A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 32

A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 32

“Indeed they might, but not this far out to sea, I’m thinking.” He indicated the brisk wind, the motion of the hard-driven ship, with a twitch of his head. “These conditions are a bit lively for a lubberly lot like the Desnairian Navy, wouldn’t you say, Master Aplyn-Ahrmahk? I’d expect them to stay closer to home if all they’re after is sail drill, especially if there are only two of them. We’re a good six hundred and fifty leagues from their shipyards at Geyra — and over a hundred leagues off Hennet Head, for that matter. It’s possible they’re from the ships building in the Gulf of Jahras instead of the Geyra yards. God knows they’re building a lot more of their total navy in the Gulf than they are at Geyra. But even that would be an awful long way to come just to drill their crews, and I’d think Baron Jahras would be a tad nervous about having just two of his meet a squadron or two of our galleons when they decided to venture out into deeper water. He’s certainly been . . . cautious enough about things like that so far, at least. So I wonder . . . .”

The captain stood thinking for several more moments, then nodded again, this time obviously to himself, before he glanced once more at the youthful ensign standing beside him.

“I can think of one good reason for them to be here, Master Aplyn-Ahrmahk,” he said with a slight smile. “And if I’m right, the men are going to be just a bit unhappy that we sighted them when we did, instead of a few days later.”

“Sir?” Hektor suppressed an urge to scratch his head in puzzlement, and Yairley’s smile broadened.

“Now then, Master Aplyn-Ahrmahk! A captain has to maintain at least a few little secrets, don’t you think?”

* * * * * * * * * *

“Excuse me, Sir.”

Captain Ahbaht turned, raising one eyebrow, to face Lieutenant Laizair Mahrtynsyn, Archangel Chihiro’s first lieutenant.

“Yes, Laizair? What is it?” Ahbaht’s tone was a bit brusque. He and Mahrtynsyn normally got along quite well, but at the moment, as the pursuing vessel’s lower masts began to loom above the horizon, even from deck level, the captain had a few things on his mind. The distance to the other ship was down to little more than seven miles, and given their present speeds, she would be up to Archangel Chihiro in no more than two or two and a half hours. For that matter, she’d be into extreme gunshot in little more than ninety minutes.

“Master Chaimbyrs” — Mahrtynsyn twitched his head slightly in the direction of the mizzen top, where Lieutenant Chaimbyrs was ensconced watching the other ship — “reports that he’s just seen her colors, Sir. She’s flying the Charisian banner . . . and a commission streamer.”

Ahbaht’s expression tightened ever so slightly. Only someone who knew the captain well would have noticed, but Mahrtynsyn did know him well. And he also knew exactly what Ahbaht was thinking. The fact that Chaimbyrs had finally seen the colors which had been masked by her canvas only confirmed the captain’s previous near-certainty that she had to be Charisian. But the commission streamer . . . that was something else entirely. No privateer would have been flying that. Only ships of the Royal Charisian Navy — or, rather, the Imperial Charisian Navy, these days — flew those.

“I see,” Ahbaht said, after a moment. “And has he had an opportunity to estimate her force?”

“We’ve not seen her ports yet, Sir, but she’s carrying at least ten or twelve of their short guns on her weather deck. Probably more. And,” Mahrtynsyn added almost apologetically, “Master Chaimbyrs says she doesn’t look merchant-built to him.”

The tightening around the captain’s eyes was more noticeable this time. If Chaimbyrs’ estimates were correct — and the second lieutenant was quite a competent officer — then their pursuer wasn’t simply an imperial warship, but one of the Charisian Navy’s new, purpose-built galleons, whereas both of Wailahr’s ships were converted merchant vessels.

“I see,” Ahbaht repeated, nodding to his first officer. “Thank you, Master Mahrtynsyn.”

Mahrtynsyn touched his chest in salute, then withdrew to the larboard side of the quarterdeck while Ahbaht clasped his hands behind his back and turned to the rail, gazing out across the crested waves in obvious thought.

The lieutenant didn’t envy his captain at the moment. On the other hand, he didn’t feel an enormous amount of sympathy, either. For the most part, he respected Ahbaht as a seaman, although for all his years of naval service, the captain had precious little experience with galleons. Virtually all of his previous time had been served aboard the Desnairian Navy’s limited number of galleys, and his ship handling skills, while adequate, weren’t as good as Mahrtynsyn’s own. In fact, that was one reason Mahrtynsyn had been assigned as his first lieutenant.

In terms of military experience, though, Ahbaht was far more qualified to command than Mahrtynsyn was, and the lieutenant knew it. Of course, no one in Desnairian service had any experience at all in broadside gunnery tactics, but at least Ahbaht had smelled powder smoke in actual combat, which was more than Mahrtynsyn had. Given that experience, Ahbaht had to be (or damned well ought to be, at any rate) even better aware of the looming confrontation’s balance of combat power than Mahrtynsyn was.

