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What Is a Galeas?

By M. Haskins
Updated May 17, 2024
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The term galeas often refers to a type of sailing ship that was most commonly built and used in Scandinavia, particularly Sweden and Finland, from the 1600s until the early 1900s. The design of this ship was influenced by sailing ships like ketchs and schooners, but primarily by the Dutch galliot, which was used as a trade ship in Holland and Germany. A galeas was sometimes called a Swedish galliot, Baltic Trader, Dutch hoy, or English dogger, and was often used as a trade ship in the Baltic and the North Sea. Galeas can also refer to an older ship type that originated in Venice, and which was mainly used in the Mediterranean during the 16th and 17th century. This older galeas used both oars and sails for propulsion, and was commonly used for warfare.

Different types of sailboats have different types of rigging, or sailing rigs, referring to the different types and configurations of sails and masts used on sailboats. They also have different types of hulls. The rigging of a galeas was similar to the Dutch galliot's, but its stern was square rather than round. The height of the masts also vary among ship types, and on a Swedish galeas, the aft mast was often shorter than the forward mast. However, the number and height of the masts on a galeas varied, and ships of this type built in Finland often had three masts of equal height.

This ship was still being built and used well into the 20th century in Scandinavia. On Swedish lakes and along the Baltic coast of Sweden and Finland, small versions were commonly used for trade, to carry supplies, and to deliver mail. They were also often used to carry goods such as sand, gravel, and firewood from remote towns and villages to the cities.

The older, Mediterranean galeas was based on a ship called the galley, and was often used as a war ship. This ship played a significant role in several important battles at sea in the 16th and 17th centuries. It could carry up to 70 cannons and was equipped with two or three masts and 20 to 30 pairs of oars, with two to eight men manning each oar. Later versions could measure up to 197 feet (60 m) long, 30 feet (9 m) wide, and 20 feet (6 m) from keel to railing.

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