A carrack (Portuguese : nau, Spanish : nao, Catalan : carraca) was a three- or four-masted ocean-going sailing ship that was developed in the 14th to 15th centuries in Europe, most notably in Portugal. Evolved from the single-masted cog, the carrack was first used for European trade from the Mediterranean to the Baltic and quickly found use with the newly found wealth of the trans-Atlantic trade between Europe and Africa and then the Americas. In their most advanced forms, they were used by the Portuguese for trade between Europe and Asia starting in the late 15th century, before eventually being superseded in the 17th century by the galleon, introduced in the 16th century.
In its most developed form, the carrack was a carvel-built ocean-going ship: large enough to be stable in heavy seas, and for a large cargo and the provisions needed for very long voyages. The later carracks were square-rigged on the foremast and mainmast and lateen-rigged on the mizzenmast. They had a high rounded stern with large aftcastle, forecastle and bowsprit at the stem. As the predecessor of the galleon, the carrack was one of the most influential ship designs in history; while ships became more specialized in the following centuries, the basic design remained unchanged throughout this period.
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English carrack was loaned in the late 14th century, via Old French caraque, from carraca, a term for a large, square-rigged sailing vessel used in Spanish, Italian and Middle Latin.
These ships were called caravela or nau in Portuguese and Genoese, carabela or nao in Spanish, caraque or nef in French, and kraak in Dutch.
The origin of the term carraca is unclear, perhaps from Arabic qaraqir "merchant ship", itself of unknown origin (maybe from Latin carricare "to load a car" or Greek καρκαρίς "load of timber") or the Arabic القُرْقُورُ (al-qurqoor) and from thence to the Greek κέρκουρος (kerkouros) meaning approximately "lighter" (barge) (literally, "shorn tail", a possible reference to the ship's flat stern). Its attestation in Greek literature is distributed in two closely related lobes. The first distribution lobe, or area, associates it with certain light and fast merchantmen found near Cyprus and Corfu. The second is an extensive attestation in the Oxyrhynchus corpus, where it seems most frequently to describe the Nile barges of the Ptolemaic pharaohs. Both of these usages may lead back through the Phoenician to the Akkadian kalakku, which denotes a type of river barge. The Akkadian term is assumed to be derived from a Sumerian antecedent. A modern reflex of the word is found in Arabic and Turkish kelek "raft; riverboat".
By the Late Middle Ages the cog, and cog-like square-rigged vessels equipped with a rudder at the stern, were widely used along the coasts of Europe, from the Mediterranean, to the Baltic. Given the conditions of the Mediterranean, galley type vessels were extensively used there, as were various two masted vessels, including the caravels with their lateen sails. These and similar ship types were familiar to Portuguese navigators and shipwrights. As the Portuguese gradually extended their trade ever further south along Africa's Atlantic coast during the 15th century, they needed larger, more durable and more advanced sailing ships for their long oceanic ventures. Gradually, they developed their own models of oceanic carracks from a fusion and modification of aspects of the ship types they knew operating in both the Atlantic and Mediterranean, generalizing their use in the end of the century for inter-oceanic travel with a more advanced form of sail rigging that allowed much improved sailing characteristics in the heavy winds and waves of the Atlantic Ocean and a hull shape and size that permitted larger cargoes. In addition to the average tonnage naus, some large naus (carracks) were also built in the reign of John II of Portugal, but were only widespread after the turn of the century. The Portuguese carracks were usually very large ships for their time, often over 1000 tons,and having the future large naus of the India run and of the China and Japan trade, also other new types of design.
A typical three-masted carrack such as the São Gabriel had six sails: bowsprit, foresail, mainsail, mizzensail and two topsails.
In the middle of the 16th century the first galleons were developed from the carrack. The galleon design came to replace that of the carrack although carracks were still in use as late as the middle of the 17th century due to their larger cargo capacity.
