Ships in 1588-1628

By 1588, when the Spanish armada sailed against England, the latest type of warship had yet to be proved in battle. The last big sea battle, at Lepanto in the Mediterranean in 1571, had been fought between fleets of oared galleys. The new sailing galleons, designed to fight with broadsides of cannon, were still an unknown force.

Numbering 130 ships in all, the Spanish Armada included 20 of the new galleons in its fighting screen of 64 “great ships” whose task was to protect the fleet of 36 transports and 22 light scouting craft from attack by the English fleet. The Rrmada was intended to fight in the old style: closing and boarding with masses of soldiers. But the English galleons fought at long range with their guns, hustling the Armada through the Channel. The Armada suffered its heaviest losses on its return to Spain, with over 25 ships wrecked and sunk off the rugged west coast of Ireland.

Mayflower, the famous Pilgirm ship of the early seventeenth century, sailed from Plymouth to New England between September 6 and November 11, 1620. A typical merchant ship of her day, Mayflower displaced about 180 tons, measured barely 29 meters (96.5 feet )long at the waterline, and carried 100 passengers. A replica , Mayflower II, repeated the famous voyage in 1957.

Right years after the Mayflower voyage, the new Swedish warship Vasa capsized and sank in Stockholm harbor on her maiden voyage. Her recovery in 1961 gave the world its only complete specimen of an intact seventeenth century warship. Vasa carried 64 guns on two decks, and was richly decorated with painted and gilded carvings.