Evolution of the ship of the line
Spanish ships of the line
The art of transom
The Sovereign of the Seas
The following illustrations are original, contemporary blueprints of a Spanish 74-gun ship of the line, built in Ferrol in 1794
and being, judgedly by her figurehead, that named Monta˝Ús (Highlander). This vessel was armed with twenty-eight 24-pound cannons on
the lower gun deck - which had two additional gun ports aiming backwards -, thirty 18-pound cannons on the upper gun deck, ten 18-pound
cannons on the quarterdeck and six 8-pound cannons on the forecastle, with two additional cannons aiming forward - which seem of the
same type in the illustration -.
Excellent sailing qualities allowed ships like this one to reach a maximum speed of 14 knots while keeping a fine steering, while a distance
of 190 centimeters between the waterline and the lower gun ports granted a safe navigation during harsh sea conditions. The hull had a length of
53 meters from stem to sternpost, a beam of 14.5 meters, a draught of 6.7 meters and a height of 15.3 meters from the keel to the waist deck gunnel.
The displacement was around 2500 tonnes. This particular ship was in her time considered as the best one in the Spanish Navy.
The profile cross section shows how the whole lower section of the hull was mainly destined as storage. On the upper section, the aft chambers
(painted in blue) were occupied by commanders and officers, while the rest of the crew slept on hammocks distributed along the gun decks.
At the start of each day, the sailors had to roll their hammocks and fit them inside the mesh rails on the upper decks. The main hatch, located
just before the main mast, passed through all the decks and served as the main entrance for cargo.
The following pictures show different levels of the hull, going from the bottom of the hull to the upper decks.
In the lowest section, it can be seen how ballast bricks occupy most of the space. Even a number of discarded cannons filled with stones have been
added as a supplementary ballast on the very center of the hull. The dark square is the cesspit water box, from where the water pumps suck the water,
which continuously leaks through the hull, to expel it. Note the very hydrodynamical shape of the hull at this level.
In the next section, from stern to prow, we can see: powder magazine, where powder is stored in small barrels and powder cartridges are prepared to
be ready for use in the cannons; brick bulkhead separating the powder barrels from the rest of the rooms, acting as a firewall; pantry, where big
barrels containing food and wine rest on a ballast of stones; firewood storage; and bosun's storeroom, where the fore mast socket can be seen.
Note the deposit of cannon balls in reserve next to the cesspit water box. During battle a long chain of sailors would pass the cannon balls from
the deposit to the gun decks.
In the lower section, from stern to prow, it can be seen: constable's rigging storeroom; powder magazine, lighted by a lantern shielded with
glass; pantry with barrels containing meat, bacon, cheese and other provisions; cesspit water box, cannon balls deposit and coiled thick
ropes; barrels with wine and water; firewood storage and barrels containing tar; and bosun's storeroom.
In the next section, from stern to prow, we can see: constable's storeroom; access to the powder magazine; storeroom for bread and rations;
pantry hatch; cesspit water box and cannon balls deposit; main hatch; mess-deck; storerooms for the carpenter, caulker, lantern
operator and bleeder; firewood magazine's hatch; sails storeroom; and bosun's storeroom, which has access to the lower storeroom and the fighting alleys
that run alongside the deck. In these "alleys", located at waterline level, the carpenters and their assistants effectuated emergency repairs
In the lower gun deck, from stern to prow, we can see: gun ports for aft cannons; chaplains rooms; powder magazine's hatch; midshipmen's room;
main capstan; pantry hatch; exhaust water pumps; main mast socket; main hatch with grating; firewood storage's hatch; main bitts;
fore mast socket; bosun's storeroom hatch; and protection board against water just in front of the hawseholes.
Larboard artillery is represented in combat position while starboard artillery is represented in withdrawn position. Note how many cannon balls are
placed around hatches, ready to use.
In the upper gun deck, from stern to prow, we can see: transom gallery; lower officers chamber with table; officers rooms; cupboard and
mizzen mast socket; aft access to lower deck; grating and main capstan; access to pantry; main mast socket and water pumps; main hatch;
grating and waist capstan; fore access to lower deck and stove; oven and fore mast socket; and bowsprit socket.
On the weather deck, from stern to prow, we can see: transom gallery and "gardens" with toilets; upper officers chamber; commander's room and chapel;
windowed rooms for veteran officers; steering wheel and binnacle; access to lower deck; quarterdeck gratings; quarterdeck's command gunnel;
main mast socket and belaying pins; waist gangways with gratings; forecastle's command gunnel with belfry; stove exhaust; fore capstan; fore mast socket and
belaying pins; and forepeak with davits and toilets.
On the poop deck we can see: transom lanterns and davits; pilots chambers; racks for flags and compasses; racks for signal lanterns; officers chambers;
mizzen mast socket and belaying pins; and staircase to quarterdeck. Note the four carronades.