This article is about the Caravel boat. For the carvel
type of boat building, see Carvel .
Caravela Latina / Lateen-rigged
caravel is a small, highly maneuverable, two- or
three-masted lateen-rigged ship, created by the Portuguese and used by them as well as by the Spanish for long
voyages of exploration from the 15th century.
Caravela Redonda / Square-rigged
The caravel was developed in the Atlantic under the order of
prince Henry the
and became the preferred vessel for Portuguese
explorers. Its name may derive from an earlier Arab boat known as
.n came to prefer the caravel, as well as the
) or the balinger
) of around 50 to
. 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.
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
, square mainsail
and lateen mizzen
but not the carrack's high forecastle
much of a sterncastle
, which would make it
unweatherly. In this form it was sometimes known as caravela
(a bulging square sail is said to be round,
, in the Iberian tradition). It was in such ships
that Christopher Columbus
out on his expedition in 1492; Santa Maria
was a small carrack
which served as the flagship, and
were slightly larger caravels of around
30 m with a beam of 6 m and weighing about 100
first half of the 16th century, the Portuguese created a
specialized fighting ship also called caravela redonda to
act as an escort in Brazil 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
named after this curious type of fighting ship which was in use
until the 18th century.
- Notice in the Musée de la Marine.
- John M. Hobson (2004), , p. 141, Cambridge University Press