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Greek Galliot by Sceatha - 1/64 - Amati plans with modifications

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Hello all,


After a very helpful discussion with several of you here and a very enlightening set of resources provided by @Thanasis, I feel ready to tackle this build that has been haunting me a few years now.


It all begins with this image:



It's found in a Greek museum of engravings (Benaki museum) and according to it's inscription it depicts a galliot from Psara. It is engraved by Lykourgos Kogevinas, a famous Greek engraver in 1938, but is based on a painting by a Lt E. W. Churchill made in 1827. We can assume the Lt served in the British Royal Navy at the time in the Mediterranean and saw the pirate ship first hand.


Now Psara is a small island in the Aegean sea, with a very long nautical tradition. Psarians were very active at sea during the Greek revolutionary war and the island is known for the Psara massacre, performed by the Ottoman army in retaliation for blowing up the ship of a Turkish Admiral. According to the Scottish historian George Finlay, the population of the island was about 7000 before the massacre, but it never rose above 1000 afterwards.


The Psarians used galliots, usually of more than 32 oars, as warships and in piracy. They provided a number of such galliots to the fleet of Admiral Alexei Grigoryevich Orlov during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74, when the Ottoman fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Chesma. According to Russian sources of the time the galliots were very effective reconnaissance, assault and liaison ships.


More to follow soon.


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Ευχαριστώ Bruce, welcome to the thread!


A few more words from the sources on the actual vessel type follows.


From a general interest research piece made for the municipality of Psara:


The ‘Galliot’ from Psara had been constructed on the island in the years before the Greek Independence War (1821) and is particularly mentioned in connection to the naval battle of Chesme, when the Russian fleet, under Alexei Orlov and admirals Spiridov and Elphinstone sailed from Psara, with pilots and fire ships from the island. Among them was the well known captain Ioannis Vamvakis from Psara.




The islander from Psara had 45 galliots at their disposal (Ioannis Vamvakis was owner and captain of one). With these galliots they blockaded the entire Turkish coast from from the Dardanelles to the coast of Syria. These galliots were light, fast and agile ships. They were used as pirate or merchant ships, in reconnaissance and as blockade runners. They were only rarely used as troop carriers or to tow larger ships. They had a length of 42m and a beam of 4.5m, displacing about 75 - 100 tons. They had a low sheer, a sharp and low bow and a raised stern. They had 16 - 26 sets of oars with one (rarely two) rowers per oar. They carried two or three masts with lateen sails and two or three cannon at the bow. They were manned by over 100 men.


The galliots from Psara that took place in the Russo-Turkish war (1768-1774) were smaller than the ones mentioned above (which were constructed after 1780), being about 23m at the keel, 16 sets of oars and carried about 80 warriors.




From an article in the Greek Navy Review (1946):


The galliot was a small, fast and agile vessel that evolved from the galleys, but much smaller.




During the 18th century and the introduction of tall ships in the navies of the Mediterranean, such a galliot with two guns at the bow, was usually carried aboard or dragged behind the larger ships, to be used in reconnaissance, invasions, liaison missions or to pull the ship when becalmed.


The British Mediterranean fleet under Nelson used such galliot extensively while the Turkish fleet used galliot in the "light armada".


Now, all written sources agree that galliots had at least 16 sets of oars, yet the only good enough depiction of such a ship that we have, and can be considered contemporary in any way, is the one posted above. Which clearly depicts 12 sets of oars. Truth is that most sources refer to earlier examples, going up to the 18th century. We know for a fact that the people of Psara continued to use galliots well into the 19th century and used the extensively during the Greek was of Independence, so the image could be of a ship that is more typical of a later pirate vessel.


In any case, sticking to the woodcut made by Kogevinas (based on a drawing from, 1827) is the way for me to go in this build, and all modifications to the Amati plans will be done towards that aim.


More to follow,


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  • 2 weeks later...

Time for a few words on the most prevalent modification I have made to Amati's plans. The image below shows the height of the bulwark, measured from the deck and the top of the rowing benches, according to Amati's plans.




Now this is the first thing that strikes me as wrong when looking at the woodcut:



In the woodcut the bulwark comes to well under the armpits of the rowers in the middle of the ship. If the height of the bulwark from the bench top was 64cm, as Amati suggests, only the top half of the head of a 170cm man would be visible (a somewhat tall/average man for that time in the Aegean islands). So the bulwark had to be lowered significantly.


I have no reason to question the 45-50cm suggested as the height of the rowing bench and so, after several tries and calculations (measuring my 168cm wife sitting on a 48cm chair) I concluded that the height of the bulwark, measured from the top of the benches should be about 30 cm in the real ship.


