One more thing about the shapes of ships – we’ve talked about this before: try to keep up. You’ll remember that I’m trying to figure out the shape of Blackbeard the Pirate’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge.
You’ll also recall how we talked about tonnage being available space, not weight, and how sailing ships had a specific balance between fore and aft, wind and water, to make ’em easy to sail.
One thing we forgot to discuss was, well, the shape of the ship.
Here are some details that teach us about ship shapes:
1778: HMS Pandora, 114 feet long, 32 feet wide, 3.5/1 length to width
1779: USS Constitution, 175 feet long, 43 feet wide, 4/1 length to width
1869: Cutty Sark, 212 feet long, 36 feet wide, 6/1 length to width
1991: USS Arleigh Burke, 505 feet long, 31 feet wide, 16/1 length to width
What does this tell us? We’ll start at the top: Pandora was a frigate, fast and efficient for her day. More than that, she was a stable ship, carrying 26 guns. Constitution was designed to outsail anything the Royal Navy had to offer, which she did. Cutty Sark was designed to quickly haul tea around the Horn from China. In her day, she was the fastest ship afloat. Arleigh Burke is a modern destroyer, built to cut through the water quickly, which she does.
Do you see the trend? As ships get more modern, they go faster and faster. But so does the ratio of length to width. We can assume, and it’s true, that a narrower ship will sail faster than a broader ship.
So, why build broad ships? Because wider hulls carry more cargo, and more cargo means more money per voyage.
Since Queen Anne’s Revenge was built to haul cargo, we can assume she had a length-to-breadth ratio in the range of 3 to 1. Kevin Duffus, in his book The Last Days of Black Beard, felt she had a length on only 104 feet. We know, then, that her breadth was about 30 feet.
See? All this math pays off. Kind of.