How long did it take to repair wooden war ships (like the galleon) in the 1600's to 1800's? I'm interested mainly in repairs needed due to cannon fire (hull damage, mast damage, etc), or even if it mast damage was even repairable at all.

  • I guess that would have depended even then on the ship's size and type of damage. What do you have in mind? – Drux Jan 23 '15 at 19:59
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    You need to focus this question, so answers like "between 5 minutes and 30 years" are not possible. – Tyler Durden Jan 23 '15 at 20:06
  • and it depends on what dock it was in , was dry dock needed, ect. – Himarm Jan 23 '15 at 20:11
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    If you're asking about 200 years, all countries, all types of damage, and all types of warship, then the answer is a confident "It depends". Imagine you were asking about infantry rather than warships. Some soliders walk away without damage. Others get their head blown off by a cannon (much more likely in 1800 than 1600). Perhaps you could ask about the most common types of battle damage, and the most common repairs? Then we could talk about the role of the ship's carpenter, repairs at sea, and drydock. – Mark C. Wallace Jan 23 '15 at 20:22
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    @Himarm: It's also important to note that traditionally about half the total effort and elapsed time of constructing a warship is performed *after the launch. This can confuse stats for readers unfamiliar with the paradigm. By building a boat who floats as quickly as possible the dry dock is freed for laying another keel or other repairs. dry docks are more valuable than ships so their usage must be optimized. – Pieter Geerkens Sep 3 '15 at 0:53

Between 1600 and to early 1800s, naval technology didn't change much, so we can speak generally about ships of that whole era. How long repairs would take depends on the skill of the people, availability of manpower, availability of tools and material, and availability of suitable dry dock facilities. Finally, it depends on the sort of damage we're talking about. I'll split this up into "structural" and "non-structural".

Non-structural damage is things like sails, masts, rigging, planking, decorations... anything that's not bearing a load. More importantly, all of this can be repaired at sea given the tools and spare parts. Well-stocked vessels would carry tremendous amounts of spares, tools and skilled labor. They would have a skilled carpenter and blacksmith who could fashion new parts. Even damage below the waterline could be repaired, though laboriously.

Structural damage includes damage to the keel and the ship's knees. Such damage will deform the whole ship and cannot be fully repaired without taking the weight off them in dry dock. At sea, many stopgap solutions can be used to shore up failing structural elements including concrete!

I'm currently looking for any data about how long ships of that era were laid up in dry dock, or for contemporary ship logs which mention repairs. I will mark this as community wiki to allow others to add citations as they find them.

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    I don't have references, but a refit in dry dock would typically take 3 months to a year... But that's a complete overhaul, the British ships after Trafalgar were mostly back on patrol within a few weeks of the battle. – Jon Story Jan 23 '15 at 22:18

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