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Ships and Ship Building


Many ships came to La Florida during the colonial period. The common ship types of the day were caravels, naos (pronounced "nows"), and galleons.

Note about the Santa Maria: Although some authors may refer to Columbus's ship Santa Mariaas a carrack or a caravel, the explorer's preeminent biographer, Samuel Eliot Morison, believes that it was a nao. Naos were the minivan of the era and were used primarily for transporting goods.


Fisher, Leonard E. The Shipbuilders. New York: Franklin Watts, 1971.

  • Print; 48 pages; nonfiction; ages 10 to 14
  • Currently out of print but owned by many Florida libraries

This book begins with a history of ship building in Colonial America, including the names and types of ships that the colonists built and the towns that were centers of the shipbuilding industry. The second half of the book is a highly technical description of the methods, materials, and tools the colonists used to build ships. It is illustrated with detailed technical illustrations.


Gardiner, Robert, and Richard W. Unger. Cogs, Caravels, and Galleons: The Sailing Ship, 1000–1650. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1994.

  • Print; 188 pages; nonfiction; ages 14 and up
  • Currently out of print but owned by many Florida libraries

Using a mixture of primary documents and archaeology, the authors seek to piece together the development and use of these early sailing ships. This is a scholarly work but contains many beautiful illustrations that may be helpful in explaining caravels and galleons to older elementary or middle school children.


Konstam, Angus, and Tony Bryan. The Spanish Galleon, 1530–1690. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2004.

  • Print; 48 pages; nonfiction; ages 12 and up

This beautifully illustrated book contains an incredible amount of information about galleons. Galleons were famously used by the Spanish to transport their riches from the New World back to Spain. This would be a great resource for writing a report.


Ross, Stewart. Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2011.

  • Print; 85 pages; nonfiction; ages 8 and up

This book tells about the history of travel and ship building from 340 B.C. Greece to the Apollo 11 moon landing. To accompany Stewart Ross's stories, artist Stephen Biesty has created wonderful foldout illustrations of ships, planes, and rockets with detailed cut-away diagrams.


Simmons, Joe J. Those Vulgar Tubes: External Sanitary Accommodations Aboard European Ships of the Fifteenth Through Seventeenth Centuries. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991.

  • Print; 74 pages; nonfiction; ages 14 and up
  • Available in eBook format

Have you ever wondered where the sailors went to the bathroom on those beautiful ships of the explorers? Worry no more; this book explores the sanitary conditions aboard boats and clears up such mysteries as why toilets are called "heads" on ships. This book is a scholarly work but the topic may inspire children to read at a higher level.


Steffy, J. R. Wooden Ship Building and the Interpretation of Shipwrecks. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1994.

  • Print; 314 pages; nonfiction; ages 15 and up
  • Currently out of print but owned by many Florida libraries

Inside these pages the reader is able to see what underwater archaeologists really do. This is a scholarly work and probably is best suited for young adults who have a deep interest in the subject or AP students working on a research paper.