The hanseatic cog

The hanseatic cog © H.-J. Draeger / © BOYENS BUCHVERLAG

Merchants often also gathered in groups called Hanse for trading across the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. They only dared go to sea in convoys with their valuable freight.

The cog, a modern type of ship at that time
The Hanse used a ship called the cog for sea transport. It was a bulky freighter with one mast and a square sail. A helm at the stern and a flat floor made it possible to ship in low water. Unlike the Nordic longboats they were more economical to use. A cog could transport a relatively large amount of cargo with just a small crew, up to 90 tons (see also Schiffahrtsmuseum Bremerhaven). It was produced relatively quickly and inexpensively at that time.

Economical, defensively and also designed for low tide
Larger loads could be transported more cheaply and by a smaller crew than previously. That’s what made this type of ship so successful. There were cogs of different sizes, between 15 and 25 m in length, 5-8 m wide and with a moulded depth of 3-5 m. The measurement of the capacity of a cog was called “last”, equivalent to 2 tons. This was the capacity of a carriage drawn by four horses. A small cog of 50 last was able to carry the same load as an endless convoy of 50 waggons pulled by 200 horses. There were also cogs twice as big. With the castle (aft) the surroundings could be observed well. Due to the lack of keel, the cog could also fall to ground during low tide, but it was also restricted to navigate because of that. A cog could only ride with the wind and not cross the wind.

You can find out more about the life of the merchants and shipping men on a Hanseatic cog in our Hanse-TV section.