The Clan Donald Saga #1
The West Highland galleys, like those in Somerled’s fleet in my story, most likely would have had 26 oars or less with a crew of about 30-40 men. Somerled, the Norse-Gael who forged the Kingdom of the Isles, is credited with developing the fixed rudder in the stern whereas the Norse longships had a “steer board” on the right side of the ship. The galleys were thus faster and more maneuverable than the Norse longships.
The galley, sometimes called a birlinn, was a clinker-built wooden ship, which meant the external planks overlapped the upper edge of the lower plank as did the Norse longships. Initially, they were made of oak with a leather sail. These Celtic sailing ships, used as early as 1 B.C. in Ireland, had been plying the seas near Scandinavia since the time of Caesar. Archaeological digs have determined early Viking longships did not have a mast or sail. The Viking mast was a later innovation probably taken from their seafaring Celtic neighbors.