Waertagi ships

From: ian (i.) gorlick (igorlick@nortel.ca)
Date: Wed 22 May 1996 - 23:41:00 EEST


One thing that has bothered me for some time about the descriptions of the
waertagi is their lack of seamanship. These people seem utterly dependent upon
the use of seamonsters or undines to get about on the water. This just doesn't
make sense to me. A people that lives exclusively at sea ought to be the best
seamen in the world. I don't believe that magic is so plentiful that they can
completely rely on enchantments and Command spells to drive their vessels. Much
of their travelling has to be done the same way everyone else does it, by sails
and oars, skill and muscle. So to fill this percieved deficiency, I have written
a description of a small non-magical vessel commonly used by the waertagi.

Waertagi Dragon Boats

The waertagi are most famed for their gigantic city ships made from the bodies
of sea dragons. However, their smaller craft are also worthy of admiration.
These various small craft are remarkable for their speed, man?uverability, and
sea-worthiness. They are also remarkable for their beauty.

The boats have a number of features that are peculiar to the waertagi. Most of
these would cause a sane and sober seaman to refuse to ever go to sea in such a
contraption. Only those who have lived their entire life at sea can be
comfortable with these strange designs.

The most peculiar feature of waertagi ships is the rigging. The sails are
constructed of a black fabric which is made from certain varieties of seaweed.
They are stiffened with battens to control their shape. Battens are unknown to
most of Glorantha's seafarers except for Kralorela and Vormain. The most
peculiar thing about the rigging is the masts. These are secured to the deck by
a flexible joint which allows the mast to be swung around to any angle and
direction. The position of the mast and sail is controlled by an arrangement of
stays and booms. This arrangement allows the sail to be adjusted to the very
optimum position to catch any wind. (In many ways it resembles the sail used on
a windsurfer but there is a team of men using ropes and poles to position the
sail instead of one man using only his own body.)

The sail can be lowered to the deck, furled, and stowed in a matter of seconds
by a well-trained crew. Thus the waertagi can keep their sails up until the last
moment when they engage for battle, unlike other nations who generally will take
down their masts long before an engagement begins and use oars for the battle.

Different sizes of boat may use one to four sails. The sails can not be reefed
easily. If the weather is too extreme then the normal sails may be replaced by
smaller ones.

Needless to say, any conventional seaman looking at this arrangement would be
appalled. It looks like sheer madness to try to handle a large sail on a
flexible mast, and it would be if the waertagi did not have millenia of
development behind their seamanship and an almost instinctive feeling for wind
and ships.

The dragon boats are long and narrow for speed. This would normally limit the
spread of sail they could carry without fear of being overturned. The waetagi
use outriggers to prevent their sails from toppling their craft. The outriggers
can be removed and shipped inboard in a few minutes at need.

Outriggers on a normal penteconter would be in the way of the oars. The waertagi
have a peculiar style of rowing that avoids this difficulty. Their oars enter
the water at a steep angle close to the ship. The oarsmen stand at their oars,
rather than sit as in a conventional warship. They work their oars in a side to
side sculling action that never raises the oar-blade from the water. The
waertagi have perfected this peculiar motion so that the man behind can draw a
little extra energy from the vortices generated by the oar ahead of him. Each
oarsman follows the stroke of the man ahead but lags him just slightly. This
means that the oars move in waves down the side of the ship, rather than in the
synchronous motion of normal rowing.

These waves undulating down the sides of the ship make it look like the entire
ship is wriggling, like a dragon lashing its body side to side to drive itself
through the water.

Again, a conventional seaman would look at this style of rowing and conclude
that the stroke was inefficient and that no crew could maintain the staggered
timing needed to keep in stroke. The waertagi have found that with the right oar
design and correct motion, this stroke is more efficient than the conventional;
and they have proven that their crews can keep in time.

Under the prow of the boat is a ram. The waertagi do not rely on ramming as a
tactic as highly as other seafarers, their hulls are lighter and less strong
than most. The ram is mainly there to reduce the bow wave which reduces the
resistance of the water and so makes the ship faster. The ram does function as a
weapon though, and is used as such when circumstances dictate.

Dragon boats are made in the likeness of small sea dragons. The rearing prow
will be carved and painted in a fearsome likeness of a dragon's head. The hull
is painted to resemble the scales of a dragon. The black sails with battens look
like dragon-wings raised to catch the wind. The oars undulating rhythmically
down the sides make the hull appear to writhe like a living thing. This
combination produces such a resemblance to the real thing that they are
frequently mistaken for sea dragons.

A waertagi dragon boat is the finest small craft afloat on the seas of
Glorantha. It is faster than any comparably sized ship under oars, sails, or
both. Under sail, it can lie a point nearer the wind than any other craft
afloat. It can weather storms that no other seafarers would think of trying (it
has to, the waertagi live at sea and have no ports in which to shelter). The
price for these advantages is the level of training required for a crew. Only a
race born to the sea, with millennia of heritage behind them, each man with a
lifetime of practice, could hope to handle such a ship in any but the most ideal
conditions. In a battle or storm, any lesser skilled crew would be doomed.

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