"What? What do you mean we can't afford it?" Roland sat in the office, looking at the request documents to recruit more administrators and purchase sailing ships.
Barov cleared his throat and answered, "No, Your Highness, we can't. The price of a two-mast sailing ship is between 80 to 120 gold royals, but that's just the cost of shipbuilding. The price may be higher with crew costs. The total price is estimated at over 200 gold royals."
"Didn't I say that we don't need sailors or helmsmen? We also don't need a captain. We just need a ship," Roland said, hammering on the table. With Wendy onboard, he would not need so many people to operate the sailing ship. Most of the inland river boats sailed straight. It was as easy to operate as raising and lowering a flag. So the oarsmen and sailors were redundant, and any helmsman could handle that. Anyway, with the vector of wind, did he have to worry that the boat would not go forward?
"Your Highness, there's no such business, at least not in Willow Town," Barov explained carefully, "You may not know much about the industry. Generally speaking, the owner of the ship is also the captain, maybe a businessman, or a noble. The former will recruit the crew himself and do business or transport goods between the major towns and docks. The latter will normally recruit a deputy captain to live on the ship instead of himself. Employees aren't paid on a monthly basis, but once every one to three years."
"Most of the time, the ship and the crew are tied together. If you purchase the ship from the captain without the crew he hired, then he loses the hiring salary. Even for the great nobles, 80 gold royals isn't a paltry sum that can be freely shed. Including the rough gemstone trading with Willow Town from the beginning of this month, City Hall now has a total of 315 gold royals. If you spend most of it purchasing the ship, you won't be able to pay the Militia next month." The assistant minister said this without pausing, and then lifted his cup to drink his ale.
"You said most of the time..."
"Yes." he nodded. "There are two cases when the ships will be sold without the crew. The first case is that the merchant is in desperate need of money so that he'll sell his property. He'll also dismiss all the crew and then sell the ship as soon as possible. The other case is that the owner wants to buy a new ship. It's easy to understand. But I have to say that both cases are very rare."
"Wait." Roland frowned. "You said to buy a new ship. Where do these ships come from?"
"Port of Clearwater, Seawindshire, and Farsight Point. Only seaports have shipyards and can produce new ships."
So, this was what he had meant when he said there was no such business, at least not in Willow Town. Roland was silent for a moment. It was too far away to go to seaports to buy ships. And if he did not hire a crew, who would help him to get the ships back? "In that case, l' will think it over."
When the assistant minister left, the prince was lost in thought.
Shipping was an irreplaceable part of his strategic plan. Without fast and convenient shipping, he would not be able to use cannons in the battle. The Duke of Longsong Stronghold usually recruited farmers, knights and mercenaries and the marching speed would be slow. However, their speed was slower. As Carter had said, by land, a mud pit could make the cannons difficult to move, even one step. There were no asphalt roads in this era, not even any stone roads. There were so many people walking that they formed trails. The road was fine during sunny weather, but it got muddy on rainy days.
Would he have to build the ship himself?
Roland spread out a piece of paper and wrote down the specifications he needed.
Firstly, the ship would need to transport one or two cannons as well as about 30 people. Ships in this era were driven by sails and not equipped with a power system. Secondly, the ship would only be sailing on inland rivers. It would need to be stable and reliable. With a shallow draught, it would not be easy for it to capsize or sink. Thirdly, it would need to be easy to operate so that the Militia could handle it quickly after minimal training.
Considering all these points, there was only one solution—a barge.
In the world where Roland used to live, this kind of ship, with its extremely shallow draught and low center of gravity, could be seen everywhere along almost all the river routes. In the old days, the ships stacked with sand or gravel, almost flat with the surface of the water, were all barges. As long as there was a tugboat, it could pull several barges forward like a train.
After the ship type was determined, the next key point was to determine which material should be used to build the ship.
Roland wrote down three options: wood, iron, and concrete.
Men first made ships with wood. From rafts to the Ship of the Line, from sailing in the rivers to sailing in the seas, wooden ships could always be a good choice. It was a pity that Roland did not know how to make a flat boat with logs, and there were no craftsmen. If he relied on the few carpenters, he could only make a large raft which could fall apart at any moment.
Iron ships were built similarly to houses. The keel was made up of the primary and secondary beams put in a crisscross and covered with iron sheets. If Anna could do the welding, then the overall stiffness would be guaranteed. However, it would deplete the reserves of the iron ore which were already small. It was clearly a better choice to use these iron ores to produce steam engines and barrels.
The concrete boat became the final option. The construction of the city wall had been finished, and there were still some raw materials left. As long as Anna calcinated them once or twice, they would have enough concrete. The construction of the concrete boat was much easier than that of the iron boat. They only needed to make a wooden template reinforced with iron bars, and then fill it with the concrete. Even in his rural village, people could build several concrete boats for fishing. The iron boat would need regular rust cleaning and painting, while the concrete boat would not require much maintenance. It could be built at a low cost, but still be strong and durable. Even if he had not learned how to build an ocean ship, building an inland concrete barge with a relatively low level of technology would not be too hard, would it?
Roland picked up a quill and quickly drew the draft of the barge.
A shed with walls was put up along Redwater River.
In order to facilitate the launching of the ship, Roland located the shipbuilding site as close as possible to the river bank.
Sheds could keep out the wind and snow. At the same time, two pots of charcoal were put in the room to avoid the impact that low-temperature had on the hardening effect of the concrete.
The carpenters created the basic template of the hull. The round bow would reduce the forward resistance, and the square stern would increase the loading area. The width of the boat was about 8 meters and its aspect ratio was 3:1. Compared with the conventional ships whose ratio was 8:1, it was quite bulky. In the center, they set up two masts. The masts were inserted into the bottom of the ship and connected to the iron beams passing through the centerline of the ship. At the stern, they set up a stake reserved for the rudder. Other places were crisscrossed with iron bars.
It did not matter that there were no iron wires for banding. All the intersections of the iron bars were personally welded firmly by Anna, forming an iron net over the bottom of the ship.
Once the template and rebar were ready, Roland ordered the workers to start the pouring operation.
The well-mixed concrete was poured into a template. The middle of the template was flat, and the walls were one and a half meters high, forming the cabin walls. At first sight, it looked like a very large bathtub.
Everyone involved in the construction, including Anna, had never thought that this strange thing made out of the same material as the city wall would eventually be a ship.
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