My ship Catalogue

Classic Ship Models 25


Xebecs in battle in the Mediterranean

Mediterranean Pirate Ships of 18th and 19th Century


The Xebec is a type of vessel used by the Barbarian Pirates in the 18th and 19th centuries. This particular shown below model flies the flag of the northern Italian region of Livorno.  Others were based in ports on the North African coast.

The vessels were used essentially to attack merchant ships in the Mediterranean, having the distinct advantage of additional propulsion using sweeps (lengthy oars). These were used either through dedicated slots in the bulwarks or through the gun port doors, when they or their targets were becalmed. The hull design was very advanced for the period with sleek bows and general hull form.

They were heavily armed with 14 cannons of medium calibre and 6 calverins for action at close quarters.  By copying the basic design, the Spaniards eventually built a similar type vessel which is represented by the Cazador in this document.

Author's model of Italian Xebec 18th Century

Sciabecco (Xebec) 1753

The Model

This model is another production of the Italian kit maker, Amati, and has some very attractive features.  It is built on a scale of 1:60 and is a popular model for modelmakers who have reached the "Intermediate" stage. The fittings are very ornate and the gilded bulwarks on the poop deck are quite unique.  The colouful painting of the hull and the bowsprit in particular make it a very Attractive table piece.

Other interesting factors are above deck with the masts, sails and rigging.  While the mainmast is vertical, the foremast leans foward and the mizzen mast backwards.  This is, we believe, to combat the additional stresses placed on the masts by the shape and the style of the sails. These are called Lateen Sails whilst the lengthy 'slightly bent' yards which carry the sails, are made in two pieces.

In addition, the fittings used on the shrouds, which support the masts, are very unconventional and quite complicated to rig.  The type of sail is common to that of the ancient Eastern designed vessels from which this class of vessel was developed, such as the Felucca and the Galley.

Needing to build a smaller model after completing the "Victory" in 2006, this was my choice and the total contrast in the style, the shape, the design, the mastings and the riggings was quite refreshing! Because of its unique shape and rigging etc. it creates a good talking point when we have visitors.