What Ship Is That? The Corvette, Cutter & Dhow

A Sloop-of-War

A Sloop-of-War

As a supplier of chandling services to the maritime trade along the South African coastline, the Link team has a keen interest in pretty much anything to do with ships. As such, we’ve been sharing some fun and interesting info on historical ships over the last few months. The last installment featured the Clipper, Cog, and Collier. Today we journey onwards into the fascinating world of historical shipping by taking a look at the zippy Corvette, the super-serious Cutter, and the exotic Dhow.

The Corvette – The Tiny Zipper

The Corvette was a small, lightly-armed warship that was easy to maneuver. During the Golden Age of Sail, it numbered among many kinds of smaller warships that were used mainly for patrolling coastlines, assisting in minor wars and playing a supporting role to larger fleets. The British Navy referred to a similar type of ship in their line-up as ‘sloops’.

DID YOU KNOW? Life aboard a 17th-century naval ship wasn’t fun and games. The pay was less than you would get on a merchant ship, seamen were often cold and wet, and their diet caused malnutrition, leading to illnesses like scurvy. However, when they captured enemy vessels, they would sometimes share in the prize money – so that’s something.

The Cutter – The Paddy Wagon of the Sea

The Cutter was mainly used by maritime law enforcement and by government agencies to enforce customs law. It was small, single-masted with a bowsprit and two or more headsails. The mast was typically set further back than that of a Corvette or Sloop.

DID YOU KNOW? Maritime law can be very interesting. For instance, when a shipwreck is discovered the ‘law of finds’ applies. This states that if a vessel has been underwater for a number of years, during which time its legal owners had not actively been trying to retrieve its cargo, the discoverer of the wreck is entitled to the full value of the goods recovered off said ship. So finders-keepers essentially.

The Dhow – The Indian Marvel

The Dhow might be associated with Arab traders, but it’s very much an Indian boat constructed from wood from the forests of India. Smaller dhows carried up to 12 sailors, while its larger counterparts could carry up to 30. It was primarily used along the coastlines of East Africa, Indian and the Arabian Peninsula.

DID YOU KNOW? No pictures remain of early dhows. What we do know of these vessels has been surmised at the hand of Greek and Roman historians who mentioned it in their records.

Check back soon for Part Ten that will delve into the intricacies of the Dinghy, Dory & Drakkar respectively.


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