Tuesday 1 March 2016

Introducing the lorcha

The lorcha will be one of many new ship profiles included in the forthcoming expansion for Galleys & Galleons. Around a dozen or so of the new profiles will be historical vessels such as the lorcha, geobukseon (Korean turtle ship) and bomb ketch. Many more will be historically inspired lace-pulp fixtures, like airships, orinithopters, pirate rafts and a jacht captained by a pirate with an exaggerated reputation. Of course, there will also be a whole conglomeration of high fantasy vessels, dwarves, elves, orcs and the like, together with a myriad of monsters and mythical creatures.

Merchant lorcha 
Q3 C2
Lateen rigged, Merchantman, Razee, Yare

Pirate lorcha 
Q3 C2
Lateen rigged, Razee, Swashbucklers Yare

A lorcha was seemingly a creative result of European expansion into the East Indies - a composite ship design combining junk rigging with a more streamlined European hull shape. First sailing out of Portuguese Macau in the mid-sixteenth century, the hybrid lorcha was favoured by both merchants and maritime predators due to its ease of handling and fast rate of sailing.

This photo dating from 1936 shows the junk Sin Tong Hong (left), and the lorcha Tek Hwa Seng (right) at sea off the Dutch East Indies.

A lorcha dating to 1690, the Vũng Tàu ship, was famously discovered and excavated off the Côn Đảo islands, Vietnam, in the 1990s. A report of that excavation can be found HERE. The vessel was apparently en route from China to Batavia (Jakarta) when it caught fire and was sunk. The Vũng Tàu lorcha was only 25 meters in length, but this apparently conforms well with the average size of lorchas in the 1940s, known to be around 30 metres long.

The hold was filled with porcelain destined for the European market, but other parts of the ship's stores shed some light on life at sea. Their galley stores included rice, walnuts, persimon, lychees and other fruits and nuts. Two small bronze breach loading swivel guns were recovered from the wreck, as well as three breach blocks from slightly larger pieces. It is thought that the ordnance on the vessel came originally from Portugal.

My next project is to build of of these wee ships in 1/450...

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