Caravel

From Academic Kids

A caravel is a small, highly maneuverable, three-masted ship used by the Portuguese and Spanish for long voyages of exploration beginning in the 15th century.

Although the carrack represented the state of the art in later medieval shipbuilding, there were purposes for which it was not appropriate. Initially carracks were used for exploration by the Spanish and Portuguese venturing out along the west African coast and into the Atlantic Ocean. But large, full-rigged ships could not always be sailed with the precision necessary for inshore surveying in unknown waters. The explorers soon came to prefer smaller carracks of around 100 tons, or the light three-masted Mediterranean lateen-rigged vessels known as caravels.

Because of its smaller size the caravel was able to explore upriver in shallow coastal waters. With the lateen sails affixed it was able to go speedily over shallow water and take deep wind, while with the square Atlantic-type sails attached, the caravel was very fast. Its economy, speed, agility, and power made the caravel esteemed as the best sailing vessel of its time. It generally carried two or three masts with lateen sails, while later types had four masts.

Early caravels were usually two-masters of around 50 tons with an overall length of between 20–30 m and a high length-to-beam ratio of around 7:1 making them very fast and manoeuvrable. Towards the end of the 15th century the caravel was modified by giving it the same rig as a carrack with a foresail, square mainsail and lateen mizzen but, unlike the unweatherly carrack, the caravel did not have a high forecastle or much of a sterncastle. In this form it was known as the caravela redonda and it was in such ships that Christopher Columbus set out on his famous expedition in 1492; Santa Maria was a small carrack which served as the mother ship, and Pinta and Nina were caravels of around 20 m with a beam of 7 m.

Other types of sailing vessel

Template:Sailing Vessels and Rigsde:Kraweel fr:Caravelle (navire) ja:キャラヴェル船 pl:Karawela pt:Caravela

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