first published an idea for overcoming this difficulty in
a somewhat ingenious manner. In his “Inventions and Devices” (1578),
he gives a method whereby “to know the way or going of a ship, for
to knowe how fast or softly that any ship goeth.” The idea is too
complicated to be given here in detail, but practically it amounted to
towing astern a tiny boat containing a paddle-wheel which revolved,
and so by a species of clockwork registered the speed. Excepting that
the patent log of to-day is helicular, there is much resemblance
between the old and the new in at least the bare idea. But a little
later--in the year 1637--Richard Norwood published, in his “Seaman’s
Practice,” a whole chapter on the subject “Of dividing the Log-line and
reckoning the Ship’s way.” The log-line was to be used in conjunction
with the glass, and this method was little altered until the
nineteenth-century invention of the patent log had to be brought about
owing to the great speed of steamships.


By a Contemporary Artist. Notice the square lids over the portholes.]

Before we conclude this chapter we must not omit to say something of
the improvement in naval strategy, tactics, and discipline during
the Elizabethan period. You will remember that important campaign of
1587, when Drake took an expedition out to Cadiz, sunk and burnt an
enormous quantity of the enemy’s tonnage, repulsed the attacks of the
Mediterranean galleys--completely beating this type of craft at her
own special game and in her own waters--captured large quantities of
supplies intended for the Armada, and demonstrated himself to be no man
of medieval conceptions, but a modern strategist by waiting at Cape St.
Vincent, where he held the real key to the situation--able to prevent
the fleets from Cartagena and Cadiz from reaching Lisbon. You will
remember, too, that after terrorising the Spaniards and their galleys
he set a course for the Azores, captured the mammoth _San Felipe_,
homeward bound from the East Indies with a cargo that, reckoned in the
money value of to-day, was worth over £1,000,000; and what was more,
discovered from the ship’s papers the long-kept secrets of the East
Indian trade. Finally, during that same historic voyage, when friction
broke out between the modern strategist Drake and his medieval-minded
vice-admiral William Borough, the latter was promptly court-martialled,
tried on board the flagship by Drake, Fenner, and the other captains,
and deposed from his command.

Now, what was the net result of all this? We may sum the matter up
in the following statement. It gave the death-blow to the medieval
methods of fighting and inaugurated the scientific idea of strategy.
It demonstrated the fact that even in those circumstances when the
big sailing ship was at her worst, viz. fighting in sheltered waters
and in a flat calm, when the galley was certainly at her very best,
yet the former could annihilate the latter. Contrariwise, the capture
of the _San Felipe_ showed that even the biggest ship afloat could be
made a prisoner if only the captor went about the matter in the right
way. And, finally, it inaugurated real naval discipline, even for the
highest placed officer, and instituted the Court Martial.

And yet during the time of Elizabeth, though her admirals realised the
value of strategy, yet they failed to understand fleet tactics. There
was no regular order of battle. Howard’s fleet against the Armada in
1588 had been in action twice before it was organised into proper
squadrons. During that nine days’ fighting the old idea of boarding,
that had continued from the Greek and Roman days, through Viking and
medieval times till the sixteenth century, was clearly giving way
to the practice of broadside gunnery. But what is important to note
is the fact that though the Elizabethan admirals were realising the
superiority of the gun to the boarding pike, yet they had not become
sufficiently logical to devise a battle order for enabling their guns
to be used to the best advantage. Nevertheless, there was a partial
appreciation of this important principle. The idea of fighting in
line-ahead was certainly in their minds, and there was a tendency
for the fleet to break up into groups, each group delivering its
broadsides in succession on an exposed part of the enemy’s formation.
A contemporary chart depicting the Armada and the English fleet at the
different stages of fighting in the English Channel unquestionably
shows the Queen’s ships standing out in line-ahead formation from
Plymouth Sound, getting the weather gage of the enemy, and then
firing into them from the windward side. Spanish evidence admits that
the English were “in very fine order.” And it is quite curious
to observe that though Spain and Portugal had led the way towards
scientific seamanship and navigation, and England had followed, yet the
Spaniards still looked upon gunnery as a dishonourable practice, still
retained the medieval idea that gentlemen would fight only with swords;
and therefore these South Europeans, unable to fight at a distance,
used their best endeavours to close with our ships and carry on the
contest after the manner of the tactics which Greek and Roman and
Viking and Crusader had adopted.


By a Contemporary Artist.]

It is true, also, that the Portuguese showed no little courage and
enterprise in their shipbuilding. Some of their fifteenth-century
caracks were four-deckers, of fifteen hundred and two thousand tons,
with forty guns and a thousand sailors, soldiers, and passengers.
And, even if they were not by disposition and natural endowment great
sailors, yet they were splendid navigators. But they were never great
shipbuilders in the scientific sense, since they built by rule of
thumb. The Portuguese had, indeed, done much for cartography, and
yet until the Dutch Gerard Mercator introduced his “Mappemonde” in
1569, containing a new method of projecting a sphere upon a plane,
the problem of how to sail in a straight line over a curved figure
still lacked solution. The Dutch Wagenaer, of whom we spoke just now,
historically certainly owed a great deal to the achievements of the
Portuguese and Spanish, but already by the year 1577 he had written on
navigation. His charts of Dutch harbours and of the Narrow Seas were,
for their limited purpose, of more value than any charts which had come
from the South of Europe.

It has been well said by a careful writer that British seamanship has
been historically the cause of British supremacy, and that most British
sea fights have been decided by bringing single ships to close action,
laying ship against ship. If this statement is true, it is especially
applicable to the Elizabethan period, when seamanship was our strong
point and tactics our weakest. Never before had English sailors reached
such a high degree of proficiency therein; never in so short a time had
it done so much to mould national history, and to lay the foundations
of an Empire.



The only danger attaching to a fine achievement is lest the next
may appear insignificant by its side. The dramatist who has created
a splendid climax has little to fear except that his effect may be
utterly spoiled by some anti-climax. Transfer the simile to the region
of wars, and how often all through history do you not notice that part
of the grandeur has been robbed by the number of ex-fighting men who,
no longer needed for the safety of their country, find themselves at a
loose end? There has scarcely been one recorded war that has not shown
the soldier and sailor almost happier in fighting than in surviving.

So it was, then, that after all those years of fighting on sea, after
all those expeditions towards the West Indies and Spain, after the
Armada fights and lesser campaigns had at last brought settled peace to
our land, there was no employment for those numerous crews which had
fought with such zest and daring. And so they turned their minds to
something else, according to their circumstances. “Those that were rich
rested with that they had; those that were poore and had nothing but
from hand to mouth, turned Pirats; some because they became sleighted
of those for whom they had got much wealth; some for that they could
not get their due; some that had lived bravely would not abase
themselves to poverty; some vainly, only to get a name; others for
revenge, covetousness, or as ill; and as they found themselves more and
more oppressed, their passions increasing with discontent, made them
turne Pirats.”

So wrote Captain John Smith in his “Travells and Observations.” “The
men have been long unpaid and need relief,” wrote Hawkyns to Walsyngham
on the last day of July, after they had succeeded in driving the
Spanish Armada out of the English Channel, and his own gallant crew had
fought like true sailormen. “I pray your Lordship that the money that
should have gone to Plymouth may now be sent to Dover.” “The infection
is grown very great in many ships,” wrote Howard, three weeks later to
Elizabeth, “and is now very dangerous; and those that come in fresh are
soonest infected; they sicken one day and die the next.” And so we can
easily understand that after all these privations and disappointments
the ill-treated bands of seamen drifted into piracy as the most
profitable life and profession.

Even during Elizabeth’s time there were, of course, plenty of these
rovers in the English Channel, the most notorious of whom was a man
named Callis, who cruised about off the Welsh coast. For companions he
had a man named Clinton and one whose surname was Pursser. These gained
great notoriety until the Queen had them caught and hanged at Wapping.
And there was a man named Flemming, who was as big a rascal and as much
“wanted” as the others; but inasmuch as he performed a fine deed for
his country and was a patriot more than a pirate, he received not only
his pardon, but a good reward as well. For he was roving about in
the Channel when he discovered the great Spanish Armada sailing up.
Then, heedless of the fact that his own country was anxious to see
him dead, he sailed of his own accord into Plymouth, hastened to the
admiral, and warned him of the momentous sight which his own eyes had


By a Contemporary Artist. Showing the galleys moored on one side, and
the ships on the other.]

Afterwards there still remained some few pirates, so that it was
“incredible how many great and rich prizes the little barques of the
West Country daily brought home.” But now, after peace had come and
the men who had fought the Spaniards were not needed, they betook
themselves to help the Moorish pirates of Tunis, Algiers, and the
north coast of Africa, and many became their captains. There they were
joined also by the scum of France and Holland, but very few Spaniards
or Italians came with them. Some were captured off the Irish coast and
hanged at Wapping: others were pardoned by James I. They wandered in
their craft north and east; to the English Channel, Irish Sea, and the
Mediterranean, causing panic everywhere; and this notwithstanding that
they had against them warships sent out by the Pope, the Florentines,
Genoese, Maltese, Dutch, and English. There were seldom more than
half a dozen of these piratical craft together, and yet they would
invade a seaside town, carry off property and persons, attack ships
and confiscate their freights with the greatest impudence. But after
a while factions grew, and “so riotous, quarrellous, treacherous,
blasphemous, and villainous” a community became “so disjoynted,
disordered, debawched, and miserable, that the Turks and Moores
beganne to command them as slaves, and force them to instruct them in
their best skill.” It was after these pirates had committed frightful
atrocities as far north as Baltimore, carried away men, women, and
children into slavery and been a terrible menace to shipping, that
James I’s navy performed the only active service of his reign when it
was sent in 1620 to the Mediterranean. However, though it contained
six royal ships and a dozen merchantmen and was away from October to
the following June, yet it did little good as a punitive expedition.
It was not until 1655 that Blake settled the Tunisian pirates, set
fire to all the nine ships of the enemy, and came out of the harbour
again with but small loss. And though even in this twentieth century
the north coast of Africa still possesses a few pirate ships which have
been known to attack a sailing yacht when becalmed, yet ever since
Admiral Lord Exmouth, in August, 1816, with a small fleet of British
and Dutch warships, exterminated the pirates at Algiers, silenced their
five hundred guns, captured the Dey of Algiers, and released twelve
hundred Christians, this relic of medieval piracy has been practically
non-existent in European waters.

If the sixteenth century forms the climax of English seamanship, it is
the seventeenth century which unfortunately is the anti-climax. Abuses
crept into the Navy, so that by the year 1618 a complete reorganisation
had to be undertaken, and the bribery, embezzlement, and general
corruption had to be stopped so far as was possible. And yet, for all
that, there was still being made important progress both in navigation
and in shipbuilding. John Napier, in the year 1614, provided his
tables of logarithms, which simplified the intricate calculations of
navigators. In 1678 was published “The Complete Ship-Wright,” by Edmund
Bushnell, which I believe to be the earliest treatise on shipbuilding
printed in English. The way the London shipwrights were wont to measure
their ships was as follows: They multiplied the length of the keel
“into the breadth of the ship, at the broadest place, taken from
outside to outside, and the produce of that by the half breadth. This
second product of the multiplication they divide by 94 or sometimes by
100, and according to that division, 60 the quotient thereof, they are
paid for so many Tuns.”

For example, take the case of a ship 60 feet long and 20 feet broad:--

  100)12000(120 Ans.      120 tons.

But, says this same writer, the true way to measure must be by
measuring the body and bulk of the ship underwater. He also gives some
of the rule of thumb standards to which they worked. For instance, the
mainmast of small ships was three times as long as the breadth of the
ship. Thus the ship just mentioned with a beam of 20 feet would have a
mainmast 60 feet high. The topmast, in like manner, was two-thirds the
length of the lower mast in all cases. The mainyard was two-thirds of
the mainmast plus one-twelfth of the mainmast.

There is an illustration in “The Mariner’s Jewel,” by James Lightbody,
published in London in the year 1695, that shows the method which was
employed in launching a ship at that time. It is demonstrated that the
vessel was allowed to rest her weight on a cradle and then hauled into
the water by means of a crab winch. As there was a paucity of dry docks
in those days it was usual, when any painting of, or repairs to, the
bottom of a ship had to be carried out, to careen the ship. She was
hove down on one side by a strong purchase attached to her masts, the
latter having been properly supported for the occasion to prevent their
breaking under so great a strain. This was in vogue until about the
beginning of the nineteenth century, when the custom of sheathing ships
with copper, and thereby keeping a clean bottom for several years,
superseded careening.

There is many an item in Lightbody’s work which is worth our notice.
He tells us that can buoys were employed in those days “for shewing of
danger,” and stuns’ls were already in use on board ship. They still
used the word “davids” for “davits,” and employed a drabler to lace
below the bonnet of the squaresails. “Drift-sail” was the name still
given to a species of sea-anchor, which was used for riding by in heavy
weather. The “sail” was veered right ahead by sheets, he says, to keep
her head right upon the sea. Old hawsers were made up into fend-offs.
The heavy guns were hauled out by means of a guy from the foremast to
the capstan. A ship’s bottom was graved with a mixture of tallow, soap,
and brimstone, which preserved her caulking and made her fast. There
was a rope called a horse which was made fast to the foremast shrouds
and spritsail sheets to keep the latter clear of the anchor-flukes, for
in those days, as one can see from old prints, the anchor was stowed at
the side of the ship close to the foremast shrouds.


By a Contemporary Artist. On the left of the picture the ship is still
being built. Her hull is being caulked and her decks not yet finished.
On the right a fully rigged ship has been careened so as to allow of
her bottom being painted.]

Monson’s “Naval Tracts” are full of information regarding the seaman’s
life at the beginning of the seventeenth century. He tells us that
there were shipyards in his time at Chatham, Deptford, Woolwich, and
Portsmouth; and that every time a ship returned from sea the Surveyor’s
duty was “to view and examine what defects happen’d in the hull or
masts.” The Grand Pilot was “chosen for his long experience as a pilot
on a coast, especially to carry the King’s great ships through
the King’s channel, from Chatham to the narrow seas: as also for his
knowledge to pass through the channel called the Black Deeps.” As to
the life on shipboard, “first and above all things you are to take care
that all the officers and company of ships do offer their best devotion
unto God twice a day, according to the usual practice and liturgy of
the Church of England.” During a fight, if a ship chanced to receive
damage near her bilge the leak was to be stopped with salt hides, sheet
lead, plugs, “or whatsoever may be fit.” To guard against the worm
eating into the wood, one way was to sheathe the hull with an outer
plank and then burn the upper plank “till it come to be like a very
coal in every place, and after to pitch it.” Ships of 400 tons were
built of 4-inch planking; ships of 300 tons had 3-inch; small ships had
2-inch, “but no less.”

The system of signalling in vogue during the first half of the
seventeenth century was of three kinds. By day topsails were lowered
and raised. By night lights were shown: while the shooting of ordnance
was used both by night and day. At night, too, an admiral showed two
lights on his poop, the vice-admiral and rear-admiral being some
distance astern, and each with one light on the poop. Every morning
and evening the vice- and rear-admirals manœuvred their ships so as to
speak with the admiral and take their instructions, weather permitting,
and then fell back into line again. If an admiral went about on the
other tack at night, he fired a cannon and showed two lights, one above
the other, and the rest of the fleet were to make answer. If he was
forced to bear round, the admiral showed three lights on his poop, and
the other ships replied with the same. If he shortened sail in the
night for foul weather, he showed three lights on the poop one above
the other. If in foul weather the ships of the fleet lost company and
afterwards came in sight of each other, then “if in topsail gale, you
shall strike your foretopsail twice; but if it be not topsail gale,
you shall brail up your foresail and let it fall twice.” There were no
fog-horns in use at this time on ships, but in thick weather they made
a noise with a drum, trumpet, or would ring a bell and sometimes shoot
off a musket. One man was kept continually on watch at the topmast head.

A gunner had to provide himself at sea with powder, shot, fire-pikes,
cartridges, case-shot, crossbar-shot, etc., and a horn for powder,
priming iron, linstocks, gunner’s quadrant, and a dark lantern. The
types of guns now in use consisted--reckoning from the largest to the
smallest--of the cannon royal, cannon, cannon serpentine, bastard
cannon, demi-cannon, cannon petro, culverin, basilisk, demi-culverin,
bastard culverin, saker, minion, falcon, falconet, serpentine, and
rabanet. The cannon royal had a bore of 8½ inches, shot a 66-lb. shot
a distance of 800 paces; whilst the rabanet had a 1-inch bore, shot a
1-lb. shot 120 paces.

A capital ship of the time of James I carried two guns in the gun-room
astern and two in the upper gun-room, which was “commonly used for a
store-room, lodgings, and other employments for a general or captain’s
use, and his followers.” Above these two gun-rooms was the captain’s
cabin, with the open galleries astern and on the sides. Fowlers and the
smaller guns were thrust out from here.

The author of “The Light of Navigation,” published in 1612, remarks
that among other things the “seafaring man or pilot” ought to know how
to reckon tides, “that he may knowe everie where what Moone maketh an
high water in that place, that when he would enter into any Haven or
place, where he can not get in at lowe water, then he may stay till it
be half flood.” He ought to know also the direction of the tide, and
complains that some “upon pride and unwillingnes, because they would
keepe the art and knowledge to themselves,” “will not suffer the common
saylers to see their work.”


This ingenious drawing, which gives the reader a good idea of the
interior of a seventeenth-century ship, is among the Pepysian MSS.
in Magdalene College, Cambridge, and entitled “Mr. Dummer’s Draughts
of the Body of an English Man of War.” Edward Dummer was assistant
shipwright at Chatham. Pepys described him in 1686 as an “ingenious
young man.”]

In the seventeenth century the lieutenant was still not necessarily
a seaman. He was a well-bred gentleman, knowing how to entertain
ambassadors, gentlemen, and distinguished visitors received on board.
He was capable of being sent as a responsible messenger to important
personages, and was, in short, of far more use as a social instrument
than as a naval officer. During the Commonwealth soldiers again
became sea-commanders, and the names of Blake, Monck, and Popham will
instantly leap to the mind. Up till the time of Charles II the sea
service had not always enjoyed the dignity of being deemed a profession
worthy of gentlemen. There were, of course, exceptions; but as a
general rule this was the case. But, thanks to the example of the Duke
of York, afterwards James II, the Navy during the time of his brother
Charles II became fashionable--too fashionable, in fact; for numbers of
gentlemen got themselves promoted to the rank of ship’s captain while
knowing very little indeed about ships and their ways. One has only to
read through some of Mr. Pepys’ remarks to appreciate this unfortunate
condition of affairs.

The reign of James II gave a still greater impetus to the English naval
service. There was an improvement in administration and organisation
generally, thanks partly to the personal inclination of James towards
maritime matters, and partly to the lessons which he and others had
learned during the Anglo-Dutch sea fights. But as to placing naval
education on a sound basis, there was no such thing in England till
the end of the Stuart period, although across the Channel the French
were seeing to it that their sailors obtained not only a thoroughly
practical, but also an adequate theoretical training. The English
midshipman came aboard for his first cruise a complete landsman with
no training. He managed to learn the rudiments of seamanship from the
boatswain, and to get a smattering of elementary navigation; yet it was
anything but a satisfactory training. There was little enough science
in the sailor’s work, and hundreds of ships were wrecked through
lack of proper instruments, until, in the year 1676, the founding of
Greenwich Observatory enabled nautical astronomy to be developed to
the great advantage of ships and men. Thanks to the English overseas
colonies and the Newcastle colliers, to which Boteler refers in
his famous “Dialogues,” published in 1685; to the numbers of other
coasters; and last, but most important of all, to the long protracted
Dutch wars which had taught many a greenhorn how to use the sea, there
was a large and growing body of seamen, many of whose descendants were
to fight under Rodney, Hawke, Jervis, Nelson, and other famous admirals
at a later date.


