The ship

It’s not easy to build an 18th century ship in full 1:1 scale without the help of any original drawings. It doesn’t make it any easier when solely using the tools, building methods and materials of that time. In addition to that, the ship has to fulfill today’s safety requirements from authorities. However, sometimes, impossible dreams grow wings and take flight. The East Indiaman Götheborg was, during its expeditions, the largest sailing wooden ship in the world.


Vessel details

Ship Type: Sailing vessel
Year Built: 2005
Length x Width: 47 x 11 m
Gross Tonnage: 788 tons
Call Sign: SLOA
IMO: 8646678
MMSI: 266198000
Main Power: 2 x 404kW


The hull

The East Indiaman Götheborg is built as a typical Swedish East Indiaman. With the newly opened trade routes with Eastern India, large and durable vessels were needed to cope with the long and stressful travels. The East Indiaman was its time’s biggest merchant ship and had a lighter construction than a pilgrimage ship in order to bring home as much cargo as possible from its expeditions. The vessel had a life span of about two expeditions to China.

A total of 4000m³ of timber was required in building “Götheborg”, from which 75% was Oak and 25% Pinewood. The timber was exclusively ordered, as ship timber cannot be purchased at ordinary timber yards. It was necessary that the Oak wood was 100-200 years old, neither more or less. With younger Oak wood, the dimensions would have been insufficient. If the wood had been older, the risk of the tree being rotten with a hollow stem would be higher.

The Swedish Ship Götheborg gradually acquired three entire decks as well as an Upper Deck and Sun Deck. Below the bottom of the ship there exists a room with motors, generators, tanks, and other technical equipment. Tubes, drums, and cables to the different systems on board have been coated to a great extent in order not to be displayed.

On the Lower Deck there are two big quarters for the 50 deckhands who sailed as part of the crew. Each quarter provides a sleeping space for 30 persons in the form of either a hammock or a fixed bunk. There are also cabins in the lower deck provided for some members of the permanent crew. The Galley lays in the lower deck and is one of the quietest places on board.

The Gun Deck / Upper Deck, mostly consists of cannons with lavats, benches and tables for eating and mingling. In the stern of the ship, there is a command cabin and a large cabin.

On the Sun Deck, daily tasks were performed, such as raising the sail, tearing, brassing, and everything related to sailing. An important part of the daily work on the Sun Deck was wetting the planks in order to prevent them from drying and shrinking, which in turn leads to leakage from the Deck. In this way, the water prevents the wood from dehydrating and thus preventing cracking.

A part of the sailing maneuvering took place on the aft of the Upper Deck and cabin, which were also spaces for officers during their watches.



Length:          47 meters
Width:           11 meters
Aft depth:      5,25 meters
Material:        Pine and Oak
Decks:           Three, with a cabin and aft
Cabins:          20
Fixed beds:   42


Clique on the image for a zoom-in



The East Indiaman “Götheborg” has 26 sails with a total area of 1,964 m². The regular set of sails is comprised of 18 sails with a total area of 1,550 m².

Linen is a durable material that existed in Sweden during the 17th and 18th centuries extensively. Götheborg has three different sails aboard, the most common being the Square Rigs. These sails are laced to yards with with lace lines och are hauled down using haul and tacks to the desired trim. The biggest sail on board is the Main Topsail with an area of almost 250 square meters. There is a total of nine Square Rigs on board that make up a total of 1300 square meters.

The Staysail is smaller and is a triangular sail that is diagonally hoisted between the masts. The use f the Staysail was only introduced in the beginning of the 18th century. When looking at older ships, for instance, like the Wasa War Ship from the 17th century, there were no Staysails at all. From the six Staysails at “Götheborg” the Jib is the biggest and the Gallant Staysail the smallest.

Apart from the Square Rigs and Staysail, there is the Lateen Mizzen, which is the Sail Aft. The Spanker, which is a lateen sail, is listed on a sprit and is primarily used to balance the vessel’s weather helm and lee helm.

All of the sails aboard are made, maintained and repaired by hand. Firstly, all the canvasses are stitched together, forming a large enough area. The sail is then cut out and the sides are folded. Once this is done, details such as cringles and boltropes are stitched on. During voyages, sailmakers were always present on board to repair the sails if any damages occured. It takes eight years for a sailmaker to make all the sails for the ship.



