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The boats of the Mary Rose

The Anthony Roll, which features one of only two contemporary depictions of the Mary Rose, shows a boat being towed along behind.

The Mary Rose, like most large ships in Henry’s fleet, would have had three boats, used to take the crew and any troops stationed onboard ashore.

The great boat would have been the largest, fitted with sails and 20 oars, as well as a rudder and iron sheaves on the bow, to assist with handling anchors.

The cock boat would have been somewhat smaller, with only six oars, but it still had the sails, rudder, and iron sheaves.

Finally, you have the jolywat, or jolly, which was just a smallish rowing boat, fitted with four oars.

In the inventory of 1514, the Mary Rose is listed as having both a ‘great’ and a ‘cock’ boat, but no mention of a jolly. Sadly, the Mary Rose is one of the four ships in the Anthony Roll of 1546 to not have her boats listed, though all those that did had all three types, so it may be that the Mary Rose had one by then too.

While the remains of none of these were recovered from the Mary Rose, likely due to them being recovered shortly after her loss at the Battle of the Solent, we did recover a single oar on the upper deck, 5.1 metres in length and presumably used on the great boat, which is presumably the boat shown in the Anthony Roll.

The Mary Rose Trust is currently attempting to build a replica of a jolywat, using tools and techniques used to build the originals, with assistance of the team at Boathouse 4 in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

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