Hadeer (sakuraberries) wrote in little_details,

boarding a medieval sailing ship + speed of said ships


I'm currently writing a fantasy story set in the middle ages, and in the opening chapter my main character, a woman, is going to mascarade as a young man and attempt to board a merchant sailing ship traveling North.

1) How would she go about getting onboard? Would the ship captain request payment of her? Obviously they didn't have IDs and social security numbers and all that back then, so would they worry if they were helping a potential murderer/escaped criminal aboard (she is that, actually)? I had this vague idea that she could incapacitate the ship's cook and then show up and tell the captain that she was his replacement. Would there be a way for the captain to corroborate that? But in general, if that doesn't pan out, is it feasible that she could just walk up to him (as a man, still) and request passage? Is it likely that he would allow it? Would she be housed with the rest of the sailors? Would she be asked to help with the ship duties?

2) I know medieval sailing ships' speeds depended mostly on the wind, but in general, how fast were they? My ship is going from, say,that inner curve of Libya to France (only straight up). About how long would such a journey take, assuming the wind is regular?

I perused this page as well as the other pages on the site, and Googled things like "boarding a medieval merchant ship" but didn't get very specific results.

I'd appreciate any help, thanks!

EDITING WITH MORE INFO: My character is from a culture that is sort of an Arab/Indian mix, but the ship is sailing off to a continent that is a Scandinavia/Siberia sort of thing. The character definitely comes from the same land and speaks the same language as the sailors, albeit a different dialect. Now, it's a fantasy story, but the century is approximately 13th, in accordance with our world.

EDIT: Also, in this vein, how would she know which ship is going where? I know she would go to the docks/port and there would probably be several ships; was there any way they let people know to where they were headed or would the captain/sailors need to be asked?
Tags: ~boats and other things that float, ~middle ages, ~travel: sea travel

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