Quick Reference

A compromise between the oared galley and the galleon, in which oars were retained to provide free movement irrespective of the direction of the wind, although masts and sails were also carried. In order to accommodate the masts and rigging, galleasses had to be built with a great beam and a deeper draught than the galley. They were lateen rigged on two or three masts, but suffered from the inevitable defects of compromise, being unable to carry the more effective square rig of the sailing ship because of the modified galley hull form. For the same reason, they were unable to retain the speed and manoeuvrability of the true galley. Six galleasses were included in the Spanish Armada but were unable to accomplish anything in the stormier waters of the English Channel and North Sea. The type died a fairly rapid death as warships.

The name was also used to describe the oared sailing vessels of the Mediterranean, widely used for the carriage of freight during the 16th and 17th centuries. These were large vessels of up to 46 metres (150 ft) long with a beam of between 7 and 8 metres (25 ft), two or three masted with a lateen rig and a single bank of oars, and designed for the longer trading voyages. During the summer months they were frequently to be seen as far away from the Mediterranean as the ports of north Europe, laden with produce from India and China which had been taken on board at Genoa or Venice.

Subjects: Maritime History.

Reference entries