Being another of “Mr. Dummer’s Draughts.”]

At the end of the seventeenth century, captains in the Navy were being
paid £1 10s. a month during the time of peace, but during war this was
raised to £3. The idea of a naval uniform originated in France in the
year 1669, but the practice of all grades of naval officers wearing
uniform did not become general until the time of the first Empire.
During the reign of our Charles II, ships of the English Navy carried
as officers, captains, lieutenants, masters, pursers, surgeons, and
chaplains. The seventeenth-century French Navy owed a very considerable
debt to the far-sighted enterprise of Colbert, but _directly_ it owed
a very great deal to the labours of its chaplains, who instructed
the pilots in their work and taught naval aspirants the mysteries of
astronomy and navigation. During the first part of the seventeenth
century the finest shipbuilders had been the Dutch, for, thanks to
their East Indian and other colonies, Holland had every reason for
building big ocean-going ships. No one in Spain, England, or France
could for a time build ships like theirs. And so it was but natural
that the zealous French went to Holland, lived there for some time in
order to learn shipbuilding, translated the best Dutch authorities
on this subject into French, and returned home to build on even more
scientific lines. Therefore in the eighteenth century the French could
build vessels as no one else in the world. It was from the latter, in
turn, that the English at last acquired so much skill that the old
rule-of-thumb methods of ship construction were for ever banished and
the era of scientific shipbuilding entered upon. In such scientific
matters as the improvement of gunnery, the log, the stability and
better under-water design of ships, France led the way for those vast
reforms which were subsequently to follow.

In the whole history of shipbuilding there is no name which stands
out so prominently as Pett. From the time of Henry VIII right down
till that of William and Mary, one or more members of this family were
busy building ships for the State. At the beginning of the seventeenth
century the finest and largest ship which had ever been in the British
Navy was the _Prince Royal_, of 1200 tons. She was designed and built
by Sir Phineas Pett, and her keel was laid down in 1608, and the first
attempt to launch her was made on the 24th of September in 1610. Among
the Harleian manuscripts in the British Museum is a quaint volume of a
hundred and thirteen pages, entitled “The Life of Phineas Pette, who
was borne Nov. 1^{st}, 1570,” and the account continues down to the
year 1638. It is a curious record, in which the most intimate domestic
matters are mixed up with the most interesting facts concerning the
building of ships. For example: “In the beginning of August, I was
summoned to Chatham with my fellow master shipwrites there to take a
survey of the Navy according to the yearly Custom.... The 6th. of this
Month of Aug^t. my wife was delivered of her 5th. son at Woolwich.”

However, this MS. attracts our attention, because it gives us a
most interesting and detailed account of the way ships in England
were launched only twenty-two years after the Armada was fought and
vanquished. There is, I believe, in existence no such satisfactory
a picture of the time-honoured ceremony of sending a ship for the
first time into the water that is to be her abiding support. I will,
therefore, ask the reader to be so good as to accompany me down to
Woolwich a few days before the end of September in that year 1610.
Here, at last, after two years’ worry, work, and anxiety, Pett has
finished his master-work, the biggest craft which even a Pett had ever
fashioned. Even to-day, as then, the shipbuilder feels never so much
anxiety as the day on which the launching of a great ship is to take
place. A hitch--a difficulty in persuading the ship and water to become
acquainted--may spoil the labour of many a month, besides being a
source of great depression to all concerned, from the builder downwards
and upwards.


By a Contemporary Artist. These were the merchant ships which used to
bring back to Holland the rich cargoes from across the Atlantic. Notice
the exquisite carving.]

However, here we are arrived at the Woolwich yard, where the great
_Prince Royal_ is seen towering high above other craft, and the last
touches are being given alike to the ship and to the arrangements, for
Royalty are coming to grace the launching ceremony. There was a great
“standing sett up,” Pett informs us, “in the most convenient place
in the yard for his Majesty, the Queen and the Royal Children, and
places fitted for the Ladies and Council all railed in and boarded.”
All the rooms in Pett’s own lodgings had been “very handsomely
hanged and furnished.” “Nothing was omitted that could be imagined
anyways necessary both for ease and entertainment.” Pett had been round
the dockyard on Sunday, September 23, and then in the evening came a
messenger to him with a letter ordering him to be very careful and have
the hold of the _Prince Royal_ searched lest “some persons disaffected
might have board some holes privilly an’ the ship to sink her after she
should be launched.” Pett, however, was far too wide-awake not to have
foreseen any such possibility.

On Monday morning, then, he and his brother and some of his assistants
had the dock-gates opened. Everything was got ready for the approach
of high tide and the time when the _Prince Royal_ was to be floated.
But matters were not going to be quite satisfactory. It was, of course,
a spring tide, but unfortunately it was blowing very hard from the
south-west, and this kept back the Thames flood so that the water
failed to come up to its expected mark, and the tide was no better than
at neaps. This was a great disappointment, for presently arrived the
King and his retinue. Pett and the Lord Admiral and the chief naval
officers received James as His Majesty landed from his barge, but it
was with a heavy heart. The King was conducted to Mr. Lydiard’s house,
where he dined. The drums and trumpets were placed on the poop and
forecastle of the _Prince Royal_, and the wind instruments assigned
their proper place beside them. But still the tide was behind-hand.

So Pett thought out a device. About the time of high water he had a
great lighter made fast at the stern of the _Prince Royal_ so as to
help to float the latter. But it was of no avail, for the strong wind
“overblew the tide, yett the shipp started, but yet the Dock gates pent
her in so streight that she stuck fast between them by reason the ship
was nothing lifted with the tide as we expected she should, and ye
great lighter by unadvised counsel being cut of(f), the sterne of the
ship settled so hard upon the ground that there was no possibility of
launching that tide.” Furthermore, so many people had gone aboard the
ship that one could hardly turn round. It was a terrible contretemps
that the ship remained unyielding, for here were the distinguished
visitors on board waiting. “The noble Prince himself accompany with
ye Lord Admirall and other great Lords were upon the poope where the
standing great guilt Cupp was ready filled with wine to name ye shipp
so soon as she had been on floate according to ancient Custome and
ceremoneys performed at such time by drinking part of the wine, giving
the ship her name and heaving the standing cup overboard.”

But time and tide wait on no man, prince or shipbuilder. It was no
use to expect a launch that day. “The King’s Maj^{tie},” Pett adds
sorrowfully, “was much grieved to be frustrate of his expectation
comeing on purpose tho very ill at ease to have done me honour, but
God saw it not so good for me, and therefore sent this Cross upon me
both to humble me and make me to know that however we purposed He would
dispose all things as He pleased.” Thus, at five that afternoon, the
King and Queen departed. When the last guest had gone, Pett, pathetic
but plucky, set to work with his assistants “to make way with the sides
of the gates,” and, plenty of help being at hand, got everything ready
before the next flood came up. The Lord Admiral had sat up all night
in a chair in one of the rooms adjoining the yard till the tide “was
come about the ship.” It was a little past full moon--when the tides,
of course, are at their highest--and the weather was most unpropitious.
It rained, it thundered and it lightened for half an hour, during
which Prince Henry returned to the yard and went aboard the _Prince
Royal_ together with the Lord Admiral and Pett. It was now about 2
a.m., or an hour before high water. Another attempt was made to launch
the great ship, and happily this time she sped into the water without
any difficulty or the straining of screws or tackles. As she floated
clear into the channel, the Prince drank from the cup and solemnly
named the ship the _Prince Royal_. Thus, at length, this glorious ship
that was to be so much admired presently with her fine carvings and
decorations, with her elaborate figurehead at the bows representing her
namesake on horseback, kissed the waters of the Thames. Soon, fitted
with three lanterns at the poop and her yards and masts, her fifty-five
guns and her spread of canvas, she would go forth to the open sea, the
proudest ship flying the British ensign. But though this ship contained
many of the improvements which had been made recently in the art of
shipbuilding, yet there had been a scandalous excess of expense, for
the Commissioners discovered that more than double the loads of timber
had been used than had been estimated for.

It is undeniable that the Stuart seamanship was inferior to that of the
Elizabethans. They could not handle their vessels with such dexterity
as the contemporaries of Drake. The sailors who had not become pirates
were not the equals of those who had fought against the Spaniards;
and this for two reasons: firstly, the fisheries had become so bad as
to discourage putting to sea; and, secondly, the voyages of discovery
were now far fewer. As already stated, one of the happy results of the
Anglo-Dutch wars was that they gave experience to inexperienced men.
Often enough, too, as in the fleet that was sent in 1625 to Cadiz,
the ships were leaky, cranky, and fitted with defective gear and the
scantiest supply of victuals. Add to these drawbacks the incapacity of
the officers and the diseases of the men, and you may rightly pity the
lot of the sailor in those times. They were even put ashore at Cadiz
fasting, so that they promptly filled their poor bellies with the wine
of the country and became drunk.

Can you wonder, therefore, that during the Civil War, after there had
been a series of mutinies during the reign of Charles I, the whole of
the Navy, with the exception of one ship, deserted the royal cause as
a protest against the bad food, the irregular pay, and the incapable
officers? After that the victuals were improved, their wages were
paid at a fair scale and with punctuality, and their affairs better
regulated. But not even then were matters entirely satisfactory. As
one reads through the correspondence of this period one can see that
discipline was woefully lacking. Even Blake, keen disciplinarian that
he was, found it necessary to write on the 1st of December, 1652,
to the Admiralty Commissioners to the following effect soon after
the encounter with the Dutch fleet off Dungeness: “I am bound to let
your Honours know in general that there was much baseness of spirit,
not among the merchantmen only, but many of the State’s ships, and
therefore I make it my humble request that your Honours would be
pleased to send down some gentlemen to take an impartial and strict
examination of the deportment of several commanders, that you may know
who are to be confined and who are not.” Captain Thomas Thorowgood--is
not the surname suggestive of the Puritan period?--also wrote to
complain that his crew had actually refused to accept their six months’
pay as being inadequate. “On Saturday night they were singing and
roaring, and I sent my servant to bid the boatswain to be quiet and go
to their cabins; but they told me they would not be under my command,
so I struck one of them, and the rest put out the candle and took
hold of me as though they would have torn me to pieces, so that I am
almost beside myself, not knowing what to do.”


By a Contemporary Artist. Observe the elaborate stern gallery.]

When Blake wrote to Cromwell in August, 1655, from on board the
_George_, he complained of various matters. When he had wished to blaze
away at the Spanish fleet there was a little wind “and a great sea,”
so that he could not make use of the lower tier of guns. This arose
from the old mistake of having the gun-ports too near the water’s edge.
Furthermore, “some of the ships had not beverage for above four days,
and the whole not able to make above eight, and that a short allowance;
and no small part both of our beverage and water was stinking.” ...
“Our ships are extreme foul, winter drawing on, our victuals expiring,
all stores failing, and our men falling sick through the badness of
drink and through eating their victuals boiled in salt water for two
months’ space. Even now the coming of the supply is uncertain (we
received not one word from the Commissioners of the Admiralty and Navy
by the last); and, though it come timely, yet if beer come not with
it, we shall be undone that way.” Again he writes from the _George_,
“at sea, off Lagos,” in 1657: “The _Swiftsure_, in which I was, is so
foul and unwieldy through the defects of her sheathing laid on for
the voyage of Jamaica, that I thought it needful to remove into the

The importance of the Anglo-Dutch wars consists, _inter alia_, in the
display of tactics that must now be mentioned, for this, if you please,
represents the period of transition. We dealt some time back with the
lack of tactics of the Elizabethan period, and saw that at least there
was in existence a yearning after the line-ahead formation. The object
of this is, of course, to enable each ship to fire into the enemy her
very utmost, and give her opponent the benefit of a broadside. But
it was not till the seventeenth century that this theory got a real
foothold. Between 1648 and 1652 certain fighting instructions were
issued for the English Navy, and may be summed up as follows: The fleet
was not to engage the enemy if the latter should seem more numerous.
On sighting the enemy, the vice-admiral and rear-admiral respectively
were to form wings with their ships, to come up on either side of the
admiral and to keep close to him. When the admiral gave the signal,
each ship was to engage the hostile ship nearest to him, the admiral
tackling the admiral of the enemy. Care must be taken not to leave any
of their own ships in distress, and commanders of all small craft were
to keep to windward of the fleet and to look out for fire-ships.

There was no instruction enjoining line-ahead as a battle formation,
but it was understood, and when Blake had his first encounter with
Marten Tromp the English ships formed into single-line ahead. So much
for the moment with regard to tactics. What was the strategy displayed
at the commencement of the Anglo-Dutch wars? Consider a moment what
would most probably be that strategy employed by the British Navy
to-day at the beginning of hostilities between ourselves and Germany.
We should assuredly do three things: (1) We should close up the Straits
of Dover and intercept German liners homeward bound. (2) That being so,
the only possible chance of the enemy’s ships reaching their Fatherland
would be to go round the north of Scotland: so we should have a
squadron off the north-east coast of Scotland to thwart that intention.
(3) And, lastly, we should send some of our warships across the North
Sea to blockade German ports.

Now except for a comparatively slight coast erosion and the shifting of
minor shoals, Great Britain in the twentieth century is geographically
the same as in the seventeenth. Instead of a German enemy, imagine
that Holland is the foe; instead of the German liners, substitute
the Dutch Plate ships; instead of the modern steel steam warriors,
substitute sail-propelled warships. Otherwise you have exactly similar
conditions. The strategy is the same: only the century and the type
of ships are different. For what happened? Ayscue with his squadron
remained in the Downs to catch the Dutch Plate ships bound home to
Holland. Blake was sent with sixty or seventy ships to the north-east
of Scotland and captured a hundred of the Dutch fishing fleet, and then
proceeded further north to intercept the Dutch merchantmen between the
Orkneys and Shetlands. He then came in contact with the Dutch fleet and
prepared for war, but a gale sprang up and dispersed Tromp’s ships.
It was only the lack of good charts that made the English sea general
reluctant to cross the North Sea into the shoal-strewn Dutch waters,
though in fact they did cross later and blockade. Thus we may say that
at any rate by the beginning of the first of these Anglo-Dutch wars
there is the surest evidence that naval strategy was appreciated at its
full value, and that it was modern and not medieval strategy.

And now let us pass to the year 1653, after the English fleet had come
in from the English Channel to Stokes Bay for a refit. Important new
orders were now issued which insisted that ships were to endeavour to
keep in line with their chief so as to engage the enemy to the best
advantage. When the windward line had been engaged, the English ships
were to form in line-ahead “upon severest punishment.” Now please
note two points: that this line-ahead tactic was not of foreign but
English origin, and that following this order a general improvement in
tactics followed. The second Dutch war showed the progress which had
been made since the new type of Fighting Instructions had been issued.
Earl Sandwich, the Lord High Admiral, had issued orders just a month
before war was declared, to provide for the formation of line-abreast,
and for forming from that order a line-ahead to port and starboard.
The principle, too, of sailing close-hauled in single-line ahead is
conspicuous after the Commonwealth period. During the first year of the
third Dutch war still further progress was observed by the officers
being instructed as to how they should keep the enemy to leeward and
how to divide the enemy’s fleet if the latter were to windward; and
the regulations once more insisted on the commanders maintaining their
line-ahead and avoiding firing over their own ships. Two distinct
schools of tactics arose: one purely formal, the other allowing room
for personal initiative as occasion suggested. In the end the former
won, and this continued till the end of the eighteenth century.


After a Contemporary Artist. Painting the hull of an ocean-going

There is among the seventeenth-century MSS. in the British Museum still
to be found a great deal of interesting data which well illustrates
the experiences of ships and men in these times. Notwithstanding the
incompetency of some of the captains who owed their position less to
their ability as seamen than to influence, yet there were others who
had been at sea most of their lives and had had command of merchant
ships for years. Such men as these were of the highest value to their
country during the Anglo-Dutch wars. You will remember that battle
off Portland in 1653, during the first Dutch war. Richard Gibson, who
was purser on board the _Assurance_ at the time, has left behind his
reminiscences of this fight. In the beginning of February the English
fleet was sailing from Dover down Channel with a fair easterly breeze.
“Gen^{rl} Blake and Deane in the _Tryumph_, S^r John Lawson Vice
Adm^{ll} of the Redd in the _Fairfax_, Cap^{tn} Houlding Rear Adm^{ll}
of y^e Redd in the _Ruby_, Gen^{rll} Monck Adm^{ll} of the White in
y^e _Vanguard_, S^r W^m Penn Adm^{ll} of the Blew in the _Speaker_
(now named the _Mary_), and the Whole Fleet about 52 Saile spread
their Colours of Redd White and Blew, and their Flaggs Ensignes and
Pendants (as now) according to their Division of Squadrons, and Sayled
to meet the Dutch Fleet.... Upon our first Sight of the Dutch all the
English had their Starbord tacks aboard; Gen^{rll} Blake Espying the
Dutch Fleet to bare down before the Winde upon him got his Shipp ready,
haled his Main Sayle up the Brailes, and braced his foretopsaile to
the Mast.... The Dutch Fleet in a Boddy bore downe upon the Generalls,
and pressed upon the _Tryumph_ with as many Shipps as could well lay
about her. Upon which S^r W^m Penn Tacked and his Division with their
larboard Tacks (as soon as they could) stood thorow the Dutch fleet
one way: as S^r Jo^n Lawson (with his division) did the other....
Upon which such of the English Friggotts as Sailed well Stered out of
Gunn Shot of the Dutch Fleet to Windward on the larbord side, untill
they had got a head of severall Dutch Shipps of Warr: then set their
Starbord Tacks and stand right with them, and boarded the first Dutch
Shipp they could.”

It seems strange to us in these modern days, when excellent and
reliable charts can be had for a few shillings, to read in the official
dispatch signed by Monck and Blake to Cromwell that they supposed they
would have destroyed the Dutch fleet off the Lowland coast, “but that
it grew dark, and being off of Ostend among the sandes, we durst not
be to bold, especially with the greate ships; soe that it was thought
fitt we should anchor all night, which we accordingly did about 10 of
the clock.” The way these ships manœuvred in battle so as to get to
windward of their enemy was as pretty a sight as a fleet of racing
yachts to-day manœuvring for the same ambition at the starting-line.
At the battle of Lowestoft in June, 1665, at sunrise, the Dutch fleet
“bore up to V(ice) A(dmiral) Minnes, and gave him a broadside, who
received them accordingly, and so,” says a Harleian MS. of that date,
“their whole Fleet passed by ours, firing at every Ship as they went,
and receiving returnes from them, not one of either side being out
of play at their first encounter: immediately upon which his R(oyal)
H(ighness) made his Signe of the Tacking, that we might still keep the
wind of them, which was as happily executed, notwithstanding that the
Ennemy also strove for it.”

Yet again we have proof of the importance which the English Navy
attached to falling into line of battle. The occasion was the four
days’ battle off the North Foreland in June, 1666. When de Ruyter’s
fleet had been sighted to leeward, our “General calld immediately a
Council of Flag officers: which being done, ye signe was put out to
fall into ye ligne of batle ... about 1 of ye clock ye fight began, Sir
G. Askue with ye white squadron leading ye van.” In the official report
of the battle of Solebay (May, 1672), Captain Haddock, in command of
Lord Sandwich’s flagship the _Royal James_, shows that orders during
battle were sent by means of the ship’s boats. “I had sent our Barge
by my Lord’s command ahead to Sir Joseph Jordaine to tack, and with
his division to weather the Dutch that were upon us, and beat down to
Leeward of us, and come to our Assistance. Our Pinnace I sent likewise
astern (both Coxswains living) to command our ships to come to our
Assistance, which never returned.” And there are other instances of
falling into line, as, for instance, at the battle on the 11th of
August, 1673. “His H(ighnes)s Pr. Rupert seeing us come with that
faire wind,” says the Stowe MS., “gave us the Signall to beare into his
wake.” And again in the evidence of the Dutch Rear-Admiral Schey at the
court-martial on Torrington after the battle of Beachy Head: “On the
10^{th}, being Munday morning, y^e Admirall Torrington made a signe for
y^e ranging ourselves in a line, and our fleete being got into a line,
y^e signe for engaging by a bloody flag from y^e Admirall’s foretopmast
head being putt up.”

