Early European Sailships

Early European Sailships

Source: Unknown.

The caravel was the first major breakthrough in European maritime technology. In Spain and Portugal, the earliest known caravels were constructed starting from the 13th Century. These early caravels were small, three-mast vessels with a crew of 5 or 6 sailors and were about 50 tons in size. They were used as fishing boats or coastal cargo ships since navigation could not permit high seas faring until the middle of the 14th century.

From the 1430s to the 1530s, caravels were used for trade and exploration. By that time, many caravels were between 100 and 200 tons in size and were armed with cannons. The most famous caravels were the Nina and the Pinta, which sailed with Columbus on his maiden voyage to the New World but were are small in size (50 and 75 tons respectively). The third ship, the Santa Maria, was a small-sized carrack of 100 tons. Caravels gradually disappeared in the late 16th century and carracks in the early 17th century. They were replaced by the galleon, a much larger ship of 400 tons on average, with some reaching 1,000 to 1,500 tons.