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Looking for Spanish merchant ship, late 18th c.

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  • Member since
    January 2023
Looking for Spanish merchant ship, late 18th c.
Posted by Webslinger on Friday, January 6, 2023 2:33 PM
First of all, this is my first post and I am completely new to model shipbuilding, so please bear with me. Other posts and responses on this forum inspired me to ask this…
 
To quickly summarize, my ancestor sailed from Bordeaux for New Orleans in 1796 on a Spanish merchant ship (described as a brig). I would like to try to find a model that would best match the type of ship he likely sailed on.
 
I only have a few details about the ship. It was called “L’Amable Canonnessa” and had a French captain (from St. Malo) with a Spanish crew of probably around a dozen, maybe less? My French ancestor, who was not wealthy, managed to charter it (he calls himself the “armateur,” which could mean ‘owner’ but also something less). In addition to my ancestor, there was one other passenger, the captain, a first mate, a ship’s boy, a cook, and some other crew. As the ship approached the Turks and Caicos, it was captured by the British and everyone was taken prisoner.
 
I located the logs of the British ship in the UK National Archives for the ship, and my ancestor’s ship is described as “a Spanish Brig from Bordeaux.” I’ve struggled to find paintings or models of merchant ships from this time period; they generally seem to focus on warships (especially the Spanish ones). Also, I (sort of) understand that there is a difference between brigs and brigantines, and that I’m looking for a brig.
 
My primary purpose is to better visualize and understand the nature of his ship. I recognize that for a novice, the difficulty level would be a major factor in being able to build the model. However, I am more concerned right now with finding a good match.
 
I would appreciate any suggestions (for a model or even any images) or direction to other sources. Thanks!
  • Member since
    March 2018
  • From: Chicago suburbs
Posted by Luvspinball on Monday, January 9, 2023 12:28 PM

The closest I could find was the Spanish Navy's Infante 18-gun brig, built in 1787 at Cadiz. The French Navy captured her at Toulon in December 1793 and recommissioned her; they renamed her in 1798 as Salamine, for the battle of Salamis. On 18 June 1799, HMS Emerald captured her and she was brought into Royal Navy service as HMS Salamine.  I could not find any images for any of the above, however.

There are many images of brigs and snows, including Niagara, Duke of Bedford, Pilgrim, etc.  Perhaps one of them will suffice (without all the cannons). Clearly the most famous among ship builders is the Siren.

https://www.micromark.com/Model-Shipways-MS2260-Brig-Syren-Ship-Kit-1-64

Bob

Bob Frysztak

Luvspinball

Current builds:  Revell 1/96 USS Constitution with extensive scratch building

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Monday, January 9, 2023 4:22 PM

Interesting research project. Without a specific description of the ship in question, the general characteristics that you do know leave it wide open. I'd be interested to know whether she was armed or not.

Might I suggest, firmly, that you not take on a wooden model, in particular any of the European "HECEPOB" kits*. They don't go together well without experience and knowledge of how to work through unexplained puzzles.

If wood, try to find a solid hull. Sterling made a pretty generic but decent kit of a brig in the "Famous ships" series. They come up at reasonable prices on eBay. 

Just remember that if you do take to ship building, you'll get every chance to make another "Canonnessa" as you learn the craft.

Bill

*Hideously Expensive Central European Plank-on-Bulkhead kit as Dr. Tilley was fond of saying.

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    March 2022
  • From: Twin cities, MN
Posted by missileman2000 on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 8:50 AM

The most typical merchant ship of that period would be the Galleon.  But your period is quite late in the galleon period.  The Revell Mayflower is a good model for earlier period.  Don't know whether it would be possible to update it or not.  Rigging gear would need to be updated.

 

The MF was a used, old gallean when the Mayflower Company bought it, so it might even be a very late sixteenth century vessel.

 

  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 9:16 AM

Hi Webslinger!