Not to mention the minor fact that he should, perhaps, have been just a bit more careful about, spent a little more time thinking over, what he had recommended to Commodore Wailahr.

At first glance, Wailahr’s two ships ought to have had the advantage. There were two of them, after all. But that wasn’t all that was involved here — not by a long shot.

One of the Charisian Navy’s new galleons would mount at least fifty guns (and probably more) to Archangel Chihiro’s forty. Worse, they’d be heavier guns. Archangel Chihiro, like her consort, Blessed Warrior, carried twenty-six lizards on her gundeck, and fourteen falcons on her upper deck. That might seem to give her eighty percent of the Charisian’s broadside, and all of their guns not only had the new trunnions and carriages but used the new bagged powder charges the Charisians had introduced, so they ought to be able to match the other ship’s rate of fire, as well. So far, all well and good, Mahrtynsyn thought dryly. But the lizards’ round shot weighed only a bit over twenty pounds each, and the falcons’ weighed less than nine, while if the reports about the Charisians were correct, the other ship would mount long thirty-pounders on her gundeck and short thirty-pounders — what the Charisians called “carronades” — on her upper deck.

Which would give her over twice Archangel Chihiro’s weight of metal. In fact, she’d carry a heavier weight of broadside than both the Desnarian ships combined . . . in a much more heavily framed and planked hull. And that changed Ahbaht’s earlier calculations significantly. Not only would each hit be far more destructive than he almost certainly had been expecting, but her heavier hull would take substantially less damage from each hit she received in return.

Of course, two lighter ships, if well handled, ought to be able to outmaneuver a single opponent, and it was extremely unlikely the Charisian carried a big enough crew to fully man both broadsides — especially if she had to reserve hands to manage her own sails. If they could get to grips with her from both sides simultaneously, they ought to be able to overpower her in fairly short order. But while the sail-handling skills of Archangel Chihiro’s crew had improved hugely since they’d left Desnair the City, Mahrtynsyn very strongly doubted they could even come close to an experienced Charisian crew’s level of competence.

He felt fairly confident that, since the other ship had been cruising alone, with no one else in company with her, Ahbaht had assumed she was most likely a privateer, not a regular man-of-war. It would have been a reasonable enough assumption, in many ways, and had it proved accurate, she would have been far more lightly gunned, while the quality of her ship’s company would have been much more problematical, as well. Besides, privateers weren’t in the business of taking hard knocks if they could avoid it. If a privateer’s skipper had realized he was pursuing two Desnarian warships, rather than a pair of fat merchant prizes, he would almost certainly have decided his time could be more profitably spent elsewhere. A Charisian Navy captain was likely to feel a bit differently about that.

But just how does the Captain break the news to the Commodore? Mahrtynsyn wondered a bit sardonically. “Excuse me, Commodore, but it turns out that’s a war galleon back there, instead. And I’m just a bit less confident about beating her than I was about beating a privateer.” The lieutenant snorted mentally. Sure, I can just hear him saying that!

No. Ahbaht wasn’t going to risk pissing Wailahr off by turning cautious at this point. And since Wailahr lacked the seagoing experience to realize exactly how weight of metal and — especially — relative ship handling skills really factored into a sea battle, it was unlikely he was going to recognize just how dicey this entire situation could turn. He certainly wasn’t going to decide to try avoiding action at this point. Not without Ahbaht suggesting it, at any rate.

Which meant things were going to get just a bit lively in the next two hours or so.

* * * * * * * * * *

Sir Dunkyn Yairley gazed ahead at the towering canvas of the Desnairian ships and scratched his chin thoughtfully. As always, the prospect of battle created a hollow, unsettled feeling in his belly. None of his officers and men appeared to share his apprehension, and it was, of course, unthinkable for him to reveal it to them. He often wondered if he was truly fundamentally different from them in that regard, or if they were simply better at hiding their emotions than he was.

Not that it mattered at the moment.

“Well,” he remarked out loud, permitting neither his voice nor his expression to hint at any internal trepidation, “at least they seem to have figured out we’re not just some deaf, dumb, and blind merchant ship!”

The men manning the quarterdeck carronades heard him, as he’d intended, and grinned. Some of them nudged each other in amusement, and a couple actually chuckled. No sign they felt anything but confident anticipation!

Cheerful idiots, aren’t they? Yairley thought, but there was as much affectionate amusement of his own as exasperation in the reflection.

He pushed the thought aside as he reconsidered his position.

He was confident he had an accurate appraisal of the other ships’ armament, now, and he rather wished he’d been up against a few less guns. His own were heavier, and he had no doubt his gun crews were far more experienced, and almost certainly better drilled, into the bargain. But eighty guns were still eighty guns, and he had only fifty-four.

I wonder if that’s a galley commander over there? he mused.

