Constant Willems

CHEBEC (2014)

An example of a Spanish chebec, drawn by Baugean in the beginning of the 19e century. Baugean had actually served on these ships, so he is to be considered to give an exact view of the hull and the rigging. His pictures were a great help for me while building the model.

A chebec was a fast, light sailing warship and belonged to the most agile vessels of the Mediterranean. The first chebecs appeared at the end of the 17. century and sailed untill the beginning of the 19. century.
It was a lateen-rigged three masted ship with exceptional good sailing characteristics. The raiders of the Barbary States used them intensively, operating mainly from Algeria.
The trading nations responded to the threat by deploying square-rigged warships to tacle the piracy problem. But the chebecs were faster, the lateen rig offered many advantages over the square rig. The most significant of which was the ability to pinch far closer to the wind than square sails could. They could quickly flee, also because of their great maneuverability. In calm weather the vessels could be rowed by means of oars through smaller ports in the bulwarks between each two adjacent guns.
The chebec proved so useful as a fast raider, or even merchant ship, that versions of it were adopted in other countries (mainly in France and Spain).

The model I built is an attempt to realise one of the first versions of this beautiful and elegant vessel. The chebec is evolved from the galley, so many features of this entirely different ship are to be found in the first versions. The shipbuilders widened the hull for extra deck-room and stability, and they removed all the rowers to make room for an extra deck for broadside guns. Early chebecs were, like the galleys, also equiped with forward firing guns. On later versions the forward firing guns were removed.