          Your first hmmm. I would definitely go with a solid hull type if you are doing wood. Plastic, Well, that's a long shot at best. I have two different types in paper, But, I don't recommend that to a Ship Newbie. One thing most folks forget is that although they look big, they weren't. Some at that time were less than 100 feet long LOA! The M.F. was closer But With a Higher stern than a lot had. Look around and go to the Library. See what books they have on ocean traveling at the time.

          Sometimes, don't laugh, an artist that does covers will come mighty close, based on my covers of the "Patrick O'Brian" series! all about the "Surprises and their ship"(The Surprise). the Library may also have some artwork in the archive that will help. Squadron Publications (Do They still exist?) May have somethings as well as Dover publications. Dover covered a Lot of the shipping of that time in artwork! Primarily of ships arriving and departing some port in the Northeast(Boston and Portsmouth?).

        One more thing. Don't accept that all ships such as Galleons were colorful. Some Captain/Owners couldn't see the need for that as it didn't make the ship sail better just look better. It was a presentation and advertising thing I guess! you know(My ships is colorful because she's Built better, Sails better and is more Comfortable and Civilized, Plus the crew are not your average sailor ruffians!).

 

  • Member since
    December 2022
Posted by Tcoat on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 11:38 AM

Without drawings or painting of the exact ship the term "brig" can cover quite a range of actual shapes and sizes.They were built for a couple of hundred years with changes based upon country of origin and price point so there is no set standard of a "brig". Sort of like saying it is a "Ford" car and nothing else. It could be a model T or a Mustang Cobra. The one thing in common were that they were smaller usually coastal vessels. 

If looking to do wood there are many many, usually very expensive options. These are not for the beginner nor even the expert if faint at heart.

There is a smaller plastic kit made by Lindberg that could do the job and are still kicking around (Cheap enough on EBay). With a little work to close up the gun ports it would look like a merchant. Even then (again not knowing the real ship) you could leave a couple of guns on deck as merchants frequently had them to discourge pirates. 

I built one of these a few decades ago and although basic would be good for a first time modeler and at least be a "Brig".

 

 

  • Member since
    November 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 4:35 PM

Tcoat
I built one of these a few decades ago and although basic would be good for a first time modeler and at least be a "Brig".

That might be ideal for a first time build.

Previous box art:

The cannons would not be wanted.

The copper bottom would want to go. 

A merchant ship might have a rump forcastle forward.  The Spanker would likely be on a "lateen" style spar rather than the later style Gaff.

The spritsail actually gives OP a "leg up" as more likely, too.

The 1:170 sale is a bit on the teeny side, would be the larger headache.  (At scale, a "foot" of distance is 0.070" a bit more than a 1/16" [2mm] )

Scalemates link:  https://www.scalemates.com/kits/lindberg-72219-brig-war--241688

  • Member since
    December 2022
Posted by Tcoat on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 5:40 PM

CapnMac82

 

 That might be ideal for a first time build.

Previous box art:

The cannons would not be wanted.

The copper bottom would want to go. 

A merchant ship might have a rump forcastle forward.  The Spanker would likely be on a "lateen" style spar rather than the later style Gaff.

The spritsail actually gives OP a "leg up" as more likely, too.

The 1:170 sale is a bit on the teeny side, would be the larger headache.  (At scale, a "foot" of distance is 0.070" a bit more than a 1/16" [2mm] )

Scalemates link:  https://www.scalemates.com/kits/lindberg-72219-brig-war--241688

 

 

Ya the "brig" in that kit is a bit later War of 1812 Great Lakes ship so some of the sail set up may or may not be a little advanced for 1789. Not knowing when and where the OP's subject was laid down doesn't help though. Was it a 40 year old Dutch ship that had been captured and passed through 4 different countries hands or was it a 2 year old Spanish ship that was still with it's first owner?

 

At about 7" that is indeed a small kit but for a beginner it should be a nice ease into the hobby. Big sailing ships can be intimating (I have done the Revell Constitution, Alabama and Cuddy Sark) and also have the issue of where the heck do you display them. 

