The Alienage
All Things Relating to Trade, Shipping, and Commodities

The Shipwright

Building a Caravel Built Ship

While this type of construction is also very specialized and requires wood working skills similar to those in clinker construction. However, some pieces do need further treatment with an axe or an adze while most of the timbers are sawn to shape. Therefore, this type of construction is not as wasteful of wood as the clinker style.

Building the Hull

Laying the Keel:
Like clinker built vessel, the first step in building a skeleton-first vessel also consists of laying the keel. The keel is made of numerous sections scarfed together. The center section is the longest and the end sections are cut from a trunk that has a branch coming out at an angle so that the change of angle between the keel and posts is worked out of solid timber. The keel is also rabbeted as are the stem and stern posts, allowing them to have the hull‘s strakes fastened to them securely and the keel also has parallel sides from end to end. Next the inner stem and stern posts are scarfed to the ends of the keel. The stern posts on these vessels are made of two pieces of timber, one outer and one inner. The stem is usually curved and also consists of inner and outer pieces. The keel is laid on a level course from stern to stem. The entire keel and posts are placed on blocks to keep them in position, with spares supporting the posts themselves.

Installing the vessel’s Ribs:
Once the keel is in place, the focus turns to installing the vessel’s skeletal framework. The strakes of a Caravel built vessel are often sawn as are most of the structural timbers before they are shaped by a shipwright. Depending on where a shipwright was trained he will use one of two ways to begin building the skeletal frame.

  • Within the Venarian Sea, where the technique has been in place for centuries, they often start by assembling and erecting a central rib to the desired dimensions and then a fore and aft rib. Once these three elements are erected battens are laid along the upper, middle and lower sections of the ribs so the shipwright can visualize the shape of the vessel. At this point they then begin assembling additional frames to fill in the remainder of the space. As ribs are added other support frames and deck beams are add to the structure also. Before any hull strakes are add almost every bit of primary skeletal framework will be in place.
  • Within the areas bordering the Sea of Ivae , where the technique is still a fairly recent adaptation, they often start by building a temporary edge-joined hull up to the bilge. The shipwright uses this feature as a mold for the lower sections of his skeletal structures. The process starts out with the laying of the primary floor timers and shaping them to fit the desired shape of the vessel based on the mold. The futtocks and additional extensions are scarfed to a central floor timber and a fore and aft floor timber to form ribs as in the first example above. To this, battens are added to aid the shipwright in assembling additional ribbing as needed. Once all of the skeletal features have been assembled and installed the temporary lower hull is removed.

Straking the Hull:
After the skeletal frames are securely in place the vessel’s hull is ready to receive its skin. The strakes used to form the hull of a skeleton-first vessel are cut to a uniform width and laid flush to each other. When a plank is not long enough to fill in a continuous course additional planks are abutted to the ends of them. As additional courses are laid the shipwright will ensure that no two seams are in line with each other, much like laying bricks. Towards the bow and stern of the vessel steam, boiling water or some other method will be used to ensure that the planks are easily bent into place. At this stage the strakes will only be laid up to the shear line of the vessel; the rest being completed in later stages.

Once the outer hull was in place the shipwrights started installing the inner hull or ceiling on the inside of ribs. Next they would emplace the orlop and its supporting members. Depending on the vessel’s size and the number of decks desired the shipwrights can now start laying the tween deck(s), main deck and their supports. Prior to the next stage or the vessel’s launching the rudder will be mounted. At this point the vessel can be launched and fitted out in the water, or it can be fitted out in its slip.


Rigging and Outfitting

The mast(s) and associated rigging are put into place along with the ship’s yard(s) and sail(s).

During this stage the vessel will have a stern castle and fore castle if desired or required if the design calls for them; such as a Karune. It’s during this stage of the construction that internal partitions, railings and other fittings are installed per the owner’s desires. The tiller for the rudder is mounted to the rudder and comes through an opening at the rear of the vessel into an area inside of the stern castle if present or on the aft quarter deck.

Larger vessels will have at least one winding gear installed to assist in handling an anchor and/or yardarms. See the description of the cog below for the two types of winding gear that can be used on a vessel. From this point on the vessel is fitted out to the personal tastes of its owner and/or captain.