This means that about 5mm need to be "shaved off". In order to retain the general appearance of the ship (which I think Amati has captured beautifully) the 5mm need to be distributed among the lowering of the bulwark and the raising of the deck, as well as the lower part of the hull, so that the ship would sit low on the water, as in the woodcut.


This will also allow for another correction. Amati suggests the oars come out of holes on the sides. I did not like this even before looking at the woodcut, as such holes are not typical of traditional Greek oared vessels. The woodcuts clearly shows the oars are inserted into slots that cut into the bulwark.

It could be claimed that a higher bulwark would offer more protection for the rowers, but let's face it, this ship would be dead anyway if caught at it's beam by any amount of firepower. It's one of those vessels that have to either be going towards their enemies or away from them.


Luckily, Amati gets a very important thing correct. That is the fact that the bow to stern curve of the deck does not seem to follow the curve of the bulwarks. This is evident in the woodcut by the fact that rowers amidships protrude from the bulwark more than rowers towards the bow and especially towards the stern.


The above fix was manually worked into the plans of the frames and the false keel, which were then cut out of birch plywood.


More soon.


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Thank you for the kind words @Hellmuht Schrader ! I am closely watching your progress on the Byblos ship. You are definitely setting new standards there, a great build!


Thank you @BobG! Glad you liked the website, just a place to keep my work and research together. I try to keep the blog section updated weekly, but it has not been easy with work lately.

The Xebec is also based mainly on the Amati plans, just like this one here, but with quite a few modifications.



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So, I was lucky to find some really nice looking cherry wood and I did the planking with that, adding some walnut details:





Next came the internal structure. Deck were planked in Basswood.


The frames were too wide apart in the Amati plans (box 1 in the image below), so I decided to double their number (box 2 below):



Measuring from the deck, I cut the slots for the oars. As I have said above the plans show round oarholes, but the woodcut clearly show the oars rest on slots. The slots are necessarily longer towards the bow and stern, as the curve of the wale does not follow the curve of the deck, this can be seen in the woodcut, as the rowers towards bow and stern protrude above the wale less than the ones amidships.




Thanks all,


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Hello again!

Continuing the internal structure of the bulwarks and framing. There is a peg attached to every other frame, these will support the rowing benches. The oar slot have also been cut. The slots are deeper towards the stern as the sheer does not follow the deck of the curve (as discussed previously).








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Thanks Hellmuth!


Since I do not have much progress to post yet, I thought I would say a few words about Greek piracy in the time of the Ottoman empire and especially towards the Ottoman decline in the 18th and 19th century. This is after all a pirate ship I am building and piracy in the Aegean has been somewhat neglected by historians.


Even a general history of piracy in the Aegean during that period would take several volumes. Yes, there is a lot of it and it was quite diverse in nationalities and motives. There were Turkish pirates, pirates from the coast of Africa (the well known barbary corsairs among them), Greek pirates that were robing only Ottoman ships (something akin to unofficial privateers) and, of course, Greek pirates that robbed anybody they met. In this chaos I thought I would focus on certain particularly colorful examples.


First off the pirates of Mani.



Now Mani is a very interesting place in almost every aspect (historically, geographically, geologically, botanologically etc). It is the middle one of the three peninsulas that protrude from the lower end of the Peloponnese, and has historically always been a a world of its own. The remnants of the Byzantine towers still dot the land and even an entire Byzantine castle town survives in Mystras. Under the Ottoman rule Mani had always been an unstable province to say the least, home to many well known warlords that kept their own regiments and many of whom regularly dealt in piracy and smuggling.


Stories of hidden pirate treasures and the well known pirates themselves, like Lyberakis, One-eyed Sassaris, Mavromichalis and other still survive today. A well known Greek nautical verse is indicative of the fear sailers held for these coasts:


Από τον Κάβο Ματαπά

Σαράντα μίλια μακριά

Κι από τον Κάβο Γκρόσο

Σαράντα κι άλλο τόσο


or, roughly translated in English: "From Cape Matapa, [you shall keep a distance] of forty miles; and from Cape Groso, forty and again forty." The rhyme refers to the two main capes on the peninsula:



In 1718 the treaty of Passarowitz was signed between the Ottoman empire and Venice and the area around Mani became the sea border between the two empires. Since none of two navies would now police the area, the entire coast became a place where pirates (especially Greeks) would gather to repair their ships, get provisions and divide their loot. In the town of Oitylo they established a base that came to be known as Little Algiers, with its own slave market.


