How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 38

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 38

“As you can see, High Admiral, we’ve more than enough to keep us busy until you and Master Howsmyn get around to sending us our new toys,” Pruait said. “I’d really like to get her coppered, as well, but Sir Dustyn’s . . . explained to me why that’s not going to happen.”

The captain rolled his eyes, and Rock Point chuckled. Unlike the ICN’s purpose built war galleons, the Navy of God’s ships used iron nails and bolts throughout, which made it effectively impossible to sheath their lower hulls in copper. Rock Point wasn’t about to try to explain electrolysis to Captain Pruait, and he was confident Sir Dustyn Olyvyr’s “explanation” had been heavy on “because it won’t work, damn it!” and considerably lighter on the theory.

“We may have to bite the bullet and go ahead and drydock her eventually to pull the underwater iron and refasten her with copper and bronze so we can copper her,” he said. “Don’t go getting your hopes up!” he cautioned as Pruait’s eyes lit. “It’d cost a fortune, given the number of prizes we’re talking about, and Baron Ironhill and I are already fighting tooth and nail over the Navy’s budget. But if we’re going to keep her in commission, it’d probably be cheaper in the long run to protect her against borers rather than replacing half her underwater planking every couple of years. And that doesn’t even consider how much slower the prizes are going to be without it.”

Pruait nodded in understanding. The recent Charisian innovation of coppering warships below the waterline did more than simply protect their timbers from the shellfish who literally ate their way (often with dismaying speed) into the fabric of a ship. That would have been more than enough to make the practice worthwhile, despite its initial expense, but it also enormously reduced the growth of weeds and the other fouling which increased water resistance and decreased speed. The swiftness Charisian ships could maintain was a powerful tactical advantage, but if Rock Point was forced to operate coppered and uncoppered ships together, he’d lose most of it, since a fleet was no faster than its slowest unit.

On the other hand, Rock Point thought, we’ve captured enough ships that we could make up entire squadrons — hell, fleets! — of ships without coppered bottoms. They’d be slower than other squadrons, but all the ships in them would have the same basic speed and handling characteristics. Still wouldn’t do anything about the borers, though. And the truth is, these prize ships are better built in a lot of ways than ours are, so it’d make a lot of sense — economically, not just from a military perspective — to take care of them. The designs aren’t as good as the ones Olyvyr’s come up with, but the Temple obviously decided it might as well pay for the very best. We had to use a lot of green wood; they used only the best ship timbers, and they took long enough building the damned things they could leave them standing in the frame to season properly before they planked them.

Charis hadn’t had that option. They’d needed ships as quickly as they could build them, and one of the consequences was that some of those improperly seasoned ships were already beginning to rot. It was hardly a surprise — they’d known it was coming from the beginning — and it wasn’t anything they couldn’t handle so far. But over the next couple of years (assuming they had a couple of years available) at least half of their original war galleons were going to require major rebuilding or complete replacement, and wasn’t that going to be fun?

“While you and Sir Dustyn were discussing why you’re not going to get coppered, did you happen to discuss armaments and weights with him?” Rock Point asked out loud, cocking his head at Pruait.

“Yes, Sir.” Pruait nodded. “According to his weight calculations, we can replace the original upper deck long guns with thirty-pounder carronades on a one-for-one basis without putting her overdraft or hurting her stability. Or we can replace them on a two-for-three basis with fifty-seven-pounders. If we do that, though, we’ll have to rebuild the bulwarks to relocate the gun ports. And he’s less confident of her longitudinal strength than he’d really like; he’s inclined to go with the heavier carronades but concentrate them closer to midships to reduce weights at the ends of the hull and try to head off any hogging tendencies.”

“I see.”

Rock Point turned, facing aft towards one of the distinctly non-Charisian features of the ship’s design. While the towering forecastle and aftercastle which had been such a prominent feature of galley design had been omitted, Sword of God was still far higher aft than a Charisian galleon because she boasted a poop deck above the quarterdeck. It was narrow, and the additional height probably made the ship considerably more leewardly than she would have been without it, but it was also a feature of all of the Navy of God’s galleon designs, so the Temple presumably thought it was worth it. Rock Point wasn’t at all certain he agreed with the Church, but he wasn’t certain he disagreed, either.

“Did the two of you discuss cutting her down aft?” he asked, twitching his head in the poop deck’s direction.

