1. Gail Winds
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    Gail Winds New Member

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    Starboard to... That way?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Gail Winds, Aug 28, 2011.

    Hello!

    A while ago an idea for a novel sprung up in my mind, and it seemed fantastic. i was ready to get cracking. then horror struck; i had no idea about the subject at hand.

    See now, i was planning for a fantasy story circling around water-folklore, and i knew where to research that, but the main setting was a boat. And i had no idea how a boat worked, the different kinds, or how to even describe one.

    I tried Wikipedia and various other sites, but when it really came down to it, i didn't understand it. so i decided to turn to you guys.

    If you have ANY information about different types of boats, preferably from around the dark ages, Shakespearean times, where we still had boats made of wood in mass production, I'd be very grateful if you could tell me what you can. so my questions are:

    1. What types of Boats did they have in Shakespearean times, the dark ages, Rome, "Pirate-y times", etc... Things you would see in the Iliad or Robinson Crusoe.

    2. If you know any boat slang, such as Starboard and Port (and their meanings), please tell me.

    3. How does a boat work, and what are the controls?

    Any other information on the topic would be appreciated. Thanks. :p
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    That's a gargantuan range. From ancient Rome and Greece to Robinson Crusoe is about a 2000 year span. Pretty much the only unifying feature is sails.

    First, you need to get down exactly what sort of period you're talking about. It matters. Then you need to decide how much detail you need. Then you can target your research on exactly what you need, which from your post seems to be your first problem.

    As far as the basic understanding of boats, and naval terminology goes, have you considered learning to sail yourself?
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Also, Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series of novels may be useful. They're centred around the Royal Navy in Napoleonic times, and contain a very high level of detail.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    No offense, but I think you're a long way from being ready to write about old boats.

    Wikipedia won't get you far. Try reading some period novels about the era you're interested in. Benefit from the research others have done. Read Joseph Conrad, Patrick O'Brian, Richard Dana, Herman Melville, and older sources. (I'm aware that these are more recent than Rome, Shakespeare, etc., but they'll help with nautical terminology.)

    I think that, to properly understand the kinds of ships they used back then and the customs they followed, you have to pretty much immerse yourself in the history of the era. You convince your reader than you're an expert by using convincing, telling details - more details than the reader knows! - and not by just tossing around words like "starboard" and "port".
     
  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I concur. Read books like the Sharpe or Horatio Hornblower series. Watch documentaries about old ships, etc. I know those ships are more about Napoleonic times, but that can be useful.

    The books about Sharpe, if I recall correctly, has a sketch that shows what each part of the ship is called. Memorize it and whenever you read a character shout something like, "Move to forward aft!", refer to the sketch to see where they are.

    As for the ships of Roman/Greek times? Well, they were steered by both sail and oarsmen who were typically prisoners and slaves and the speed was determined by the speed of a drum near the front. There would be an overseer who would whip one of them if he slacked. Then again, I could just be relying on Hollywood stereotypes of how that's done.


    I do want to know something: Which period of history are you writing about? That is crucial as to what you research.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    all good advice... plus, if you ignore wikipedia and just narrow your google searches you'll find all the technical info you need...

    for nautical jargon, just search for a 'glossary' of nautical terms...
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Sometimes, you just need to say a few words and let the readers draw their own conclusions.

    For example,

    Josy looked at the giant, wooden warship and marveled at the bright yellow paint that made it stand out from the other ships at dock. All around her sides were what appeared to be black bands that seperated the decks. He felt intimidated at the number of cannons that stuck out from the small windows. High up the center mast, secured by ropes was the flag of [insert nation], waving proudly and defiantly.

    With that description, readers can then visualize the typical Napoleonic-styled warships we see in movies and documentaries.

    Of course, you may be thinking of something else. As in, not a ship that looks like it could've been from our universe.

    In that case, just draw that ship you have in mind and describe it. Put the description here so we can see, along with picture of said ship.
     
  8. Gail Winds
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    Gail Winds New Member

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    Thanks for the help. It actually isn't set in a specific time zone. It's more in the fantasy realm, so it's not exactly taking place in Roman times, Shakespearean, or any "earthly" sort. (actually, it doesn't take place on our idea of earth. it's kinda skewed where earth isn't rock with water in it's grooves, but earth is made of water with earth floating on top...)

    The reason i used all of those (Shakespearean, roman, etc.) was not as a time span, but as examples to kind of say that i didn't want yots and speed boats, but the more traditional sort of boats. I'll read the books you suggest, try my best to ignore wikipedia, and listen to the advice.
     
  9. Kube
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    An easy way to remember port and starboard is that it actually used to be starboard and larboard. As you're facing the front of the ship, starboard is to the right and larboard is to the left. Just remember the letter L. Foreward or the fore is the front of the ship and aft or abaft is the back. Also the lee side is the side opposite where the wind is coming from. That's just a start. I would recommend doing quite a bit of research as there is a lot to know and fans of nautical fiction are going to know the terminology and will call you on it. Another caveat, writing a story mostly aboard ship can be difficult as far as description as you have a very limited setting to describe and you tend to use the same images over and over if you're not careful. Here's a decent list of terminology to get you started. http://phrontistery.info/nautical.html
     

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