It could well make a difference, given the habits of thought involved. Galley captains thought in terms of head-on approaches — since their chase armament, which always mounted the heaviest guns, fired only directly ahead — and boarding tactics. And a galley captain would almost certainly be less skilled when it came to maneuvering a fundamentally clumsy thing like a square-rigged galleon. Besides, galleys had oars. Captains accustomed to being able to row directly into the wind tended to have a less lively appreciation for the value of the weather gauge.

Yairley stopped scratching his chin and clasped his hands behind him, his expression distant as he contemplated the narrowing stretch of water between Destiny and her adversaries. The Desnairians weren’t quite in line. The wind had backed about five points — from south-southeast to east-southeast — during the long hours since the chase had begun, and the rearmost of the two ships was a good two hundred yards to leeward and astern of her consort as they sailed along on the starboard tack. Yairley wondered if that was intentional or simply sloppy station keeping. Or, for that matter, if it simply represented lack of experience on his opponents’ part. The Desnairian Empire did still follow the tradition of putting army officers in charge of warships, after all.

Let’s not get too overconfident in that respect, Dunkyn, he reminded himself. Still, we can hope, can’t we?

Two hundred yards might not sound like an enormous distance to a landsman, but Yairley was no landsman. To an artillerist accustomed to thinking in terms of land battles fought on nice, motionless pieces of dirt, two hundred yards would equate to easy canister range, where it would be difficult for any semi-competent gun crew to miss a target fifty-plus yards long, six or seven yards high, and the next best thing to ten yards wide. For a seaman, accustomed to the fact that his gun platform was likely to be moving in at least three different directions simultaneously, completely irrespective of his target’s motion, a two hundred-yard range was something else entirely.

Like a perfectly good range to completely waste powder and shot at, the captain thought dryly. Which means those two fellows over there are out of effective support range of one another. Unless I’m obliging enough to sail directly between them, at any rate!

He glanced up at his own sails, and decided.

“Master Lathyk.”

“Yes, Sir?”

“Let’s get the t’gallants off her, if you please.”

“Aye, aye, Sir!” The first lieutenant touched his chest in salute, then raised his leather speaking trumpet. “Hands to reduce sail!” he bellowed through it, and feet thundered across the deck planking in response.

* * * * * * * * * *

Laizair Mahrtynsyn watched the Charisian through narrow eyes from his station on Archangel Chihiro’s quarterdeck. She was sweeping steadily closer, with her starboard battery run out while she angled towards Archangel Chihiro’s larboard quarter, which didn’t surprise Mahrtynsyn a great deal. It didn’t please him, but it didn’t surprise him, either. The one thing of which he was completely confident was that Cayleb Ahrmahk wasn’t in the habit of assigning his most powerful warships to people who didn’t know what to do with them, and that Charisian captain over there obviously recognized the huge maneuver advantage his possession of the weather gauge bestowed upon him. Because of his position to windward, the choice of when and how to initiate action lay completely in his hands, and he clearly understood exactly what to do with that advantage.

Mahrtynsyn only wished he was more confident that Captain Ahbaht understood the same thing.

Whether Ahbaht understood that or not, it was already painfully evident to Mahrtynsyn that the Charisian galleon was being far more ably handled than his own ship. Archangel Chihiro’s sail drill had improved immeasurably during her lengthy voyage from Desnair. Despite that, however, the precision of the other ship’s drill as she reduced canvas only underscored how far Archangel Chihiro’s own company still had to go. The Charisian’s fore course was brailed up and her topgallants disappeared with mechanical precision, as if whisked away by the wave of a single wizard’s magic wand. Two of her jibs disappeared, as well, as she reduced to fighting sail, yet even with her sail area drastically reduced, she continued to forge steadily closer.

Her speed had dropped with the reduction of sail, but that didn’t make Mahrtynsyn a lot happier. Archangel Chihiro and Blessed Warrior had taken in their own courses in preparation for battle, and that had cost them even more speed than the Charisian had given up. She still had an advantage of close to two knots, and she was only eight hundred yards astern. In fifteen minutes, give or take, she’d be right alongside, and it was evident what her captain had in mind. He intended to keep to leeward of Archangel Chihiro, engaging her larboard broadside with his own starboard guns. With the shift in the wind, both ships were heeling harder now, so his shots might tend to go high, but it would allow him to engage the flagship in isolation, where Blessed Warrior would be unable to engage him closely. In a straight broadside duel, the heavier Charisian galleon would almost certainly overpower Archangel Chihiro in relatively short order.

Still, if the Captain and the Commodore’s plans work out, it won’t be a straight broadside duel, now will it?

No, it wouldn’t. Unfortunately, Lieutenant Mahrtynsyn suspected that that Charisian captain over there might just have a few plans of his own.

* * * * * * * * * *

“All right, Master Lathyk,” Sir Dunkyn Yairley said, “I think it’s about time.”

“Aye, Sir,” the first lieutenant responded gravely, and beckoned to Hektor.