Type of sails: Square Rig, Staysail, Lateen, Studdingsail
Material: Canvas
Number of sails: 26, including the Studdingsails
Largest sail: Main topsail, 250 square meters
Smallest sail: Main topgallant staysail
Total sail area: 1 964 square meters

A sketch of Götheborg’s sails

1. Lateen Mizzen
2. Mizzen Topsail
3. Main Topgallant sail
4. Main Topsail
5. Main Sail
6. Fore Topgallant sail
7. Fore Topsail
8. Fore Sail
9. The Jib
10. Fore Topmast Staysail
11. Spritsail Topsail
12. Spiritsail

Apart from the above, Götheborg is able to raise eight Studdingsails that were hoisted upon the Squaresail with the help of rods that prolong the yard. These were only used during lighter winds. The Studdingsails are comprised of: two Fore-top Studdingsails, two Fore Studdingsails, two Main Top Studdingsails, and two Main Studdingsails.



The 18th century East Indiamen were mainly downwind vessles. The rigging is an exact reconstruction of the original one from the 18th century. Rigging is the common title of all masts, rods, and other spars – as in yards, bowsprits, and sprits – as well as sails, blocks, and ropes.

The ropes of the standing rigging (the shroud and the stay) and the running rigging together have a weight of about 20 tons. There exist no contemporary methods for the maneuver of the rigging and was completely handled with manpower. The Capstan on board, which is aimed to provide extra power when needed, was also managed with manpower.

The East Indiaman Götheborg is a three-masted ship with Square Rigs (square sails) on all three masts. The mainmast and the foremast have topgallant sails, topsails and courses. The Aftermast has a Topsail and a Latin type Spankersail. In the bow is the bowsprit with a jib boom, and hanging below that are two more Square Sails: the Spritsail and the Sprit-topsail. A ship of this kind used to be called a Frigate-rigged Ship, although we nowadays refer to it as a Full-rigged Ship.


The rigging

Rig: Full-rigged Square sails
Number of masts: Three
Number of yards: Ten
Heaviest yard: 1,7 ton
Longest yard: 23 m
Mast material: Pine and Fir
Yard material: Pine and Fir
Rope/cordage: 20 tons hand-made hemp
Number of blocks: Approximately 650
Hight above waterline: 47 m


In order to ensure the safety of the professional crew on board which is comprised of 50 deckhands, while sailing the world’s oceans, authorities and classification bodies require an amount of technical equipment.

The ship contains propulsion machinery, power generators, pumps, equipment for producing drinking water, high-pressure fire extinguishers, a modern kitchen with fridges and freezers, ventilation, air conditioning, and a complete laundry room. These are all well concealed in the interior of the ship, creating ‘two ships in one’ – a historical and a modern one.


The ship is equipped with GPS, radar, satellite radio, etc. Even old navigation instruments such as Octants and a Dutchman’s log have been used for study purposes. Modern equipment is an official safety requirement from the authorities. Without this equipment the ship would not be allowed to sail the world’s oceans.

Monitoring System

There are around 600 monitored spots aboard Götheborg. The system can be used in turning on pumps, opening valves, regulating fans, and much more.

In order to plan the vessel’s technical maintenance, there are time meters on all equipment. During voyages the most critical temperature, pressure, fuel, and water levels are read and registered every four hours around the clock. Everything is meticulously documented which helps the technical staff to monitor and look after all the equipment in the best possible way. The monitoring system also includes highly sophisticated fire and safety equipment.

Engines and propellers

The vessel is fitted with two adjustable propellers and two 404 kW engines. The electricity supply comes from two 180 kW generators, in addition to an emergency generator. Apart from propulsion machinery and generators, the engine room is equipped with pumps, a boiler, a bilgewater separator, and an air compressor.

Tank rooms

The front cargo room has two tank rooms filled with technical equipment. Between the rooms, there are five waterproof steel bulkheads. Furthermore, two large floodable bilge pumps are able to pump up to 500 tonnes an hour. The fuel room is located in the aftmost tank room and can hold 36 000 litres in total. A full capacity of the machinery and generator consume approximately 2000 litres a day. The vessel’s toilet system is connected to 12 toilets around the ship and is also located in the stern. The water room is found in the front tank room and contains water production equipment and a laundry room.

