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Pirates & galleons

Building a galleon

Trenail mooters and caulkers at workTrenail mooters and caulkers at workBetween the 16th and 18th centuries, Spanish galleons were usually built at a shipyard in northern Spain, close to the port of Bilbao. Nearby grew forests of Bilbao oak, from which the ship’s timbers were made. The surrounding region was also the centre of artillery production, and the port had links with sources of tall pine (for masts) and other vital materials such as canvas, rope and pitch from other parts of Europe. The masts fitted into holes in the deck, and were secured with ropes running down to the ship’s sides. From start to finish, the whole construction process took about two years to complete.


Building the hull

A galleon under constructionA galleon under constructionFirst of all, timbers were delivered to the yard. The keel (the astillerowas laid out on the ground, then curved pieces forming the bow and stern were fixed to it. Next, a series of ribs was attached to the keel, forming the basic frame. They made a U-shape in the central part of the galleon (amidships) and a Y-shape at the stern. The design had to follow strict government regulations.

The masts, sails and rigging (ropes and pulleys attached to the masts and sails) were not added until the ship was ready for launch.

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