“Stand ready, Master Aplyn-Ahrmahk,” he said, and Hektor nodded — under the rather special circumstances obtaining at the moment, he’d been specifically instructed not to salute in acknowledgment where anyone on the enemy ship might see it — and moved idly a bit closer to the hatch gratings at the center of Destiny’s spar deck. He glanced down through the latticework at the gundeck below. The long thirty-pounders were run out and waiting to starboard, and he smiled as he noted the gun crews’ distribution.

It was not a particularly pleasant expression.

“Man tacks and braces!” he heard Lathyk shout behind him.

* * * * * * * * * *

Commodore Wailahr stood on Archangel Chihiro’s poop deck, gazing at the steadily approaching Charisian ship.

It was evident to him that Captain Ahbaht had been less than delighted to discover just how powerful their adversary actually was. Well, Wailahr hadn’t been tempted to turn any celebratory cartwheels himself. And although all of the commodore’s previous combat experience might have been solely on land, his ships had conducted enough gunnery drills for him to suspect their accuracy was going to prove dismal. To some extent, though, that should be true for both sides, and the fact that he had almost twice as many total guns ought to mean he’d score more total hits, as well.

Assuming he could bring all of them into action.

So far, he’s doing what Ahbaht predicted, Hairahm, he reminded himself. Now if he just goes on doing it . . . .

At least before they’d separated to their present distance from one another, Archangel Chihiro and Blessed Warrior had been able to come close enough together for Wailahr and Ahbaht to confer with Captain Tohmys Mahntain, Blessed Warrior’s commanding officer, through their speaking trumpets. Mahntain was a good man — junior to Ahbaht, and a little younger, but also the more aggressive of the two. And he’d understood exactly what Ahbaht and Wailahr had in mind. The commodore was confident of that, and also that he could rely on Mahntain to carry through on his instructions.

More than that, it was evident Ahbaht’s prediction that the enemy would attempt to engage just one of Wailahr’s ships if the opportunity were offered had been accurate. By deliberately opening a gap between the two Desnarian galleons, he and Wailahr had offered up Archangel Chihiro as what had to be a tempting target. If the Charisian kept to larboard, closing in on Archangel Chihiro’s downwind side, she could range up alongside Wailahr’s flagship and pound her with her superior number and weight of guns when none of Blessed Warrior’s guns could be brought to bear in the flagship’s support.

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38 Responses to A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 32

  1. Rekes says:

    If it were me I’d have Blessed Warrior come up with more sail just before the engagement and then move in for a boarding action, outright ramming aside, which the Charisians will be hard pressed to fight off if Archangel Chihiro comes along as well.

  2. PeterZ says:

    Goody! Hektor gets to relay the order for Destiny’s first broadside to open fire. Texts suggests the port side guns are crewed even though the starboard side is run out. Sir Dunkyn is trying to cross the stern “T” and maybe even running alongside windward of the Desnairian not leeward as the enemy expects. Destiny may manage this first pass without Archangel Chihiro returning a coherent broadside.

    These Desnairians are toast burnt to a crisp.

  3. PeterZ says:

    @1 Rekes, Sir Dunkyn suspects just that. He won’t give up the weather guage (get downwind of either ship). If he does he risks just the ramming/closing you seek. By staying windward he forecloses either Desnairian from closing easily.

  4. Rod says:

    can someone please explain to me why merlin introduced improved war galleons instead of say frigates. Well I mean besides the fact that safehold already had them. Everything I’ve ever read says ships like frigates, brigantines and so forth, while smaller, were also faster and more manuverable then the lumbering galleons, while also able to handle a respectable weight of guns. Just seems like it would be better to have a ship that can sail circles around the enemy while also blowing them to Safehold’s kingdom come.

  5. wyrm says:

    @4 Rod

    Naval ships are a compromise between speed/manouvreability, resources (timber, sailcloth, etc), manpower, firepower and vulnerability. The general rule is that the smaller the ship, the faster & more manouvreable but more vulnerable, while the larger the ship the more firepower it can carry, and proportionally, the less resources & manpower needed to carry each gun.

    European experience showed that ‘larger was better’, and navies tended to build larger and larger ships. However, when a ship gets too big/clumsy, disasters can occur. If you want to see what happens when a ship got too clumsy, go to Stockholm and see the Vasa, or Portsmouth and see the Mary Rose

    Consequently, this led to the ‘ship of the line’, the empirical choice between firepower and manouvreability. Charisian galleons are not yet to this size (50+ guns, compared to a SoL’s 74), but there may still be technical limitations, like dry-dock dimensions, to overcome. Also, it offers David the chance to allow the Go4 the chance to build a super-ship which sinks as it leaves harbour.

  6. Summercat says:

    @4, 5:

    Wyrm is correct on the compromise, but…

    Frigates as you are thinking are a product of the late 1700s, IIRC. Ah, Wiki pens it as about 1740, developed by France.

