May 11, 2014

Hari Ragat: Bakunawa-class Warship?

Bakunawa-class warship top view

A bit of idle speculation here, and ultimately a question: should this be included in Hari Ragat?

Marc and I have been thinking of naval battles for Hari Ragat, and that led me to wondering how the Karakoa warship design might evolve, assuming larger kingdoms with more available manpower (but still without gunpowder technology). The answer I came up with was the Bakunawa – yeah, I really like the name – which is the ‘quinquireme’ to the Karakoa’s ‘trireme.’ That’s the rough schematic above. Note that this is pure speculation, with no historical basis at all.

Bakunawa-class warship front view

Like the Karakoa, the Bakunawa-class warship is essentially a glorified war canoe, but its outriggers have been replaced by two secondary hulls, turning it into a true trimaran. The length would not change much, as with Vijadesan technology the maximum length pretty much depends on how long the largest hardwoods are, because the keel is essentially a big dugout canoe made of a single log. The height and beam of the ship can increase drastically with this arrangement though. The big fighting deck in the middle will be much wider and higher, possibly two-tiered, so a lot more fighters can launch missiles like javelins and arrows from a height advantage at any smaller vessel or at shore targets.

Propulsion will be sail and paddles, as with the Karakoa, save that paddlers get the added safety of being inside the secondary hulls instead of precariously perched on the outriggers! Still, sheer bulk will likely make this ship slower than a Karakoa.

What’s it for then? Two main purposes – as a floating, mobile stronghold for open-sea battles, much as the biggest carracks served as flagships in galley and cog battles in the High Middle Ages, and to deliver, using its very shallow draft relative to carrying capacity, large numbers of men ashore. I imagine that like some kind of medieval LST the Bakunawa can deploy gangplanks from the front ends of its lower fighting deck so a lot of men can debark at once.

The Bakunawa-class warship would be an exclusively royal vessel, only affordable to Rajahs and Maharajahs/Rajah Saripadas, and only used in major battles. It’d require too many men to crew and launch quickly as a fast-response raid interceptor, and would likely have problems handling in rough seas or contrary winds, so it’s likely usable only during fair weather.

What do you think?


  1. thanks John! yeah the more i look at this the more i like it ...

  2. No reason why you shouldn't have this; there is plenty of historical precedent for something like this. Think the chained-together longships of the Vikings, or the huge 'prestige' ships of the Diodachi.

    I could well see some island warlord with more resources then brains or good taste waking up some morning and calling in his boatwrights and commanding that they build him The Ultimate Dreadnought from which he can carry out his plans of conquest in both style and comfort.

    Mind, you, you are right about this thing being largely confined to the calm waters of the Royal Lagoon; simply moving it away from the dock once a year to let it weather evenly on both sides is going to be a major task, and will likely become A State Occasion after the first couple of times.

    I think it'll be one of those screamingly funny game objects, where the Mighty Overlord thinks it's wonderful, and the people who actually have to crew it think it's a total pain.

    Will I want to have one in miniature, to go with my smaller boats? Oh, yes, you bet...


  3. Looks like I just came up with the Southeast Asian answer to the quinquireme then :-) Thanks Chirine!


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