In 1760 The Greek pirates from Mani established a cooperation with the Maltese pirates. It has been recorded that an unofficial "customs house" existed in Mani, run by a pirate's widow, where traders could pay protection money and get a receipt that would allow them to sail free from the danger of pirates from Malta or Mani.


As in any piratical cove all was not always peaceful and many large internal wars have been recorder (like the one between the Mavromichalis and Mantouvalos clans. The locals would also often trap ships by extinguishing and even moving lighthouses or lighting flames on the wrong parts of the coast.


The Ottomans repeatedly failed to stop piracy in the area, until finally, after a failed attempt in 1803, they decided to live with it. A chief pirate was chosen in Mani, from the Mavromichalis clan, and he was recognized as the Bey of Mani, who would split the loot of all pirates and pay the Ottoman rulers a percentage. 


A well known pirate captain of the area was Lambros Katsonis. He was born in the town of Levadia and joined the uprisings that happened in Greece against the Ottoman rule during the Russo-Turkish War (1787 - 1792). When that war ended with the Treaty of Jassy, Katsonis did not accept the result and gathered a fleet of 24 ships and 500 marines to harass Ottoman shipping. He made Porto Kagio, in Mani, his base of operations. When his fleet was cornered and destroyed there, he managed to flee to Odessa and Yalta.


More about the pirates in the northern Aegean and the Black Squadron soon.


Hope this makes up for the slow progress in the model.



P.S.: A few modern photos of the area:

Cape Matapa (Tainaro) with Cape Groso in the distance:



One of the many natural harbors/coves in the area:



The Byzantine castle town of Mystras:


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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello again, 


this build has slowed down considerably due to me moving houses (changing country of residence from the UK back to Greece), but it is still moving ahead.

so I started working on the rowing benches the rowing benches.


Most sources I have come across claim galliots from Psara had 16-25 sets of oars, while the Amati plans provide 12. But 12 is also the number depicted on the engraving, so that works fine for me.



Edited by Sceatha
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  • 1 month later...

Back after a long break (during this absence I moved from the UK to Greece). The galliot traveled packed in my luggage, wrapped in several layers of bubble wrap and made it here without any major damage.


After the madness of unpacking, I managed to make some progress. I was actually looking forward to this this part of the built: The very interesting curves of the bulwark rails at the bow.


I decided to try shaping those in place, after they were attached, which worked fine:




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Things move faster, due to another lockdown.


Some work on the cannons.

I had a couple of bronze long nines lying around that I think would fit this type of vessels like a glove.

The pirates would be able to source such guns, either from a prey or, more likely from a rich ship owner from Psara, Hydra or Spetses.


I blackened the cannon using Birchwood Casey's Brass Black. Then I very slightly rubbed them with very fine steel wool, to bring back some of the shine and highlight raised surfaces. I figured that the pirates would keep them clean and operational, but not bother to polish them to a shine or paint them.




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Due to another lockdown progress has accelerated.


On to the support for the mizzen mast. Now placement if that one was somewhat weird to me.

Kogevinas seems to depict the foot of the mizzen mast behind the sternpost, resting in the relatively thin overhanging deck of the stern. I initially though this was a somewhat precarious for a mast and maybe a mistake of the painter.

Then @Chapman was kind enough to point out this woodcut of a Greek sacoleva by Baugean, that depicts a similar placement of the mizzen, in much clearer profile and by a much more trustworthy illustrator:




A friend with long experience in sailing also pointed out that the size of the mizzen sail, both in my galliot and in Baugean's sacoleva is very small in comparison to the main sails, so it was probably just used to adjust and align the sail plan and not provide considerable power, so the forces on that sail would not be too substantial.


Much more confident of what I am about to do, I started working on the supports for the mizzen mast:




Edited by Sceatha
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Hi George.

To secure your confidence on where a mizzen sail could be placed, allow me say this in short...

Once when I was dealing with a model of a peculiar Gr. sponge fishing vessel from Symi Island and seeing old models and engravings where the mizzen sail was set on the handrails of the stern, I had the same doubts as you.

It was after a few years when some photos from Tarpon Springs and the sponge fishing boats of the Gr community, revealed the truth.

The shipbuilding tradition was transferred there and had been kept until recently.

Ps: The model of Skaphe is not mine…:)




Edited by Thanasis
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Thanks Thanasis. Great stuff, as usual!


Very interesting to see how this idea of a small mizzen has survived through the ages.


Just being curious: What is the type of vessel on the lower left photo? The bow looks like a Trechandiri, but there seems to be a transom at the back? And I don't think I have ever seen a Trechandiri with this sail plan.


Thanks for the info!



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