The Galley

The Galley is located one deck below, and is an ultra-modern compact kitchen with a convection oven, tiltable pans and cookware, a cold bench, and more. The scullery is located next to the Galley, containing a dishwasher and other equipment.


Technical data

Engines: Two Volvo Penta 404 kW
Navigation: GPS, radar, gyrocompass, ECDIS
Satellite: Satcom B
Log: Doppler log
Generators: Two 180 kW, Volvo Penta 103
Fule tanks: 36 000 litre
Bilge pump: 500 tons/hour


The crew

During the voyages of the East Indiaman Götheborg, the crew consisted of about 80 persons. One fourth of these were comprised of a professional crew, while the remaining were volunteer crew and Deckhands. 



The commander was the highest authority body on board and was to a large extent responsible for the overall safety of the ship and the crew.


The Chief Officer was the commander’s deputy and was responsible for the daily management on board. The Chief Officer, together with the seaman, was also responsible for the inspection and maintenance of the rigging, and supporting the Deck Officers and Watch Leaders in handling the rigging.


The 2nd Officer was responsible for preparing nautical charts for the voyages, planning sailing routes, controlled editions of navigational literature, and corrected charts. S/he was also responsible for inspections, tests and maintenance of the navigation and communication equipment.


The second 2nd officer was responsible for inspections, tests, and maintenance of the safety equipment on board. S/he also planned and implemented safety exercises together with the Commander, Chief Officer and Technical Manager.

Cheif Engineer

The Chief Engineer was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the ship’s machinery, as well as rganizing and implementing the ship’s fire and safety exercisese, in cooperation with the Chief Officer. S/he also was also in charge of planning and preparing the safety crew.

1st Engineer

The 1st Engineer was the Chief Engineer’s deputy and was in charge of the day-to-day technical management.


The Engineer carried out the daily technical operations and maintenance of the machinery and technical department.


The Bosun led the deck crew in the day-to-day work with the Hull, Deck, and Rigging. S/he also inspected and maintained the rigging, as well putting the deck crew to work.


The Watch Leader was in charge of leading the Deckahands in their daily tasks on board, such as the handling of sails and rigging, cleaning the Decks, Cabins, and other spaces. They also instructed the Watch Guards in seamanship.



The Carpenter was responsible for the maintenance and manufacturing on board, tackling both minor and major repairs.


The Sailmaker was responsible for the repairs and maintenance of the sails on board. The East Indiaman Götheborg has 1964 square meters of sail and a number of reserve sails for the most essential sails.


What would the East Indiaman Götheborg be without good food, prepared by the highly appreciated ship Cooks? From early morning till late evening, the Cooks worked with preparing and cooking breakfast, lunch, and supper for the 80 persons on board. Between the meals, morning and afternoon coffee was served. When extra help was needed in the kitchen, the Cooks received assistance from certain Deckhands. The Chief Cook was responsible for all the purchases to the Galley and supervised the work of the Second Chef and Messman.


The Messman was responsible for the logistics for the meals served on board and led the Deckhands whom assisted in the Galley. The Messman was also responsible for the ship’s laundry, as well as the cleanliness and tidiness of the Galley and Aft Pantry.


A Deckhand was part of one of three “watch teams” under the leadership of a Watch Leader. The duties involved watch keeping at sea and ports, sail and rig management, which meant working on high altitudes, maintenance on the deck, cleaning and assisting in the galley.

Ship doctor

The Doctor was responsible for the medical care on board and reported directly to the Commander. The Doctor contributed to preventive health care and carried out other tasks when necessary. Doctors were only on board during long voyages when it could be difficult to get medical assistance from ashore. When the Doctor was not present, a Deck Officer would be in charge of healthcare matters.


The Nurse was subordinate to the Doctor and was responsible for the ship’s medical supplies. A Nurse was always present on all voyages.



Crew: Maximum of 80 persons during voyages
Professional crew: Approximately 20 persons
Deckhands: Approximately 60 persons
Age limit: 18 years
Provision: 80 persons for 60 days
Spare Provision: 80 persons for 30 days