Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Explorers & Pirates(1420-1779) Part II-Ships

Types of Ship
We are now going to focus on ships. There were several types of ships used by explorers and pirates. 
The ships that were used during the Renaissance changed as well. The designs were made better as they got to know about them. Before the Renaissance, going across the ocean wasn’t even thought of and most sailors never left the sight of land for very long. The boats were small, and only had one mast and were generally used for trade. The boats got bigger as time went on and then they started getting smarter about how ships would act in the open ocean with wind and currents and tides to deal with. Ship design continued to advance and get better with each new design.

Prior to the Renaissance, ships were steered by use of a “side oar” that would hang off the back of the boat. The Renaissance saw a “rudder” being incorporated into the design that could be steered directly or with ropes. This made steering a ship much easier.
Columbus sailed in 1492 on the Santa Maria, which was a Carrack, when he tried to find the Western route to China. He found the Caribbean instead (much like Cabot found Canada). Although they were considered "state of the art" when they were designed, were typically quite large and cumbersome. Columbus called his ship a "cow" for being difficult to maneuver. In fact, the Santa Maria sank when she ran aground in the Caribbean when Columbus first sailed there. In response to the large and bulky carrack, the caravel was designed. Columbus sailed two caravels (the Nina and Pinta) and John Cabot sailed a caravel (the Matthew) when he set sail in 1497. They became preferred ships for exploration because their smaller size allowed them to be more steerable and able to go closer to shore without running aground. They were capable, sturdy long distance ships that could be managed with a moderately sized crew (Cabot only had 19 sailors). Caravels proved themselves to be quite capable sturdy little ships for trade or exploration. They weren't well suited for war and so a new ship was needed.

We leaned the details of two types of Spanish ships, the Frigate and the Galleon.
illustration from Learning Curve
The Spanish Treasure Frigate were especially designed to transport treasure from the New World to Spain.

illustration from Florida History
In response to the need for a fast, easily steered ship that could be both a ship of exploration and war the galleon was developed. The Spanish Galleon was a large armed ship up to 1,000 tons. They could easily carry a crew of 100 men as well as provisions and cargo.
The characteristics of galleons are:
late Renaissance
quite large - more than one deck
armed with cannons (even if used for trade for defense)
very low forecastle
long and narrow hull
very fast
cheaper to build
square stern
multiple masts
large holds for cargo
steering wheels were developed instead of steering pole
Because of their versatility, galleons were used well past the Renaissance into the 18th Century.

We also looked at the three basic types of American ships.
illustration from University of South Florida
Sloops were a favorite kind of ship for pirates because they could move around more easily and are very fast. They are small ships with only one mast so they can't hold as many guns or men as larger ships.
illustration from World News

Schooners have two masts. They were popular with American privateers in the late 1700's and early 1800's. The Hispanolia, the ship used to seek Captain Flint's treasure in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island, was an English Schooner.

Barques have three or more masts. They are slower than the smaller sailing ships. Some pirates liked Barques because they could carry more guns and more treasure.

Ship Parts

illustration from Grade 2

We also learned the parts of the ship.
a) Bowsprit Sail b) Waterline c) Bowsprit d) Anchor e) Rudder f) Mizzen Mast g) Mizzen Sail h) Main Mast i) Crowsnest j) Top Sail k) Main Sail l) Foresail m) Foremast n) Bowsprit Mast

Types of Sails

from Wikipedia
We also learned about the types of sails.
We can practice these terms by using them in play. We pretend just about anything is a ship -our bed, the dining room table...and I give commands using the terms like, "Quentin, a storm is coming up, go to the Main Mast and pull up the square sail." He then goes to the appropraite part of the table or bed pantomines this, and then I say something like, "James, the storm is getting worse, go check the rudder and make sure it is alright, and call the man down from the Crow's Nest." He goes to the appropraiate areas and pretends to do what I have asked him. They also tell me things using the vocabulary. "Captain, should we throw the anchor over?" Lots and lots of fuel for  pretend play.

We made this Spanish Galleon out of two half-gallon orange juice cartons. You could use milk cartons instead. I like to call it our half-galleon. : )  I used craft foam so that it could be waterproof and used in the tub or pool.
We hot glue gunned pieces of black craft foam about 1/2 way up the carton. Then we glued more black craft foam all the way up the back of the carton, leaving about 1 inch sticking up over the carton. We then glued brown craft foam over the rest of the carton.  Next, we glued two blobs of playdough into the center of the ship. Then we cut a two to three inch piece off the bottom of the second milk carton and taped it onto the ship, covering the playdough.
Next we poked two holes in it right above the playdough blobs. Then this area was covered with brown craft foam. Next we stuck two wooden skewers through the holes we poked in the top carton

Next I cut rectangles out of white craft foam for the sails. I poked two holes in each rectangle and threaded them onto the skewers as masts -- the largest goes in front, the medium and small go on the back
I cut out tan craft foam for the windows and a door with black stripes for the window cross-pieces.
Then I put a disposable chopstick on the front of the boat by poking a hole the carton and sliding it in.  We then tied a string between this stick and the front mast
They can use it to pretend lots of sea adventures...explorers, a merchant ship...

or a pirate ship. Can you tell he is proud of his pirate flag?
Instructions on how to make this model of a Spanish Galleon came from here at DLTK.
They have paper templates you can use, if you don't want it to be waterproof.


  1. Anonymous12.1.11

    What a great ship study!!! Woot!

  2. Love the model ship! Just printed the instructions for my son.

  3. I absolutely LOVE the things you do in your home school. May Kei and I come learn with you please? :)

  4. Sure, Karen. The more, the merrier, but it would be a long commute. :)

  5. I am always so fascinated by ships. I love it when the Lady Washington is home since we are so close to where she docks. Every year we have the tall ships come into Tacoma, they are so cool to see. I will have to see if I still have some pictures of them that I can share with you and your kids.

  6. That is a cool model. I've gotten to go on a replica of the Mayflower and it's amazing how small it is.

  7. Great information. Your blog will be our number one stop when we study all of these things.


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