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Galliot from Psara 1: The Vessel and It's History

Updated: Nov 18, 2020


Xebec fighting 2 galliots

The galliots of Psara were agile and fast oared ships that usually carried a lateen or sakoleva type rig and were used for piracy, reconnaissance or smuggling. They were directly related to similar Mediterranean vessels, like the galleys of the Italian city states or the xebecs of the arabic nations.


They were used extensively from the 16th until the 18th century, while their use as pirate vessels continued well into the 19th century. The larger navies often used galliots as support or liaison vessels attached to larger ships, or to pull ships when becalmed. In these roles it was used under the British Mediterranean fleet under Nelson, while in the Ottoman fleet they were attached to the light armada.


During the Russo-Turkish war (1768 - 1774) the Russian fleet departed for the Battle of Tsesme from the island of Psara, along with pilots and fire ship specialists from the island, as well as 45 galliots. One of those belonged to Captain Ioannis Vamvakis from Psara, who was later decorated by emperor Alexander I.


According to historical sources galliots had a length of up to 42 meters, a width of 4.5 meters and displaced 75 to 100 tons. They were quite low in the water, with a sharp bow and an overhanging quarterdeck. They carried 16 to 26 sets of oars and two or three masts with triangular lateen sails. They were armed with 2 or 3 cannons at the bow and could be manned by more than 100 men. The galliots that took part in the Battle of Chesme have been described as having a keel length of 16m, an 80 man crew and 16 sets of oars.


There are many reports that the inhabitants of Psara continued to use galliots as pirate vessels well into the 19th century and during the Greek Independence War of 1821 - 1827.


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