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This article is about the Caravel boat. For the carvel type of boat building, see Carvel .



Caravela Latina / Lateen-rigged Caravel


Caravela Redonda / Square-rigged Caravel


A caravel is a small, highly maneuverable, two- or three-masted lateen-rigged ship, created by the Portuguesemarker and used by them as well as by the Spanishmarker for long voyages of exploration from the 15th century.

History

The caravel was developed in the Atlantic under the order of prince Henry the Navigator and became the preferred vessel for Portuguese explorers. Its name may derive from an earlier Arab boat known as the qārib.n came to prefer the caravel, as well as the barge (barca) or the balinger (barinel) of around 50 to 200 tons. Being smaller, the caravel could sail upriver in shallow coastal waters. With the lateen sails attached, it could go fast over shallow water and take deep wind, while with the square Atlantic-type sails attached, it was very fast. Its economy, speed, agility, and power made it esteemed as the best sailing vessel of its time. The exploration done with caravels made possible the spice trade of the Portuguese and the Spanish. However for the trade itself, the caravel was later replaced by the larger Nau which was more profitable for trading.

Description

The caravel generally carried two or three masts with lateen sails, while later types had four masts. Early caravels usually had two masts, a weight of around 50 tons, an overall length of 20 to 30 m, a high length-to-beam ratio of around 3.5:1, and narrow ellipsoidal frame (unlike the circular frame of the nau), making them very fast and maneuverable but with somewhat low capacity. Towards the end of the 15th century, the caravel was occasionally modified by giving it the same rig as a carrack with a foresail, square mainsail and lateen mizzen, but not the carrack's high forecastle or much of a sterncastle, which would make it unweatherly. In this form it was sometimes known as caravela redonda (a bulging square sail is said to be round, redonda, in the Iberian tradition). It was in such ships that Christopher Columbus set out on his expedition in 1492; Santa Maria was a small carrack which served as the flagship, and Pinta and Niña were slightly larger caravels of around 30 m with a beam of 6 m and weighing about 100 tons.

In the first half of the 16th century, the Portuguese created a specialized fighting ship also called caravela redonda to act as an escort in Brazilmarker and in the East Indies route. It had a foremast with square sails and three other masts with a lateen each, for a total of 4 masts. The hull was galleon-shaped, and some experts consider this vessel a forerunner of the fighting galleon. The Portuguese Man o' War was named after this curious type of fighting ship which was in use until the 18th century.

Notes

  1. Notice in the Musée de la Marine.
  2. John M. Hobson (2004), [1], p. 141, Cambridge University Press


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