We spoke just now of the absence of good charts. It was Charles II
who, being himself greatly interested in navigation and finding that
there were no sea charts of the British Isles except such as were
Dutch or copies of the Dutch--and very erroneous at that--gave a man
named Greenville Collins command of a yacht for the purpose of making
a sea survey, “in which service,” says Collins, “I spent seven years’
time.” James II, himself a great admiral, encouraged this work till
its completion, and so good and accurate were the charts that they
were in active use at any rate till the end of the eighteenth century.
As to the lighting of the coast, this was still in a very primitive
condition. The first navigation light in this country was that of the
Roman Pharos at Dover, a day-mark which mariners still see to-day as
they come bound up Channel. In monastic times probably St. Aldhelm’s
(better known as St. Albans) Head showed a light to warn ships from the
land, and it is also thought that there was a light at Flamborough[51]
and in Flintshire. In 1685, Lowestoft, Dungeness, the North and South
Forelands, Orfordness, Flamborough, Portland, Harwich, and the Isle
of Man were all lighted by beacon fires of wood and coal. These coal
fires continued in some of the lighthouses round our coast even till
well into the reign of William IV. But the Argand lamp, which was
invented during the reign of James II, gradually and surely took the
place of the older-fashioned beacon. And if we may, whilst we are
on the subject, anticipate a few years, we may add that though in
William IV’s time lights were more numerous and the system of buoys was
well established, yet lightships were practically non-existent. The
first lightship dates from 1732, when Robert Hamblyn and David Avery
established such a ship at the Nore.

We may pass now to consider the conditions which regulated the work
of Stuart seamen on board one of the ships such as fought against the
Dutch. We have to think of a type of warship that was nothing else than
a slightly developed specimen of the Elizabethan period. The difference
between the Tudor and Stuart ships at their fullest development is
merely that the latter had become much bigger and carried additional
sails and guns and crew. As a broad statement, this sums the matter up
in the fewest words. Had you passed one of the biggest of the Stuart
ships at sea you would have seen a three- and sometimes a four-masted
craft with topsails and t’gallants above her courses. On such a ship
as the _Sovereign of the Seas_, if we are to judge by a perfectly
authentic engraving, royals were also set sometimes. On the mizzen you
would have observed the lateen sail still in existence. What especially
would have struck you would have been not merely the elongated beak,
but the very long bowsprit. The sailors had to creep out along this
spar, keeping themselves, by hanging on to a stay or spreader, from
slipping into the ocean every time the vessel rose or fell to the
motion of the waves. It was a pretty wet job to lay out along there in
a breeze of wind when the beak-head was dipping well down into the sea
every time she pitched and hurling a veritable cascade over them. There
was one squaresail bent to a yard underneath the bowsprit, and this
water-sail had a couple of round holes--one at either side low down
near the foot--the object being to permit the water, which this low
sail scooped up, to escape. The sheets of this sail led aft and came on
board abaft the fore shrouds. In fine weather a bonnet was sometimes
laced to this spritsail. But in these Stuart ships there was also a
square spritsail hoisted on a sprit-topmast. To hoist this sail the
men had, of course, to go right out to the extreme forward end of the
bowsprit. Above this topmast flew the Union Jack.


Embarkation was made by means of the “Entring Port,” which is clearly
shown amidships.]

Had you gone aboard such a vessel you would have found she had three
decks and a forecastle, a quarter-deck, and a “round-house.” The
lowest tier had thirty square-ports for demi-cannon and cannon. There
were thirty ports also on the middle tier for demi-culverin and
culverin. But her upper tier had twenty-six ports for lighter ordnance.
Her forecastle and her half-deck had twelve and fourteen ports
respectively, and there were thirteen or fourteen more ports “within
board for murdering pieces,” as well as a good many holes for firing
muskets out of the cabins. Right forward and right aft respectively she
carried ten pieces of chase-ordnance.

As you paced her spacious decks you would have realised that you were
on board some better finished article than belonged to Elizabethan
days. The workmanship and decoration would have struck you as of a
higher class. From her great ensign flying over the poop to the smaller
Union Jack on the sprit-topmast; from her royal standard, flying at
the main, to her keel, she would have appeared a massive, substantial
creature of wood and able to withstand a good deal of battering even
from the Dutch ordnance. You would have noted, too, the many carved
emblems pertaining to land and sea which decorated her--the angelic
figures holding up devices, the cupids, and “symbols of navigation,”
all done in gold and black. You would have wondered at the elaborate
figurehead representing a royal personage on horseback prancing over
the waves. And finally, when you came round to the stern, you would
have remarked the elaborate allegorical picture of Victory, or some
other suitable subject, and the five great poop-lanterns--one of them
so big that “ten people could stand upright in it”--crowning the whole
thing. Seventy-five feet, you would have been told, as you looked over
the side, she measured from the keel to her lanterns.

The poop-deck ended some distance abaft the mizzen-mast: the
quarter-deck came just as far forward as the mainmast. Below the
quarter-deck was the upper deck, which ran the whole length of the
ship. Next below came the main deck, where the heaviest guns were
kept. The forecastle was really a substantial fortress which rose
from the upper deck, and, by the aid of its guns already mentioned,
could look after itself even when the enemy had boarded the ship
and obtained possession of the rest of the decks. Sometimes a light
topgallant forecastle was erected above the forecastle. Additional to
the guns already mentioned, swivels were also mounted on quarter-deck
and poop, and would be very useful in case one of the enemy’s ships
came alongside for boarding. The cable of such a ship would be about a
hundred fathoms long of 21-inch hemp, her anchors being respectively of
430 lbs., 150 lbs., and 74 lbs. weight. Davis’ quadrant or backstaff
was still used, and the log-line was an appreciable assistance.


Showing construction and gun tiers.]

[Illustration: NOCTURNAL.

Employed at sea for finding the hour of the night by the North Star.]

Below you might have found the dull red everywhere a monotonous colour.
But there was a reason: it prevented the human blood spilt in an
engagement from being too conspicuous. So also the gun-carriage was
painted the same hue. All the ports were square except on the upper
and quarter-decks, where the ports were circular, and surrounded with
gilt wreaths. Externally the upper works of the hull above the line of
the upper decks were painted dark blue with gilt decorations. Below
this the ship was painted yellow down to the lower deck ports, with
a broad band of black along the water-line. Her bottom was painted
white, with the anti-fouling composition. Various experiments were
tried for sheathing the ships with lead, but eventually a fixed method
was adopted for about a century, which consisted of hammering numerous
broad-headed nails close together along the ship’s bottom, and then
paying thereon a composition of tallow and resin.

The nocturnal was still used for finding the hour of the night by the
North Star, and the moon-dial for finding the time of high water.
Spherical and plane trigonometry, the use of charts and globes, the
application of Gunter’s scale and Briggs’ logarithms, the use of
Mercator’s chart--these were the subjects which a seventeenth-century
navigator was expected to learn if he were a genuine “tarpaulin,” and
not an ignorant, swaggering land-lubber promoted by influence only.


The vessel on the left is in process of being launched into the water.
The ship on the right is still on the stocks.]



The lot of the modern seaman is of a vastly different order of things
from that of the eighteenth-century sailor. Hardships though there may
be in this twentieth century, yet they are not to be mentioned when
we remember the hard-swearing, bullying days of Queen Anne. Morals,
both ashore and afloat, were at a particularly low ebb; irreligion and
blasphemy were rampant. On board ship there was very rarely Divine
worship, even on the large East Indiamen, although this neglect was
certainly contrary to orders. But the managers themselves, in order to
save the expense of having to carry a chaplain, used to rate their big
ships as of only 499 tons, and so keep themselves within the law.

One of the most interesting personalities of this period was William
Hutchinson, who for some time was a famous privateer. As an instance
of the kind of tyrannical captains of his day, he mentions one whom he
remembered in the Jamaica trade. The latter used to make his ship a
veritable floating hell for all concerned. He was an excessive drinker,
he was a notorious gambler, always seeking a quarrel, and much addicted
to heavy swearing. He never got the best out of his people, for the
reason that when he was not maltreating his men he was damning his
officers. If during a heavy squall the officer of the watch offered to
take in sail or to bear away, this virulent skipper would regard such
a suggestion as an act of piracy. And yet he himself was so heedless
of what was prudent, that he would sometimes run his ship before the
wind and carry on till she was overpressed and could not be controlled
by the helm. And there came a time when this skipper and his ship put
forth to sea and never came back at all.

Hutchinson wrote one of the most interesting books on seamanship which
it has ever been my pleasure to read. His complaint was that too many
men were so devoted to the methods which they had been accustomed
to, that they could not be prevailed upon to try others which were
better. There certainly was a good deal of ignorance about in this
eighteenth century. Some men, he says, endeavour to make ships perform
impossibilities, as, for instance, backing their craft astern to clear
a single anchor when the wind is right aft against the windward tide;
or trying to back a ship with sails so set as to prevent her shooting
ahead towards a danger when laid-to; or driving broadside with the
wind against tide, not knowing that a ship driving on either tack will
always shoot forward the way her head lies, in spite of any sail set
aback. He complained, too, of the neglect of sea officers’ education.
One may add that the only training which naval officers received
at this time was by going to sea. They came from the shore to the
quarter-deck and picked up what knowledge they could. It is true that,
in 1727, George II established a Naval Academy at Portsmouth. But it
was a very exclusive institution, and open to only a few of the sons of
the nobility and gentry. Therefore it languished through neglect before
very long, but in 1806 was raised to the dignity of a Royal Naval

[Illustration: COLLIER BRIG.

As seen by E. W. Cooke at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In
the time of Hutchinson these collier brigs were slightly different and
carried spritsails. But on the whole the brigs of both periods were
very similar.]

The eighteenth-century midshipman of the Royal Navy was a man of low
social standing. His age varied from ten to forty-five, the older
men having been promoted from before the mast. Mere boys, who knew
but little about the ways of a ship, and in any case had had but
little training, were given the rank of lieutenant. The country had
so much fighting on hand that it badly needed men. Forty thousand
men were voted in 1705, justices of the peace being authorised to
seek out seamen and deliver them to the press-gangs. Whilst penalties
were threatening for those who concealed seamen, rewards were held
out to those who should discover and help to arrest them. Landsmen
being eligible, it was not surprising that a raw, incompetent lot
of gaol-birds had to do service for their country on the seas. But
they were not even healthy of body. One has only to read Anson’s
“Voyage Round the World.” Among the men that were sent to him by the
authorities, thirty-two out of one batch of 170 were straight from the
hospital and sick-quarters. Of the soldiery he was to carry, all the
land forces that were to be allowed him were 500 Chelsea pensioners,
consisting of men invalided for age, wounds, or other infirmities.

But there were some very fine fellows in two branches of the merchant
service. Hutchinson calls attention to these: “Those seamen in the
coal and coasting trade to the city of London, are the most perfect in
working and managing their ships in narrow, intricate, and difficult
channels, and in tide ways; and the seamen in the East India trade are
so in the open seas.” “The best lessons for tacking and working to
windward in little room,” he remarks elsewhere, “are in the colliers
bound to London, where many great ships are constantly employed,
and where wages are paid by the voyage, so that interest makes them
dexterous.” The mainmast of such craft stood further aft than was
customary. Therefore they had a strong tendency to gripe, and so they
often used their spritsail and all head sail for going to windward and
making them manageable. In narrow channels, when the wind was blowing
so strongly that all hands could not haul aft the fore sheet, this had
to be done by the capstan. These little brigs had no lifts to the lower
yards, no foretop bowlines, but short main bowlines, and snatch-blocks
for the main and fore sheets. The main braces led forward so that the
main and maintop bowlines were hauled and belayed to the same pin. “We
have ships,” he says, “that will sail from six to nine miles an hour,
upon a wind, when it blows fresh and the water is smooth, and will make
their way good within six points of the wind, in still water, a third
of what they run by the logg.”

The accompanying illustration shows the well-known manœuvre of
boxhauling, which Hutchinson was most anxious to teach his brother
seamen. For the benefit of the non-nautical reader, I may explain
that this is a method of veering a ship when the sea is so bad that
she cannot tack, and is dangerously near the lee shore. Boxhauling,
insisted Hutchinson, is the surest and best method of getting a ship
under command of helm and sails in a limited space. “There is a saying
amongst seamen,” he adds, “if a ship will not stay you must ware her;
and if she will not ware, you must box-haul her; and if you cannot
box-haul her, you must club-haul her--that is, let go the anchor to
get her about on the other tacks.” Every maritime officer to-day has
written across his mind in imperishable letters the five L’s--“log,
lead, look-out, latitude, and longitude.” In Hutchinson’s day the
sailor had only three of these, and he quotes the great Halley
as emphasising the importance of the three L’s--lead, latitude, and
look-out. For the difficulty of the longitude was still unsolved.

[Illustration: BOXHAULING.

Hutchinson relates that on one occasion he saved his ship from
foundering in Mount’s Bay only by boxhauling, as here indicated. Fig.
2 shows that as soon as the ship ceased coming round in stays, the
foresheet was hauled aft, the headsails trimmed flat, whilst the sails
were slacking, and the helm put hard alee. She then made a stern board.
Thus gathering way, she turned short on her heel till she filled main
and maintopsails the right way. The helm was then put hard aweather, so
that the ship got headway with the sails trimmed, as in Fig. 1. Later
on she was able to turn to windward, as in Fig. 3, far enough off the
lee shore so as to weather the Lizard.]


There was a compass on either side, and the lamp was placed in between.]

Briefly, the history of this problem is as follows. Longitude is,
of course, the distance which a ship makes east or west. These
eighteenth-century navigators had their quadrant for finding their
latitude, and they used the log-line, log-ship, reel, and half-minute
glass to tell them roughly and inaccurately the distance sailed by
the ship. These, by the way, were kept stowed in the “bittacle”
(binnacle), which in those days was a wooden box arrangement containing
a compass on each side with lights in between. There were usually
two of these “bittacles” on board, viz. one for the steersman and
one for the “person who superintends and directs the steerage,” says
Moore, “whose office is called conning.” The accompanying illustration
will indicate quite clearly the appearance of an eighteenth-century
“bittacle.” Throughout history all sorts of efforts had been made to do
for longitude what the quadrant and cross-staff had done for latitude.
The great voyages of discovery in the early sixteenth century had
especially given this research an impetus. In 1530 and again in 1598 a
means had been sought. Philip III of Spain offered a thousand crowns to
him who should discover the instrument for finding longitude. All sorts
of prizes were offered by different Governments at different dates. The
States of Holland held out an offer of 10,000 florins. The melancholy
wreck of Sir Cloudesley Shovel on the Scillies with his squadron caused
the English Parliament, in 1714, to offer £20,000 for any method which
could determine the longitude. Two years later the French Government
offered 100,000 livres, and so the impetus continued without avail. The
whole civilised world was crying out for something which no scientist
could give.

And then, in 1765, the English prize was at last won by John and
William Harrison, who were able to make instruments most suitable
for this purpose, and received the £20,000. This was that invaluable
little article the chronometer, which means so much to the modern
mammoth steamships. Dr. Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal, had, in 1754,
discovered the method of finding longitude by lunar observations on
shore. After navigators at last began to employ chronometers the
dawn of modern methods had already occurred. In 1767 came the first
publication of the “Nautical Almanac,” Hadley’s quadrant was made known
in 1731, and the sextant in 1761. Perhaps, as the sailing masters in
the Navy had to provide their own nautical instruments, there was
not such an incentive to accustom themselves to new methods as might
otherwise have been the case.



Showing decks, cabins, holds, etc.]

Till the time when Hadley’s quadrant was adopted, masters had always
stuck to Davis’. The ship’s time was still kept by half-hour glass. The
quartermaster, when the sand had run down, capsized the glass again and
struck the ship’s bell--on eight occasions during the watch. All
the different courses sailed during a watch of four hours were marked
by the quartermaster on a circular disc of hard wood. This was called
a traverse board, and thereon were marked the different points of the
compass. On the line of each point radiating from the centre were eight
little holes, just as one sees in a cribbage-board. One at a time, pegs
were placed into these holes to register the various courses sailed in
every watch. And then, later on, the courses were entered on a log-book
or slate, and the course and distance made good reckoned out.


Showing the steering wheels in use.]

I have not been able to find any authority which would settle the
date when wheels for steering a ship were first invented; but I am
convinced that it was somewhere about the middle of the eighteenth
century. Hutchinson, whose “Practical Seamanship” was published in
1777, speaks of the steering wheel in the following terms: “The great
advantages experienced from steering a ship with this excellent machine
has occasioned it to become more and more in use; even small ships that
have their tillers upon deck frequently now steer with a wheel.” And he
states that most of these wheels have eight spokes, though large ships
have a ten-spoked wheel.

The Newcastle colliers, of which we were speaking just now, had
anything but good charts to guide them, and their methods of coasting
are certainly worth noting. About two-thirds of their voyage from
Newcastle-on-Tyne to the Pool of London will be found to have consisted
of navigating in the region of dangerous shoals. And yet in that
eighteenth century, even though they had not a really reliable chart
between them, hundreds of these little brigs used to sail backwards
and forwards between the metropolis and the north with scarcely ever a
shipwreck. Indeed, so few were the losses that the owners very rarely
had their craft insured. That meant that they could afford to carry
their coal, iron, timber, hemp, flax, or whatever it might be, at
low freights. There was keen competition to get their goods first to
market, and some very sportive passages were made. The last of these
interesting old craft, so cleverly handled, so fascinating as they must
have been to watch, I believe ended her days in a North Sea gale not
very long since.


After E. W. COOKE.]

Hutchinson’s enthusiasm for these is infectious. He has no literary
power of expression, but in the plain, staccato language of a hard
merchant sailor and privateer he makes one jealous of the sights which
he saw with his own eyes and can never be seen again. There is not
to-day--certainly as regards British waters--any such craft as a brig,
unless there is one small training ship still cruising about Plymouth
Sound. But in his day one sometimes saw a fleet of 300 of them all
turning to windward, having every one of them come out of the Tyne on
the same tide. The sight of so many fine little ships crossing and
recrossing each other’s bows so quickly, and with such little room,
made a distinguished Frenchman hold up his hands, and remark “that it
was there France was conquered.”

