What are ships of the 16th, 17th, and 18th century like to run? Were they practical?

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  • What are ships of the 16th, 17th, and 18th century like to run? Were they practical?


Answer #1 | 23/12 2013 05:51
Think of a ship without GPS, no AC and heat, no sanitation systems, no clean kitchens, no electical power, no modern navigation systems, no mail and no fresh food for weeks. Think of ships with crews who will not see fresh water to bathe and brush their teeth, who will be flogged for disobeying officer's orders and die during a regular cruise. There is nothing romantic in the days of old sailing. What you will only admire is the toughness and grit of the sailors who sailed the oceans back then.
Answer #2 | 23/12 2013 05:53
They were obviously practical because people used them. However, they were totally at the mercy of the wind and started to rot away and be eaten by marine worms from the moment they were put in the water. Non stop maintenance was required to keep them seaworthy. Once steel and engines came along wodden sailing ships went out in like a single generation.
Answer #3 | 23/12 2013 12:41
Many of them probably lasted longer than modern ships. As you say, 70 years was not unusual. Some of the last commercial square-riggers might have been in services 50 years, then became uneconomic competing with steamships and were converted into barges for another 30-odd years of service. I think modern ships rarely last more than 30 years. Square-riggers required a much larger crew than modern ships, and I presume constant maintenance of the sails and rigging compared to synthetic materials. If labour costs are high, that makes them uneconomic even if speed is not an issue.

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