17th Century Sailing Ships
A classic example of a sailing ship from the 17th Century was the Mayflower the famous Pilgrim Ship. The Mayflower sailed from Plymouth harbor to New England in America in 1620. She was a merchant sailing ship and had a displacement of 180 tons, had a waterline length of 29 meters , and carried 100 passengers. Half the Mayflower’s passengers died during their first American winter.
In 1628 the Vasa capsized and sunk in Stockholm harbor on her first voyage. She was a new Swedish warship and suffered from a serious design fault. The Vasa had been built too narrow for her length and she was top-heavy from carrying heavy guns on the upper deck as well as the lower gun-deck. This design fault in old wooden battleships was rectified by the French by making the lower gun deck at a safe height above the water. The French were to become highly successful at designing large stable, heavily-armed battleships. The Vasa carried 64 guns on two decks. She was richly decorated with painted and decorated carvings particularly on the stern with the Royal Arms of Sweden carved on the sternpost.
Sailing Ship Changes
In ship construction sterns were made more rounded, returning to earlier designs. The stern was also lowered considerably, becoming less ornate and making the ships a lot more seaworthy and easier to sail and more stable. The waist between the quarterdeck and forecastle was joined along the ship sides by gangways. The Royal Sovereign in 1637 had the new royal sail, and it also had 100 cannon on three decks. Staysails came into use around that time. Staysails were attached to the stays or ropes that held the masts up and were triangular in shape like the old lateen shape and more like modern sails on yachts.