 

By simply closing in the gun ports and omitting the guns it can be a fair generic merchant "brig". So at least give the OP the idea of what it would have looked like. His ancestor was a brave brave man crossing the Atlantic in a brig though! Not that they could not be ocean going it just wasn't what they were built for.

If I was building it I would enclose some of the forecastle (as you said), double the length of the stern skylights, add shrouds, increase the standing rigging and lace much of the non existent running rigging. And yes that copper sheathed bottom would be right out of the question.

  • Member since
    January 2023
Posted by Webslinger on Wednesday, January 11, 2023 10:54 AM

All - Thanks for the reply and suggestions. Sorry to not respond sooner (I didn't receive the post updates)! 

@Luvspinball

I will add the Salamine to my research list and see if I can find additional info.

The Siren is certainly a beautiful ship. At 240 tons, is that sort of average size for the time? I imagine my ancestor would have procured the most affordable vessel that could make a transatlantic voyage...

  • Member since
    December 2022
Posted by Tcoat on Wednesday, January 11, 2023 11:17 AM

Webslinger

@Luvspinball

Thanks for the reply and suggestions. Sorry to not respond sooner (I didn't receive the post updates)! I will add the Salamine to my research list and see if I can find additional info.

The Siren is certainly a beautiful ship. At 240 tons, is that sort of average size for the time? I imagine my ancestor would have procured the most affordable vessel that could make a transatlantic voyage...

 

The Siren was built in the USA and is sort of late in the develoent history of "brigs". Would be about average for a Great Lakes brig which may be just a little smaller than the European coastal ships. Be a close enough representation for what you are looking for though.

Brigs were not generally used for transatlantic voyages that late in history. Not to say they were never used but by the late 1700s there were just far more capable ship designs around. One of the big reasons were that they had a relatively shallow draught for coastal work and didn't have a pile of cargo space which was where the profits were in voyages to the New World. When you take trading voyages for months on end you want to haul as much back with you as you can. This would make the brig almost the ideal "affordable" vessel for your ancestor to hire though since trade was not the main objective of the voyage.

  • Member since
    January 2023
Posted by Webslinger on Wednesday, January 11, 2023 11:18 AM

@GMorrison, @missileman2000, @Tanker-Builder, @Tcoat, @CapnMac82

Thanks also for the suggestions! I promise not to take on a wooden ship off the bat :) Not knowing much, other than my ancestor's limited resources and the logs of the British ship that captured the Canonnessa, I'm skeptical it was a galleon or frigate. I assume that the logs of the ship being a "brig" would mean it was two-masted.

I would be curious what a likely length and tonnage would be, though I understand from your comments that these can vary substantially. If it makes any difference, I do know that my ancestor had his own quarters -- a small 'room' with a porthole -- and there was one other passenger (not clear if they shared quarters).

Also, fyi, I suspect that they may have been carrying goods for sale in New Orleans, which I think was technically prohibited by the Spanish at the time.

  • Member since
    December 2022
Posted by Tcoat on Wednesday, January 11, 2023 12:00 PM

Webslinger

@GMorrison, @missileman2000, @Tanker-Builder, @Tcoat, @CapnMac82

Thanks also for the suggestions! I promise not to take on a wooden ship off the bat :) Not knowing much, other than my ancestor's limited resources and the logs of the British ship that captured the Canonnessa, I'm skeptical it was a galleon or frigate. I assume that the logs of the ship being a "brig" would mean it was two-masted.

I would be curious what a likely length and tonnage would be, though I understand from your comments that these can vary substantially. If it makes any difference, I do know that my ancestor had his own quarters -- a small 'room' with a porthole -- and there was one other passenger (not clear if they shared quarters).

Also, fyi, I suspect that they may have been carrying goods for sale in New Orleans, which I think was technically prohibited by the Spanish at the time.

 

Galleons were pretty much gone by the late 1700s and the odds of it being a merchant frigate are very very low as they were almost exclusively warships. 