    The thing is, frigates are ‘better’. But even with the aid of CAD software, I don’t think Merlin could easily come up with these plans for a magically (and radically) different style of hull. The Wargalleons were part of the natural growth of naval technology that led to the Ships of the Line and the Frigates.

    I’m guessing that the ‘new’ schooner-rigged Galleons of the ICN are more like the ‘race-built’ HMS Revenge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Revenge_%281577%29), a ship built in 1577, or perhaps the cross-era ships of the early-mid 1600s – ones that are neither quite wargalleons nor SotL…

  7. Daryl says:

    The original armament on HMS Victory in 1765 was 30 X 42 pounders, 28 X 24 pounders, 30 X 12 pounders, and 12 X 6 pounders. Various modifications included the addition of 8 X 12 pound carronades, and substitution of some high velocity long 32 pounders for the 42 pounders, and back again. The Charisians appear to have avoided the logistic difficulties of having 5 or more sizes of shot. The 32 pounders could penetrate 42 inches of oak at 400 yards. Don’t forget that the stern of most galleons doesn’t have thick oak walls but light glass works so is a vulnerable point if, like Nelson, you can get a clear shot up the length of the enemy.

  8. Mike S says:

    From what I can tell, the naval architecture and shipbuilding technology approximates that of Elizabethan England and the development of warships designed to leverage the changes in weapons technology from boarding actions to gunnery duels. Think Armada 1588, where “race built” Elizabethan galleons maintained the edge in manueverability over the Spanish galleons and their use of trunnions and naval carraiges gave them a faster rate of fire over the heavier Spanish guns, many of which were still on field or stock carriages. Elizabethan purpose built warships carried between 40 to 56 guns on one and a half to two decks. The weapons technology is around the post-Napoleonic period (1820-30). Navies began to standardize broadside guns to reduce the numbers of calibers and simplify logistics. As an example, where at “large” 74 gun ship would have had 18 & 32 pdr carronades, 18 pdr long guns on the gundeck and 32pdr long guns on the main deck, all guns and carronades would be 32pdrs, being different weights and barrel lengths dependent on where on the ship they were positioned. USS Constitution went from 24pdr long and 42pdr carronades to 32pdr long guns and carronades.
    As far as the difference between ships of the line and frigates. Ships of the line were in a straight line evolution of the “race” built Elizabethen warships. They were designed and built to maintain control of the seas through decisive battle against other ships of the line. As such, they were built as gun carriers, with stability, load bearing and sea keeping as their primary design objectives. Ships of the line were the battleships of the European (and US) navies from about 1650 to 1850.

    Small warships with single decks existed throughout the period. They were built for speed and performed the auxiliary duties of raiding, recon and communications (dispatches). Generally they carried light guns (later carronades), 4-20 being the usual range. Even the largest, before the period of the shell gun (1830-1850), when single deck ships reached the size of earlier frigates, was smaller than the smallest frigate.

    Until the mid to late 1700s, the intermediate size ship, used for convoy escort, cruising, fleet scouts and independent missions were merely smaller versions of the ships of the line, carrying 24-50 guns. The main issue was that as two deck ships, their lower deck guns were often to close to the water line to use in any weather. The frigate still had two decks, but the guns were removed from the main deck. Now the guns were 6-8 ft above the water line versus 3-4 feet as before. This made the frigates more weatherly, with reduced area above the waterline. Frigates replaced all other types of ships as cruisers, but some larger two deck ships were kept for missions requiring gun power versus speed and weatherliness (as an example, in 1776, a 44 gun ship would carry 22 18pdr and 22 9pdr guns, were the common 32 gun frigate would carry 26 12pdrs and 6 6pdrs or the 50 gun ships with 24 24pdr, 22 12pdr and 4-6 6pdr guns versus a 38 gun frigate with 28 18pdrs and 10 9pdr guns), until the big spar decked frigates with two complete decks of guns replaced them late in the Napoleonic Wars.
    Also crew size and training mattered. At Trafalger, the French and Spanish had larger crews but w/o the training, they could man both broadsides and spare men aloft, but couldn’t manuever or fight as well as the British who only could man a single broadside and man the yards until locked alongside an enemy. One of the USN’s major advantages was that its crews were not only larger and could man both batteries and yards, but they were at least as well trained as their British opponents.

  9. Bob G says:

    @2 I think you’re right, and I have to guess that the Blessed Warrior was going to turn in front of Archangel Chihiro and then settle on the same course at lower speed, to catch Destiny between them. The alternative is to turn on an opposite course of Chiriro, which would put Blessed Warrior in irons and unable to maneuver.

