Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Caravelon

The second largest ship in Ponce de Leon's little fleet, the Santa Maria de Consolacion, has been variously called a caravel and caravelon (or carabelon). Most sources point towards the latter, but what exactly was a caravelon?

According to later sources, a caravelon was a small caravel. The Portuguese name for the same class of vessel was caravelao. The suffix in both cases normally refers to something larger, but most caravelons were small vessels, running anywhere from twenty to fifty tonels (casks of wine). These vessels were about the size of the first caravels that Prince Henry of Portugal ran down the coast of Africa, starting in the mid 15th century. 
In Bjorn Landstroms "Bold Voyages and Great Explorers", he has various illustrations of these first generation caravels of exploration, and I think that they are very good representatives of how caravelons appeared. For myself, I see these caravelons of the second decade of the 16th century as being single decked with a small structure at the stern. Two masts are stepped, lateen rigged. They are light and nimble enough for the task of exploration. We know that by this time, the Caribbean had a number of caravelon serving in various capacities.

Unlike the bergantina, the caravelon is easier to guess at. These are still just studies, the color pencil one a little rougher than the pen drawing. Soon, I hope to have a final appearance set for this fascinating variant of the caravel family.

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