View Full Version : Small sea port protection from weather and attack,

10-06-2012, 06:38 PM

My novel is set on a small fictitious island on the Atlantic ocean belonging to Scotland but with strong Nordic roots. It's been somewhat forgotten by time and somewhat stuck in the 50's or so.

The main town is by the sea and has a port used mostly for fishing boats and for importing essential goods. My MC's mother is a Navy engineer and she notices that the port is quite overprotected with several layers of protection tacked on to the original medieval port.

I'm having some difficulty picking things that would be likely around a small port. I have stone breakwaters furthest out and walls that extend outwards from the town with medieval towers and heavy gates further in which I copied from medieval towns I've seen in France. I'd like to add at least one thing in the middle that would seem out of place and overkill for such a small, cut-off place that suggests peril from the seas. it can be any period up to WWII, in fact, I'd prefer it early 20th century because thats the last time the world remembered this island existed :)

I've been researching port architecture over the period but I can't make sense of it at all. There's so much specialised jargon so one explanation leaves me with even more questions etc. I could really use some help from the AW experts :)

ETA: it's an important plot-point so I don't want to gloss over it.

10-06-2012, 07:17 PM
The thing that came to mind were the Churchill barriers in Scapa Flow - set up in WW2 to defend against U-boat attacks. Before that, they relied on sunken ships (block ships), which is also something you might consider. Look also at Archirondel tower in Jersey, which is an odd thing. Those apart, a castle or two on the headland wouldn't go amiss.

10-06-2012, 07:31 PM
How about a large, thick, steel or iron chain across the harbor. It can be drawn up by a winch at one end, and let down to allow ships in.

Drachen Jager
10-06-2012, 07:50 PM


The first is pretty basic, but gives some ideas, the second is a very in-depth article about how one particular port went through stages of defenses during the war, with plenty of pictures. It's not in the British isles, but it was held by British forces.

10-06-2012, 08:09 PM
A WWII large gun emplacement ... mostly cement .. resembling a blockhouse would be ugly enough to draw attention/ire and, quite likely, not of any interest for tourism.

10-06-2012, 08:14 PM
How about an artificial island fort like the Nab Tower or Spithead forts http://www.ecastles.co.uk/seafort.html

Dave Hardy
10-06-2012, 11:00 PM
I've seen a few tiny forts on Mediterranean/Aegean ports. There's usually a tower, perhaps an enclosure at the tower's base, or a wall connecting the tower to town and enclosing the cove. These were intended to fend off Barbary corsairs, who took a greater interest in small locations as a source of captives for the slave trade.

That's a bit early for your purposes. Rhode Island still has a lot of extant bunkers built to watch for u-boats in WWII. They built them on hillsides along the approaches to Narragansett Bay. They are not easily spotted from the water, though if you know where to look you can see them.

10-07-2012, 01:04 AM
I also favour chains. For a cunning extra defence, use one chain, above water and obvious. Maybe a chain of linked logs, lying on the water. Then, a second chain - under the surface- a little closer in than the first. The attacker deals with the first chain, sails triumphantly onwards, and strikes the second.

It sounds like a rocky little island, so no beaches to mine, but hatches to pour oil on the rocks would make them unclimbable. In a pinch, wet straw or leaves would work, like home-made seaweed.

What are they guarding against? If it's something in the water, like sharks or mer-men, you might want to consider an underwater net, weighted along the bottom.

10-07-2012, 03:29 AM
A Martello tower. Lots of gun emplacements.

10-07-2012, 01:20 PM
I'm liking the idea of chains because there is a paranormal element to the enemies these people are scared of. They'd be made of iron right? That's traditionally a ward against the supernatural so I can really use that even if it's very early period.

I don't think I can use guns because having people trained to use them would stretch the suspension of disbelief I think. But there's one location I can adapt to make it more WWI/II to be more like you suggest and I think would benefit from it. This is being very helpful, thank you everyone!

Would such a town naturally have been built in an area with lots of natural protection? My island is fairly flat and rocky with a lot of cliffs but it's quite all or nothing. Not sure if that's really possible but I've got a geologist friend I'm going to pester for help with that ;) I'm wondering if the town should be surrounded by some kind of wall...

Duncan J Macdonald
10-07-2012, 08:00 PM
Here's a Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson_River_Chain) on the Great Chain on the Hudson River.

If your beasties respond to supernatural energies, cold iron would be a logical defense.