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What are some facts about Spanish galleon ships?

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Quick Answer

Some facts about Spanish galleon ships include that the word "galleon" actually comes from French, the ships were used in the Spanish Armada and they were used to transport gold and silver among the Spanish Empire's colonies. Other facts include that they were mostly designed and developed by Spanish during the 15th to the 17th century and they had an average capacity of 500 tons.

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Full Answer

The word galleon comes from the Old French word "Galion" meaning "Little Ship." Spanish galleons usually maintained a capacity of 500 tons, but the Manila Galleons sometimes carried up to 2,000 tons.

Galleons were powered entirely by wind, using sails carried on three or four masts, with a lateen sail continuing to be used on the last masts. They had both military and trade applications and were prominently featured in the Spanish Armada. The Armada's defeat against England showed the disadvantage of the typical galleon as they were unwieldy compared to the lighter, swifter English vessels.

Despite the disadvantages of the ships, pirates were attracted to the galleons' large cargo capacity and the ability to outfit them as warships. The boats had two or more gun decks that could be outfitted with 70 to 100 guns while the ship itself was manned by a crew of 200 to 400 sailors.

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