In going through such shallow and narrow channels as Yarmouth Roads
the fleet collected themselves for mutual safety. In the absence of
good charts and efficient buoyage--it was not till 1830 that the
singular distinction of producing the worst charts passed away from
England--it was essential to use great caution in such strong tideways.
The procedure was, therefore, as follows: The fleet being now together,
each ship had a man in the chains heaving his lead. He sung out the
soundings loud enough for his neighbours to hear. This happened in
every ship; so that those vessels announcing shoal water would be
recognised as getting too near the sands; that other bunch of craft
declaring consistently deeper water would be in the channel, and the
rest could follow their lead. In this manner the best water was always

Anyone who has navigated up or down the Swin Channel at the entrance to
the Thames Estuary knows that the region is full of shoals, made still
more dangerous by the strong tides which set athwart them. In clear
weather the excellent modern buoyage makes the passage easy. But in the
eighteenth century, and in thick weather, when the fleet from Newcastle
came to the Swin, they hoped to have a head wind, and not to be able
to lie their course. Why? Well, they smelt their way by continuous
soundings, and if they were beating to windward they would find as they
prolonged each tack the water began to shoal; it was then time to ’bout
ship, and they stood on the other tack till the shallow water warned
them once more. But if they had had a fair wind and been able to keep
straight on, they ran the risk, they said, of getting piled up on the
wrong side of the sand-spits in some swatch-way. Therefore the fleet
adopted clever tactics. The lesser draught ships endeavoured to wait
till the bigger vessels passed ahead. The former would then follow
close behind, knowing that if the largest craft could float, so also
could they. But when the bigger ships found the water shoaling, they,
too, would let go anchor and let the smaller ships go ahead. Then the
tide having flooded still more, and the small fry having been observed
to be all right, up came the cables and the procession went on its
way. It was just because these vessels had to experience such a great
deal of anchor work that they held the record of any ships afloat for
breaking out their hooks with their windlass in the shortest time.
Whenever an ex-collier’s crew shipped aboard another vessel, it was
found that the windlass needed half the men to do the work.


The illustration shows a three-decker in a shipbuilder’s yard ready for


Those were the days of real seamanship of all kinds and sorts, so we
can afford in these modern times to admire a lost art. “Nice managers
of sloop-rigged vessels,” says this fine old skipper, “turning to
windward in narrow channels, when they want but little to weather a
point, rather than make another tack, have a practice of running up
in the wind till the headway ceases, then they fill again upon the
same tack; this they call making a half board.” But Hutchinson had
no great faith in “weather-glasses,” and even doubts “their being of
any great service to seafaring people.” However, he does admit that
on one occasion he had warning of an approaching storm in the English
Channel from Tampion’s portable barometer. About seventy sailing ships
had got under way from the Downs with a moderate south-east breeze. In
the morning the quicksilver fell from 29½ inches to 28½. He had all
his small sails up, and ordered all hands to set to work and take
in the small sails and lower the t’gallant yards. About eight in the
evening the storm came on, the ship being now abreast of the Lizard,
the wind having shifted to south-south-east. Suddenly it flew round
to north-north-west, blew very strongly, and though he had no canvas
aloft except the foresail in brails, yet it laid the ship more down on
her broadside than ever he had known her. Later on they passed a ship
bottom upwards, which had obviously foundered in the same squall.

Hutchinson, who himself preferred squaresails cut deep and narrow
rather than shallow and broad, alleging that thus they stood better on
a wind, opined that because of this superior shape the colliers and
timber-carriers already mentioned sailed so well and required so few
hands. And we get just a brief reference to the hardy Liverpool pilots
of those days. Perhaps the reader is aware of the heavy sea which gets
up among the sands at the mouth of the Mersey, and that in those waters
it was and is often a most difficult undertaking to put a pilot on
board an incoming ship. In such weather that it was impossible for the
pilot-sloop to get alongside the incoming ship the two craft would get
as near to each other as they dared, and then the bigger craft would
throw a small line aboard the sloop, which the pilot would quickly
hitch round his body, leap overboard, and so be pulled on board--more
drowned than alive, one would have thought. Sometimes the incoming
craft would veer out a rope astern which the sloop would pick up, and
the same business followed as before. But even the Liverpool pilots
were not so brilliant as those whose duty it was to take ships out from
the Tyne across the treacherous bar, when sometimes they were compelled
to let the ship lie almost on her beam ends so as to float out into the
North Sea without hitting the shoals at the river’s mouth.

[Illustration: MODEL OF H.M.S. “TRIUMPH.”

A two-deck, 74-gun line-of-battle ship. Launched 1764, having been
designed on the lines of the _Invincible_, captured from the French by
Lord Anson in 1747.]


We have not much room to deal with the glorious fights of the
privateers of those days. Those who are interested in the subject
will find what they require in Captain Statham’s “Privateers and
Privateering.” But we cannot pass on without at least a reference
to these adventurous craft. Handsome enough were the prizes which
sometimes they gained; but many were the times they failed for the
reason that, after some years of peace, their crews were undisciplined
and untrained. But about the middle of the eighteenth century
improvements had been made in the metal, the casting and the boring
of the cannon, which were now made not quite so heavy, and therefore
of less inconvenience to a ship. Bags of horsehair were employed for
protection against musket shot, whilst a rail, breast high, was affixed
each side with light iron crutches and arms and netting to hold the
men’s hammocks and bedding long-ways. Rope shakings and cork shakings,
too, were also employed as a further protection from the enemy’s fire.
But the powder that was served out in those scandalous days was often
enough disgustingly weak and lacking in velocity.

In the golden days of the privateer, so soon as she had got out to
sea all hands would be called to quarters and officers sent to their
stations; there would be a general exercise of guns and small arms,
everything made ready for action, and the general working of the ship
thoroughly well drilled. Chasing and fighting had been brought down
to the condition of a fine art, and there were recognised tactics
according as to whether your opponent were as big, bigger, or smaller
than yourself. If your enemy were your superior, it was better not to
bring your ship right alongside, but, before the attack opened, get on
his weather quarter, luff your ship into the wind with the helm alee,
until your after lee gun, which you fired first, could be pointed on
to the enemy’s stern. Then batter away with your lee broadside. They
endeavoured also to rake the enemy fore and aft with their biggest guns
as they passed, their object being, if possible, to smash the rudder
head, the tiller, tiller ropes and blocks--in fact, to destroy any of
the steerage tackle so that the ship might become unmanageable, and
thus readily fall into the hands of the privateer.


Hutchinson remarks that it often happens there is no room to turn a
vessel to windward through a crowd of ships, so she has to let the tide
drive her through stern first. In Fig. 1 below, the yards are braced
sharp up, and she is driving astern to windward. In Fig. 2 the ship is
being put on the other tack so as to clear the shore in the bend of the
river. In Fig. 3, the tide having slacked, the ship has come to anchor
with wind against tide.]

One or two devices which have since passed away, but were in use during
the eighteenth century, may be mentioned before we pass on. I wonder
how many “seamen” now serving on steamships would know what “fothering”
meant? It was a device that in the days of the old wooden sailing
ships saved both lives and ship on more than one occasion. This was
an ingenious means of stopping a leak below the vessel’s water-line
when at sea and unable to beach or dry-dock. It was employed at least
once during Captain Cook’s voyages at a critical time after the
ship had struck on a rock, and the sea was pouring in so fast that the
pumps were of little avail. Moore, in his “Midshipman’s Vocabulary,”
published in 1805, describes the method as performed by fastening a
sail at the four corners, letting it down under the ship’s bottom, and
then putting a quantity of chopped rope-yarns, oakum, wool, cotton,
etc., between it and the ship’s side. By repeating this operation
several times the leak sucks up a portion of the loose stuff, and so
the water ceases for the most part to pour into the ship. Hutchinson
also mentions that once when cruising the step of their foremast
carried away in a gale of wind, and made so great a leak that pumping
was little good. They were far from the nearest land, and matters were
critical; so they unbent the spritsail, stitched it over one side with
oakum, then with ropes to the clews and ear-rings they applied it to
the leak, and so effectually stopped the hole that before long the
pumps had freed the ship of water.

There is nothing new, apparently, even in sea-sayings. Probably there
is not an officer to-day in the Merchant Service who has never heard
the maxim, “Better to break owners than orders.” Well, Hutchinson knew
this phrase, and used it not for trading, but for privateering. The
owners’ orders were usually “to proceed with all possible expedition
to the designed station to take prizes.” And he had a very ingenious
device, which, if I mistake not, was actually resurrected and tried
with modifications in Southampton Water three or four years ago.
Hutchinson’s idea was to scrub ships’ bottoms while at sea instead
of having to bring them to dock or careen them. He had himself used
this new method, which could easily be performed while at anchor or
on the ocean in a calm. The device consisted of a frame of elm-boards
enclosing a couple of 10-gallon casks with square spaces each side
filled with birch-broom stuff that projected and was to come in contact
with the ship’s bottom. To use this a block was lashed under the
bowsprit, and another at the stern on the driver boom. A single rope
was rove through these blocks just long enough to haul the scrubber,
which did its work fore-and-aftwise underneath the ship.

The accompanying illustration may seem to the reader a fanciful
picture, but it is nothing of the kind, and was made from a sketch
done on the spot. In this will be noticed a ship with no fewer than
thirty different sails. Hutchinson declares that in a light air--when
he needed all the canvas he could spread--he turned to windward with
all the sail drawing. As an ingenious piece of seamanship it is worthy
of note, and surpasses the achievements of the clippers with their
reputation for skysails and moonrakers. He speaks of the sail on the
aftermost mast as the mizzen, and that curious-looking canvas right at
the stern as a large driver with a light boom to make it set properly.
There were two tail blocks at the outer end thereof, lashed to the
rail; and in order that it might set better a bowline was attached.
Below this will be observed the strange sight of a water-sail _aft_ as
well as forward. It was really a foretopmast stuns’l, and was hauled
out to the end of the boom of the driver. As an example of what an
ingenious skipper could do to get way on his ship in light airs, I
think this illustration will be impossible to beat.


Every one of these thirty sails was actually drawing. (See text.)]

There is an interesting volume entitled “A Mariner of England,” which
gives an account of the career of a William Richardson, who from
cabin boy rose to the rank of warrant officer between the years 1780
and 1819, a record that gives one a real insight into the life of a
seaman at that time. When he joined H.M.S. _Minerva_, in 1793, as a
bluejacket, there were no slop-chests, but the purser at stated
periods served out as many yards of dungaree as were required to each
man for jackets, shirts, and trousers. Needles and thread were also
served out, and then the men made the garments for themselves. He gives
you, also, some idea of the mismanagement that went on; the crews made
up of raw, ignorant, and stupid men, commanded by a young post-captain
who only three or four years ago had been midshipman. In tacking and
wearing, however, the strictest discipline was enforced. Not a word
was allowed to be spoken; only the voice of the commanding officer was
to be heard on those occasions, and the boatswain’s pipe was just loud
enough to be heard. Swearing was checked by putting down the names of
the delinquents on a list, and these men were subsequently punished
with seven or eight lashes at the most. The launch was stowed on the
main deck under the booms; and on certain nights a lantern was hung up
on deck, and a fiddler seated on the topsail-sheet bitts, and there
would be dancing for those who cared.

The reader will remember we called attention some time back to those
spritsails which seem so curious to us moderns. They were also known
as “water sails” and as “Jimmy Greens,” both appellations being due,
obviously, to the unhappy knack they possessed of scooping up the sea.
They are now long since obsolete, but they were retained for a long
time for veering the ship’s head round to leeward in the event of
her foremast being shot away. But they were also used even when the
foremast was standing--both on a wind and off. If on a wind the yard
could be topped, and the sail could also be reefed diagonally.

When Hood sent his dispatch to the Controller of the Navy announcing
the victory of the British fleet at the Battle of the Saints in 1782,
he made reference to some of Rodney’s signals, e.g. for a general
chase; to steer more to starboard or port; to shorten sail; to set more
canvas; and if the admiral should wish to order his ships to cease
firing, “the white flag at the fore topgallant masthead, before dark,
calls every ship in.” There were also night signals in use in the Royal
Navy about this time. Thus, for instance, when the admiral wished to
order his fleet to unmoor and ride short he hung out three lights,
one above another, in the main topmast shrouds above the “constant”
light in the maintop, and fired two guns, which were answered by the
flagships, each private ship hanging out a light in her mizzen shrouds.
So also when the signal was being given to weigh anchor, the admiral
hung out some light on the maintopmast shrouds and fired a gun, which
was answered by the flagships and private ships as before.


Apart altogether from the unsatisfactory kind of seamen which often
made up the crews of the English Navy, matters were far from ideal
among their officers. There was a spirit of decadence even here. When
Benbow was sent to the Spanish Main to seize Cartagena, and fell in
with the French, his own captains disobeyed orders, kept out of action,
and allowed Benbow to fight the enemy practically single-handed.
Similarly, when Matthews was in the Mediterranean attacking the
combined Spanish-French fleets, he was basely betrayed by Lestock, who
kept astern out of action. As the result of an inquiry, not only was
Lestock not punished, but Matthews, who happened to sit in Parliament
on the side of the Opposition, had his name struck off the Navy List.
There are, unfortunately, too many instances of this kind of thing on
record during this century. Some were loyal and straightforward, but
none the less inefficient. The captains, wrote Admiral Keppel to Lord
Hawke in August, 1778, “are indeed fine officers, and the ships
are fine. Some of them, indeed, want more experience in discipline to
do all that can be expected from them, but a complete fleet cannot
be formed in a day. Our greatest want is petty officers, and that
deficiency is general.” And then, you will remember, all the discontent
among the seamen culminated in the year 1797, when a series of mutinies
broke out. The first was at Spithead, when Lord Bridport was about to
take his fleet to sea. He had made the signal to unmoor, when suddenly
every ship’s company gave three cheers and refused to go until their
pay was increased. They made one exception, however; if the French
fleet were out then they would put to sea to fight them, otherwise
they declined to go. Lieutenant Philip Beaver, who was serving on the
_Monarch_, writing to his sister two days after this event, admits that
with one exception all the crews behaved “with great prudence, decency,
and moderation ... and obey their officers as before in the regular
routine of ship’s duty--saying that they are not dissatisfied with
their officers or the service, but are determined to have an increase
of pay, because it has not been increased since the time of Charles the
First, and that everything since that period has risen 50 per cent,
that no attention had been paid to their petitions.” Eventually the
statements of the men were found to be well substantiated, and they
were pardoned. But there was another mutiny on May 7; six days later
another broke out at the Nore, and in the same month among the men of
Admiral Duncan’s fleet off the Texel, and even in Jervis’ fleet off

In no respect is the canker of the eighteenth century better shown
than in the condition of tactics displayed by the admirals of this
time. During the Anglo-Dutch wars, many a valuable and wholesome
lesson had been learned by the English Navy, but the Battle of Malaga
in 1704 showed that instead of tactical progress being made, the age
had become--to quote an apt expression of Admiral Mahan--“the epoch
of mere seamanship.” As soon as inspiration deserts art, we all know
how valueless becomes mere technique. It was much the same with
eighteenth-century tactics. There was not a breath of inspiration; it
was a period of formality, of stiff insincerity both ashore and afloat.
The curse of our policy in fighting naval battles was the fetish of
the cast-iron tactics which no officer dared to modify. It was not
till Hawke came swooping down that these lifeless, formal affairs
began to improve. Till his time there was far greater respect for the
letter than the spirit of tactics, so that a naval battle between the
English and her enemy was just this: the English fleet came along in
line-ahead, and then each ship laid herself alongside the corresponding
ship of the enemy’s line, with the result that there was a series of

Hawke’s idea was not that, but to concentrate his whole force against
a part of the enemy’s fleet, and this idea was carried out by Rodney,
when he defeated the French at the Battle of the Saints in 1782. It
is true that the signal book then in use in the Royal Navy, plus the
inefficient state of the service generally, caused Rodney’s signal to
be misunderstood. But it turned out better than it might have done.
In medieval times, the great idea was to lay your ship aboard the
other ship and fight her to a finish. Then, the reader will remember,
came the Cromwellian period, which altered all this. But instead of
continuing this progress, the eighteenth century actually reverted to
the medieval method, and this was the practice against which Hawke and
Rodney set their faces determinedly.


Showing the highly decorated sterns and poop-lanterns of the eighteenth

In the matter of tactics, as in shipbuilding, the French were decidedly
our superiors. And our officers--or, at any rate, those who were keen
and zealous for the service--recognised this. “I believe you will,
with me, think it something surprising,” wrote Captain Kempenfelt to
the Comptroller of the Navy, “that we, who have been so long a famous
maritime power, should not yet have established any regular rules for
the orderly and expeditious performance of the several evolutions
necessary to be made in a fleet. The French have long since set us the
example.... Oh, but ’tis said by several, our men are better seamen
than the French. But the management of a private ship and a fleet
are as different from each other as the exercising of a firelock and
the conducting of an army.... The men who are best disciplined, of
whatever country they are, will always fight the best.... In fine, if
you will neither give an internal discipline for your ships, nor a
system of tactics for the evolutions of your fleet, I don’t know from
what you are to expect success.... We should, therefore, immediately
and in earnest set about a reform; endeavours should be used to find
out proper persons, and encouragement offered for such to write on
naval tactics, as also to translate what the French have published on
that subject. They should also enter into the plan of education at our
marine academies.” The date of this letter was January 18, 1780, and
in saying what he did Captain Kempenfelt was placing his finger on the
real point of the matter.

It was two years after this that John Clerk published his “Essay on
Naval Tactics.” British officers of this period had a supreme contempt
for book learning, just as the simpler sort of seaman has to-day. But
it was not till Clerk published the above book that officers began
to change their mind. Up till now works on tactics had been French.
Clerk’s was the first volume on this subject in the English tongue.
It is not too much to assert that this completely revolutionised
British naval tactics, and that to its teaching were largely due the
victories of Rodney, Howe, Duncan, and St. Vincent. And the interesting
fact was that it was written not by an officer, but by a layman; not
by a seaman, but by a Scotch laird. Those who are attracted by the
subject of tactics will find much in this book that is instructive,
even though steam and steel ships and our present-day weapons never
entered into Clerk’s contemplation. And the numerous plans criticising
actual contemporary sea fights will be found most helpful to a complete
understanding of the nautical events of this period.

One of the most memorable battles in the whole of our naval history
was that which is known as the “Glorious First of June,” 1794. The
tactics which Howe employed on this occasion are interesting, because,
although he formed his fleet in line-abreast, and was able to disable
the enemy’s rear, forcing their van and centre to break away to support
their rear, yet there was such a ship-to-ship mode of attack that it
may seem to have been a reversion to the olden days of medievalism. But
the reason for this was that Howe was well aware that, crew for crew,
the English were superior to the French. The result proved that his
belief was well grounded, for at this time the crisis in the British
Navy had just passed, the improvement in tactics had taken place, and
the decadent ebb had already run its course.

[Illustration: MODEL OF AN ENGLISH FRIGATE, 1750.

She carried 24 nine-pound guns, and had a crew of 160. She was of 511
tons, and measured 113 feet on the gun-deck.]

The kind of fighting instructions which had been issued by Russel in
1691 and continued till after the Battle of the Saints in 1782, was
superseded very shortly after the latter date. It was Lord Howe who
made this change, so that the basis of the new tactical code was no
longer the Fighting Instructions, but the Signal Book. Instead of the
signals being secondary to the instructions, the position was now
exactly reversed. In 1790 these fighting instructions took a second
form, in the shape of a new code of signals, and upon this tactical
system were based all the great actions of the Nelson period. The
code continued until the year 1816, when an entirely new signal book
appeared, which was based on Sir Home Popham’s code, the latter having
been in use for a number of years for “telegraphing.” It was Popham’s
code that was used for making Nelson’s famous signal at Trafalgar.

Howe’s tactics at the Glorious First of June were illustrative of the
ideas which were then rooted in the minds of British admirals. By
sailing in line-abreast instead of adhering rigidly to the eternal
line-ahead, Howe showed that he was conscious of the modern progress
in tactics. But there his appreciation ended. For, as you peruse the
events of this battle, you find that the rest of the contest became
confused and haphazard, the British admirals throwing over the lessons
of Clerk and employing just their own ideas and initiative. The credit
of the Battle of St. Vincent belongs to the daring of Nelson in taking
upon himself a heavy responsibility when he saw that Jervis had made a
tactical mistake. We have no room to deal with this here; but I wish
to remind the reader that the line-head formation was that adopted by
Jervis. Just before the battle, when he perceived how the Spaniards
were disposed in two divisions, he resolved to pass between them in
single line-ahead, separate them thoroughly, and then _concentrate on
the one division which was much larger than the other_. Thus, clearly,
he belonged to the same school of tacticians as Rodney and Howe.

