Ships: Better builds

May 13, 2015 5:45 pm Published by in . 6 Comments

warp ships (4)

Ahoy, ye landlubbers! This week’s blog post will focus on how to build ships, because who doesn’t want a ship on a pirate server? There are several different ships in both the real world, and on the server. Because of this, I will be covering certain features of ships, such as different riggings, as opposed to each ship individually, as if I covered each ship individually, not only would this post be longer, but I’d spend half of my time repeating myself. So, without any further ado, let’s get started!

Before we start, here’s a picture of a ship’s anatomy, because it’s always useful to know your way around a ship if you’re a pirate:

Ship anatomy

The ship’s hull

This is “the main body of a ship or other vessel, including the bottom, sides and deck, but not the masts, superstructure, rigging, engines or other fittings.” This is a vital part of every ship, but can be extremely difficult to get right. There are 2 main methods that most people use when building a hull, and I’ll go through both of these one after the other:

Layer by layer

This method is very good if you’re using a schematic and/or a tutorial to help you build your ship. It involves starting from the bottom of the ship and working your way up. The main advantage of using this method to build ships is that, provided you already have a design, it’s much easier to build. It does, however, come with numerous disadvantages, especially if you want your ship to be unique, though that doesn’t mean it’s a bad method. One of the main disadvantages if you’re building a unique ship is that, should you make a mistake or wish to change a lower layer, you would potentially have to go underwater to fix your mistake(s).


This is a more realistic method of shipbuilding. This method involves starting at the keel (bottom of the ship), and creating an arc which will be the centreline of the ship. From here, you would build the centreline of the top deck (attach the top of the bow to the top of the stern). From here, one would build the ribs of the ship. These create the general shape of the hull, but to not connect to each other. These would be built from the height lower centreline structure to the height of the upper centreline structure. The builder would choose how much to curve them, depending on how curved (or not) they want their ship to be. The ribs would then be filled in, connecting to the lower centreline structure.

A ship being built

Lateen sails

A triangular sail on a long, sloping yard…

From here, we can pick up on another technical definition; A yard. A yard is “A long spar, supported more or less at its centre, to which the head of [a sail] is bent.”

A lateen-rigged dhow

Okay then. Now that we know what a lateen sail is, how do we go about building one? Well, larger ships sometimes had a lateen sails at the bow (front) of the ship (jibs). These ones are not that hard to build. If you have a square sail on the foremast (and why wouldn’t you?), then you could create some rigging from the upper and lower yards of that sail and connect the rigging to the bowsprit, you have a nice basis for a lateen sail.

Square sails

A sail set beneath a horizontal yard, the normal position of which, when to trimmed to the win, is directly athwartships.

What does athwartships mean? Well, according to, athwartships means:

From one side of a ship to the other.

So, these are the type of sails one would expect to find on the foremast, the mainmast, and the mizzenmast.

Square sails prove to be the easiest type of sail to construct. One you have the two horizontal yards (one for the top of the sail, and one for the bottom), you can create some nice, organised sails. You can do this by creating several squares or rectangles between the two yards, which you may or may not choose to slant forwards or backwards.

A ship with square sails in Minecraft.


These sails are defined as

A quadrilateral sail bent on a yard that crosses the mast obliquely

This implies that the yard they are bent on is neither parallel nor perpendicular to the mast (see the picture below).

A ship with a lugsail


There are several different ship masts, each with a different technical name. The foremast is the foremost mast of this ship, provided the ship doesn’t have a sprit topmast (small mast at the front of the bowsprit). Behind the foremast comes the mainmast, the largest mast on a ship. Then comes the mizzenmast, followed by the Bonaventure mizzen, or the jiggermast, depending on the type of ship.

The foremast, mainmast and mizzenmast are usually square-rigged, compared to lateen-rigged, like the Bonaventure mizzen. The jiggermast, if present, is also usually square-rigged. The foremast is usually the second-tallest mast, being beaten by only the mainmast. The mizzen is the third-tallest mast, with the Bonaventure mizzen or jiggermast being the shortest. Only one full-rigged ship with 5 masts had been built until recent years. The Preußen. There is no standard name for a fifth mast on a ship, and ships with four masts are still quite rare.

The Preußen

Crows’ nests

These are “[platforms or shelters] for a lookout at or near the top of a mast”. This means that if you’d like to build crows’ nests (or just a single crow’s nest) near your ship, you should start with one at the top of the tallest mast (usually the mainmast). You don’t need to leave much room for your lookout to move around in, as most crows’ nests were small. Just make sure you put a barrier around it so the lookout doesn’t fall out. Generally, I’d recommend leaving the lookout one block around the mast to move around, with a barrier, such as a fence, on the second block, so that they don’t fall out.

That’s all for this week, ye barnacle-bottomed, weevil-eating galley slaves! I hope you found this blog post useful. Let me know what you think in the comments below! Don’t forget, if you want me to feature any of your builds in a blog post at some point, all you need to do is send me a private message with the subject line SCREENSHOT! I hope to see some more lateen-rigged and lug-rigged ships on the server, now. There are surprisingly few of those types of ship rigs on the server. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lug-rigged ship before. Anyways… enough with me rambling… I’m off to build me a ship!


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