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clinker-built versus carvel-built hulls[edit]

I refer to the second paragraph in the article and as far as I know Galleons were developed after the introduction of carvel hull building design. I dont know af any clinker-built galleon.

"As the ships' size increased in the 15th Century, the clinkerbuilt hull was found to be unsuitable as it wasn't tight enough -- the largest clinker built ship, the English Grace Dieu (1418) was a failure, and signalled the end of the building method in favour of the carvel-built hull."


Thanks for clearing that up.

Gurnard (the guy who wrote the original article)

The galleon is not connected with ships converting from clinker to carvel because carvel built ships had been standard in southern Europe for a long time before and that is where both the carrack and the galleon originated. In southern Europe, carracks had always been carvel built. --unsigned comment by Provocateur dated 2013-11-02


I really think the main "Galleon" article should be about the ship, with a note saying "For ot her uses of the term, see Galleon (disambiguation)." In my opinion, the ship is far more notable than any of the other things. -LtNOWIS 05:38, 30 January 2006 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

Galleon (ship) → Galleon – The meaning referring to a type of ship vastly overshadows all other uses of this word. There is no need for the term's main page to be a redirect. --Yath 18:32, 16 April 2006 (UTC)

Done. —Nightstallion (?) Seen this already? 13:53, 22 April 2006 (UTC)


What was a typical speed for a galleon? - anon

Depends on the point of sail and the amount of wind. If the wind is good (trade winds of 20 kts), perhaps around 8 kts on a broad reach, tacking upwind much slower. I can't find a good source though. - MW

Sail Plan[edit]

English galleon sail-plan.jpg

Viv Hamaltin asked in May 2007 if I could do a sail plan. Here is one I came up with. It is based on what is readable on the Matthew Baker drawing, so I am confident on the acuracy. I propose entering it into the main article with the following text. Please advise. Comments are welcome. I could provide a table of sail dimentions as well.

The English galleon as drawn by Matthew Baker had four masts, main-mast, fore-mast, main mizzen-mast and a bonaventure mizzen. The main and fore-mast carried three square-rigged sails each, while the two mizzen-masts were lateen rigged with triangular fore and aft sails. A sprit sail was usually carried on the bowsprit. The English galleon of that time, circa 1550, would have flown the St George's Cross on all masts except the main-mizzen would have flown the Tudor rose. (talk) 05:06, 9 February 2008 (UTC)

Hull types and lines of battle[edit]

It has been brought to my attention that the comparison between galleons and ships of the line may be somewhat misleading. As I've understood it, a galleon is a hull type while a ship of the line is a classification based on armament. Any comments?

Peter Isotalo 05:37, 14 July 2007 (UTC)

I think the article makes it clear that galleons essentially predated the ship of the line classification. It is also worth bearing in mind that hull type, sail and armament are not independent. A clipper or frigate needs a fast hull form as well as the rigging to carry a lot of sail area, and rigging type that allows it to sail close to the wind; a first rate needs a hull form with multiple decks to accommodate the armament. The rating classification wasn't purely based on counting cannons - the vessel had to be able to do what was expected of it in battle. I guess it's like if we say 4x4 today, we are technically referring to traction, but this will also imply a vehicle that is heavier and more ruggedly built than a family saloon. Viv Hamilton 08:53, 14 July 2007 (UTC)

Well, yeah... But one would quite naturally expect that a functioning classification of armament would take into consideration that ship actually worked properly with as many cannons as it was assigned (unlike Vasa) and the fact remains that the various ratings are defined primarily by the number of guns. That still leaves a problem about the development from galleon to ship of the line being a bit like comparing apples and oranges. And this has quite obviously been misunderstood by many contributors since I've had to change information about, for example, Vasa being a ship of the line (before the tactic was even properly developed!) all over English Wikipedia. Apparently, it's not quite a galleon either, but at least it's not a complete anachronism.

The question I keep asking myself is: what came after the galleon hull-wise?

Peter Isotalo 07:43, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

I believe it is more subtle than simply whether or not the weight of cannons makes the vessel top-heavy! The sailing qualities of the bigger ship should allow it to dominate smaller ships when they close in battle, as well as it being able to carry more cannon and therefore give a bigger broadside. There was significant evolution of hull-form in the 17th and early 18th century, with Britain copying the hulls of captured French ships, like Hazardous. I know that when the ships were built they were given class names (e.g. Trincomalee was Leda class), but this is presumably a whole area of specialised naval history yet to be added to WP. The other interesting question is the fourth mast, the bon aventure. Later ships don't have it. A maritime archaeologist friend of mine thinks that it was needed on galleons to counteract the effect of wind catching the stern castle. The lower lines of the ship of the line, mean that you don't need it, and the more masts you have, the harder a vessel is to sail. As I said, hull form, sail plan and armament are interrelated! Viv Hamilton 08:33, 15 July 2007 (UTC)
I take it back, some of it has been added, see List of battleships of the Royal Navy and List of frigate classes of the Royal Navy. Not a lot of explanation however! Viv Hamilton 08:42, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

The list of battleships is a bit dubious. The term "battleship" didn't even exist until the late 18th century, so why are ships from as early as the late 15th century included?