It was in the middle of the reign of George II that a regular uniform
was first adopted for the officers of the English Navy. Hitherto they
had worn the same kind of clothes which their contemporaries wore in
the streets ashore. Every man dressed in the manner he preferred. But
in the year 1747 the question of a uniform colour and pattern was being
discussed when the King himself settled the point. It happened on this
wise. A certain admiral had been sent to the Admiralty on an entirely
different matter by the Duke of Bedford, who was then First Lord. He
was ushered into an apartment surrounded by various dresses, and was
asked to state which of these he considered the most appropriate; to
which the admiral answered that he thought blue or red, _or_ red and
blue, since these were our national colours. “No,” replied the Duke,
“the King has determined otherwise; for having seen my Duchess riding
in the Park a few days ago, in a habit of blue, faced with white, the
dress took the fancy of His Majesty, who has appointed it for the
uniform of the Royal Navy.”[52] Since that time, as the reader is
aware, these two colours, blue and white, have remained the colours of
our Navy, although the cut of the clothes has altered from time to time.


This shows H.M.S. _Cleopatra_ (built in 1779) in her cradle, ready to
go down the ways. She measured 126·4 feet on gun-deck, 35·2 feet wide,
depth 12·1 feet, and was of 689 tons.]

We alluded just now to the introduction of wheels on board sailing
ships, and endeavoured to fix the date as approximately the middle of
this century. The following account of the Great Storm on November
27, 1703 (in which no fewer than thirteen men-o’-war were lost, many
more seriously damaged, and the Eddystone lighthouse destroyed), shows
that tillers, as in Elizabethan days, were still used, and the wheel
not yet invented. The following is the autograph report by Admiral
Sir Cloudesley Shovel, commanding a squadron of eight ships in the
Downs. The fact that the ships drifted all the way from the Downs to
the Galloper (in the North Sea) gives some indication of the fury of
that autumn hurricane. This dispatch is among the MSS. preserved in the
British Museum:--

    “On Saturday last soone in the morning wee had a most miserable
    Storme of Wind, which drove us to some Streights, for after wee had
    veerrd out more than three Cables of our best bower that Anchor
    broke, soon after our Tillar broke, and before we could secure our
    Rudder it broke from our Sterne, and has shaken our Stern Post
    that we prove very leakey, and had our four Chaine Pumps and a
    hand Pump goeing to keep us free. We lett go our Sheete Anchor,
    and veered out all the Cables to it, butt that did not ride us,
    butt wee drove near a sand called the Galloper, of which we saw the
    breach; I directed the Maine Mast to be cutt by the Board, after
    which we ridd fast. Of eight Ships that came out of the Downes
    four are missing, the _Association_, _Russell_, _Revenge_, and
    _Dorsettshire_; pray God they drove cleare of the sand....

    “P.S. I doubt it has farr’d worse with the four Ships that have
    drove away than it has done with us: I have some hopes that some
    of them have drove to Sea; but if so they are without Anchors or
    Cables and may be without Masts: I judge it will be of Service if
    some Frigg^t were sent out to looke for them.”

And yet there was at least one ship which had the wheel invention in
the year 1747. In Hawke’s dispatch to the Secretary to the Admiralty,
recording the action off Rochelle, in August, 1747, after relating
that he kept his wind as close as possible so as to help the _Eagle_
and _Edinburgh_, which had lost her foretopmast, he relates that “this
attempt of ours was frustrated by the _Eagle’s_ falling twice on board
us, having had her wheel shot to pieces.” We may, therefore, fix the
date of the first steering wheel as not earlier than 1703, and not
later than 1747.



The first sixty or seventy years of the nineteenth century saw the
art of the seaman at its highest state of perfection. There was never
anything to equal it either before or since in the achievements
rendered by the sailors who manned the famous “wooden walls” of
Nelson’s time, who took the stately East Indiaman backwards and
forwards with so much ceremony and safety, or hurried along the tea
clipper at a continuous rate which has never since been surpassed by
any fleet of sail-propelled ships.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were royal dockyards
at Chatham, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Deptford, Woolwich, and Sheerness;
and here His Majesty’s ships were generally moored in the piping times
of peace. The first three of these yards were governed by a resident
commissioner, who superintended all the musters of the officers,
artificers, and labourers employed in the dockyard. He controlled
the payments, examined the accounts, contracts, etc., and generally
regulated the dockyard. Large ships, such as those mighty wooden walls
which could carry a hundred guns, were usually built in dry dock,
with strong flood gates to prevent the tide from coming in. When
the time came for launching, and it was spring tides, the gates were
opened and the ship floated out. But small craft, such as frigates
and corvettes, were built on the slips, and then launched by means of
a cradle which sped down the ways, the latter having been previously
greased with soap or tallow.

[Illustration: LAUNCHING A MAN-OF-WAR IN THE YEAR 1805.]

The oak of which these craft were built usually came from the Forest
of Dean, Gloucestershire, and the New Forest, Hants. But as ships
were built out in the open, the weather got into the wood and rotted
it, so that sometimes a ship was condemned before she was ever put in
commission; and, in any case, the life of some wooden walls was under
ten years. Others lasted for a long period, as, for instance, Nelson’s
_Victory_, which was built in the year 1765. The method of building
was curiously medieval, and almost Viking-like in its simplicity. The
timbers were secured by treenails to the planking. They were preferred
to spike-nails or bolts, as the latter were liable to rust with the sea
water and get loose. The thickness of the treenail was proportioned to
the length of the ship, one inch being allowed to every hundred feet.
In the Royal Navy and in the East India Service ships were always
sheathed with copper to protect the hull against worms. The copper was
quite thin, brown paper being inserted between the sheathing and the
oak. Other ships than these two classes had thin deal boards nailed
over the outside of the bottom for the same purpose.

After the new ship had been floated out of her dock she was taken
alongside a sheer-hulk. The latter was an old man-o’-war, which had
been dismantled and refitted with one very high mast, strengthened with
shrouds and stays to secure the sheers which served as the arm of a
crane for hoisting ships’ masts in or out, and getting the yards on
to the new vessel. Her sails were bent, her guns and ammunition taken
aboard, and away she went for her first commission. Not one of these
“wooden walls” carried any canvas above royals. They could not travel
fast through the water even on a wind, for they were bulky, clumsy,
and cumbrous. Their lines were not sweet, they had a huge, heavy body
to drive through the water; they were slow in stays, and they were
not easy to handle. They rolled so badly, that in heavy weather they
sometimes rolled their masts out.

With a hundred guns aboard and most of a thousand men, a three-decker
was certainly an interesting sight. Her guns were arranged in rows
along her decks. The lower gun-deck was little above the water-line. A
100-gun ship in Nelson’s time cost over £67,000, and these three decks
ran from stem to stern, besides a forecastle and a quarter-deck, the
former of which extended aft from the stem to the belfry, where the
ship’s bell was suspended under a shelter. The quarter-deck extended
from aft to the mainmast. There was also a poop-deck, and another deck
below the lower gun-deck, called the orlop, where the cables were
coiled and the sails stowed. The gun-room was on the after end of the
lower gun-deck, and partly used by the gunner; but in frigates and
smaller vessels, where it was below, it was used by the lieutenants as
a mess-room. The ward-room was over the gun-room, where the superior
officers messed and slept.

[Illustration: SHEER-HULK.

After the etching by E. W. COOKE.]

In action the guns were run out, by means of side tackles, till their
muzzles were well outside the port, so that the flash of the gun might
not set the ship’s side on fire. These ports were fitted with heavy
square lids. In bad weather it was impossible to open the lower-deck
ports lest the sea should swamp the ship. There was a kind of shutter
also, called a half-port, with a circular hole in the centre large
enough to go over the muzzle of the gun, and furnished with a piece of
canvas nailed round its edge to tie on the gun and prevent the water
entering the port, although the gun remained run out. These were used
chiefly on the main deck. Ropes were made fast to the outside of the
lids attached to a tackle within, by which the port-lids could be drawn

There was but little light ’tween decks in these ships even by day, and
the glimmer of a purser’s dip was the only illumination. The magazines,
however, were lighted through what was termed a “light-room.” The
latter was a small apartment with double-glass windows towards the
magazine. No candle could, of course, be taken into the latter, so the
gunner and his assistants filled their cartridges with powder by the
candles shining through the windows. In the bigger men-o’-war there
were two light-rooms; one attached to the after magazine, and the other
which gave light to the fore or great magazine. The after magazine
contained just enough supply of cartridges for the after guns during
action, but the great magazine had enough powder for the ship for a
long period.

The cables were usually of 120 fathoms and made of hemp, bass, or
Indian grass, though the biggest ships used hemp exclusively for their
heavy anchors. The change from hemp to chain cables came in 1812, and
these were much appreciated as saving a great deal of valuable space
below. For the hemp cables when coiled down in a frigate’s cable-tier
filled nearly a quarter of her hold, and when it is remembered that
a 1000-ton ship had a cable measuring over 8 inches in diameter, and
that a 2⅛-inch chain was just as strong--the breaking strain exceeded
65 tons--but took up less space, we can well understand that hemp was
not altogether an advantage, notwithstanding that in bad weather these
heavy, bluff ships would ride far easier to the rope than the chain.
The largest anchor used weighed five tons. It had a wooden stock and
broad palms.

Because these hemp cables were so thick there must needs be very
large hawse-pipes. Now these ships not only rolled; they pitched
in a sea-way, and consequently they took in a great deal of water
through these pipes. In order to prevent the water getting adrift all
over the ship, there was a large compartment fitted up just abaft
the hawse-pipes and called the manger. This stretched athwart the
deck, separated on the after part by the manger-board, which was a
strong bulkhead, the water being allowed to return to the sea through
scuppers. Leather pipes were nailed round the outside of the lower-deck
scuppers, which, by hanging down, prevented the water from entering
when the ship heeled under a press of canvas.

The cables led in through the hawse-pipes below deck to the bitts. To
bitt the cable was to put it round the bitts, which were frames of
strong timbers fixed perpendicularly into the ship. The “bitter end”
was that part of the cable which was abaft the bitts, and not allowed
to run out. Hence the common expression “to the bitter end” has no
reference to the other meaning of the word spelt in a similar way.
These cables were in lengths of 40 fathoms, and then spliced to make
the 120 fathoms. Naturally a heavy ship such as a 100-gun first-rate
carried a great deal of way. When, therefore, the anchor was let go,
the friction of the cable passing through the hawse-pipe was something
enormous, and the hemp became so hot that the tar on its surface often
took fire, therefore men were always stationed to stand by with buckets
of water. Likewise, the bitts and timbers round the heated hawse-pipes
had to be attended to. Another drawback to a rope cable was that it
chafed a great deal. In coral-bottomed waters it was customary to arm
with chains that part which was likely to be worn; and the cable was
also sometimes buoyed with casks lashed at intervals, so as to float
safely above the rough bottom of the sea-bed.

[Illustration: H.M.S. “PRINCE.”

A first-rate of 110 guns, showing the stern balconies as built before
the close sterns were introduced.]

There is an interesting passage in a letter written by Captain Duff
of H.M.S. _Mars_, in 1805, to his wife, in which the following words
occur: “October 10th. I am sorry the rain has begun to-night, as it
will spoil my fine work, having been employed for this week past to
paint the ship _à la_ Nelson, which most of the fleet are doing.”
That, of course, was just a few days before Trafalgar. And there is
a phrase in a letter written by a young midshipman to his father, in
1794, telling him all about the Glorious First of June battle. “The
French ... called us the little devil, and the little black ribband,
as we have a black streak painted on our side.” The explanation of
these two passages is as follows. Up to the beginning of the nineteenth
century it was left to a captain’s own taste to paint his ship whatever
colours he liked. There was no uniformity as to-day, but generally a
ship was painted with a wide black streak along the water-line just
above the copper sheathing. This streak ran right round the ship, and
in depth reached to the lower gun-deck. Above this the hull was painted
a brownish yellow, but sometimes it was more a lemon-colour. The after
upper works above the gun-decks and the outer sides of the poop above
the quarter-deck guns were painted a vivid red or blue.

This bright band of colour gradually faded until, by the time Trafalgar
was fought, it became a dull, deep blue--almost black. Round the
forecastle ran a band of scarlet or pale blue edged with gold, and
continued down the beak to the figurehead. The outsides of the
port-lids were a brownish yellow like the sides, and the stern walks
were decorated with elaborate gilt carvings, cherubs and dolphins and
mermaids, the royal arms, and wreaths, etc. Round the stern of each
ship, outside the glazed windows of the cabin, ran a quarter gallery
for the captain, while at the bows a figurehead was seen which was
regarded with a sentimental interest and kept in good condition. But
Nelson had his ships painted black, with a yellow streak along each
tier of ports, and the port-lids were painted black. This chequer
painting, then, was the method “_à la_ Nelson” to which Captain Duff
was referring.

Internally the sides of the ships were still painted a blood-red,
for the reason already given in an earlier century. So also were the
inner sides of the port-lids. But after Trafalgar the interiors were
sometimes painted in other colours, such as green or yellow or even
brown, until, after the year 1840, white became uniform. Many internal
fittings such as the gun-carriages, and even the guns themselves, were
painted red or chocolate during the Nelson period. The lower masts were
painted a dull yellow, the topmasts and upper spars varnished a dark
brown, and the lower yards and gaffs painted black. The blocks, the
chains, the dead-eyes, the wooden and iron fittings for the rigging
were all tarred black, just as one often finds them to-day on some
old coaster or fishing smack. The masts of the British warships were
painted white usually before any engagement with the French, so as to
distinguish them from the Gallic masts, which were black.


It was the superiority of the British gunnery which won most of our
battles against the French, even when the latter had better ships and
faster. The British directed their fire chiefly against the hull,
whereas the French aimed at the rigging. The cartridges were filled
in the magazines and handed up to the fighting decks above by the
powder-monkeys. Along the decks were arranged, at intervals, match-tubs
to receive the slow-matches used in firing the guns, whilst in the
cockpit of the ship the surgeon and his mates were busy attending to
the wounded. The ’tween decks were very cramped, and there was not
much air, and there was still a good deal of disease rampant among the
seamen. The surgeon’s mate messed in a space only six feet square in
the cockpit, “screened off with canvas, and shut in by chests, dark
as a dungeon, and smelling intolerably of putrefied cheese and rancid


After the end of the eighteenth century, the salutary practice of
building ships under cover became general. Nowadays, of course, most
ships are constructed in the open air. But in the time we are speaking
of the ship--men built with wood and not steel. And when the weather
was not allowed to get inside and rot the wood, it was found that the
vessels lasted much longer than before. Furthermore, the method of
uniting two pieces of timber together by “scarfing” was introduced.
It was done either by letting the end of one piece of wood into the
end of the other, or by laying the two ends together and fastening
a third piece to them both. Thus, curved timbers could be made with
pieces of straight timber. This may seem quite a small matter to some,
but when it is stated that until this device was employed ships ready
for launching were sometimes detained on the stocks for a considerable
period until natural bent timbers could be found, it will be seen that
Sir Robert Seppings, the inventor, was performing an excellent service
to the Admiralty.


This 84-gun ship was in the engagement at the Battle of Navarino.]

And there were other improvements which were only justified. That
effusive gilt decoration--the scrolls, the allegorical figures, the
wreaths (which had come in during Caroline times), the heavy brackets
for the poop-lanterns were all to come under the chastening hand
of simplicity. The stern galleries became simpler in character and
fewer in number, the spritmast disappeared and the spritsail, though
the spritsail yard remained for some time. In the Merchant Service the
“Jimmy Green” continued till well into the nineteenth century; and the
yard of the lateen mizzen had long since been lopped off to become a
gaff, as also the triangular mizzen sail had become quadrilateral and
a boom had been added. Masts were made taller, but the bowsprit was
no longer a quasi-mast, as it had been since medieval days. Staysails
had come into use from Dutch origin, and royals--or, as Hutchinson
called them, “topgallant royals”--and studding-sails were already
well established during the latter part of the eighteenth century.
The triangular headsails were relied upon for getting the ship’s head
round, and consequently the foremast was no longer placed so far
forward as it had been in Tudor and Stuart times.


During the reign of George III, a three-decker carried either 32- or
42-pounders on her lower gun-deck, 24-pounders on her middle deck,
and either 12- or 6-pounders on her upper deck. On the forecastle and
quarter-deck 6-pounders were fired. It was the 32-pounders which began
to be recognised as the largest satisfactory gun for the first-rates,
and so continued till about 1840. In place of the old Elizabethan
powder-horn and linstock, gun-locks and firing-tubes were introduced,
and the system of ventilating ships, introduced during the eighteenth
century by Dr. Hales, made for the improved health of both ships and

Many of those who emigrated from these shores to the United States
of America can still remember the sailing ships which carried them
through gales with safety. That was the time when the ship’s deck
was like a veritable farmyard. There were no condensed foods, no
patent refrigerating arrangements, no water-condensers; so the
ship’s long-boat, stowed securely on deck, became filled with pens
of sheep and pigs, while cackling ducks and quacking geese reminded
the agricultural emigrants of the homes they had just left. There
was a cow-house on deck, and on some ships there was even a small
kitchen-garden in boxes filled with earth, which reposed in the
jolly-boat. In those smaller ships carrying no passengers, the pigs and
poultry had practically the whole run of the ship. Milk was obtained
from the goats and cows, but occasionally, when the wild Atlantic made
a clean sweep of the deck, this article of food was impossible till the
next port was reached.

The eighteenth-century transatlantic ships used to make only two trips
a year, taking four months for the round voyage and back. The quickest
trip was the homeward one to England, for there was a favourable
westerly wind to run before. But even with a head wind, these old
packets made good their 40 knots a day. And so matters went on till the
volume of trade and the number of emigrants had so much increased as
to create a demand for the bigger ships of about 800 tons that came in


I hope on another occasion to tell at greater length the story of that
fine class of ship known as the East Indiaman, which has long since
disappeared from the sea. I have but little space left here to deal
with a species of ship that was scarcely inferior to many of those in
His Majesty’s service. Although nominally merchantmen, yet they so much
enjoyed the patronage of the Government, that to be officer in the East
India Company’s service was almost the equivalent of a commission in
the Royal Navy. So well paid were the East India captains and their
staff, and so many handsome emoluments besides were there attached to
their posts, that you are not altogether surprised to find, as you
look down the names of these officers, men of title and the younger
sons of some of the best English families.

[Illustration: A THREE-DECKER ON A WIND.]

Promotion was made by seniority, and a captain was assigned to his
ship even before she was launched, so that he had an opportunity of
knowing every timber and every plank in her hull. He superintended
her fitting out, and when she was at last complete with her spars and
sails, her complement of passengers, her cargo and her crew, she put
to sea, but she was in no tremendous hurry to get to the Orient. Her
voyaging was to be safe and sure, like her captain’s remuneration. For
he was allowed by the directors 56½ tons of space for carrying cargo
on his own account, the rates of freights then varying from £35 to £40
a ton. Captains did their own chartering, and in one way and another
accumulated very large perquisites. A conservative estimate places the
income of some of these skippers as from £6000 to £10,000 a year; and
the mates and petty officers managed to feather their own nests very
amply as well.

