Wyrlde’s ships are designed along similar methods, with all the larger vessels capable of long voyages in rough seas. While some of the more specialized craft may employ a wheel, the mainline ships of Wyrlde are all sailing craft. While there are some, rare few, single hulled ships on Wyrlde, the vast majority are multihull ships and vessels, and have been for well over a thousand years. It is said that the very first ships on Wyrlde were the twin hulled ones.
Ships of Wyrlde are built using only a few methods, in part because they are traditional and handed down generationally, also in part because it has been a challenge to make improvements.
On Wyrlde, there are two broad divisions of watercraft: Rivercraft and Seacraft. All the Ships and Boats of Wyrlde have a normal speed of around 25 knots, with some reaching as high as 60 knots. This makes them quick – they can sail from Deseray to Vendia in a day.
The difference between a Ship and Boat is generally considered to lie in hull shape, size, and complement. Ships are the larger of each and Boats are the smaller – a boat is said to be a craft for fewer than a dozen, with a shallow hull and less than 2 Chains in length (about 165 feet or so).
Ships are primarily built of wood, often sealed by a combination of pitch and other substances, and often having the ability to break out immense oars in limited fashion, typically on the second level within the outer hulls. Multiple different woods are used, depending on the shipyard, with Oak and Bamboo being two of them, although Teak has been making inroads. They use a lapstrake, or clinker, methodology, and the overlapping joints are further enhanced with assorted lacquers and resins both for strength and to assist with the durability.
Construction methods for most Wyrlde ships are mostly fixed with minor changes and improvements that vary from shipyard to shipyard and shipwright to shipwright. The base hulls are always built using a braced, flatter hull for River craft or a braced, deep, narrow hull for Sea craft. This is the most notable design difference between the two, as the shallow draught enable easier navigation of the rivers.
Wyrlde ships and boats tend to be narrow, usually about 2 units long for every one unit in width and are characterized by a flush-laid flat bottom at mid-hull which gradually shifts to overlapped strakes near the posts, though the angle of the hulls is much sharper for Seacraft than Rivercraft, and height is a factor as well, since the hulls for Seacraft often act as living quarters and crew space, enabling the central Deck to be used for cargo.
Of note is that only the rare single hull ships (mostly of a Cog style) and triple hulled ships have central masts that are stepped and braced. The rest have an unusual, angled mast that is based in the center of the outer hulls, and depending on the design may angle inward over the deck or outward away from it. This creates the ability to have three sets of sails (a square center and two triangular sides) that is said to give it a characteristic “flying” form.
Keels are surprisingly variable among the different shipyards, and one of the major concerns is the flexibility of the crafts, especially as it pertains to their usual or intended purpose – Rivercraft rarely move out beyond a mile or two from shore in the seas, and Seacraft have a tremendous challenge in being able to operate in the changing currents of the rivers. This is one of the reasons that riverboats have begun to take over so much of the river traffic, with their shallow draughts and powerful wheels that defy the need for sails. Keels typically lack a rabbet, with stem and sternposts straight and long, connected to the keel-plank through intermediate pieces, and in some cases (especially in Lyonian Shipyards) using a clockwork mechanism.
Masts are relatively thin, composite and modular (allowing them to be lengthened or shortened, and providing easy replacement while out of port), but are also designed to be flexible. They are fixed, and lined up, with some of the larger craft having staggered masts that cant at different angles. Rigging, as might be gathered, is a complex affair, but is also done with an eye to keeping the size of the crew small (they do live in the hulls), and relies on a multitude of different cordage, most commonly hemp or flax. Sails are almost always a call of the vessel’s owners – most sails are emblazoned with the colors and trade marks of their owners. Indeed, only the poor will use white sails, which are considered to be bad luck, though no one uses black sails as they are a signal of imminent disaster: piracy.
