Navigation in the Caribbean

As soon as Spain takes possession of the lands in the New World, a commercial flow starts between the two continents, run by merchants who seek the means to obtain high profits from selling their products.

The Crown establishes a monopoly forbidding its American subjects to engage in any kind of trade with any other country. The products from the colonies must be negotiated and transported by Spaniards and at the same time, all imported goods must come from the peninsula and, in both cases, they must follow previously established routes.

From then on and during almost three centuries of Spanish rule, the Crown must brave pirates, privateers and buccaneers, a multifaced enemy that taints the Caribbean Sea. The Crown is forced to defend the fleets of merchant galleons that cross the Atlantic and to fortify the coastal ports and cities.

The sailing vessels

The Galleon

From the 16th century until the first half of the 17th century, it is the ship most used in war and transoceanic voyages by the European navies. In Spain it continued to be used until the 18th century. Its great aftercastle and forecastle give it protection, but they prevent it from maneuvering perfectly.

The Ship of the Line

Appearing in the mid-17th century, it is the first ship with three decks armed with cannons. It is quicker and more maneuverable than the galleon, given that its aftercastle is lower and that it does not have a forecastle. The ship, immediately adopted by the great European powers, is perfected and used until the 19th century.

The Brig

A rapid and meneuverable ship which appeared in the second half of the 17th century. It is characterized by being rigged with very large square sails in its two masts, with a jib sail in the mainmast.

The Sloop

The sloop, with one or two masts, is one of the favorite pirate vessels of the 18th century. Its great size and the way in which its sails are rigged give it agility and speed.

Ship models of the 17th and 18th centuries were constructed by Fco. Manuel Acuña.

Printed from — Navagation in the Caribbean.