    In either case, the Destiny will probably rake the stern of the Chiriro at beyond Chiriro’s effective range, and then swing around (as @2 observed) to go broadside. The Blessed Warrior will still be ahead of Destiny, and will have to choose between running (and the problems with that will have been observed :^), or attempting for a broadside duel. If she turns to port, Destiny will arc around and run behind her, and she will have to turn to starboard or go into irons. At some point during that turn she will present her aft to Destiny. If she turns to starboard, Destiny will turn to port, between Chiriro and Warrior, and she’ll get her stern raked, while Destiny hits Chiriro again from the front.

    Still not certain (nothing is in battle), but it doesn’t look good for our Desnarians.

  10. PeterZ says:

    @6 Summercat, all the galleons are ship rigged, the cruisers are schooner rigged. Ship rigs use square sails like traditional galleons and the schooners carry the sail between the mast and the boom connected prependicularly at the base of the mast. The big difference between Charisian galleons and traditional safehold galleons are the jibs and gaff spankers. The jib helps to carry the ship around faster during a tack across the wind and the gaff spanker allows for faster wearing with the wind. The Desnairians have the gaff spankers but no jibs.

  11. Peter Z says:

    @9 Bob, there is no way Sir Dunkyn will give up the weather gauge to 2 enemies as lubberly as these. Doing so would be asking to get trapped between the two ships and almost guarantee a boarding action. The wind has shifted to east-southeast. If Sir Dunkyn engages with his starboard side, both his enemies will have the weather gauge. They could turn on him with the wind at their backs and bracket Destiny before she can wear completely around and clear Archangel Chihiro’s wind shadow.

    Lt. Mahrtynsyn sees it coming but I doubt he is confident he can persuade his superiors that Destiny could sail that close to the wind. His ships probably couldn’t pull it off.

  12. Damon says:

    Jesus H. Christ on a bicycle, am I getting one whale of an education about sailing and fighting warships by the posters on this site! It’s really a shame that DW can’t incorporate an addendum to the book to include some of this knowledge. Thank you to the sea dogs here!

  13. Peter Z says:

    @12 Perhaps that’s the secret Baen project DW is twittering about.

  14. Danny KCW says:

    I’m trying to remember where/when (if ever) Weber mentions how large the crew of a Charisian galleon is. I recall in OAR that in the first naval battle when Caleb started the battle by hitting the Dohloran Flagship (can’t remember the name, King Ronald or something like that) HMS Dreadnought fired, I think, a port broadside into her stern. Then one by one several more Charisian galleons also fired off a port broadside. A little later when one of the other Dohlaran galleys tried to come to the flagship’s aid it was greeted by a starboard broadside from the third or forth (sorry my memory is falling me here) Charisian galleon after it had fired off a port broadside at the flagship and other Charisian galleons began to do the same.

    That action suggested Charisian galleons had the crews to man both broadsides and handle the sails. However, in this snippet we have Lieutenant Mahrtynsyn of the Archangel Chihiro, thinking Destiny didn’t have a crew big enough to fully man both broadsides. Thus, the Desnarians will attempt to box Destiny between them counting on the Charisian being unable to engage both ships simultaneously.

    Their assumption about Destiny’s crew size seems to be confirmed by Hektor when he smiles in regard to the distribution of the starboard gun crews. I could be wrong, but this suggests to me that Destiny indeed doesn’t have enough personnel to man both broadsides and Captain Yairley has split the gun crews to allow then to man the port broadside as well. I think each starboard gun has a minimum crew to elevate and fire the weapon. When the battle ensues Destiny will fire a starboard broadside into Archangel Chichiro (hopefully per @2 cross stern “T”) then maneuver to counter Blessed Warrior’s attempts to come along the port side. The rest of the gun crews will quickly run out the port cannons and the gun captains will shift from the starboard batteries to fire them. Not running out the starboard guns earlier likely will help suck Blessed Warrior in closer.

    How devastating these first broadsides are and Destiny’s ability to out sail the Desnarians will determine the battle’s outcome as Destiny can’t reload both broadsides anywhere near the normal rate of fire unless Captain Yairley is willing to settle for half broadsides or is able to maneuver Destiny such that it can alternate a full broadside against each opponent (or devote several in succession against one target as the other recovers and fumbles for position). Splitting fire between two enemy ships isn’t wise, but he’s counting on the Desnarian’s inexperience and ability to adapt rapidly.

  15. Maggie says:

    @12 & 13

    Like Damon I am grateful for the age-of-sail experts amongst us.
    What about an online game concept where we can all have out own battles?

  16. Peter Z says:

    @14 Danny, the battle in OAR may have had the galleons over crewed. There were only 30 of them at the time and Cayleb needed to build a cadre of gunnery crews for the rapidly expanding galleon forces. Now at the current size of his navy, there may not be enough trained personnel to man double gunnery crews.

    I doubt that Sir Dunkyn will allow both his enemies to engage him simultaneously. By turning to starboard into the wind he is putting Destiny more windward than either enemy can sail. This will expose the port broadside to Chihiro’s stern. Chihiro can; turn to port and further expose her aft, turn starboard into the wind and risk getting caught in irons or continue on her current heading and try to respond with her own starboard (unprepared) broadside. Warrior is too far head to do anything in this first pass.

