A versatile ship, her biggest advantage and disadvantages come from her rigging. Packet boats sail similar to frigates, which means they run well with the wind but they aren't strong against the wind like many similar-sized ships. It takes a skilled captain to fully utilize the Hermes against small and large targets. The sleek variant is faster and tougher than the regular Hermes. This ship has 5% faster reload times.
The history of the packet-boat is closely intertwined with that of the Yacht. For as long as humans have been plying the oceans, there has been a need for fast vessels — often diminutive in stature — to carry information, news, orders, correspondence, packages, and even the occasional person from one place to another as swiftly as possible. As humankind's frontiers gradually expanded, that need for speed has become more and more pressing, ultimately expressing itself at sea in the form of the large, swift clipper ships of the 1800's. Yet in the early 18th century, maritime nations' needs were not nearly so well defined: for early packet-boats varied greatly in form and rig.
For a good deal of maritime history, practically any reasonably swift, seaworthy craft could be used as a packet-boat. The term itself defines function, not form:
"PACKET, or PACKET-BOAT, (paquet, Fr.) a vessel appointed by the government to carry the mail of letters, packets, and, expresses from one kingdom to another by sea, in the most expeditious manner."
This ambiguity is further reinforced by the fact that such designated craft could be referred to as packet ships, post yachts, and advice yachts ("advice" originally meaning "news"). Yachts themselves varied in shape and rig, their main commonality being a balance of speed and comfort. In the case of the packet-boat, speed was balanced somewhat by capacity for a given length — even the tiny post-yacht Hiorten provides a compromise between maximum speed and maximum carrying capacity for a ship her size.
While by no means the earliest purpose-built packet-boat, the Hiorten is among the first of which we have definite knowledge, being launched in 1692. Such ships were quite common in the Netherlands and Baltic states, whose many islands and waterways made the sea the most convenient means of getting things from point A to B — be it news, people, or goods.
This Baltic predilection towards modest, swift, yet capacious craft eventually played a vital role in Pacific exploration. Vitus Bering — the Danish explorer, originally contracted by Peter the Great to look for a northern route from the Atlantic into the Indies — chose a packet-boat design for his two ships in 1740. These two small brigs — the Svyatoi Pyotr and Svyatoi Pavel — were directly inspired by contemporary Danish design, though built by Russian shipwrights directly on Russia's Pacific coast. While fine sailers, these packets could not save Bering from the Arctic's early and brutal winters. After being driven ashore at what is now Bering Island, Bering himself was among the many souls lost to scurvy on the journey back from the newly-discovered Aleutians to the Pacific port of Petropavlovsk.
Curiously enough, in the first half of the 18th century the British navy appears to have relied more on temporarily assigned ships for packet duty, rather than purpose-built ships devoted solely to carrying "advice" where needed. This was to cause much difficulty by the Napoleonic wars, as the cutters and sloops assigned to carrying information often were captured by French frigates and xebecs. Necessity is the mother of Invention, however, and by the end of the century England had not only begun producing specially built packet-boats, but had refined their form to even more closely match the needs of their function — even briefly experimenting with a four-masted design.
In this light it's fitting that some of the best surviving plans for packet-boats come from Sweden, one of Europe's most forward-thinking nations in the 18th century in matters maritime. Besides the Hiorten, five fine draughts for packet-boats are included in Fredric Henrik af Chapman's Architectura Navalis Mercatoria of 1767. While somewhat past PotBS's focus period (and thus in need of adaptation for game use), these draughts exemplify the qualities that went into the best packet-ships circa 1720. Instead of the boxy hull section of a merchantman, their lines are more rounded — exactly comparable to those of contemporary corvettes and frigates. However, instead of having two complete decks (one open, armed deck and a second one intended for deploying sweeps), Chapman's packet-boats are decked in the manner of small merchantmen, providing a capacious hold at the expense of the strength gained from a second full deck near the waterline. This lightness of construction would also make the packet-boat less expensive to build than a similarly-sized warship — though as a consequence she would also carry a lighter armament.
In terms of speed, the 'Hermes' Sleek Packet-boat is virtually without peer. Other vessels may technically rate higher, but their acceleration is so low as to be completely disqualified. However, it is very important to note that this ship is only the fastest as long as it is running broad reach, before the wind, or beam reach. Then again, the unrivaled open sea speed means that catching this boat with the weather-gage on your side would be a challenge in and of itself. Really, the only time its captain would ever need to be worried is when fleeing from the leanest and meanest of xebecs or polacres under the 'perfect storm' conditions (e.g. being caught upwind).
That said, actually engaging enemies of equal level is entirely different. While a skilled captain may be able to take on fat, sluggish merchants with ease, facing another scout of the same bracket would be a very close match. The 'Locust' Corvette has a significantly heavier broadside and comparable turning to the 'Hermes', not to mention features significantly superior armor. And needless to say, facing a well-armed frigate or indiaman would be downright foolhardy, being laughably outgunned and outranged.
Other variants of the Hermes:
- 'Hermes' Mastercraft Packet-Boat
- 'Hermes' Packet-Boat
- 'Hermes' Packet-Boat (Civilian)
- 'Hermes' Packet-Boat (Fallback)
The ship was modeled from Chapmans plans, plate 41 #1, by Marion van Ghent.