Knight's Honor, my third book in the Sommerville Tales, is set in the mid-fourteenth century, by which time the English had an impressive fleet of royal galleys and merchant ships. Typically, these ships would take a cargo of English wool to Flanders to be woven, stop by a German port to load Polish grain (wheat and rye), Russian timber or casks of salted Scania herring bound for the coastal cities of Brittany, Avignon, Spain or Italy. There they would pick up Italian silks, spices from the East, Spanish oranges or other exotic goods. With a final stop back in Flanders to secure the cloth, they'd sail back to resupply the ever-hungry London merchants.
The trade routes were risky enough, fraught with dangers from weather, sickness and the privateers lurking in the Channel and the Mediterranean. But a battle at sea was truly the stuff nightmares are made of. Beneath a hail of iron quarrels from cross-bows and stones hurled from the turrets, lightly armored men (a forty-pound suit of body armor being a definite liability if one fell over board) protected themselves as best they could while trying to maneuver their own ship and return fire. Cannon and gunpowder were unknown as yet, but a flaming arrow could reduce a wooden ship to a death trap in moments.
Yet with each engagement came greater knowledge. With each unexplored sea that was charted, man moved out from the land of his birth to explore those beyond the wide waters. If not for the courage and curiosity of the men who braved the unknown, you might not be reading these words today.
A Cog of the 1400s
Suzanne Barclay wrote sixteen books fifteen of which were medieval romances with two of these being anthologies and one, her last book published in 1999, The Champion, was part of a published multi-author mini-series by Harlequin Historical. She published one contemporary, Man with a Mission, for Harlequin Silhouette Intimate Moments. Many of her books are still available by going to the Medieval Books Abound page and linking to either Amazon.