From a David Weber post to Baen's Bar Snerker's Only dated July 23, 2009:

Charisian galleon design

    I understand there's been some discussion about whether or not the Charisian galleons are over-gunned for their dimensions.

    Of course they are.

    People, this is what you might think of as the Charisians' "first cut" at designing proper broadside-armed sailing ships. They're going to get some of it wrong, and, in time, they're going to figure out that they did and start fixing some of the problems.

    All right. Empress of Charis is described as being "over a hundred and 50 feet between perpendiculars," displacing almost 1,400 tons, and mounting 30 long 30-pounders on the gundeck, 32 carronades on the spar decks, and four long 14-pounders as chase guns, for a total of 68 guns. All of this is managed on a displacement roughly 150 tons greater than that of the 36-gun frigate Chesapeake, which was roughly 10 feet longer. And which, despite being a "36" carried 48 guns (counting the 20 32-pounder carronades on her spar deck) in 1813.

    It should be apparent from the above figures that Cayleb's flagship's displacement is roughly 12 percent higher for a length which is six percent shorter -- in other words, this is a considerably beamier design, which helps push up load-carrying capacity. Now, Chesapeake carried only 28 18-pounders on her gundeck, which means that the gundeck weapons on Empress of Charis are both closer together and bigger. (Note, however, that they are 30-pounders, not 32-pounders, and that I am assuming they have shorter tubes than the standard American long guns of the Chesapeake's period. They are actually closer to what would have been considered a medium or short weapon for the time period, so they are actually more comparable to, say, the 24-pounders carried by the big American 44s during the War of 1812.) Weight is going to be a problem for the ships in terms of straining the fabric of the hull -- "hogging" -- but less of one for load-carrying capacity, which is one reason I've specified their depth of freeboard despite the number of guns they carry. The designers have still packed too much weight into the hull -- a point of which they will be becoming aware quite soon -- but their "sins" in that connection are of a venal nature, not mortal. [G] The individual guns are lighter (30-pounder carronades instead of the 32-pounders Constitution carried in 1812, or the 42-pounders the United States carried), but there's still enough weight to impair their sailing qualities. It's not as bad as it would be if they were over-sparred, in addition, though, and (again) they're still enormously better and more efficient designs than anyone's ever had before. To be honest, I think that's the main point that needs to be borne in mind when you're evaluating ships like Empress of Charis as effective warships rather than perfected ones.

    Since I haven't really been following the thread which has been called to my attention, I'm not certain how much discussion there's been of the "cramping" effect of putting so many guns so close together. Trial and error and practical experience finally evolved a broadside, muzzleloading warship design rule of thumb for practical distances between weapons. It wasn't a hard and fast rule; different designers had different notions about the ideal dimensions, and lighter weapons tended to be placed closer together. The real deciding factor was how many crew you had to cram in to serve the piece, and the truth is that I deliberately designed galleons which were going to be "crowded" in that regard. (On average, the gundeck weapons are between 14 and 15 inches closer together, on center, than they would have been in one of the big American 44s of the 1812 era.) I did this for several reasons, including the fact that no one on Safehold -- including Merlin -- had ever actually designed a broadside warship. These people went basically from the Battle of Lepanto to very late eighteenth-century design concepts in less than a year, and I didn't have any intention of allowing them to get away with doing it perfectly.

    Having said that, however, it should also be pointed out that "over-gunned" sailing warships, assuming sufficient displacement to carry their weapons high enough out of the water to give them decent command, generally beat the snot out of lighter-armed opponents, gunnery skills and tactical command being equal. There's a point at which the rapidity of fire a more spacious design permits and the heavier weight of shot coming out of the "over-gunned" design balance… or tip, one way or the other.

    At the moment, the weaknesses of the Charisian "overcrowded" designs are not immediately evident (to either side) because they haven't come up against anyone else's designs. They don't have the decades or centuries of experience in operating these designs which would make it clear that a more spacious gundeck would promote greater efficiency for their individual weapons. They do, on the other hand, firmly appreciate that the effectiveness of an individual round shot increases in proportion to increases in shot weight. In other words, they understand that a heavier gun is going to do more damage. And they also believe in peace through superior firepower; everything they've seen so far only emphasizes the original design philosophy behind going to broadsides in the first place. And that philosophy can be pretty much summed up as "the more guns the better."

    At the same time, there are (inevitably) all sorts of nuances to that philosophy which they have yet to grasp,  since they are at an extremely early point in the learning curve. One of the major strengths of the Charisian navy at the moment is Baron Seamount, however. There's only one of him, but he's working on training a staff with similar mindset, and he's basically going to be setting them to conducting operational research as they go along. Some of the "shortcomings" of the current Charisian designs will be addressed as a consequence of that research.

    I haven't fully decided yet where and how, exactly, I'm going to put the lines of evolution in shipboard weaponry. Obviously, you can see some of the things I've got Seamount experimenting with. At the same time, I can tell you that at least one thing he's experimenting with will be shelved, deliberately, on Cayleb's direct orders. Why, you ask? Well… tum-te-tum-te-tum. [G]

    At any rate, it was never my intention to suggest that the Charisian designs so far produced are ideal, because they aren't. What they are is incomparably superior to anything that came before them. That still leaves plenty of room for additional improvement, and, as I say, I've always intended to make the point that there's room for improvement. Moreover, I've always intended for the Charisians to figure that out for themselves rather than being led to that conclusion by the hand by Merlin, as it were.