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A Crusader ship in Acre harbor

Ships are large seafaring vessels used to transport goods and passengers. During the Medieval Ages, ships were often used as outposts for merchants, guards or thieves, and fleets could form a blockade.

The introduction of cannons on ships turned them into weapons and guards for the colonial powers in America, while enabling the Assassins and pirates to become naval powers in their own right.

Medieval shipsEdit

During Medieval and Renaissance times, ships were divided into the smaller two-masted traghetti and larger, triple-masted carracks. The former were normally used as ferries, while the latter could serve as warships.[1][2] Most Italian ferries were painted blue,[3] although the ones in Rome appeared brown.[4] Italian and Ottoman carracks were identical in shape, but Ottoman ferries came in two variants, and could be rowed if necessary.[5]

Building ships required elm, oak and fir wood, while sails were made of flax.[2] Dockworkers at the Arsenale di Venezia were capable of building a ship every day at the height of Venice's power.[1] Ships were typically defended by archers,[6][4] although the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires utilized Greek Fire. The mercenaries in Constantinople outfitted their ferry with six cannons. Ships were susceptible to sticky bombs, which would detonate after being thrown onto the hull.[5]

Colonial shipsEdit

Cannons meant naval engagements were common in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea by the 18th century. Ships would line up against each other and fire cannons, swivel guns or mortars, or ram each other. Chain shot could be fired to demast a ship if the captain decided to board instead of sink them. The Colonial Assassins formed their own navy by the 18th century.

Ship types of this era, from smallest to largest, included:

  • Gunboats were small, inexpensive and easy to assemble ships that were armed with one or two large cannons. They were quite weak however, and could be destroyed with only one accurate shot from a swivel gun or a direct ramming attack. They would usually be grouped together to fire in numbers.[7][8]
  • Schooners were small light craft, armed with several cannons. They were the preferred ships for privateers during the American Revolution.[7] Their speed meant they could scout ahead and dump gunpowder kegs in the sea, causing them to explode on impact with pursuing enemies (similar to laying naval mines).[8] They used grape-shot ammunition for fighting enemy ships.
  • Brigs were larger than a schooner and equipped with a bow ram and 24 cannons, allowing them to flank and heavily damage targets in battle. Brigs and schooners had two sailing masts.[8]
  • Frigates were long, relatively light warships loaded with 24 to 46 cannons. Due to their size and speed, they were often used for reconnaissance, or to escort merchant ships.[7][8]
  • Man O' War (Galleon) was a catch-all term for the largest and most powerful warships. Many of them were Ships of the Line, designed with multiple gun decks that could have up to 124 cannons, four at the bow, eight at the stern and 54 on each broadside. They were also armed with both round-shot and heat-shot ammunition. Men-of-War and frigates had three sailing masts, and decommissioned warships like the HMS Jersey were eventually turned into prison ships.[7]

Customized ships like the Jackdaw and the Aquila appeared to be a cross between a brig and frigate, while possessing the firepower of a Man-of-War, giving them the advantage in strength and speed.[8] In 1754, Haytham Kenway sailed to Boston on the Providence, an English merchant ship that resembled a Man-of-War, due to her number of sails and gun decks. Merchant vessels in American cities typically had one gun deck.[9]

Ships needed to be crafted with spruce lumber, oak bark and bear grease, while sails could be sown with Linsey-woolsey[10], or with the simple cloth often carried in many ships' holds. Ships could be damaged by extreme weather, which usually spawned rogue waves and waterspouts, but this could be avoided or lessened by having the crew brace during a storm. Harbormasters could be paid to outfit a ship's hull with more wood or iron to make it more durable,[9] or to repair the ship if damage had been taken.[11]

On occasion, certain ships were also used as 'fireships', which could be converted into massive explosives with the proper application of pine pitch and gunpowder. When directed at an enemy ship, a fireship could often destroy the other vessel with its sheer destructive power. One such ship was Jack Rackham's schooner, which was used by Edward Kenway and Charles Vane to blast a hole in the naval blockade outside of Nassau.[12]

Modern timesEdit

The modern Assassins operated a surveillance ship, the Altair II, which was captained by Gavin.[13]

ReferencesEdit

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