Much of this kind of construction allows Wyrlde watercraft to have a very low displacement, shallow draught, and so they can be beached almost regardless of the size and are difficult to board from craft which are smaller than them because of the height. The peculiar sail arrangement enables them to effectively tack, and while the square and side triangle rigging is the norm, many will play with it in order to improve speed, stability, or maneuverability. This also means that the jetties and quays of most wharves are very wide, and very long, but also fairly high, to enable movement of the Containers readily (a typical jetty is as wide as six containers with teams). Most include several cranes as well, and the cranes mark the berths.
The single hulled ships and boats are built along the same lines, typically much smaller, with cabins in the aft behind the mast, and wheel and rudder above them. The biggest difference is that the single hulled vessels use their hills for storage of goods, and so often have winches and winch struts on the mast as well as a hold or two below deck. They are typically single decked, and usually require a crew of no more than seven to operate, often as simple as just one person (as in the Kaghs).
A key feature of all Wyrlde ships is that the central deck can be pretty much anything – a net, a massive spread of fabric, wood, woven reeds – as long as it provides a surface, it functions. They are usually left clear of anything but general operational equipment and supplies unless they are hauling cargo, and it is there that they store cargo. Crew are quartered, always, in the hulls, which are often entered through either fore or aft hatches that lead to the multiple decks within. These hulls will have portholes and even windows, off quarte4s, a usually include a galley and other features.
Tradeships are broad, double decked, and built to carry the large, removable wheel containers that are used in most mercantile efforts. They have a foredeck and a raised aft deck, with crew quarters aft and leadership fore within the hulls. They are usually double masted, though the larger triple hulled ones out of Sibola and Aztlan — typically a third again as big – have a third mast and midquarters. Loading these ships is considered a fine art, and they would rather travel light, as even a little overweight can cause capsizing if the load is not well balanced or comes loose.
They are divided into Barges, Galleons, and Schooners.
A typical Barge can hold 4 containers, with a crew of 10 to 15, 1 Chain wide and 2 Chains long.
A Galleon 8 containers, a crew of 15 to 20, and are 2 Chains wide by 4 Chains long.
A Schooner can carry 12 containers, with a crew of 20 to 25, and are typically 3 Chains wide and 6 Chains long.
Coreships are single or double masted Boats that make up most private and support craft. They are divided into Yachts, Fishers, and Cutters.
Cutters for passenger carrying can also hold 2 to 4 containers. They are typically about a Chain wide and 3 Chains long, crewed by 10 to 15, and focused on speed.
Most fishing vessels fall into this category, hence the name Fishers, and have an unusual design as they will typically see the central space of their deck used to install an extension that enables them to bring up water to hold and keep their catches alive. Most fishers operate through trawling and traps, using variable sailing patterns and immense nets let out from the center of the vessel and then drawn behind it. Fishers are often extremely tough ships and boats. Mostly around 11 yards wide and around 15 yards long, making them mostly square craft out on the water that gives them a high degree of stability and a tight radius for turning. Fishing boats are crewed by 7 to 12 people.
Yachts are the smallest of them, typically not more than 5 yards wide, and 15 yards in size. They can be crewed by 5 to 10 people.
Transport by water is still the main method of most trade and travel among the Bright Lands. On the full-scale map of Wyrlde, there are several rivers shown. These are navigable, and while some smaller ones are as well, it is on these magnificent rivers that you will find the Riverboats.
A Riverboat comes in two general sorts: Sail and Wheel. Sailboats are the smaller of the two, used often by small traders and families as homes and storefronts. They will almost always be twin hulled, very low to the water, with never more than two masts (fore and mid). Very simply built, they can be crewed by as few as one, though may have crews up to 10.
The Wheelboats are three hulled, the distinguishing feature for all of them is that they are wide, with shallow drafts, and each hull could possibly be pierced to support a massive water wheel driven by a magical engine. Typically, there will be one large wheel, situated in the rear of the central hull, with rudders on the out hulls, though for larger, three wheeled boats, they will have a central rudder set forwards of the wheel. They always have crews of at least a dozen.
Riverboats are slow. They average about 5 knots a day upstream, about 10 downstream. They are also less sturdy, but can operate in waters as shallow as ten feet. Typically, riverboats are about 3 fathoms wide resting on two to six shallow, almost round hulls, and 7 fathoms long. There are always poles available on them for poling, and anchor guides for teams should they need shore-based teams to pull them.
