Ancient Ships

Chinese Junk’s origin is from the second century BC, and it is still used today. The stern was high, and the bows were pointed. The Junk can have as many as five masts. The sails are square set and are made from matting or linen, strengthened by bamboo batons. The sails are opened or closed by the rope (similar to a blind). The sail is always at right angles to the direction of sail although there is a certain amount of play around the mast. There is no keel or centreboard, but a considerable rudder replaces these. The cross and longitudinal bulkheads enhance strength. By the middle ages, these crafts sailed as far as Indonesia and Indian Seas.

The Noble junk is still used today, although it ports like Hong Kong they are mainly for tourists and parties. The bulkheads which attributed to the strength of the Junk’s hull was only in the early 1900s that the western ships copied them. Chinese admiral Zheng He sailed in his junks on seven exploratory voyages and reached the Cape of Good Hope approximately seventy years before Bartholomew Diaz “discovered” the Cape.

The Arabian Dhow

When Vasco de Gama reached India, he found that Dhows were in use from India to the Gulf of Arabia. The Dhow is of wood construction, with the planks laced together with palm fronds. The hull and stern were both pointed, and the sails were of lateen design. This sail is mounted at 45° to the mast and as it can swing from side to side allowed for tacking which increased the speed of the ship. The Dhow, being flat bottomed can sail in shallow waters and can be beached easily whereas deeper hulled vessels cannot. Dhows are still built today, mostly in Sur, Oman and are sort after by all Arab nations.

Dhows are traditionally two-masted and up to 30 meters long. They are between three and five hundred tons and are used for trading and fishing. The hulls are usually built from Mahogany which is from Africa. The masts are of teak and palm wood. However, cotton is also used. The sails were shaped in a quadrilateral design. The Baggala is an ocean-going Dhow with two masts. The Boom has one pole and sail and is the design of choice in the Persian Gulf. These crafts have sailed the Indian Ocean as far as China for millenniums. They have always been used along coasts and seldom far out to sea.

The Sampan

The sampan is a small flat-bottomed wooden boat. Traditionally propelled by a sculling oar or a pole, and occasionally with a sail, but today powered by an outboard. Designed usually with a sharp bow and a broad flat stern, sampans are used for trading and also as houseboats with families living in the roofed in section.