The discipline of these ships was founded on the prevailing custom
in the Royal Navy. They flew the Navy’s long pendant. They were
built like some of the Admiralty frigates, they were fitted out on
similar lines, and they were handled in like manner. But they were
slightly fuller-bodied than the Admiralty ships in order to carry
plenty of cargo. The accommodation for passengers was, considering
the times, luxurious. At the end of each homeward voyage these ships
were entirely dismantled and given a complete refit, the passengers
selling their state-room furniture by auction on board before going
ashore. The directors looked well after the men as well as holding
out encouragement to the officers. Seamen of eight years’ service
were permitted pensions. The crews were divided into two watches, the
officers having three watches--four hours on and eight hours off. The
men messed in batches of eight, their allotted space being between the
guns in the ’tween decks. Here also were their mess-utensils and their
sea-chests, and here were slung their hammocks. Every Sunday morning
after the crew had been inspected they were, by the regulations of the
Company, to attend Divine service, the captain acting as chaplain. If a
commander’s log-book was found to have omitted this duty he was liable
to a fine of two guineas. He wore a uniform consisting of a blue coat
having black velvet lapels with cuffs and collar. There was plenty of
gold embroidery and gilt buttons with the Company’s device thereon. The
breeches were buff, he wore a black stock or neckcloth, and a cocked
hat and side-arms completed the picture.

[Illustration: THE BRIG “WOLF,”

Formerly in the Royal Navy, hove-to off Dover waiting for the pilot to
come out.]

So also the crews were constantly drilled at their guns and trained to
handle cutlass, musket, and boarding pike. There were two men to every
job, there was plenty of food, and there was no cause for grumbling
at overwork. There was plenty of rum, there were good quarters and
good prospects. And yet for all that there were reckless fellows who
could not realise their good fortune. When they had offended they were
brought before the ship’s court-martial in true naval fashion and
sentenced to the cat-o’-nine-tails. And no man could complain that
the commander was “driving” his ship; for every evening, no matter
how fine the weather looked, the royals and all light sails such as
studding-sails were stowed, and the royal yards sent down on deck.
No risks were run unnecessarily, and if the weather looked at all
threatening the t’gallant sails and mainsail were stowed and a single
reef tucked into the topsails. The aim was to combine safety with
comfort, and so they snugged down every night, and by day whenever
there was the least temptation. But the East India was a fine service
and a splendid school for British seamanship, a calling that has so
considerably died out during the last forty years. In the year 1832
the valuable monopoly which the East India Company had enjoyed for so
long a time was put an end to. Commerce was thrown open, competition
entirely altered the previous conditions, and at last this fine fleet
was sold and disbanded.



(From a contemporary lithograph.)]

But it was the period of the clipper which simultaneously brought
seamanship to unheard-of attainment, and chanted its swan-song. The
period is covered roughly by the years 1840 to 1870. It was introduced
owing to a demand for the more rapid delivery of goods, especially tea,
which does not improve by remaining in a ship’s hold. It was given a
strong impetus by the discovery of gold in California, and the eager
rush of prospectors to reach that part quickly. The rush to Australia
in like manner was a still further impetus to the development of the
clipper ship at the middle of the nineteenth century. The China tea
trade in the ’fifties and ’sixties caused these ships to be improved
and developed and handled to the utmost limits, until the opening of
the Suez Canal in 1869 gave it its death-blow. For a time it lingered,
yet the collateral encouragement of the steamship made it impossible
for the sailing ship to pay her way across the ocean. But there never
have been such smart ocean passages so continuously maintained as by
the China clippers of the ’sixties. There never were better sailing
ships built of wood, and there never were captains who “cracked on”
or crews who could work such big canvas-propelled craft with such
distinction. This was the period when a ship was not content with
t’gallants and royals, but must needs set sky sails and moonrakers.


This incident occurred 82 miles N. ¼ W. off Flamborough Head in a
strong S. W. gale with heavy squalls. The brig had lost her mainmast,
and hailed the _Cleopatra_ for assistance. A boat was therefore lowered
on the _Cleopatra’s_ lee quarter, but stove in and lost. A buoy was
veered astern, but the brig could not pick it up. During the night
the brig foundered with all hands. Liardet in his book on seamanship
suggested that in such an incident as this the best thing would be to
get to windward of the wreck, let down ropes from the lee side, then
signal to the wreck your intention of drifting down to her. The men
could then rescue themselves by the ropes.]

A very fine type of clipper was built in 1859 by Messrs. Robert Steel
and Son, at Greenock, to which class belonged such famous ships as the
_Falcon_ and _Fiery Cross_. They were beautifully designed craft and
splendidly built, with ample deck space for working the ship and small
deck-houses, and were kept up almost as smartly as a modern sailing
yacht with polished brass-work, holystoned decks, and well-found gear.
The clipper _Seaforth_, which was built in 1863, brought about
quite a revolution in the sailing ship’s equipment, for she was the
first sailing vessel to have steel spars and wire rigging. Her lower
masts, her topmasts, and her topsail yards and bowsprit were all steel

[Illustration: H.M.S. “HASTINGS,” 74 GUNS.

Lying “in Ordinary” in the Medway.]

In one respect these old tea clippers were curiously medieval, though
the practice continued also in the ships of the Royal Navy till well on
into the nineteenth century. This was in the matter of loose ballast.
These tea clippers carried about 300 tons of shingle ballast laid
evenly along the bottom of the ship, and upon this shingle were laid
the chests of tea, and considerable dunnage was put in as well. These
ships had a registered tonnage of about 700 tons, and could carry
about 1000 tons of tea. They were worked by a crew of about thirty;
they were captained by skippers of the utmost ability and prudence,
who, unlike the East Indiaman captains, did not worry about snugging
down at nightfall, but first and foremost were bent on getting the
cargo to the London river in the least possible time. They “cracked
on” and undertook risks in gales of wind which would have terrified
many another commander. But it was to their interests to make smart
passages. Some of them were part-owners, and there was a premium of
ten shillings a ton to the skipper who landed the first cargo of a
season’s tea. Thus, in addition to his other emoluments, there was a
chance of making an extra £500 after a quick voyage. Many of the crews
had served their time in sailing ships of the Royal Navy, so a captain
could rely on getting the best out of his fine ship. Some of these
skippers retired with large fortunes; but the premium system led to a
great deal of jealousy and unpleasantness. For it might happen--it did,
in fact, occur--that one ship might make the fastest sailing passage
to Dungeness and yet get her package of tea ashore some time after
the second vessel, simply because the latter had been fortunate in
picking up a more powerful tug to tow her from Dungeness to London. So,
eventually, this premium method had to be abandoned.

When we remember that such vessels as the _Taeping_ and other clippers
have been known to maintain for long periods an average of 13 knots
an hour, we may well regret that the coming of the steamship was not
delayed a century later, to give these ships a complete epoch of their
own. Perhaps in the course of events time will wreak its revenge, and
give us back once more a period of true seamanship and a recurrence of
the most interesting ways of a ship.


Built of wood, with iron beams, in the year 1865. The double topsail
yards and stuns’l booms are discernible. She was of 812 tons register;
length, 174·6 ft.; beam, 32·7 ft.; depth, 20·5 ft.]


  BITTACLE (Binnacle).    See pp. 214 and 253.

  BITTS.                  Posts on a deck to which cables, etc., could
                            be fastened.

  BOLT-ROPES.             Ropes round the edge of a sail to prevent

  BONNETS.                See p. 158.

  BOXHAULING.             See p. 252.

  BRAILS.                 Small ropes used for the purpose of shortening
                            a ship’s canvas.

  CAREEN.                 To lay a ship over on to her side for the
                            purpose of cleaning, caulking, etc.

  CATHEADS.               Short projecting beams serving as a bracket to
                            suspend the anchor clear of the bows.

  DRABLER.                Canvas laced on the bonnet of a sail to give
                            it more drop.

  DRIVER.                 A large squaresail set occasionally upon the
                            mizzen-yard or gaff.

  DUNNAGE.                Loose wood or other material packed in the
                            hold with the cargo to prevent it from

  FOTHERING.              See p. 262.

  GAFF.                   A spar used for extending the upper edge of a
                            fore-and-aft rectangular sail.

  GRIPE, to.              To come up into the wind in spite of the helm.

  GRIPE of a ship.        1. The sharpness of her stern under the water.
                          2. A projection added to the keel.

  GRIPES.                 Lashings securing a boat in its place.

  GROUND-TACKLE.          Ropes and tackle used in connection with
                            anchors and mooring apparatus generally.

  HAWSE-PIPES.            The metal linings to the hawse-holes or holes
                            in a ship’s bows through which the cable

  HOG, to.                To scrub a ship with flat scrubbing brooms
                            called hogs.

  MANGER.                 A small apartment made in the ship’s bows to
                            catch the water flowing through the

  MIZZEN.                 The aftermost mast of a vessel with two or
                            more masts. Sometimes called a jigger. In
                            medieval four-masters the aftermost mast was
                            called the bonaventure mizzen, and the one
                            immediately forward of this the main mizzen.

  MOONRAKERS.             Sails above the sky-sails.

  PARRAL.                 A band for keeping the end of a yard to the

  PINCH, to.              To sail close-hauled.

  QUANT, to.              To propel a craft along shallow water-ways by
                            means of a long pole.

  RHUMB-LINE.             The line (cutting all the meridians at the
                            same angle) which is followed by a ship
                            sailing on one course.

  SCARFING.               See p. 282.

  SCUPPERS.               Gutters or channels along the outer edge of a
                            deck by which water runs off.

  SNATCH-BLOCKS.          Iron-bound blocks with an opening in which the
                            bight of a rope may be laid without
                            threading the end of the rope through.

  STRINGER.               A strip of timber running round a ship
                            internally in line with the deck.

  SWATCH-WAY.             A narrow sound or channel of water among

  TABERNACLE.             The socket or hinged post for a mast that can
                            be lowered at will to pass under bridges,

  TRESTLE-TREES.          See p. 207.

  TUMBLE-HOME.            The incline inwards of a ship’s sides above
                            the level of its extreme breadth.

  WARE.                   To veer.


  Ægean Sea, 33

  Africa, circumnavigation of, by the Phœnicians, 21;
    in early map, 124;
    geographical knowledge of, 130

  Agricola, 67

  Alectus, 78

  Alfred, sailors in time of, 17

  Algiers, pirates of, 224

  Amber, Phœnicians and, 26

  Ambleteuse, 73

  America, North, the Vikings and, 90, 91

  Amundsen, Capt. Roald, 204

  Amyntas III and shipbuilding materials, 46

  Anchor work, 258

  Anchors, metal, Athenian Navy, 44;
    of the king’s galleys, middle ages, 146;
    Spanish iron for, 180;
    of men-o’-war, early 19th century, 278

  Andersen, Capt. Magnus, 90

  Anglo-Dutch wars, 208, 229, 230, 235, 237–40, 267

  Anne, Queen, seamen in days of, 249

  Anson’s voyage round the world, 131, 251

  Antipater of Sidon quoted, 32

  Antiphilus quoted, 33

  Arabians, the, as navigators, 122

  Arctic Circle, voyaging to, 116

  Argand lamp, 244

  Armada, the great, and seamanship, 184;
    wages of seamen at time of, 208;
    tactics against, 218;
    the pirate and, 222

  Arthur’s, King, conquests, 116

  Artillery introduced, 180;
    knowledge of, 181;
    of an Elizabethan ship, 191;
    17th century, 228;
    18th century, 261;
    on men-o’-war, 276, 283

  Asia, kings of, build large warships, 43

  _Askoma_, 31

  Assyrian sculptures, Phœnician biremes in, 19

  Assyrians, the, and the sea, 16

  Astrolabe, the, need for, 172;
    its origin and name, 172;
    its use described, 173;
    improved for the sea, 174;
    and Columbus, 175;
    importance of those who could use it, 175;
    superseded, 212

  Astronomers, the ancients as, 115

  Astronomical measurements in navigation, 27

  Athenian Navy, the, 44;
    inventories of Athenian dockyards, 47

  Atlantic, the, Arab name for, 154

  Atlas, the first (Wagenaer’s), 214

  Audley, Thomas, “Book of Orders,” 182

  Augustus, 68

  Australia, rush to, 288

  Avery, David, 244

  Ayscue, Sir George, 239, 242

  Azores, the, 212, 217

  Baffin’s Bay, 88

  Bailak Kibdjaki, 150

  Ballast in ancient Greek ships, 32;
    loose ballast, 289

  Baltimore, piracy at, 223

  Barometer, the, 259

  Bayeux tapestry, ships in the, 137, 138

  Beachy Head, battle of, 243

  Beacons, 243

  Beaver, Lieut. Philip, 267

  Beazley, Mr. Raymond, quoted, 126

  Bedford, Duke of, First Lord of Admiralty, and naval uniforms, 272

  Behaim, Martin, improves the astrolabe, 174

  Bells, ships’, 215, 254

  Benbow, Admiral John, 266

  “Better to break owners than orders,” 263

  Birds, observations by, 88

  Biremes, Phœnician, 19;
    succeeded by trireme, 38;
    number of oars, 40

  Biscay, the Bay of, 117

  “Bittacle” (i.e. binnacle), 214, 253

  “Bitter end,” the, 278

  Bitts, 278

  Bitumen caulking, 19

  “Black Book of the Admiralty,” 183

  Black Deeps, the, 227

  Blaeu, Wm. J., “The Sea Mirrour,” 215

  Blake, Admiral Robert, and Tunisian pirates, 224;
    sea commander, 229;
    and discontent on his ships, 236;
    defects in his ships, 237;
    tactics, 238, 239;
    battle off Portland, 240, 241

  Boarding in naval warfare, 62, 183, 218

  Boatswain, 146

  Böckh’s “Corpus Inscriptionum Atticarum,” 47

  Booms in Ancient Rhodes, 53

  Borough, Admiral William, 217

  Boteler’s “Dialogues,” 230

  Boulogne (Gesoriacum), 67, 70, 72, 79

  Bourne, William, on the cross-staff, 175;
    “Arte of Shooting,” 191;
    “Inventions or Devises,” 193;
    “Regiment for the Sea,” 209;
    first English book on navigation 211;
    on the earth as a globe, 213;
    “Treasure for Traueilers,” 216;
    method of registering speed, 216

  Bowline, to sail on a, 168

  Boxhauling, 252

  Bridport, Lord, 267

  Brigg’s logarithms, 248

  Bristol Channel pilot cutters, 31

  Britain, Roman invasion of, 72–7

  British fleet in Roman times (Classis Britannica), 67

  British Navy, reorganised in 1618, 224;
    under the Commonwealth, 229;
    fashionable, 229;
    captain’s pay at end of 17th century, 230;
    probable strategy of to-day, 238;
    ballast, 289.
    _See also_ Elizabethan, Tudor

  British seamanship and British supremacy, 219

  Buoys, 214, 226, 244

  Burgh, Hubert de, 143

  Bushnell, Edmund, “Complete Ship-Wright,” 224

  Bytharne, Jehan, “Book of War,” 183

  Cables of Viking ships, 108;
    hemp and chain, 277, 278

  Cabot, Sebastian, 133

  Cadiz, 235;
    mutiny of, 267

  Cæsar and the invasion of Britain, 5;
    and his fleet, 69;
    its tactics, 70;
    invasion of England, 70–7;
    seamanship, 74;
    landing, 76;
    knowledge of Gaul and Britain, 77

  Calais, 72

  Calicut, 135

  California gold rush, 288

  Caligula, 81

  Callis (pirate), 222

  Cambridge, Trinity College, MS. of pilgrim voyage, 147

  Canary Isles, 118, 121

  Cannon. _See_ Artillery

  Cape Barfleur, 138

  Cape Blanco, 134

  Cape Bojador, 134

  Cape Nun, 134

  Cape of Good Hope, Vasco da Gama and, 22;
    doubled, 134;
    named, 136

  Cape St. Vincent (Holy Promontory), 125, 127, 217

  Cape Verde Islands, 134

  Captains, tyrannical, 249

  Carausius, 78, 79

  Carpenter, 146

  Cartagena, 266

  Carthaginian fleet, the, 62

  Cartography. _See_ Map-making

  Catholic Church, the Portuguese and the, 131

  Catteville, the race of, 138

  Chain cables, 277

  Chanca, Dr., of Columbus’s fleet, 165

  Chaplains on Elizabethan ships, 199;
    of French Navy, 230;
    18th century, 249

  Charles I, mutinies of the Navy, 236

  Charles II, Navy in time of, 229;
    officers, 230;
    and sea charts, 243

  Charles V, 133, 170

  Charts, compilation of, 171;
    Wagenaer’s, 214, 219;
    Charles II and James II and, 243;
    of British coast, 18th century, 256;
    English, 257

  Chatham, 184;
    dockyard, 226, 274

  Chavez, Alonso and Hieronymo de, 138, 171

  Chelsea pensioners on Anson’s voyage, 251

  China tea trade, 288–9

  Chinese, the, and the compass, 119;
    voyages of, 119

  Chios, battle of, 52

  Chronometer, the coming of the, 178, 254

  Church services in Navy, 17th century, 227

  Cinque Ports, 140

  Circle, great, sailing, 178, 211, 213

  Civil War, the Navy during the, 236

  Classis Britannica, 67, 79

  Claudius, 67

  Clerk, John, “Naval Tactics,” 269

  Clinton (pirate), 222

  “Close-fights,” 188

  Clothing, seamen’s, 18th century, 264

  Cockpit, 282

  “Code de la Mer,” 151

  Colbert, Jean B., 230

  Colliers, London, of the 18th century, 251

  Collins, Greenville, 243

  Colonies, the, and seamanship, 230

  Colosseum, the, 69

  Colours of men-o’-war, 279;
    internal, 246, 280

  Columbus, Bartolomeo, 156

  Columbus, Christopher, effect of Prince Henry’s work, 131;
    his place, 136;
    his log, 155;
    his ships and navigation, 155;
    his studies, 156;
    and the Vikings, 156;
    sets sail on first voyage, 157;
    speed, 158;
    his helmsman, 158;
    reckonings, 159;
    sights land, 160;
    homeward bound, 160;
    wreck of the _Santa Maria_, 161;
    details of the ship, 163–4;
    food, 164;
    crew, 164;
    religious atmosphere, 165;
    subsequent voyages, 165;
    third voyage, 166;
    on the shape of the earth, 166;
    fourth voyage, 167;
    and navigating, 167;
    as seaman and navigator, 169;
    his achievements, 169;
    reckoning by tonnage, 197

  Compass, the, use by the Chinese, 119;
    by Arabians, 119;
    introduced to Europe, 119;
    suspension of the needle, 120;
    the fleur-de-lys, 120;
    its early use, 124;
    liquid compass anticipated, 150;
    variation recorded by Columbus, 158;
    variation, 212, 213;
    Elizabethan names for the, 214

  “Confessio Amantis,” 146

  Congo River, 135

  Constable, 146

  Constantinople, 152

  Cook, Capt., 263

  Copper sheathing, 275

  Corinth, triremes built at, 42;
    shipbuilding at, 46

  Corn-ships of Egypt, 57

  Cortes, Martin, 171, 211

  Court-martial instituted, 218

  Craft, the working of, 5

  Cretan pirates, 53

  Crew, ship’s, of the 13th century, 141, 146

  Cross-staff, the, 174;
    its use described, 176;
    improved, 212

  Crusades, the, 117, 119, 121;
    Crusaders’ journey from Dartmouth, 138–40

  Cyprus, temple in, commemorating a large ship, 43

  Dartmouth, 138

  Davis, John, as navigator, 155;
    and circle sailing, 178;
    nautical expressions in his logs, 203;
    extracts from his “Traverse-Booke,” 205;
    “Seaman’s Secrets,” 210