Starting in 1498, Portugal initiated for the first time direct and regular exchanges between Europe and India—and the rest of Asia thereafter—through the Cape Route, a journey that required the use of larger vessels, such as carracks, due to its unprecedented length, about 6 months.
On average, 4 carracks connected Lisbon to Goa carrying gold to purchase spices and other exotic items, but mainly pepper. From Goa, one carrack went on to Ming China in order to purchase silks. Starting in 1541, the Portuguese began trading with Japan, exchanging Chinese silk for Japanese silver; in 1550 the Portuguese Crown started to regulate trade to Japan, by leasing the annual "captaincy" to Japan to the highest bidder at Goa, in effect conferring exclusive trading rights for a single carrack bound for Japan every year. In 1557 the Portuguese acquired Macau to develop this trade in partnership with the Chinese. That trade continued with few interruptions until 1638, when it was prohibited by the rulers of Japan on the grounds that the ships were smuggling Catholic priests into the country. The Japanese called Portuguese carracks "Black Ships" (kurofune), referring to the colour of the ship's hulls. This term would eventually come to refer to any western vessel, not just Portuguese.
The word caracca and derivative words is popularly used in reference to a cumbersome individual, to an old vessel, or to a vehicle in a very bad condition.
A sailing ship is a sea-going vessel that uses sails mounted on masts to harness the power of wind and propel the vessel. There is a variety of sail plans that propel sailing ships, employing square-rigged or fore-and-aft sails. Some ships carry square sails on each mast—the brig and full-rigged ship, said to be "ship-rigged" when there are three or more masts. Others carry only fore-and-aft sails on each mast—schooners. Still others employ a combination of square and fore-and aft sails, including the barque, barquentine, and brigantine. Sailing ships developed differently in Asia, which produced the junk and dhow—vessels that incorporated innovations absent in European ships of the time. Technically in the Age of Sail a ship was a specific type of vessel, with a bowsprit and three masts, each of which consists of a lower, top, and topgallant mast.
A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th century to the mid-19th century. The ship of the line was designed for the naval tactic known as the line of battle, which depended on the two columns of opposing warships maneuvering to fire with the cannons along their broadsides. In conflicts where opposing ships were both able to fire from their broadsides, the opponent with more cannons—and therefore more firepower—typically had an advantage. Since these engagements were almost invariably won by the heaviest ships carrying the most powerful guns, the natural progression was to build sailing vessels that were the largest and most powerful of their time.
A brigantine is a two-masted sailing vessel with a fully square rigged foremast and at least two sails on the main mast: a square topsail and a gaff sail mainsail. The main mast is the second and taller of the two masts.
Galleons were large, multi-decked sailing ships first used as armed cargo carriers by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries during the age of sail and were the principal fleet units drafted for use as warships until the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the mid-1600s. Galleons generally carried three or more masts with a lateen fore-and-aft rig on the rear masts, were carvel built with a prominent squared off raised stern, and used square-rigged sail plans on their fore-mast and main-masts.
The caravel was a small, highly maneuverable sailing ship developed in the 15th century by the Portuguese to explore along the West African coast and into the Atlantic Ocean. The lateen sails gave it speed and the capacity for sailing windward (beating). Caravels were used by the Portuguese and Castilians for the oceanic exploration voyages during the 15th and 16th centuries in the Age of Discovery.
A cog is a type of ship that first appeared in the 10th century, and was widely used from around the 12th century on. Cogs were clinker-built, generally of oak. These vessels were fitted with a single mast and a square-rigged single sail. They were mostly associated with seagoing trade in north-west medieval Europe, especially the Hanseatic League. Typical seagoing cogs ranged from about 15 to 25 meters in length, with a beam of 5 to 8 meters and were 30–200 tons burthen. Cogs were rarely as large as 300 tons although a few were considerably larger, over 1,000 tons.
The Black Ships was the name given to Western vessels arriving in Japan in the 16th and 19th centuries.
A lateen or latin-rig is a triangular sail set on a long yard mounted at an angle on the mast, and running in a fore-and-aft direction.