“Yes, Sir, we did.” Pruait followed the direction of the high admiral’s gaze and shrugged. “Cutting her down to quarterdeck level would reduce topweight. That would probably help her stability at least a bit, and Sir Dustyn’s of the opinion it would make her handier, as well. But he doesn’t think the weight reduction would have any significant effect on the weight of guns she could carry, and to be frank, I’m of the opinion that the overhead protection from enemy musket fire for the men at the wheel is probably worth any handling penalty. Although,” he admitted, “some of the other new captains question whether the protection’s worth the reduced visibility for the helmsmen.”

“I think that’s one of those things that could be argued either way,” Rock Point said thoughtfully. “And it’s probably going to come down to a matter of individual opinions, in the end. Funny how sea officers tend to be that way, isn’t it?” He smiled briefly. “But since we don’t have time to do it now, anyway, it looks like you’re going to get the opportunity to experiment with that design feature after all.”

Pruait didn’t exactly look heartbroken, the high admiral noted, and shook his head. Then he indicated the other officers who’d followed him aboard.

“I know you’ve met Lieutenant Erayksyn,” he said, “but I don’t know if you’ve met Captain Sahlavahn and Commander Mahndrayn?”

“I’ve never met the Commander, Sir,” Pruait admitted, nodding to Mahndrayn courteously as he spoke. “Captain Sahlavahn and I have known each other for quite some time now, though.” He extended his hand to the captain and they clasped forearms. “I haven’t seen you in too long, Trai.”

“Baron Seamount and Baron Ironhill have been keeping me just a little busy, Tym,” Sahlavahn replied wryly. “Oh, and High Admiral Rock Point, too, now that I think about it.”

“The reward for doing a difficult job well is to be ordered to turn around and do something harder,” High Rock observed. “And no good deed goes unpunished.” He fluttered his right hand in a waving away gesture. “And other clich├ęs along those lines.”

“I believe I’ve heard something to that effect before, Sir,” Pruait acknowledged, then looked back at Sahlavahn, and his expression sobered. “How’s your sister, Trai?”

“As well as can be expected.” Sahlavahn shrugged and waved at Mahndrayn. “I think Urvyn’s actually had a letter from her since I have, though.”

“I got one a couple of five-days ago,” Mahndrayn acknowledged. He and Sahlavahn were second cousins, although Sahlavahn was more than ten years his senior, and Mahndrayn had always been close to Sahlavahn’s younger sister, Wynai. “From what she has to say, things are getting pretty damned tense in the Republic, but there’s no way she’s going to convince Symyn to relocate to Charis.” He shook his head. “Apparently he’s making money hand-over-fist at the moment, and even though he’s just about the most rabidly Siddarmarkian you’re ever going to meet, his family does come from the Temple Lands. His various aunts and uncles ‘back home’ are already pissed off at him for living in the Charisian Quarter in Siddar City; Langhorne only knows what they’d say if they realized how enthusiastically he was helping violate Clyntahn’s stupid embargo!”

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17 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 38

  1. There is an amusing possibility depending on local geology to improve substantially the bottom fastening by fastening in beryllium bronze. You need enough beryllium available.

  2. KenJ says:

    Beryllium is also fiendishly toxic to process from ore unless you know what you are doing. For instance, you really DON’T want to breathe the dust when you mine or crush it. It’s not Asbestos but bad enough.

  3. PeterZ says:

    This is all gossip! No tech talk during this filler, oh bother!

  4. MTO says:

    @3 not all gossip. They talked about the fate of refits for the prize fleet!

  5. JN says:

    It looks like they are going to divide into fleets of home built and refits. That has intersting possibilities.

    On another subject, James Gunn was fond of saying that dialog is the slowest way to move plot. This series has been a demonstration, though you have to read Clancy to get the full effect.


  6. robert says:

    @3 PeterZ
    I think that the last paragraph is the most important one in this whole snippet. Economics and (potential) espionage are being foretold here. Oh, bother, my tush! The rest of this was just a discussion on resource allocation.

  7. Brom says:

    Notice the title change to “High Rock” …

    Will Symyn meet Aivah? Or have they already met?

    How about taking the “old” ICN ships which are starting to rot, pull the guns, copper sheathing, and rigging and transfers everything (crews included) to the new vessels.

  8. Tim says:

    Only 14 more sleeps to the book release :-) and only at most 6 more snippets (given the original 44 snippet statement) That takes us to the Sept 12th. The waiting is almost over

  9. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Tim, the last snippet (number 45) will be on the Sept 14th. The book will be available on the 13th.

  10. tootall says:

    Dear mind reader Drak,

    My question exactly, thanks for the answer.