I'm not disputing the importance of hull design, but going by what just about all articles here explains, it seems as if the primary concern for classification was the number of guns, not the trim or number of masts or whatever. To someone who doesn't know much about the topic, it just seems as if there's a missing link between galleons and ships of the line. Are the only applicable terms really just "ship of the line" or the various class names?

Peter Isotalo 22:29, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

Possibly because from the 17th century, the navies of Europe became obsessed with the ship of line style battle, and presumably devoted their marine engineering skills to perfecting the concept. Are you aware that ships didn't necessarily carry the number of cannons indicated by their rating? I will try to find out about merchant vessels (although at that time merchant ships were armed as well!). There was significant variation in sail plan, depending on the job you wanted the ship to do. There are numerous types of ships classified e.g. brigs, cutters etc, my impression is that the sail plan is more significant than the hull, or perhaps the hull followed the sail plan. Viv Hamilton 17:23, 16 July 2007 (UTC)


In the intro it says... Carracks tended to be lightly armed and used for transporting cargo, while galleons were purpose-built warships, and were stronger, more heavily armed, and also cheaper to build (5 galleons could cost around the same as 3 carracks) and were therefore a much better investment for use as warships.

But then a couple sections down it says...

Hundreds of expert tradesmen (including carpenters, pitch-melters, blacksmiths, coopers, shipwrights, etc.) worked day and night for months before a galleon was seaworthy. To cover the expense, galleons were often funded by groups of wealthy businessmen who pooled resources for a new ship. Therefore, most galleons were originally consigned for trade, although those captured by rival nations were usually put into military service.

So one says warships, other says trade ships. Which one's right?...


It's not really a contradiction, although the wording looks that way viewed side-by-side. Both statements are true, most galleons were built for trade, but as a warship they were a better investment than a carrack. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Yizzik (talkcontribs) 04:14, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

"Not a carrack"[edit]

This link seems to say that galleon has a much broader meaning than what is defined here. This is not the first time I see this issue being raised from naval historians. Nicholas Roger, author of the most recent history of the Royal Navy, also has a lengthy discussion on what is or isn't a galleon in the first volume Safeguard of the Sea. I'm not sure if these two authors, or indeed other historians, are in complete agreement on how to properly define "galleon", but from what I can tell it's a lot more vague than in the article. As already touched upon previously, it's probably a bit misleading to describe an "evolution" from a galleon to a ship of the line since they're descriptions of very different aspects of ships.

Peter Isotalo 12:08, 14 January 2010 (UTC)

Date contradictions?[edit]

Intro: "A galleon was a large, multi-decked sailing ship used primarily by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries." Page on List of ships of the Spanish Armada: "a heavy square-rigged sailing ship of the 15th to early 18th centuries"

History section: "The galleon was an ocean going ship type which evolved from the carrack in the second half of (the) 16th century." Notable galleons: "São João Baptista nicknamed Botafogo, the most powerful warship when launched (1534)" (i.e first half of the 16th century)

Etymology: "The term "galleon" had been in use long before the ship type that it now technically refers to came into existence. Just like the term "frigate", the term "galleon" was originally applied to certain types of war galleys in the Middle Ages." Page on List of ships of the Spanish Armada: Etymology: Old Spanish galeón, from Middle French galion, from Old French galie. Date: 1529.

Intro: "Whether used for war or commerce, they were generally armed with the demi-culverin type of cannon." Demi-culverin page: "The demi-culverin was a medium cannon similar to but slightly larger than a saker and smaller than a regular culverin developed in the early 17th century." (i.e. after most of the "notable galleons" had been built) Theeurocrat (talk) 13:01, 9 November 2011 (UTC)

:"The galleon evolved in response to Spain's need for an ocean-crossing cargo ship that could beat off corsairs. Pedro de Menéndez, along with Álvaro de Bazán (hero of Lepanto), is credited with developing the protypes which had the long hull - and sometimes the oars - of a galley married to the poop and prow of a nao or merchantman. Galeones were classed as 1-, 2- or 3-deckers, and stepped two or more masts rigged with square sails and topsails (except for a lateen sail on the mizzenmast). Capacity ranged up to 900 tons or more. Menéndez' San Pelayo of 1565 was a 900 ton galleon which was also called a nao and galeaza. She carried 77 crewmen, 18 gunners, transported 317 soldiers and 26 families, as well as provisions and cargo. Her armament was iron."p.100 Menéndez: Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Captain General of the Ocean Sea Albert C. Manucy, published 1992 by Pineapple Press, Inc

The word galleon was used as far back as the Crusades of the 12th century, so it meant something different from what we mean by it today. It is very likely that the São João Baptista or Botafogo was called a galleon when built, even though its highly likely to have been a nao or carrack as we understand those terms today. Galleons as we know them, weren't built so early. Note how the San Pelayo was also called a nao or a galeaza, even though we'd call it a galleon. Words have changing and multiple meanings over time, we must be careful.

