View Full Version : Medieval Ports during storms

03-15-2013, 09:19 PM
This is research for a fantasy novel. The setting isn't exactly Medieval, but I figured this would apply.

During a really bad storm, would the large ships be taken out to sea and anchored to avoid having them get pushed up against the piers and docks?

I know that this is done nowadays.

03-15-2013, 09:59 PM
Nope, people try to get their ships INTO a port during a storm.

Nowadays people get their ships out because the definition of 'port' is somewhat different these days.

Back then, anything called a port was generally sheltered from the usual storms, either by natural topography or the labor of man. Ships were pretty tiny back then, I'm always amazed when I go to visit a replica historic vessel.

These days, ships are so huge that ports are built to accomodate them, with less regard to natural advantages as in previous ages.

03-15-2013, 10:03 PM
Would the crew typically stay on board their ships in port during a storm?

03-15-2013, 10:16 PM
Ships in a small harbor might sail down rivers away and anchor in a protected area. In this case, the crew would stay with the ship.

In port, a few men would stay aboard the ship to loosen or tighten mooring lines as needed. The rest would go to a local tavern and more than likely get drunk and find a women or two to spend the night with. Talk about riding out the storm...

spice chai
03-16-2013, 10:13 PM
I don't know the answer, but would it not be sensible to anchor your ship inside the port, but away from the docks? That way you are sheltered, but not in danger of bashing against the docks if things get really out of control.

03-16-2013, 10:31 PM
Yes that was pretty standard.

Pj Little
03-18-2013, 08:42 AM
I haven't been around sailors for ages, but I watched a lot of sailboats safely weather some awful storms and flooding.

Most docks are set up for the captain to nose into a particular slot. If a boat is not moored correctly, a couple of things can happen in a storm. Boats can crash into each other, break loose from the mooring, or in the case of a flood, land on top of the dock. In a hurricane you can't do much but pray

Every sailor I ever talked to said when a storm was coming they would look for a leeward inlet to get off the main body of water. The water 2-3 miles inland was less violent and therefore the boat was less likely to sustain major damage.

I have no idea how the wooden sailing ships of the 1600s managed to survive storms, but they did.

Chasing the Horizon
03-18-2013, 11:28 AM
During a really bad storm, would the large ships be taken out to sea and anchored to avoid having them get pushed up against the piers and docks?
In medieval times there were no large ships. Not by today's standards, anyway. Certainly none of the floating mountains that could ride out almost any weather at sea like modern-day container ships do.

As an above poster said, older harbors were built in places where they would be protected from the brunt of the weather. Staying at dock would be a definite option. Weather severe enough to actually smash a properly-tied ship into the dock would run the risk of breaking the anchor chains too, and a sailing ship whose anchor chain breaks while she's sitting in the inner harbor in a storm would be in a lot of trouble. But the captain might decide to move to better shelter if it's available, such as the sheltered side of an island (this makes a bigger difference than you can imagine), an inland waterway, or anchoring in a more sheltered cove. It depends on what's available.