    If Sir Dunkyn engages Chihiro with Destiny’s starboard broadside on the first pass, she will be downwind of Chihiro for sure and possibly Warrior as well. Chihiro will turn downwind towards Destiny, block the wind from Destiny with her own sails and close. There is a good chance that Destiny will get caught and a boarding action will result. Toss in Warrior and Destiny is doomed. For these reasons, I fully expect Destiny to turn starboard before she passes Chihiro (and enters Chihiro’s wind shadow) and not engage either enemy with her starboard guns.

    After this pass, Sir Dunkyn can either stay windward of either Desnairian or turn downwind of both. The latter is both risky and not necessary. It’s risky because both ships can bracket him if he does and possibly force a boarding action. It’s not necessary because he can out tack both these ships and stay windward. So long as Sir Dunkyn stays windward he picks and chooses when and whom to engage and his enemies are powerless to regain that initiative. Without full crews for both broadsides, I can’t envision a reason where Sir Dunkyn chooses to expose Destiny to both ships’ fire at once.

  17. Malcolm says:

    All most interesting, and learning heaps….but what’s Merlin up too??. Seems like he’s gone on annual leave…

  18. KimS says:

    Just like the old boardgame ‘Wooden Ships & Iron Men’! Do the Charisians have chainshot to take down masts? I hadn’t heard that they did, but that may be the surprise they have in the guns. Or may be double shot and grape!! Nasty stuff. I can see the lead ship mistiming a turn, taking the wind out of Archangels’ sails decreasing their maneuvering capabilities. The Charisians pounce.

    Or a lucky shot could drop one of Destinys’ masts.

  19. Danny KCW says:

    @16 Thanks Peter I guess the Charisians likely did over crew their ships in OAR and now with a much bigger fleet and all the privateer ships, they don’t have enough personnel.

    I think you’re right that Yairley won’t give the Desnarians the chance to box him and your thought of how he will maneuver and control the battle is reasonable. So unless the Desnarians are really lucky this battle is a foregone conclusion. This leads me to believe that this is a set-up for the more interesting problem of how they will pull off a heist at Khairman Keep as this snippet hints that Yairley has a fair notion of what these two Desnarians were suppose to be doing.

  20. Tootall says:

    A question to be considered is: Who does the gold in Khairman Keep belong to?
    If it’s been turned over to the Church, that’s one thng. If Desnair still has possession, that’s entirely another.
    The snip says the ships are on a starboard tack- does that mean that the wind is coming directly from the right (starboard) of all three ships?

  21. Peter Z says:

    What happens if the gold isn’t stolen? What happens if this gold and the gold held at many other regional depots never gets out until well past spring. What will the G4 do to continue their projects? How will they pay for the materials used? Also, what happens to these tithes building up for almost a year when the G4 purge their enemies? Will the local Archbishops meekly bow to Clyntahn or use their cache of gold as leverage in some way? I don’t know if this snippet foreshadows some audacious bit of daring do by young Hektor or a deeper political manouvering by the clergy.

    Either is fine by me. :-)

  22. Peter Z says:

    @20 If not directly, as close to the wind as the rigging allows, but yes the wind is coming from the starboard side of the ship. IIRC, the ships are headed north-northeast so the wind is coming from slightly aft (from the rear) on the starboard side.

  23. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Only thing I know about crew size was that somewhere the number “500” showed up somewhere as the number of crew on one of these ships. I can’t remember for sure if it was actually in a snippet at the moment tho. That number includes the Marines as well as sailors, although I suspect most or all of the Marines are cross-trained.

    If a gun crew is normally 5-6 people, a 50 gun ship (excluding chase weaponry) would need 250-300 people just to fully man their broadsides. Theoretically that might fit, but it could be a bit tight. I’m not sure if the powder monkeys are part of that gun crew, however, so that might or might not make it an even a tighter fit. Then if you add in the need to be able to adjust sails for maneuvering it becomes more unlikely every gun is fully manned.


  24. I believe the issue is that you could man all cannons at the same time, but if you were only engaged on one side much of the offside crew came over; the extra men made reloading somewhat faster.

    There are some even more amusing tricks. Crossing the stern T at low speed, the enemy sailing downwind and you due across the wind, and then putting the ship into reverse and backing your ship across the T again, comes immediately to mind. (For no points, name the American skipper with first-rate crew who did this to a British ship.)

    I can’t imagine that the Charisian ship will attack Archangel Chihiro on the Leeward side. The Blessed Warrior can if necessary put over the helm and coast the required ship lengths to be adjacent to the Charisian, who will be mired in a wind shadow. The Charisian ship will surely change sailing angle and attack Archangel Chihiro on the windward side, leaving the Blessed Warrior entirely out of the action.