 

It is impossible to really give any idea at all on how large a brig it was without a pile more data. Brigs ranged in size from anywhere around 80 to 150 feet with a range in displacement to match that. As I said previously the term "brig" is a very broad description of a smaller, two masted, usually coastal/lake vessel not a specific hull design. They were used for about 200 years by all European sea powers and the design of the hull of each country could be radically different than the others. Doesn't help that most of these countries were at war with one or the others for most of that period so ships changed hands on a fairly regular basis so there is no telling where it originated.

 

Not sure about the reference to a "port hole" as most of these small wooden ships just simply did not have them. There would be some windows around the stern quarters and that is where you would expect the person that commissioned the voyage to be staying anyway. Yes, they would most certainly have taken some trade goods since there was huge profit it it but it wuld not have been the main focus of the voyage unless that was all your ancestor hired the ship for. 

Not sure why there would have been a problem with sailing to New Orleans in 1789. It was still French then and if I recall that was a brief period where Spain and France were not at war.. 

  • Member since
    November 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Wednesday, January 11, 2023 2:15 PM

Tcoat
Brigs were not generally used for transatlantic voyages that late in history.

Brigs & snows have a long history of oceanic travel.  The size not being a issue really--Niña was only about 40'/12m overall--ther than it meant that you only had space for non-bulky valuable cargos.

Fine wines, fruit, and similar perishables; firearms, intricate machines; similar "luxury" items were always in demand.  Where a demand exists, we humans develop a trade in it.

A brig or snow, being a simplified rig could be worked bay a small crew, 7 or 8, perhaps ten, and only a master and mate aboard.  Which also meant only needing to trust a limited number of people around valuable cargo, too.

The stern cabin on the lindberg kit is of a size to have berths for four, so, a Master might rent out a berth or two for a passage.

Another option would be to have a knock-down cabin that could sit upon the cargo hatch to take passengers, too.  Such a cabin might have a door with a single deadlight, which a landlugger might describe as a "porthole."

A 12 x 6 hatch would have room for two 6x6 cabins enough for a single bunk with space under it for one's trunk or luggage.

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Wednesday, January 11, 2023 3:24 PM

I think that the idea of a lateen rig on the back mast is an attractive one. Probable, and helps tell the story of the boaties "nationality".

The ancestors accom. was probably a box on the deck.What was the name of her captor?

 

Bill

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    December 2022
Posted by Tcoat on Wednesday, January 11, 2023 4:07 PM

CapnMac82

 

 
Tcoat
Brigs were not generally used for transatlantic voyages that late in history.

 

Brigs & snows have a long history of oceanic travel.  The size not being a issue really--Niña was only about 40'/12m overall--ther than it meant that you only had space for non-bulky valuable cargos.

Fine wines, fruit, and similar perishables; firearms, intricate machines; similar "luxury" items were always in demand.  Where a demand exists, we humans develop a trade in it.

A brig or snow, being a simplified rig could be worked bay a small crew, 7 or 8, perhaps ten, and only a master and mate aboard.  Which also meant only needing to trust a limited number of people around valuable cargo, too.

The stern cabin on the lindberg kit is of a size to have berths for four, so, a Master might rent out a berth or two for a passage.

Another option would be to have a knock-down cabin that could sit upon the cargo hatch to take passengers, too.  Such a cabin might have a door with a single deadlight, which a landlugger might describe as a "porthole."

A 12 x 6 hatch would have room for two 6x6 cabins enough for a single bunk with space under it for one's trunk or luggage.

 

I don't disagree. Any cargo would be small and valuable. It would not be the "normal" trade though at that point in time. If the dates had been 100 years or so earlier I would not even have given it a second thought.

  • Member since
    January 2023
Posted by Webslinger on Thursday, January 12, 2023 10:38 AM

Regarding the porthole, my ancestor writes in his journal that during a storm "the waves were so strong that they dislodged a porthole that was well moored and caulked, and it fell into my bed..."

Also, to clarify, this voyage was in 1796 when the Spanish were in control of New Orleans, I think.

  • Member since
    January 2023
Posted by Webslinger on Thursday, January 12, 2023 10:40 AM

The ship that captured my ancestor's ship was the HMS Lark (1794), fyi.

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