Square rig is a generic type of sail and rigging arrangement in which the primary driving sails are carried on horizontal spars which are perpendicular, or square, to the keel of the vessel and to the masts. These spars are called yards and their tips, beyond the last stay, are called the yardarms. A ship mainly rigged so is called a square-rigger.
A full-rigged ship or fully rigged ship is a sailing vessel's sail plan with three or more masts, all of them square-rigged. A full-rigged ship is said to have a ship rig or be ship-rigged.
La Pinta was the fastest of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first transatlantic voyage in 1492. The New World was first sighted by Rodrigo de Triana aboard La Pinta on 12 October 1492. The owner of La Pinta was Cristóbal Quintero. The Quintero brothers were ship owners from Palos. The owner of the ship allowed Martín Alonso Pinzón to take over the ship so he could keep an eye on the ship.
The naval Battle of Ponta Delgada, Battle of São Miguel or specifically the Battle of Vila Franca do Campo took place on 26 July 1582, off the coast of the island of São Miguel in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, during the War of the Portuguese Succession. A combined corsair expedition, mainly French, sailed against a Spanish naval force made up of Portuguese and Castilian ships, to preserve control of the Azores under pretender António, Prior of Crato and to defend the islands from incorporation into the Iberian Union—the largest French force sent overseas before the age of Louis XIV.
The ships of Medieval Europe were powered by sail or oar, or both. There was a large variety, mostly based on much older conservative designs. Although wider and more frequent communications within Europe meant exposure to a variety of improvements, experimental failures were costly and rarely attempted. Ships in the north were influenced by Viking vessels, while those in the south by classical or Roman vessels. However, there was technological change. The different traditions used different construction methods; clinker in the north, carvel in the south. By the end of the period, carvel construction would come to dominate the building of large ships. The period would also see a shift from the steering oar or side rudder to the stern rudder and the development from single to multi-masted ships. As the area is connected by water, it would make sense that people in the Mediterranean would build different kinds of ships to accommodate different sea levels and climate. Within the Mediterranean area during the Medieval times ships were used for a multitude of reasons, like war, trade, and exploration.
The Portuguese Indian Armadas were the fleets of ships, organized by the crown of the Kingdom of Portugal and dispatched on an annual basis from Portugal to India, principally to Portuguese Goa and other colonies such as Damaon. These armadas undertook the Carreira da Índia, following the sea route around the Cape of Good Hope first opened up by Vasco da Gama in 1497–1499.
Due to centuries of constant conflict, warfare and daily life in the Iberian Peninsula were interlinked. Small, lightly equipped armies were maintained at all times. The near-constant state of war resulted in a need for maritime experience, ship technology, power, and organization. This led the Crowns of Aragon, Portugal, and later Castile, to put their efforts into the sea.
The square-rigged caravel, was a sailing ship created by the Portuguese in the second half of the fifteenth century. A much larger version of the caravel, its use was most notorious beginning in the end of that century. The square-rigged caravel held a notable role in the Portuguese expansion during the age of discovery, especially in the first half of the sixteenth century, for its exceptional maneuverability and combat capabilities. This ship was also sometimes adopted by other European powers. The hull was galleon-shaped, and some experts consider this vessel a forerunner of the fighting galleon, by the name of caravela de armada.
Maritime travel experienced a large leap in the capabilities of seafaring vessels thanks to technological improvements in shipbuilding in the early modern era. Europe, Asia, and the Middle East all saw improvements on prior construction techniques, contributing to the Age of Discovery. As a result, the introduction of these technologies in the production of naval vessels was critical as they allowed nations that utilized these advancements to ascend to a state that could expand its influence at a far greater range. In military engagements, the exploration of new lands and potential colonies, or the transportation of goods for trade, better shipbuilding techniques coincided with prosperity. It is during this time that the practice of naval architecture appeared, as skilled designers could produce designs that had an enormous impact in ship performance and capabilities.