    Alternatively, it will cut toward the wind and cross the Blessed Warrior’s tee, secure in the knowledge that it will take Archangel Chihiro twenty minutes to come about with the wind and come back to assist. (As done to the Spaniads and French at Trafalgar.)

  25. Rekes says:

    Load Chain Shot! Aim for the sails!

  26. Peter Z says:

    @24 George, I just don’t see Sir Dunkyn going all Horatio Hornblower and backing up his ship to get in another broadside. Young Hektor in years to come, perhaps.

  27. Bret Hooper says:

    @16 Peter Z: Please help this poor landlubber by explaining what “getting caught in irons” means. Thank you.

  28. Peter Z says:

    @27 Bret, when a ship has to tack accross the wind, it slows down as the wind pushes it backwards. When a ship slows to a stop there is no water moving past its rudder and it cannot stear. Getting caught in irons smply means the ship took too long trying to tack accross the wind and has lost enough speed (or way) so that it can no longer turn. It simply floats on the waves. Until the wind pushes it fast enough again to make the water flow past its rudder, it is stuck or caught in irons.

    Hope that helps.

  29. mike dillon says:

    @25 Yes! Cut up the rigging and take them with the hulls intact. Repairs would be cheep and then you have a new unit for the ICN.

    New though, coastal defence if the CoGA fleet comes to someplace vital like the keys. Heated shot!

  30. Peter Z says:

    @29 Why bother with heated shot when your coastal gunners have explosive shells, especially explosive shells fired from rifled guns? Way easier to load and way less problematic all around, not to mention able to cause way more damage. Heated shot has this annoying habit of misfiring and killing/maiming the loader.

  31. jgnfld says:

    @24…Lawrence’s USS Hornet vs. HMS Peacock???

  32. mike dillon says:

    @30 Good point, HS is very difficult to manage and agreed on the HE shells but if a few tests were leaked to the other side it might do something to there moral/recruiting?

  33. Peter Z says:

    @32 I’ld rather a visiting fleet “leaked’ news about exploding shells right on one of the G4 primary shipyards. Kill moral and destroy recruiting right quick and quite thoroughly.

  34. Rekes says:

    @33 You assume a disappointment in either governance or religion in that case, which correlates to cultures in which the fallibility of man is considered endemic to mans’ institutions. If either is not present then the people will have an opposite reaction, galvanizing action instead of concern. Charis can’t afford direct aggression on opponents, Delfarahk was an exception in which Charis had cause for just retribution, but to attack its opponents at home would raise hell and hurt Charis in the long term when the time comes to convince instead of wage war.

  35. justdave says:

    @18, the good old days of Avalon Hill where the only tech needed was a watch!

  36. Peter Z says:

    @34 Gadzooks, Rekes! These are ship yards building the instruments of Charis’ destruction not port cities minding their own business. I agree that leaving enemy cities alone, so long as those cities do not engage in aggression against Charis, is a good idea. I disagree that such consideration should be extended to every city, even those that commit its resources to explicitly destroying Charis.

    Yes, I assume that a populace will be disappointed in rulers that pick a fight with an enemy it cannot fight effectively. Allowing that populace to see explosive shells up close and personal will do just that. Why in Langhorne’s name would any sane land power with no navy to speak of choose to fight The Preeminent Navy on Safehold in such a direct and ineffectual way? All this will do is get commoners killed and change Charis not one whit. If those leaders present an EFFECTIVE approach, then things would be different. Baring comparable weapons, how can they? It makes more sense to figure out how to replicate those weapons first.

    Punish undesired behaviour and reward desired behaviour. Its OK to disagree with Charis, just don’t attack or prepare to attack it. Action, reaction; cause, effect; attack Charis, die in small burnt bits floating on the ocean.

  37. Strategic bombing is remarkably ineffective at persuading people to surrender.

    Returning to tack: The wind is coming from the north and blowing due south. You are sailing northeast and want to change course to northwest. You have two choices.
    A) Turn right so you are sailing east, south, west and finally northwest. A square rigger cannot do this arbitrarily quickly; for example, you have to reset all the jibs from one side to straight to the other side. During this time, you have been sailing southwards and backwards from the direction you wanted.

    Turn left so first you are pointed into the wind and then you are pointed the way you want to go. In the middle you are trying to sail straight upwind, which is impossible; the wind tries to bring you to a stop. If it does, you are caught in irons and remain there (some tricks exist for tilting sails to get some torque; if you are going backwards, the rudder works albeit poorly). The slower you are moving, the more likely it is you get caught in irons. Charisian ships can sail closer to the wind…nearer to due north … and thus need to swing — come about — through a smaller angle, and have more speed to do it with, so they can do things that other ships cannot do, at least as readily.

  38. Bret Hooper says:

    @28 Thank you, Peter. Yes, that helped greatly.

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