  Davis’s quadrant, 246

  Davits, 226

  Deal, Cæsar’s landing at, 73, 74

  Deane, Admiral, 240

  Decks, 142

  Deptford, seamen’s guild, 133, 171;
    dockyard, 181, 226, 274

  Diaz, Bartholomew, 135

  Dock, dry, the first, 180

  Docks at Rome, 62

  Dockyards, Royal, 181, 226, 274

  Dover, 67, 72, 76;
    Roman Pharos, 243

  Dover, Straits of, 72, 77

  Drake, Sir Francis, 5;
    influence of Prince Henry the Navigator, 131;
    as navigator, 155;
    Cadiz expedition, 217;
    as strategist, 217

  “Drift-sail,” 226

  Duff, Capt., of H.M.S. _Mars_, 279

  Duncan, Admiral, 267, 270

  Dungeness, 77, 236, 289, 290

  Dungeness beacon, 243

  Dunnage, 289

  Dutch as shipbuilders, 231

  Dutch and English seamen, 16th century, 206

  Dutch wars. _See_ Anglo-Dutch wars

  East India Company’s service, 284–287;
    monopoly abolished and fleet disbanded, 287

  Ecnomus, battle of, 43, 62

  Eddystone Lighthouse destroyed, 272

  Edgar, King, 116

  Edward II, 144

  Edward III, poem on pilgrim ship of the time of, 147

  Edward VI, 133

  Egyptian corn-ships, 4, 57

  Egyptian kings of the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C. build large
          warships, 43

  Egyptians, the ancient, and the sea, 11, 12;
    Egyptian ships, 13;
    and naval warfare, 14;
    navigation of, 14;
    ships and boats in the life of the people, 14;
    shipbuilding, 15;
    not instinctively seamen, 16

  Einar Thambarskelfir, 108

  Elizabethan galleons, 5

  Elizabethan Navy, training of the seamen, 184;
    seamanship, 186;
    supremacy and colonial expansion, 186;
    clumsy warships, 186;
    types of vessels, 186;
    obstacles to boarding, 188;
    the tumble-home, 188;
    colours of ships, 188;
    steering, 189;
    arrangements of the ships, 188–91;
    sails, 190;
    armament, 191–4;
    the captain, 194;
    punishments of seamen, 194;
    the lieutenant, 194;
    duties of the crew, 195;
    watches, 196;
    food, 198–202;
    health, 198;
    chaplain and trumpeter, 199;
    life on board, 199;
    contemporary account of sailing, 199;
    sea terms in Elizabethan literature, 203;
    their slowness, 206;
    life of a captain, 207;
    neglect of the seamen’s comfort, 207;
    bad treatment, 208;
    wages at time of the Armada, 208;
    men of the service, 208;
    flag saluting, 208;
    cause of the impetus of the time, 209;
    navigation books, 211–16;
    instruments, 211, 212;
    strategy, tactics, and discipline, 217;
    court-martial, 218;
    fleet tactics, 218;
    seamanship, 219–20

  Elizabethan seamen as nautical experts, 171

  Emigration sailing ships to U.S.A., 283, 284

  English as shipbuilders, 231

  English Channel, winds, 72;
    the Romans in the, 72;
    tides, 74, 76;
    John Davis and, 211;
    piracy, 222

  Equator, the, 178

  Eric, son of Hakon, 109

  Ericson, Thorstein, 87

  Erith Dockyard, 181

  Erling Askew, 94, 101

  Erling Skialgson, 94

  Eruli, 91

  Espagnols sur Mer, Les, battle of, 144

  Eudoxus, 27

  Euphrates, shipbuilding on the, 17

  Euripides, terms in, 36

  Eustace the Monk, 143

  Exmouth, Admiral Lord, and pirates of Algiers, 224

  Exploration, claims in, 121

  Faroe Isles, 116

  Fenner, Capt., 217

  Fighting instructions, 270

  Fighting tops, 110

  Figureheads, 102, 280

  Fire, braziers of, used by Rhodians, 53

  Fireships, 53

  Flag, national, use of, by ancient Greeks, 48

  Flag saluting, 208

  Flamborough, 243

  Flamstead, John, 212

  Flemming (pirate), 222

  Fleur-de-lys on the compass, 120

  Flintshire, 243

  Flogging, 265, 286

  Fog signalling, 228

  Forelands, beacons on the, 243

  Forest of Dean, 275

  “Fothering,” 262

  Francesco da Barberino, 151

  Fraser, Edward, “Greenwich Royal Hospital,” 272

  French as shipbuilders, 231

  French Government and longitude, 254

  Froissart quoted, 145

  Galiotæ (galley-men), 141, 146

  Gama, Vasco da, 22, 131, 132, 134, 136

  Gambia, River, discovered, 134

  Gaul, Cæsar and, 77

  Genoa and the Genoese, 118, 121, 156, 180

  Geography, Phœnician influence on Greek geography, 26;
    Pytheas and geographical knowledge, 27;
    Greek and Roman, 114;
    Ptolemy and, 116

  George II establishes Naval Academy, 250;
    and naval uniform, 272

  Germany, 238

  Gibson, Richard, 240

  Gillianez, 134

  Gillingham Reach, 184

  “Glorious First of June,” A.D. 1794, 270, 271, 279

  Gloucester, 67

  Gnomon, the, 27

  Gogstad Viking ship replica, 90

  Gonzales, A., 134

  Goodwin Sands, 77

  Grapnels for boarding, 63, 101, 103

  Greece, Phœnician losses at invasion of, 20

  Greek fire, 142

  Greek ships, galley, 5;
    how built, 29, 35;
    warships and ramming, 30, 32;
    colouring and sails, 30;
    warships, oar-propelled, 31, 37;
    ballast, 32;
    their shape, 34;
    timber employed, 35;
    other details, 35–7;
    sailing seasons, 37;
    manning of warships, 37;
    biremes and triremes, 38–40;
    anchors, 44;
    quickly built, 46;
    materials for, 46;
    shipbuilding yards, 46;
    naval tactics, 47;
    seamen, 47;
    _diekplous_ and _periplous_, 48;
    admiral’s ships, 48;
    signalling, 49;
    seamanship, 50;
    officers, 50;
    a penteconter, 50–1;
    summary, 51

  Greek words used in connection with ships, 34–7, 39–41

  Greeks, Phœnician influence on the, 26

  Greenland, Venetian voyage to, 122

  Greenwich Observatory founded, 230

  Gregory, ship of, 101

  Guilds, seamen’s, 133, 171

  Gulf Stream, the, 88

  Gunnery at time of Armada, 219;
    at time of French wars, 280.
    _See also_ Artillery

  Gunnstein, 109

  Gunpowder, 262

  Gunter’s scale, 248

  Haddock, Capt., 242

  Hadley’s quadrant, 254

  Hadrian’s wall, 67

  Hair, human, for ropes, 54

  Hakluyt, Richard, quoted, 116, 171, 212

  Hakon, King, 98, 101, 109, 110

  Hales, Dr., 283

  Halogaland, 97;
    the Halogalanders as seamen, 105

  Halley, Edmund, on lead, latitude, and look-out, 253;
    quadrant, 212

  Hamblyn, Robert, 244

  Hammocks introduced by Columbus, 164

  Hannibalian War, slaves as oarsmen, 64

  Hanseatic League, 180

  Harald, King, 93, 98, 112

  Harald Hairfair, 93

  Harek of Thiotta, 94, 100

  Harrison, John and William, invent the chronometer, 254

  Harwich beacon, 243

  Hatsopsitu’s, Queen, expedition to Punt, 12

  Hawke, Lord, 230, 268, 273

  Hawkins, Sir John, and payment for his men, 222

  Hawse-pipes, 278

  Heave to, 160

  Heimskringla, the, 105

  Hellespont, bridge of boats across the, 23

  Henry VII, 170;
    encourages shipbuilding, 179

  Henry VIII, 133, 170;
    decoration of his ships, 181, 182

  Henry, Prince, the Navigator, 6;
    and Madeira, 122, 134;
    his influence, 126, 132, 133;
    settles at Sagres, 127;
    and the reaching of India, 127;
    his naval college, 128;
    his work, 129;
    sea route to India, 127, 129, 130;
    and the spread of the Catholic Church, 130;
    the results of his work, 131;
    the work of his pupils, 132;
    his discoveries, 134

  Herodotus on the Phœnicians, 21

  Hiero II of Syracuse, mosaics on ship of, 52

  Hipparchus, 115, 175

  Holland, States of, and longitude, 254

  Holmes, Mr. T. Rice, quoted, 69

  Homer, references in, to ships, 34;
    ship of Homer, 35

  Hood, Admiral, 265, 270

  Houlding, Capt., 241

  Hour-glass, Vikings and the, 89;
    hour and half-hourly glasses, 215, 254

  Howard, Lord, of Effingham, tactics of, 218;
    and the plague on his ships, 222

  Howe, Lord, tactics of, 270, 271

  Hull, Kingston-on-, 133;
    seamen’s guild, 171

  Hutchinson, William (“Practical Seamanship”), on a tyrannical
          captain, 249;
    on seamanship, 250;
    on the men of the merchant service, 251;
    on colliers, 252, 257;
    on boxhauling, 252;
    on the steering wheel, 256;
    on the barometer, 259;
    on squaresails, 260;
    pilots, 260;
    method of stopping leaks, 263;
    of scrubbing ship’s bottoms, 263;
    sails, 264

  Hynmers, Richard, 215

  Hypozomata, 30

  Iceland, 116

  India, sea path to, 118;
    Prince Henry the Navigator and sea route to, 127, 129, 130;
    the opening of the sea route to, 134;
    Portuguese expeditions to, 135;
    Vasco da Gama’s voyage, 136;
    Drake and the East Indian trade, 217

  Indian Ocean, 119

  Ingi, King, 93

  Irish Sea, pirates in the, 223

  Jamaica trade, 249

  James, St., shrine of, 147

  James I and pirates, 223, 224;
    ships of his time, 228

  James II, Navy in the time of, 229;
    and sea charts, 243

  Jervis, Admiral. _See_ St. Vincent, Lord

  “Jimmy Green,” 265, 283

  Jordaine, Sir Joseph, 242

  Kempenfelt, Capt., 269

  Keppel, Admiral, 266

  Kingsdown, 76

  Kingston-upon-Hull. _See_ Hull

  Knut, King, 94, 98, 106

  _Korumba_, 46

  L’s, the five, 252

  Lagos, 127, 128

  Lanterns, poop, of Stuart vessel, 246

  Launching, 17th century, 225;
    of the _Prince Royal_, 232 _et seq._;
    cf. “wooden walls,” 275

  Laws, maritime, of Rhodes, 55;
    Medieval codes, 151;
    Venetian, 153

  Lawson, Sir John, 241

  Leaks, methods of stopping, 262

  Lebanon timber for Phœnician ships, 18

  Leif, son of Eric the Red, 91

  Leonidas of Tarentum quoted, 33

  Lestock, Richard, 266

  Levant, The, 118

  Liburnians, the, of Dalmatia, 66

  Lieutenants, 17th century, 229;
    18th century, 251

  “Light of Navigation, The,” 228

  Lightbody, James, “Mariner’s Jewel,” 189, 225;
    on bittacles, 214

  Lighthouses, ancient Greek, 45;
    beacons, 243;
    the Argand lamp, 244

  Lights on promontories in the Middle Ages, 145, 243

  Lightships, 244

  Line of battle, 242

  Lisbon, 156

  Live stock on sailing ships, 283

  Liverpool pilots, 260

  Loadstone, the, 115

  Log-book, 256

  Log-line, introduction of the, 178, 216;
    patent log, 217

  Longitude, 211, 253;
    rewards for instruments, 254;
    by lunar observations, 254;
    the chronometer invented, 254

  Look-out, the, 228

  Lotus plant, the, in Egyptian ships, 15

  Lowestoft, battle of, 242;
    beacon, 243

  Lucian, 3, 57

  Lulli, Raymond, 129

  Macedonia, King of, builds large warships, 43

  Macham, discoverer of Madeira, 122

  Machico, 122

  Madeira, discovery of, 122;
    rediscovery, 134

  Magazines on men-o’-war, 277

  Magellan, Ferdinand, 131

  Magister, 146

  Magnus, ship of, 112

  Magnusson, Dr. Eirikr, quoted, 105, 107

  Mahan, Admiral, quoted, 268

  Malaga, battle of, 267

  Malocello, 118, 121

  Man, Isle of, 243

  Manger, 278

  Map-making, Ptolemy and, 116;
    early Venetian, 124;
    portolani, 124

  Marinelli (mariners), 141, 146

  Maritime arts only among seafaring people, 11

  Maritime discovery, the ancients and, 114

  Maritime progress, Prince Henry the Navigator and, 133

  Markham, Sir Clements, quoted on Seville training in navigation, 178

  Martin V, Pope, 134

  Maskelyne, Dr., Astronomer Royal, 254

  Maspero, Prof., on the Egyptians and the sea, 11

  Masts, length of, 17th century, 225

  Match-tubs, 282

  Matthews, Admiral Thomas, 266

  Mediterranean, the, Egyptian ships on the, 12;
    Phœnicians in the, 22

  Medway, the, 184

  Melinda, 136

  Men-o’-war. _See_ Wooden walls.

  Mercator, Gerard, “Mappemonde,” 219;
    chart, 248

  Meridians, converging, Ptolemy and, 116

  Messahala on the astrolabe, 175

  Meteorology. Virgil’s description of weather, 83–4

  Midshipmen, 18th century, 251

  Minnes, Vice-Admiral, 242

  Misenum, 66

  Missionaries as geographical discoverers, 117

  Monck, Admiral, 229, 241

  Monson, Sir William, “Naval Tracts,” 194, 198, 226

  Moon-dial, the, 248

  Moore’s “Midshipman’s Vocabulary,” 263

  Moorish pirates, 223

  Mozambique, 136

  Mutinies at Spithead, the Nore, etc., 267

  Mykenæans, the, and decorated sails, 51

  Myonnesos, battle of, 52

  Nansen, Dr., on Pytheas, 28;
    on the Vikings, 85, 90, 92

  Napier, John, and logarithms, 224

  Narrow Seas, the, 214, 219

  Nature, man and the forces of, 10

  Naumachia, 68

  Nautæ (sailors), 141, 146

  “Nautical Almanac,” 254

  Nautical words. _See_ Sea terms

  Naval Academy, Portsmouth, 250

  Naval education in Portugal, 128 _et seq._;
    in England, 229;
    in France, 230;
    17th century, 248;
    18th century, 250

  Naval warfare in England, early, 144;
    as a science, 182;
    18th-century tactics, 267, 268.
    _See also_ Tactics

  Navigation, the beginning of, 5;
    of the ancient Egyptians, 14;
    of the Phœnicians, 19, 22;
    Pytheas and, 27;
    as described by Virgil, 83;
    by instinct, 86;
    of the Vikings, 86–90;
    the ancients and, 114;
    the Arabians and, 122;
    Prince Henry the Navigator and, 128 _et seq._;
    first book on, by an Englishman, 211;
    early English books, 211–16;
    instruments of the Elizabethans, 211, 212;
    in the 17th century, 224;
    in the 18th century, 253;
    methods of 18th-century coasters, 257

  Navy, Royal. _See_ British Navy

  Neco, King of Egypt, and the circumnavigation of Africa, 21

  Nelson, Lord, signal at Trafalgar, 271;
    the battle of St. Vincent, 271;
    the _Victory_, 275;
    cost of a man-o’-war in his time, 276;
    colours of his ships, 280

  Nemi, Lake, Roman boats, 78, 81

  Nesiar, battle of, 101

  New Forest, 275

  Newcastle colliers, 230, 251, 256

  Newcastle-on-Tyne Seamen’s Guild, 133, 171

  Nile, the, 12

  Nile barge, huge, 43

  Nocturnal, the, 248

  Nore Lightship, 244

  Nore, mutiny at the, 267

  Norse discoveries, 117

  Norsemen, the, and navigation, 2.
    _See also_ Vikings

  North Foreland, battle off the, 242

  North-West Passage, 204

  Norwood, Richard, “Seaman’s Practice,” 216

  Nunez, Pedro, 178

  Oak for men-o’-war, 275

  Oarsmen on triremes, 39 _et seq._;
    on Viking ships, 112

  Octher, 116

  Officers of Navy of 18th century, 266

  Olaf Tryggvason, King, 94, 96, 100, 101, 103

  Oleron, laws of, 151

  Oppenheim, Mr. N., quoted, 182, 188

  Orfordness, 243

  Ostend, 241

  Palinurus, the pilot, 83

  Palos, 156

  Pavia University, Columbus at, 156

  Pay of Navy, mutinies, 267

  Pedro, Prince, 127

  Peloponnesian War, 38

  Penn, Admiral Sir William, 241

  _Pentekontoroi_ (Greek warships), 37, 50, 51

  Pepys, Samuel, 229

  Petrie, Prof. Flinders, on shipbuilding in Egypt, 15, 51

  Pett, Sir Phineas, 231

  Petts, the, as shipbuilders, 231

  Philip II, neglect of, in saluting, 209

  Philip III of Spain, 254

  Phœnicians, the, as seamen, 12, 16;
    build a fleet for Sennacherib, 17;
    a race of seamen, 18;
    their ships and crews, 18;
    their navigation, 19, 22;
    biremes, 19;
    their losses, 20;
    piracy, 20;
    their voyages, 21;
    circumnavigation of Africa, 21;
    the first great seamen, 23;
    engineers, 23;
    Xenophon’s record of their ships, 23;
    influence on the Greeks, 26

  Pilgrim ship of Edward III, 147

  Pilgrims as discoverers, 117

  Pilot, grand, of England, 133, 226

  Pilot major, 133, 170

  Pilots, 170; “loadsmen,” 172;
    Mersey, 260;
    Tyne, 260

  Piracy, Phœnician, 20;
    in Roman times, 66;
    in Tudor times, 184

  Pirates, Mediterranean, 152;
    in Elizabethan times, 222;
    17th century, 223;
    Moorish, 223;
    Tunisian, 224;
    Algerian, 224

  Plymouth Dockyard, 274

  Plymouth Sound, brig in, 257

  Pole, North, Pytheas and the, 27

  Polo, Marco, 130

  Popham, Admiral Edward, 229

  Popham’s, Sir Home, code, 271

  Portland, battle off, 1653, 240

  Portland beacon, 243

  Portolani, 124

  Portsmouth, first dry dock at, 180;
    dockyard established, 181;
    ships from, wintered on Medway, 184;
    dockyard, 226, 274;
    Naval Academy, 250

  Portuguese, their maritime knowledge, 125, 128;
    influence of, on seamanship, 133;
    concession to the King of Portugal, 134;
    their discoveries, 134, 135;
    discoverers able to keep at sea, 154;
    enterprise in shipbuilding, 219;
    as navigators, 219

  Post, Roman imperial, 57

  Powder-monkeys, 282

  Premiums on speed of tea clippers, 289

  Pressgang, the, 251

  Prester John, 135

  Privateering in Tudor times, 184;
    in 18th century, 261;
    tactics, 262

  Prize, division of, Elizabethan times, 197

  Provisioning by live stock, 283

  Ptolemy, 115, 116

  Ptolemy Philopator builds huge ship, 43

  Punic Wars, 62, 64

  Punt, Land of, 12

  Purser, 146

  Pursser (pirate), 222

  Pytheas of Massilia, the pioneer of navigation, 6, 27;
    his voyages of discovery, 28

  Quadrant, Davis’s, 212;
    Flamstead’s, 212;
    Halley’s, 212

  Quadriremes and quinquiremes, 38, 42–3

  Rameses II, galleys of, 12

  Ramming, Greek warships and, 30, 41;
    method of, by Rhodians, 52;
    in the Middle Ages, 143