  11. PeterZ says:

    Perhaps I should have inserted emoticons in my earlier post, robert, because I agree with everything you said.

    BTW, what is the accepted emoticon for sarcasm or irony? I find irony much harder to imbue into the written word than the spoken word.

  12. Mike S says:

    First, you would have to drydock the vessel you are going to pull apart. And I do mean pull apart if you’ve used bronze fasteners and nails. Not to mention stripping the copper bottom. It can be done by dragging the ship ashore, if you don’t want to keep the ship in service or careening. But you will definitely need to dry dock or careen the ship receiving the refit. Not to mention the removal of iron fastners, nails and reinforcements will, unless exactly replaced by bronze, leave weak points in the structure and integrity of the ship. And this could take, in our time and space, up to a year to execute, even within a naval-industrial base like the one England/Britain created from the 17th century on.

    Again, the technology here is very mixed. On one hand we talk about galleons, basically 16th century marine architecture and technology, then carronades and coppering from the late 18th century and combine 19th century construction technics like iron nails, fastners, knees and stringers. 16th century galleons, even the ones built by the English on the lower, faster hull designs, used wood nails and fastners almost through out. Bronze and iron nails and fastners came into use as ships became larger in the 17th century. Keep in mind most galleons of the Armada period were around 100 feet on the main deck. The largest rarely exceeded 125 feet. The average armament was around 30-40 guns of various types, more being very unusual. By the end of the 17th century, a three decker might reach 150-160 feet and as many as 100 guns. It was in the late 18th century, in which improved construction techniques and metal fastenings led to 180 to 210 foot three deckers with up to 120 guns and 160-190 foot twin deckers with up to 80 guns while frigates maxed out at 170-175 feet and 50 guns. It was, however, the introduction of transverse framing and iron strapping and knees that supported the building of wooden warships up to 350 feet long in the mid-1800s. Conversely, the number of guns carried came down as the guns became heavier and larger.

    As far as the speed, even adding coppered bottoms won’t make the ex-Temple ships as fast as a Charis ship of the same length and displacement. The Charis ships are “fast” built like the English galleons of the late 16th century (see Golden Hind, Revenge, etc.). The Temple ships are more like the Spanish galleons. The Charis ships have a better length to beam ratio and a better block coefficient providing less drag through the water.

    As far as iron ships. They turned out to gather barnicles and other sea weeds as fast as a wooden ship, and then there was the problem with rust. The answer for a time in the late 19th century was to plank over the iron hull with wood and then copper the wood.

    PS. Iron fastenings can be wrapped in felt and other materials and covered were they might contact the copper bottom to prevent interaction. This was a common technique from the late 18th through the 19th century.

  13. Mike S says:

    In other words, don’t confuse extant ships like USS Constitution or HMS Victory with late 16th century galleons like “Golden Hind” or “Revenge”. The RSNS Vasa is much closer in design and construction to what Charis and the Temple built before and during the Scism Wars.

  14. robert says:

    @11 PeterZ
    There are emoticons available on this site? Where?

    I knew you were not being serious, and I could tell there was irony. I don’t need no stinkin’ emoticons for that.

    @13 Mike S
    Having seen the Vasa a couple of months ago in its purpose-built museum, I cannot comprehend anything else meant to sail being “close” to it. If it was a movie, the critics would call it overproduced. I doubt that the ships built by the bad guys in this series were anything like the beauty that was the Vasa, even if they did float and the Vasa just sunk in a heavy breeze.

  15. robert says:

    Hey, everybody. The only reason to be sad about the end of the snippets is because there’ll be no more comments.

    Your consolation (irony) is that the book will be your hands by the end of that week. So wipe away those tears!

  16. Glowfish says:

    I don’t want Rock Point to be High Admiral, i want Sharpfield the Chisholmian, he is the second, i know he don’t have experience with galleons but i really think they should respect his seniority and make him part of the inner circle, is time to have new characters from the empire playing important roles in the main war, some emeraldians, some chisholmians, and even some corisandians like Garvai.

  17. Mike S says:

    The “Vasa” was not the only overloaded sailing ship of the period to founder from high seas. Henry VIII’s “Mary Rose” and even HMS Royal George foundered. The lower ports of many Royal Navy three deckers until late in the 18th century were 3 feet or less above the waterline when loaded for active service. My point is that the authors are loading 18th and 19th century technology into ships designed and built to 17th century (at best) technology. Imagine taking the “Golden Hind”, reinforcing her with iron kees and strapping, coppering her and replacing her guns with 18th century long guns and carronades and remasting and rerigging her., and also

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