What Ship Is That? Part Seven


What Ship Is This?

Over the past few months, we’ve started to work our way through a series of fascinating historical ships and a collection of fun facts to go along with each. The last installment discussed the Buza, Caravel & Carrack. Today we continue our foray into the captivating world of historical shipping by taking a look at the wholly underestimated Catamaran, the jaunty Catboat, and the battle-forged Chebec.

The Catamaran – Unlikely Conqueror

At first glance, a Catamaran is not all that much to look at. However, these boats consisting of two hulls joined by a frame can be either sail- or wind-powered and have been in use as early as the 5th century AD, when seafarers from the Tamil Chola dynasty used it to conquer Southeast Asian nations like Burma and Malaysia. Polynesians also used it to settle far-flung islands millennia ago. As such, it has been pivotal in quite a few globally-important seafaring initiatives.

DID YOU KNOW? The Chola period was a wonderful time for Tamil country in terms of art, religion, and literature. This is when the nation took temple-building tradition a step further, and the began to build many Siva temples along the banks of the river Kaveri using the Dravidian temple design.

The Catboat – Jaunty & Joyous

The Catboat is a descendant of the small boats carried by British merchant ships in the 18th century for exploration missions in the new world. It was adapted for racing in the 20th century, but when small gasoline engines became the more efficient option, it fell out of favour. Today, the jaunty Catboat is mainly used for day sailing and pleasure cruises. It’s roomy, stable and easy to handle, so it makes for a great day out on the water.

DID YOU KNOW? The Beetle Cat daysailer is one of best-known Catboats. Fleets of these boats are found in harbours all across New England and often compete in races.

The Chebec – Forged In Battle

The Chebec is a very famous ship that descended from the original Mediterranean galleys, which were renowned as fast, maneuverable vessels that could be powered by oar or sail. Galleys were used to great effect by Barbary Corsairs (pirates from Northern Africa) to disrupt trade in the Mediterranean during the 17th century. In response, the trading nations dispatched warships with broadsides. This, in turn, inspired the Barbary Corsairs to adapt their galleys by widening the hull to increase deck room and stability and removing most of the rowers to make room for broadside guns. These changes effectively negated rowing power, which necessitated the addition of three large lateen sails. And so, ladies and gents, the Chebec was born.

DID YOU KNOW? The ship’s name is derived from an Arabic word that means ‘small ship’. It is also spelled ‘xebec’ and ‘zebec’ in English and exists in many other forms in other European languages as well, which points to its popularity through the ages.

Check back soon for Part Eight that will delve into the intricacies of the Clipper, Cog & Collier. respectively.

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