  Raud the Unchristened, 104

  Ravenna, 66

  Ravens used by the Vikings, 87

  Rawlinson, Professor George, on biremes, 19;
    on Phœnician navigation, 22

  Reckonings, 256

  Rectores (masters), 141, 146

  Red Sea, the, 12

  Reef, 145

  Renaissance, the, and cartography, 124;
    and shipping, 170

  Rhodes, ancient, ships of, 52;
    celoces, 52;
    naval tactics, 52;
    ramming, 52;
    naval organisation, 53;
    shipbuilding, 53;
    sea prowess, 54;
    as a port, 54;
    sea law, 55;
    “Code Navale des Rhodiens,” 151

  Rhumb-lines, 213

  Richard I and his Crusader fleet, 139;
    his naval tactics, 143

  Richardson, Wm., “A Mariner of England,” 264

  Rigging, wire, 289

  Rochelle, action off, 273

  Rodney, Admiral Lord, 230;
    signals, 266;
    Battle of the Saints, 268;
    victories of, 270

  Roman boat found at Westminster, 78–81

  Roman galley, 5;
    shipowners, 56–7;
    merchants and barge-owners, 57;
    corn-ships, 57;
    warships, 61, 65;
    docks, 62;
    the fleets, 62, 66, 67;
    naval warfare, 62;
    squadrons, 64;
    standing navy abolished, 64;
    Romans not seamen, 64;
    naval officers, 64;
    piracy, 66;
    the classiarii, 67;
    influence of the navy on land, 68;
    Cæsar’s fleet, 69;
    its tactics, 70;
    invasion of Britain, 72–7;
    as shipwrights, 77–82;
    Romano-British ships, 79;
    boat found at Westminster, 78–81;
    Lake Nemi boats, 78, 81–2;
    Virgil’s descriptions, 82–4

  Roman pharos at Dover, 243

  Rome, victualling of, 56;
    docks at, 62

  Romney Marsh, 77

  Ropes, ancient Greek, 31

  “Rosa Solis,” 207

  Royal Naval College, 250

  Royal Navy. _See_ British Navy

  Rudders of Viking ships, 107;
    change of position of rudders, 146, 152

  Rupert, Prince, 242

  Ruyter’s, Admiral de, 242

  Sagas, descriptions from the, 92 _et seq._

  Sagres, 127–9

  Sailing season, 151

  Sailors. _See_ Seamen

  Sails, ancient Greek, 30;
    in the Middle Ages, 137, 145;
    of the Elizabethan ships, 190;
    18th century, 264;
    spritsails, 265;
    beginning of the 19th century, 283

  St. Albans (Aldhelm’s) Head light, 145, 243

  St. Andrew’s cross, 209

  St. George’s ensign, 183, 209

  St. Vincent, Admiral Lord, 230, 270

  St. Vincent, battle of, 271

  Saints, Battle of the (1782), 265, 268, 270

  Salamis, battle of, triremes at, 38

  Saluting by flag, 208

  Sandgate, 76

  Sandwich, Earl, 240, 242

  Sandwich, 276

  Scandinavians as sailors, 93

  “Scarfing,” 282

  Schey, Rear-Admiral, 243

  Scribes on Mediterranean ships, 153

  Scuppers, 278

  Sea, humanity’s debt to the, 6;
    fear of the, 11

  Sea sayings, 263

  Sea sense, the, 8

  Sea terms in Homer, etc., 35 _et seq._;
    in Elizabethan literature, 203;
    in current use, 206

  Seamanship becoming a lost art, 4;
    slowness of advance in early times, 120;
    of the Middle Ages, 137 _et seq._;
    first book on, 151;
    of time of Columbus, 160;
    early treatises on, 171;
    East India Company’s service and, 287;
    in the 19th century, 274

  Seamen, hardships of, 3, 7;
    the want of consideration for, 7;
    the seaman character, 8;
    bond between, 8;
    of the 18th century, 251, 266

  Sennacherib and his fleet, 16

  Senofern and shipbuilding in ancient Egypt, 15

  Seppings, Sir Robert, 282

  Sesostris, sacred barge of, 16;
    huge Nile barge, 43

  Seville, Contractation House, 170

  Seville training in navigation, 178

  Sextant, the, 174, 254

  Seyffert, Dr. Oskar, and Greek ships, 38

  Shakespeare and sea terms, 203

  Sheathing with copper, 226, 275

  Sheer hulk, 275

  Sheerness Dockyard, 274

  Ship of the 13th century described, 140;
    fighting methods, 142

  Shipbuilding in ancient Egypt, 15;
    earliest English book on, 224;
    of wooden ships under cover, 282

  Shipowners, Roman, servants of the State, 52–3

  Ships, ancient Egyptian, 13–16

  Ships, measuring of, 224;
    construction of, 17th century, 227;
    painted red internally, 246, 280

  Ship’s bottoms, scrubbing, 263

  Ships named:
    _Association_, 273
    _Assurance_, 240
    _Bison_, 103
    _Blanche Nef_, 138
    _Capitana_, 165
    _Centaur_, 82
    _Chimæra_, 82
    _Crane_, 96, 101, 104
    _Dorsetshire_, 273
    _Dragon_, 104
    _Eagle_, 273
    _Edinburgh_, 273
    _Elizabeth_, 204
    _Fairfax_, 241
    _Falcon_, 288
    _Fiery Cross_, 288
    _George_, 237
    _Goddess Isis_, 59
    _Great Harry_, 181
    _Helene_, 204
    _Long Worm_, 96, 101
    _Marigalante_, 197
    H.M.S. _Mars_, 279
    _Mary_ (Charles II), 5, 241
    _Mauretania_, 4
    H.M.S. _Minerva_, 264
    _Nina_, 155, 157 _et seq._
    _Olympic_, 4
    _Pinta_, 155, 157 _et seq._
    _Prince Royal_, 231–5
    _Pristis_, 82
    _Radians_, 79
    _Red Lion_, 204
    _Royal James_, 242
    _Ruby_, 241
    _San Felipe_, 217, 218
    _Santa Maria_, 155 _et seq._;
      described, 163
    _Scylla_, 82
    _Seaforth_, 289
    _Short Worm_, 97, 101, 103, 104
    _Sovereign of the Seas_, 244
    _Speaker_, 241
    _Sunneshine_, 204
    _Swiftsure_, 237
    _Taeping_, 290
    _Triumph_, 240, 241
    _Vanguard_, 241
    _Victory_ (Nelson’s), 275
    _Worm_, 97, 101, 103, 104

  Ships, types of, named:
    Aphraktos, 65
    Barque, 204
    Bireme, 19, 40, 66
    Brig, 252, 257
    Carabela (caravel), 128, 137, 157, 168
    Carack, 219
    Celox, 52
    Ceol, 110
    Clipper, 274, 288, 289
    Cock-boat, 199
    Collier, 251, 256
    Dieres, 52
    Dragon, 96, 112
    Dromon, 94
    East Indiaman, 249, 274, 284
    Frigate, 276
    Galleon, 199
    Galley, 12, 46
    Kataphraktos, 65
    Kaupskip, 95
    Keel, 110
    Knörr, 95
    Lateener, 168
    Lembus, 65, 66
    Liburnian, 66
    Man-o’-war, “high charged,” 186;
      “wooden walls,” 274
    Navis aperta, 66
    Navis tecta, 65
    Pentekontoros, 37, 38, 50, 51, 65
    Penteres, 52
    Pinnace, 190
    Privateer, 261
    Quadrireme, 42, 51, 65
    Quinquireme, 38, 43, 51, 62, 64–6
    Skeid, 95
    Skuta, 95
    Snekkja, 95
    Tea clipper, 274, 288, 289
    Three-decker, 276, 283
    Tetreres, 52
    Triemiolia, 52
    Triremes, 24, 38–40, 50, 51, 54, 62, 65, 66, 79

  Shoreham, battle of, 183

  Shovel, Sir Cloudesley, wreck of, 254;
    on Great Storm, 272

  Sicily, King of, builds large warships, 43

  Sidney, Sir Philip, 190

  Sidon, sailors of, 17, 20, 22

  Signal book, 270

  Signalling, ancient Greek, 49;
    in Tudor times, 183;
    17th century, 227

  Signals, Rodney’s, 266, 268

  Sigurd, King, 93, 95, 100, 106

  Sigurd, Bishop, 104

  “Skipper,” 206

  Skopti, 109

  Slave trade, Phœnician, 20

  Sluys, battle of, 144

  Smith, Capt. John, “Accidence,” 195;
    account of life aboard an Elizabethan ship, 199;
    on pirates, 222

  Sofala, 136

  Solebay, battle of, 242

  Sounding lead, Vikings use, 89

  South Pole, 204

  Southampton Water, 263

  Spain and iron supplies, Tudor times, 180;
    jealousy of, in Elizabethan days, 209

  Spaniards and gunnery, Armada, 219

  Spanish warships, sailors cook for themselves on board, 153;
    signalling in the, 183

  Spars, steel, 289

  Speed recording without log, 158

  Spithead, mutiny at, 267

  Spritmast, 283

  Squaresails, 260

  Starboard, 108

  Statham’s “Privateers and Privateering,” 261

  Steel, Robert, and Son, Greenock, 288

  Steering wheels, 256, 272–3

  Sterns, decorated, 280, 282

  Stokes Bay, 239

  Storm, great, of 1703, 272

  Strabo on the Sidonian navigation, 22

  Stuart seamanship, 235

  Stuart warships, 244;
    rig and sails, 244;
    decks and armament, 245–6;
    workmanship and decoration, 245–8

  Sturmanni (steersmen), 141, 146

  Suez Canal, 288

  Surgeons, 282

  Svein, King, 93, 101, 108

  Swearing, 265

  Swin Channel, 214, 258

  Syria, 152

  Tacking, the art of, 10

  Tactics, naval, 17th century, 238;
    in Anglo-Dutch war, 239;
    line-ahead, 239;
    schools of, 240;
    18th century, 268;
    French, 268;
    Clerk’s “Naval Tactics,” 269;
    Lord Howe’s changes, 270;
    Jervis’s tactics, 271

  Tampion’s portable barometer, 259

  Tartaglia, Nicholas, “Arte of Shooting,” 216

  Tea clippers, 288, 289

  Tetricus the Elder, 78

  Texel, mutiny off the, 267

  Thames estuary, 77, 214, 258

  Thames, Roman boat found in the, 78–81

  Thames waterman as seaman, 12

  Thanet, 77

  Themistocles and a navy, 38

  Thole-pins, 35

  Thorburg Shavehewer, 96, 97

  Thorleif the Sage, 109

  Thorowgood, Capt. Thomas, 236

  Tides, the, Pytheas and, 28;
    in the English channel, 74, 76

  Tigris, shipbuilding on the, 17

  Tillers, steering, in use, 1703, 272

  Timber of ancient Greek vessels, 35

  Time as recorded by Elizabethans, 215

  Tin, Phœnicians and, 21, 26

  Tonnage, reckoning by, 197

  Torr, Mr. Cecil, quoted, 45, 49, 54

  Torres, Capt. Antonio de, 197

  Torrington, Lord, 243

  Tower of London, 184

  Trade routes, ancient, and the Phœnicians, 26

  “Trade” wind, 207

  Trafalgar, battle of, 279;
    Nelson’s signal, 271

  “Trani, Loi de,” 151

  Travel, desire for, 121

  Traverse board, 256

  Trestle-trees, 207

  Triremes, Greek, 38;
    arrangement of, 39;
    number of oars, 40;
    rigging, 42

  Tristan, 134

  Tromp, Marten, 238, 239

  Trumpeter on Elizabethan ships, 199

  Tudor colours, the, 181

  Tudor period, sailors in the, 17

  Tudor ships, life on, 179;
    victualling, 179;
    health, 179;
    shipbuilding, 180;
    naval weapons, 180;
    foreign shipbuilding for Henry VIII, 180;
    artillery, 181;
    decorated ships, 181, 182;
    crew of the _Great Harry_, 181;
    rate of pay, 182;
    fleet orders, 182;
    signalling, 183;
    tactics, 183

  Tunisian pirates, 224

  Tyne, the, 257;
    Tyne pilots, 260

  Uniforms originate in France, 230;
    adopted in English Navy, 271;
    how blue and white originated, 272

  Union Jack, 245

  United States, emigration sailing ships to, 283;
    length of voyage, 284

  Veneti, the, 69

  Venetian maps, 124;
    shipping season restricted, 152;
    shipping laws, 153;
    and the Atlantic, 154;
    position on the sea, 154;
    decline, 154

  Venetians, the, 118, 122

  Venice, Arsenal at, 180

  Ventilation of ships, 283

  Vikings, the, ships, 4, 5;
    as seamen, 16;
    as warriors and explorers, 85;
    their sea sense, 86;
    sense of time, 87;
    navigation methods, 87–90;
    and discovery of North America, 90;
    replica of Gogstad ship’s voyage, 90;
    extent of voyages, 90;
    provisioning, 91;
    descriptions from the Sagas, 92–5;
    moving of ships, 93;
    winter sailing, 92, 93;
    species of craft, 95;
    building a ship, 96;
    fitting-out season, 100;
    naval tactics, 101;
    sails, 105;
    steering, 107;
    cables, 108;
    precedence for berthing, 109;
    row-boats, 109;
    mooring, 110;
    fighting tops, 110;
    awnings, 110;
    messing, 111;
    bailing, 112;
    oarsmen, 112;
    fighters and seamen, 113;
    as discoverers, 117, 121

  Virgil’s description of ships and sea, 82–4

  Vivaldi, 118

  Volusenus, 72

  Voyages without navigational methods, 6

  Wagenaer’s atlas, 214;
    charts, 219

  War and shipbuilding, 85

  War vessels, ancient, 43, 44

  Wars of the Roses, 85

  “Watches” in Elizabethan ships, 196

  Water-compass, 119

  West Indies, 170. _See also_ Columbus

  Westminster, Roman boat found at, 78–81

  Whales, observations by, 88

  Whipstaff, 189

  William the Conqueror, 5, 138

  Winds, waves, and tides, awe of, 10

  Wissant, 75

  Wolf the Red, 97

  “Wooden walls,” 274;
    oak for the, 275;
    the life of, 275;
    building, 275;
    rig, description, and cost, 276;
    cables, 277, 278;
    colours of, 279, 280;
    gunnery, 280

  Woolwich Dockyard established, 181, 226, 274

  Woolwich, launch at, in 1610, 232

  Wright, Edward, “Haven-finding Art,” “Certaine Errors in
          Navigation,” 212

  Xenophon on Phœnician ships, 23

  Xerxes and the Phœnicians, 23

  Yarmouth Roads, 257

  Young, Capt., and neglect of Dutch to salute, 208

  Zamorano, Roderigo, 133, 171

  Zeno, the brothers, 122






Upper illustration shows method of framing. Lower illustration gives
plan of upper deck, indicating positions of windlass, masts, hatches,
capstan, pump, etc. (See Chapter X.)]





Length between perpendiculars, 108 ft. 3¼ in. Extreme breadth, 27 ft. 6
in. Depth, 12 ft. Length on keel, 82 ft.]



Length between perpendiculars, 185 ft. Extreme breadth, 29 ft. 1000
tons displacement.]


Length between perpendiculars, 262 ft. 6 in. Extreme breadth, 45 ft.
2600 tons burthen.]


[1] “Phœnicia,” by George Rawlinson. London, 1889.

[2] I have availed myself of Mr. H. G. Dakyns’ excellent translation of
“The Works of Xenophon,” Vol. III, Part I. London, 1897.

[3] Given in “Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology,” by J. W.
Mackail. London, 1911.

[4] _Ibid._

[5] _Ibid._

[6] “A Dictionary of Classical Antiquities.” London, 1902.

[7] See Fig. 24 of “Sailing Ships and their Story.”

[8] Given on page 212 of Mackail, _ut supra_.

[9] Taken from Plate LII in “Peintures Antiques de Vases Grecs de la
Collection de Sir John Coghill, Bart.,” par James Millingen. Rome, 1817.

[10] “Journal of Hellenic Studies,” Vol. XII, p. 203.

[11] “Journal of Hellenic Studies,” Vol. XI, p. 193.

[12] “Rhodes in Ancient Times,” by Cecil Torr. Cambridge, 1885.

[13] “Six Dialogues of Lucian,” translated into English by S. T. Irwin.
London, 1894.

[14] “The Remains of Ancient Rome,” by J. H. Middleton. London, 1892.

[15] “Cæsar’s Conquest of Gaul,” by T. Rice Holmes. Oxford, 1911.

[16] “Sailing Ships and their Story.”

[17] See article in “The Yachting Monthly,” Vol. XII, p. 81, “The
Shipwrights of Rome.”

[18] “Northern Mists: Arctic Exploration in Early Times,” by Fridtjof
Nansen, 2 vols. London, 1911.

[19] That is to say they were still existing about A.D. 1180.

[20] That is to say 148 feet: grass-lying means straight.

[21] See “The Saga Library,” edited by William Morris and Eirikr
Magnusson. London, 1905. I am indebted to this edition for the extracts
which I here make from the Sagas, and also for some valuable matter
given in the notes to that edition.

[22] “The Story of the British Navy.” London, 1911.

[23] Grieves.

[24] Haste.

[25] Arrange.

[26] “You’re standing too close beside your mate so that he cannot

[27] Shout.

[28] Go aloft.

[29] Taylia = “tally aft the sheet”--“haul aft,” etc.

[30] Stow.

[31] “No nearer”--“don’t come any nearer to the wind.”

[32] “Thou failest”--“you’re slacking.”

[33] “Wartake” may mean “war-tackle,” but what exactly that signifies
no one to-day has been able to suggest.

[34] i.e. lay the cloth.

[35] “Pery” means “squall.”

[36] “Thow canst no whery” = “you mustn’t complain”--“you know nothing
about these matters.”

[37] Malmsey.

[38] Boiled nor roast.

[39] “My head will be cleft in three”--“my head is splitting.”

[40] “Gere” means “tools.” Lightly constructed cabins were knocked
together on these Viking-like ships by the ship’s carpenter to
accommodate passengers.

[41] Lie.

[42] Evidently some of the passengers had to sleep in the hold, whence
the stench of the bilge-water and the accumulation of filth made their
life very trying.

[43] “Dawn of Navigation,” in “Proceedings of the United States Naval
Institute,” Vol. XXXII. Annapolis, 1906.

[44] Far from having been expressly built for exploration, the _Santa
Maria_ had been constructed for the well-known trading voyages to
Flanders. The _Pinta_ and _Nina_ had been built for the Mediterranean

[45] Sir Clements Markham states that the bonnet was usually cut
one-third the size of the mizzen, or one-quarter of the mainsail, being
secured to the leach by eyelet holes.

[46] The italics are mine.

[47] i.e. “lie at hull”--the Elizabethan word for “heave to.”

[48] i.e. lie to a drift-sail or sea-anchor.

[49] i.e. an azimuth compass.

[50] This is thought to have been some instrument showing how the line
of the course cuts the several meridians, those meridians being drawn
upon their proper inclination.

[51] The derivation of the word _Flame_-borough or Flamborough at once
suggests a burning beacon.

[52] “Greenwich Royal Hospital,” by Edward Fraser.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in the original book; otherwise they
were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalanced quotation
marks were remedied when the change was obvious, and otherwise left

Illustrations in this eBook have been positioned between paragraphs
and outside quotations. In versions of this eBook that support
hyperlinks, the page references in the List of Illustrations lead to
the corresponding illustrations.

In some of the original illustrations, details, particularly words,
were unreadable, and the image quality of a few originals was
significantly worse than the others.

The HTML version of this eBook can display larger versions of some of
the “Plan” diagrams found at the end of the book, but, when this eBook
was prepared, the .mobi and .epub versions did not support those larger

The index was not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page

Text uses both “lodestone” and “loadstone”, “a side” and “aside”.

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