I’m now writing up naval combat for Hari Ragat. Since all the references I could find are very sketchy about naval tactics, and in any case record 'anomalous' engagements -- karakoas were never built to take on gun-laden galleons! -- I'm having to extrapolate quite a bit based on the design of the karakoa. From this and from what’s known of ancient Filipino weaponry, I’m making the following assumptions:
1) The karakoa is not built for ‘ship to ship’ combat as we understand it with our modern thinking, as it’s not equipped to destroy enemy ships. Instead it’s built as a fighting platform for warriors using personal weapons.
2) The karakoa is so narrow that ranged attacks by its occupants are most effective when the karakoa is broadside-on to its opponent. If a karakoa is bow- or stern-on to its opponent, I’ll only allow 2-3 characters to make ranged attacks in a round. You’re throwing/shooting from a catwalk that’s only about 8-10 feet wide. When broadside on, all fighters can make ranged attacks if capable (and not assigned to steering or rowing/paddling).
3) The outriggers make boarding from abeam difficult, so boarding attacks are made from the prow to either the bow or stern of the enemy.
4) From the above, I believe karakoa captains would use one of two tactics depending on the strength of the opponent:
Smaller vessels or those with weak crews will be overtaken, and as soon as the karakoa’s prow contacts the enemy’s stern the most agile warriors will jump aboard and try to open a bridgehead for the rest. The hand to hand combat will be savage, since it’ll be at very close quarters.
A karakoa captain will try to circle around stronger enemy vessels, maneuvering to get broadside-on to the enemy so his warriors can make ranged attacks while trying to prevent boarding combat until the enemy has been sufficiently weakened.
5) I’ve found no mention of how karakoas did boarding combat, but I’ll assume some kind of grappling device was used. Maybe grappling hooks, maybe just plain rope, tied on by the bravest warriors willing to have both hands occupied while under threat of attack.
6) Because the vessels in this milieu have very low freeboard and the outriggers provide convenient means for climbing onto them from the water, I suspect divers/swimmers could be very useful in attack. A ‘commando’ group could surreptitiously dive from the far side of their ship, unseen by the enemy, swim underwater to the enemy ship, and emerge on the far side of the enemy ship where they wreak havoc on the oarsmen before climbing up to attack the helmsman or the warriors on the fighting deck.
What do you think?