Sandskates are a type of desert-going ship, designed to glide swiftly over the desert sands on broad skate-like runners. Carefully engineered surfaces and coatings, reinforced with layered magic, allow the skates to be almost frictionless. This allows the ships to travel far faster than a camel caravan, while carrying comparable amounts. The keels of sandships are strengthened, and the entire ship is designed to flex somewhat, to allow it to safely crest sand dunes. It can only manage a certain amount unsupported, however, so part of the captain's skill is finding a safe route through the dune seas. Sandskates often carry one or two small, lightweight, crew members whose job is to ride the mast as a dunespotter, calling warnings to the helmsman. The helmsman then steers the ship by turning the sand-rudder to angle the vessel. The skate supports are also attached to the ship by a basic leaf spring, allowing them to adjust somewhat to variations in the ground. Crew take turns resting in hammocks strung in the general cargo area below deck, and meals are usually prepared on the deck. In the event of a sandstorm, the sailors eat prepared rations. Travelling from one side of the desert to the other takes about a week with fair winds, so attention is rarely paid to setting up anything more involved. The sandskate Swiftwing is a notable example of this type of ship. While carrying a high-value cargo across the desert, it was becalmed when the wind died. A group of bandits came upon the ship, decided it was ripe for the pickings, and leapt to the attack, thinking they had the advantage. Swiftwing's captain, Mazeed Hakim, surprised them in turn: he revealed he possessed a necklace of fireballs and a slingshot. Two beads annihilated the entire group of bandits, and captain Hakim and the Swiftwing have since become a popular method of safely transporting high-value cargo as their reputation spread. The Swiftwing's crew are veteran sand-sailors, and have all had combat training. Racks of high-quality weapons are kept close at hand in the event the ship has to repel boarders, but Hakim has invested the profits from some of his runs into a bargain with a wind elemental, ensuring he will never be becalmed again. Swiftwing is currently configured to transport eight passengers in bunks at the rear of the ship, within the two private cabins. The cargo hold is shared by ten crew hammocks hung from the mast and the ceiling. The crew hot-bunk, alternating watch-on and watch-off throughout the trip, with Hakim in his quarters directly behind the wheel and ready to respond at a moment's notice. When the passengers disembark, the bunks can be converted into storage racks and the locks on the stout doors used to guarantee security for merchants with particularly valuable cargo.
The ships are propelled by large sails, and some captains are able to bargain or bind lesser wind elementals into service for a time, ensuring their sails are always full. It is generally considered inadvisable to forcibly bind air elementals for long or without coming to an agreement for their service; this usually results in the elemental breaking free at an inopportune time, and then wreaking havoc on the ship. It will often destroy the sails and leave the crew marooned in the deep desert.
Almost all sandships are rigged with lateen sails, a triangular sail affixed to a long yardarm which is itself mounted at its middle to the top of the mast. The yardarm runs at an angle with one end rising far above the mast and the fore end almost touching the deck. This has the advantage of allowing the sandskate to tack against the wind, even when it is blowing in the wrong direction. Most ships have only one mast, although a couple of the larger experimental designs mounted two.
Weapons & Armament
It is rare for a sandship to be armed with more than personal weapons for the crew, in the form of swords and bows. They usually rely on their speed to outrun bandits in the event they are discovered. Some veteran captains have acquired one or two magic wands, such as a wand of magic missile, which they use to pick off bandit leaders. One enterprising captain with a high-value cargo surprised a group of bandits attacking his becalmed sandship, by possessing a necklace of fireballs and a slingshot. Two beads annihilated the entire group, and captain Hakim and his ship, the Swiftwing, have since become a popular method of transporting high-value cargo.
Communication Tools & Systems
Rare sandskates may be equipped with sending stones or a Message Quill. Usually they will use mirror-polished copper sheets to signal when it is required.
Only a handful of sandskates exist. The complexity of making their runners is matched by the wood of their hulls being fairly rare and expensive, as most of it must come from the Cyclopean Shores.
Most sandskates are around 20-30 feet wide when their length is 60-70 feet, being designed broad and shallow.
The average sandskate is around 60 feet long, although many are somewhat shorter and some much larger experimental sandskates have been built. These proved difficult to move without magic lessening their weight, however.
Sandships usually ride on 6-foot-tall skates, then have only a single storey of hull below-deck. They may have a low cabin at the rear of the ship adding to the height, but most of their height is in their masts, which usually rise about 85 feet.
An unladen sandskate weighs about 65 tonnes, although those with magical assistance to lessen the load may weigh less.
With a good wind or an air elemental providing a boost, sandships can reach top speeds of a little over 20 miles per hour.
Complement / Crew
Sandskates usually have a crew of between 15-20 sailors, including the captain and first mate. The number varies with the size and design of the ship.
Cargo & Passenger Capacity
A sandskate can usually fit about 35 tonnes of cargo in its hold. They often have one or two rooms aboard which serve as either secure storage or can be quickly refitted to carry 6-10 passengers, with commensurate loss of cargo space.