The Oar Wheel. The Oar wheel is a large round wheel that has several slightly warped and tilted panels all around it that act as oars. Paddle wheels are what power the Riverboats up and down the rivers. There is no sail on Wheelboats. The Wheel is what impels them, and the secret of the making of it is lost in the depths of Qivira. Some say that within the Wheel is a man or a group of men who turn the wheel by running. Others say it is some form of magic. I have heard that the real truth is between the two – that Qiviran or Lyonian Mages created golems that move the great wheel and so power the large boats.
Riverboats are named so because they do not venture into the open sea – they are never out of sight of land, stay in freshwater courses, and during storms they will tie up wherever they are. Even the largest of Riverboats will avoid challenging the open sea, though many will play the waters of the Sea of Tears.
The smallest and most basic of crafts – skiffs they are called as a group, but they are Kayak, Kanoo, Dingy, and Skiph. The largest of them are about two fathoms long.
A Kagh is a small watercraft. They are used heavily by families of Thalassen and other river dependent people, single hull with a single fixed mast. They are used as homes more than trading or combat craft, often highly decorated, used for fishing and other activities.
A true Skif is a small private one room shack on a small single hulled vessel – often with an outrigger that can be raised and lowered, and always a single mast.
A Dingy is a single hulled, shallow draft, wide in the middle and pointed at the front, usually flat at the back with a rudder, and lacking a stabilizing bit. Most ships have one or two aboard, for when they need to get to a shore or the tides are wrong for docks, or even just to fish. They are generally able to seat up to 10 people, and moved by oars, usually four per dingy.
A Kanoo is a small craft for up to four people, usually run by one, that has no rudder, only oars. They are shallow, long, narrow, and as simple as it can get. They are often used by raiding groups in piracy between ships, and they are light – sometimes little more than a covering over a frame.
A Kayak is a single person, single hull boat driven by oar power. For some reason, they are always associated with recreation, and not used widely in the Empire, but it is said that they are sometimes fitted with outriggers by Islanders and used extensively there. I would think they would be handy for river travel, but I get boat sick, so who knows.
I was once asked where the lifeboats were on a ship by another incarnate. I replied, truthfully, that there are no lifeboats on Wyrlde. If you can’t get in one of the skiffs that are used for everything, then you won’t have a lifeboat. I hope they have some on that Argos. And what a weird name – it seems familiar, but I just can’t place why.
It is said that the Argo, the massive five hulled monstrosity commissioned by the Adventurer’s Guild, has seven masts. However, it is expected to crew a thousand and survive a journey few are expected to return from: it may take a decade more before they are ready, but they plan to circumnavigate the world. Descriptions of it give it a size of longer than a Rod, each hull being 4 Fathoms wide with a deck a full seven fathoms in size, rising a full chain above the water.
Warships are triple masted, large vessels, with most of them using a double or triple hull system to provide stable firing platforms. They often have two to four decks, and some of them are fitted for rowing. They have a crew complement of 20 to 60. Warships are divided into Battleships, Destroyers, and Frigates.
Frigates are the smallest, about 4 Chains long and 2 Chains wide.
Destroyers are terrifying vessels, 3 Chains wide and 5 Chains long, their massive hulls claiming multiple decks.
The largest ships are the Battleships, massive square beasts Seven Chains to a side, essentially floating platforms that have multiple anchors and can lay out additional supports, giving them command over an area roughly a mile wide in any direction.
Warships do not have cannon on Wyrlde. They use catapults on occasion, usually hurling some form of burning material, but most of it is done using ballistae. Able to fire lances, balls, bombs, and the like, they are the principal weapon of not only sailing craft, but Skyships and battlecraft as well.
Ballistae range in size from the scorpion-like large crossbow to massive weapons that can hurl a forty-pound stone at over two hundred miles an hour using metal springs. The practical and effective range of many of them is a mile.