Evolution of the ship of the line
Spanish ships of the line
The art of transom
The Sovereign of the Seas
The following illustrations show different aspects of a typical Spanish 74-gun ship of the line from the late 18th century. The picture just
below depicts the Bahama, built in La Habana in 1780 and which fought on the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. In that time the hull of every
warship was painted following the same scheme: alternate clear (yellow or white) and dark (black or dark blue) bands, being the gun decks
always painted in clear color in contrast with their gun ports, always painted in dark color. The forecastle was linked to the quarterdeck
by two side gangways, giving an appearance of flush deck. The space occupied by the side balconies (known as "gardens") was reduced
to the minimal expression to allow for some extra cannons.
The following picture shows a cross-section of a hull, looking astern from before the mizzen mast. Note how the aft water flow gives an acute shape
to the hull, thus reducing inner space. On the hold, inside the central pit we can see the pipes of the water pumps, a hanging lantern and a
wooden tub. On the orlop deck, square sliding panels give access to the storage of cookies and bread.
On the lower gun deck are visible some light guns stored beyond the stair. On the deck above, a door gives access to the meeting and dining
rooms for officers. On the quarterdeck, the small windows belong to the officers cabins and the door at larboard side gives access to the
first lieutenant cabin. Note also the small deckhouse associated to the stairs that communicate the different decks.
The following picture shows a cross-section of a hull, looking astern from before the main mast. On the hold it can be seen the pit on which the
pipes of the main water pumps are placed, and on both sides lies the ballast of stones and the many barrels containing diverse loads, such as salted
provisions and firewood for the cooking furnace. On the orlop deck are visible the handles of some doors that give access to diverse storage
compartments. On the lower gun deck, the door at larboard side leads to the powder magazine. On the deck above, the dotted line shows the
position of the boats. Between the staircases, the two octagonal shapes represent topgallant masts carried as replacement. Between these it
can be seen the frame of bitts with sheaves used for hoisting maneuvers; behind the mast are located the water pumps, which are not visible in
the picture. On the quarterdeck it can be seen the command gunnel and its belfry.
The following picture shows a cross-section of a hull, looking towards prow from behind the fore mast. A small space of the hold containing ballast
is visible. Just above they can be seen the thick cables of the anchors, and coils of thiner ropes can be seen on the orlop deck. On the
center of the lower gun deck there is a hatch and beyond are the main bitts used for holding the anchor cables or mooring. Beyond the
mast it can be seen the protection board against water and the hawseholes. On the deck above, the two octagonal shapes represent two topmasts
carried as replacement and the bulkhead with two crossed boards is the kitchen. On the forecastle, it can be seen the fore command gunnel and
The following picture shows the structure of the aft section of a 74-gun ship of the line. Certain elements have been totally ommitted
(the strakes), while some others have been largely ommitted (the ribs). It can be seen the complexity of the construction and the refined
hydrodynamic profile of the water outlet. The largest trees were required to obtain the constructive elements used in these large wooden hulls.
The elements that required more resistance were made from oak or teak. To make things even more difficult, on the hull of a warship the
distance between ribs was particularly short, of around 13 centimeters, to prevent projectiles from passing through with ease.
The following picture shows the larboard channel of the mizzen mast of a 74-gun ship of the line. The lower deadeyes were fixed to the hull by
means of chains of a particular design, while the upper ones were embraced by the shrouds. The smaller deadeyes to the right belong to a
backstay. Shrouds and backstays were tensed by finer ropes, called lanyards, which crossed through the deadeyes multiple times. Shrouds,
stays and backstays belong to the standing or fixed rigging. This one was protected with tar, thus it had a darker color than the running
rigging. The shackled hook to the right belongs to the halyard of the spanker gaff and the pulley belongs to a certain rigging of the mainmast.
The following picture shows the handling of the anchors of a 74-gun ship of the line. The figure to the right shows the riggings used to free
the anchor from the seabed. A large ship of the line carried up to five anchors; two or three in operation, a replacement one tied externally
to the hull and an emergency one stored on the stowage. On the largest ships the cables used to weigh the anchors were as thick as 20 centimeters
and had a length of around 200 meters.
The following picture shows how cannons were strongly moored to the ship, for both quiet (upper figure) and harsh (lower figure) sea conditions.
Note that the rigging used to move the artillery pieces has not been included in the depictions. The constable was in charge of
checking the correct mooring of every artillery piece. Due to its huge weight (about three tonnes in the largest models), a freed artillery piece
would sweep away anything and anyone on its path, until being stopped by a resistant obstacle or falling to sea after having broken through the hull