The Rise of the Atlantic Fleets
When Vicente Sodré saw the enemy fleet, he ordered the caravels to come one astern of the other in a line and to run under all the sail they could carry, firing as many guns as they could....Each of the caravels carried thirty men, and four heavy guns below, and above six falconnets, and ten swivel-guns placed on the quarter deck and in the bows, and two of the falconnets fired astern. The ships of burden were much more equipped with artillery....When they had discharged their guns, they made such haste to load again that they loaded the guns with bags of powder which they had ready for this purpose so that they could load again very speedily....The Portuguese ships kept their steerage way, keeping aloof from the Moorish ships, passing amongst them all, doing wonders with their artillery, firing both broadsides and their poop and forecastle guns, as in all directions it was not possible to miss...but the Moorish ships were much ill-treated, they were shattered and stove in, and many had the masts and yards shattered, which was the greatest advantage our men obtained.
Gaspar Correa, The Three Voyages of Vasco Da Gama ( London, 1869), pp. 367-70. Correa was describing a sea battle with Arab dhows off the coast of India in 1502.
Even as the galley fleets were reaching the peak of their size and power in the late sixteenth century, major advances in the design of sailing ships were laying the foundation for the sudden displacement of Galleys as the dominant European naval force. The rapid improvement in sailing ships in the fifteenth century had nearly as profound an impact on European war as did contemporary advances in gunpowder weaponry.
Although the development of the sailing ship was more advantageous by far to the nations on the Atlantic coast, the process involved the contributions of both Atlantic and Mediterranean shipbuilders and sailors, with several key elements from the East. The dominant medieval vessel of northern waters, the cog and its successors, was a square-sailed, roundbottomed ship. Its most important innovation was the permanent sternpost rudder, which was in use by 1400. The rudder gave the helmsman