So I'm writing a book that takes place in an endless ocean with islands inhabited by many races, and I'm trying to come up with unique boat ideas for races; well I have most of them, but I would like some help with one race.

I call them the Cellene, they have a body shape like most humans but their legs and arms are 25% longer, and most reach a height of 8 feet, the tallest being 10 feet.

I don't think boats as we build would work for them so any ideas would be helpful.

EDIT: To clear up some things these people only have up to probably the tech that they had around the time of the Roman Empire, and they also live on islands, they wouldn't want to waste wood resources on making larger boats they would make different ships to fit their needs. They are tall, but not all that strongly about the same as an average human. Also, they would be travelling about 350-500 miles per trip between the main islands they live on and much longer for trips out to the islands beyond the center 3

Edit 2: Raditz did clear up some things for me, the real question is I want to have a boat using the same amount of wood, relative storage space and convenience of travel (since this is the only method of travel between islands other then swimming) but just for larger kind of oddly shaped humans.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you explain what the problem would be? Apart from a tendency to bang their heads on low beams I can't see one. They'd just need bigger boats. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Jun 14, 2018 at 11:02
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    $\begingroup$ I’m curious: why do you not think boats would work for these people?-ninja’d $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Jun 14, 2018 at 11:02
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    $\begingroup$ hmmm...just build a longer boat? I mean, it's all about floating so just build a boat sized for them? $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2018 at 11:04
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    $\begingroup$ What size of boats are you talking here (do you mean ships)? What lengths of voyages do they take in them and what are they using them for? $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Jun 14, 2018 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ You keep missing the point! The boat designers wouldn't go "Oh, I am sure that somewhere in the cosmos there is another species, smart like us, but smaller, so let's build boats that would fit them better so that we need only to cramp a bit." These people would just THINK AND BUILD A BOAT FIT FOR THEM! So you don't really have restrictions. If they are short of wood and must cover a long distance (eg, toward a place with more wood) they'll cramp in the cargo area. A small sacrifice. $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2018 at 12:36

3 Answers 3


So you gave two pieces of information that are very helpful: Roman Era tech and distances of 350-500 miles. Given that they are in an archipelago-style region, I would recommend ships similar to the Polynesian islanders who settled across the Pacific.

These ships are open, leaving you without any problems from height. Really, the more pressing concern is ship-building resources. A catamaran uses less wood than a bireme or trireme, so if they are on smaller islands where wood is not in abundance, a catamaran is an excellent choice. Given that your Cellene are weaker than the average human, it would stand to reason that they would use sail over oars as well.

With Roman Era tech I imagine you could up the scale of these ships a great deal, facilitating trade and travel.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding! You gave an adequate and well-researched answer. Good job! A small tip: not everyone has on mind what ships polynesian islanders had, if you refer to something that specific it might be helpful to provide an additional picture or a link. $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2018 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you this is exactly what I needed, and the islands they inhabit are actually some of the largest of all the islands, joys of getting there first and it's not so much that they are weaker just having stuff swing around the ship would be quite deadly for them since they would be top heavy with the longer arms and legs(more weight higher up) $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2018 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ @N.D.A. why do you compare a Polynesia catamaran with a bireme or trireme? Polynesian catamarans were the only type of sea craft available in Polynesian society. But biremes and triremes were specialized ancient Mediterranean craft - warships specifically - and very different from, for example, merchant vessels. Also, if one was going to transport a large cargo between islands, a single larger Mediterranean cargo ship would use less wood and resources than a group of smaller catamarans with the same cargo capacity. c $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2018 at 22:41

I don't see any reason why their boats and ships would look much different than those used by humans with the same tech level from our world.

The ability to reach higher masts wouldn't matter, because sailboat usually have masts which are far too high to reach for the crew. That's what climbable shrouds are for.

If they have lower decks, then those might be a bit higher to accompany their greater need for head space. That means their ship would also need to be a bit wider to achieve the same amount of stability. When the ship has a cockpit, then the different instruments could be a bit further away due to their larger reach. When their center of mass is higher, then the railings would also need to be a bit higher to provide the same amount of safety.

So the largest difference you could see is that their boats would be a bit larger on average, just like they are larger. I honestly can not see any other major design difference which could be justified solely by their body shape. In general, ship design is mostly influenced by the mechanical requirements for safely and efficiently moving the ship through the water and by the materials and propulsion technology you have available. Ergonomic concerns come second.

When lack of building material is a concern, then they wouldn't build different ships. They would just build less ships.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for this I'm definitely not an expert on boats and this has helped some but I'm still a little worried about how masts would work for them since as they are taller wouldn't the masts have to be taller to accommodate them moving around on deck? $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2018 at 11:48
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    $\begingroup$ @ChebiKitty I am a hobby sailor. On most smaller and even many larger boats, the boom (long, hard pole on the bottom of the sail) will be below head-level. When you perform a maneuver where it moves from one side to the other, you tell everyone to move out of the way or duck down so they don't get hit by it. When you hold your course and the wind does not change, then it stays where it is. Depending on wind direction, it can be mostly outside of the boat. When it is above deck, it can be a slight inconvenience to get around. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Jun 14, 2018 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ Another question would be these people since they would be conserving wood by building less boats would probably be pretty packed when travelling around the three islands they primarily inhabit since this is the only way to get around the islands any way that space on the ships could be maximized? Note: They are the most advanced civilization in this world and one of the oldest $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2018 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ @ChebiKitty If you want to maximize deck area while minimizing hull, then you could build a Catamaran or Trimaran. You can use textiles for the space between the hulls and thus gain some additional surface space for very little material. The drawback is that you have very little space below deck. That makes them unsuitable for long-distance voyages. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Jun 14, 2018 at 12:02
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    $\begingroup$ Just throwing my 2 cents in, even on very large sailing ships I've been on (more than 70 ft) the boom was around chest level. For reference if you've ever seen the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, there's a scene where Jack hits another character with the boom to make a point. Sail boats will always be cramped. $\endgroup$
    – bendl
    Jun 14, 2018 at 12:37

Boats are not made for transporting people in a pleasant manner

Well, most of the boats at least. They have the following requirements in order of importance, and solutions:

  • Transports as many goods and/or weapons and/or soldiers and/or travellers as possible. Also the food and water for people onboard.
    • Solution: Make big boats, and use as much of the space as possible for cargo.
  • Be seaworthy, efficient and fast
    • Solution: Boats are more or less oval shaped. They have as much sail as possible, they are built with strong materials.
  • People are needed to control the boat
    • Solution: take as little space as possible from the space for the cargo, and adapt it for humans (beds, kitchen, toilets, steering room).

Boats are cramped because you want to transport as much cargo/guns/soldiers/travellers as possible, not because people wanted them that way.

In your case, the ratio living space/cargo space will be a bit higher, but the overall design would not change. The first requirement is, and always has been, the same on earth and for your aliens. So boats have always been as big as possible. Limitation to the size are technology and environment (think Suez canal, available harbours, ...).

So: Boats will not be bigger. They will just be able to transport a little less cargo for the same size, because a little more space is needed for the crew.

Note: for pleasure crafts, they might build them a bit bigger, so that they don't bump their heads all the time. But, even on human boats manned with humans, people are bumping their heads quite frequently.


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