Yes they were. It seems to me you need to know more the historical documentation of all countries and other countries. There was already a medieval "galleon" with this name around the 13th century, in Aragon and in some other parts of Europe, but it is not these ships and this type of galleys and the kind that we are talking about. In the portuguese case (portuguese croniclers, but not only), about the galleon São João Baptista - the Botafogo was a "nau" in the vox populi (sometimes a "galleon") and mostly a "galleon" than a "nau", by the most knowledgeable and accurate chroniclers in distinguishing between the technical carrack, the galleon, the round square caravel, the caravel (latin caravel), galeaça (galeass), caravelao, galley, galeota or pinnace (fusta), bergatim, parau etc. between vessels and ships of Portuguese origin, Eastern origin or from other parts and adopted by Portugal. The tapestries of the conquest of Tunis seem clearly demonstrate a nau evolved into a galleon (although bigger than normal) between the nau and the galleon and even with future characteristics of the galleons (or approximate), not only in the design, and more elongated, with 4 or 5 masts, 7 or more sails, including two Latin sails behind (rather than one), tipical in this type of ship by rule in Portugal. Some more powerfull caravels in the conquest, depicted or not depicted (but these would have to be above all of Portugal) and other naus and ships of other powers present there, though different in design, were not so distinct. Would that Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen who was there, drew that way?! Or Frans Hogenber reproducing after, drew the other ships much more in the type of Botafogo? And not or at the exact same way of the previous Author? Anyway, it was a gradual years-long maturation which in 1530 and even more in 1540 etc. (in the Portuguese case) was already relatively completed and perfected (see types of galleons in Tábuas of D. João de Castro), although the ship still evolve after. The study by the Prof. Dr. Rear-Admiral Antonio Silva Ribeiro (and not the only one Author among the sources that I put - altough in portuguese) uses multiple sources and extensive bibliography of the chronicles and doc. of the time, as the Portuguese and Anglo-Saxon historiography, among others, included there. Despite there being implicit and being a fact that the modern oceanic galleon comes first in Portugal (and we find that fact in these sources and in the chronicles), compared with Spain for exemple (albeit for possibly a decade or two maybe - in his maturation - but something that was a gradual process in Portugal and almost paralel with Castile(Spain) with its adoption of its own famous type after other previous alike ships - and with other European nations, all around 1530-1550s) and with other countries later; in none of these studies and articles they mention this claim, putting only emphasis on the technical study - and even critical (especially in relation to the types earlier in time, even overly stressing and overrating the hypothesis of a more gradual construction-adaptation of the prevoius ships, despite the clear early dates of the sources about the name-type) completely scientific and devoid of any nationalism. And in fact, regardless of the possible priority, is a parallel process in the European Atlantic powers. Any way, at least in part or great part, those 2 or 3 galleons depicted in the Routemap of the Red Sea (here we have only one) show a style that seems to have been emulated in Europe or in some European powers(?!). --LuzoGraal (talk) 23:59, 27 January 2013 (UTC)
Until very recently British historiography ignored anything Spanish. One has to be careful with relying too much on information from or about one country since it tends to blind you to possible developments in other countries; ideas get around. The argument that the galleon came by evolutionary steps makes sense, especially in those days. I looked at the tapestry but I could not make out any significant difference between the Botafoga and the other ships but the tapestry was not meant to be a realistic depiction. I accept that there were likely to have been ships intermediate between the two and that Bazan's ships were most likely just another (albeit important) stage in the development. There were probably earlier ships that we would have trouble categorizing as carrack or galleon. It makes things more difficult that people in those day used these terms in a different way to us and a lot of information has been lost.


Weight (tons) isn't much help. How long is a typical galleon? (talk) 22:08, 30 December 2012 (UTC)

This is not an easy question to answer because of the inconsistency in how length is defined in different nations and its use. Is it the length at the waterline, the length between perpendiculars or the overall length? For example, the dimensions taken from the Baker drawing for these three measurements in feet respectively are: 137.4, 156.8, and 178.9. I suggest that these three lengths can serve to describe a typical galleon. But there are bigger galleons and much smaller ones. The overall length of Sir Francis Drake’s Pelican was only 120 ft.--Tvbanfield (talk) 17:22, 31 December 2012 (UTC)


I know nothing about these ships. Are galeasse the same thing? Oldag07 (talk) 03:35, 14 March 2013 (UTC)

See galleass.