City & Guild Travel Times Error?

Reviewing the travel plans of a player maga, who is suddenly delayed by a plot, she floated the idea of travelling by river boat part of the way, thinking it faster.

So, I checked what the estimated difference is, p. 89 of City & Guild, and lo and behold, river travel is slower if going against the current (divide miles by 8 ) and even slower with the current (divide by 6). The distance in question is about 175 miles: that's about 15 days by road, 22 against the current, and a remarkable 30 days with the current (coming back the other way).

Is there some reason river travel is slow and slower, or are the divisions just reversed? I do not see any errata on this.

Apparently the author of C&G p.89 uses smaller divisors to express faster travel rates, overlooking that his intended result is days of travel.

This merits an erratum.


Sending David Chart a PM about it is the best way to get errata jumped on quick.

While you are at it, the text describe the Nef as the primary trading vessel of the 13th century. It is in fact a table decoration in the shape of a boat.

I haven't had time to look at the book as regard travel times, but I'd like to point out that the table decoration is called a nef, which means "boat" because it looks like a boat.

The existence of gravy boats does not indicate that boats do not exist.

I don't have the book in front of me, so the wording may be wrong, but basically the nef is a descendant design of the Scandinavian knorr. This many years after writing I can't recall when the cog/hulk designs come into prominence further east, but the nef eventually replaced the galley in Mediterranean trade for places like Genoa, because it's less manpower intense.

I vaguely recall there's a problem with the name in the sense that it is hard to prove that a person in London who says a thing is a nef and a person in Tunis who says a thing is a nef are actually speaking of the same thing, and there are some places in France where nef and cog are just synonyms (which makes it hard to tell what the build of the ships there was like).

That being noted: no - Silveroak. If a nef was a salt cellar, then the wreck of le Blanche-Nef would be far less shocking to people. They would, however, want to know why the prince of the realm thought it useful to attempt to cross the Channel in a condiment container.

Nef from latin navis, seems to be an evolution of cog into carrack. At least that's what a quick look at wikipedia shows.

Church's nave has the same "ship" origin.

Have a look at .
Somebody might still wish to write the Nef (ship type) article for the wikipedia in English: but that is all that is amiss. Calling a common type of medieval sailing ship a nef is quite right.


Or somebody put the entry on wikkipedia and was wrong- that does happen. Considering I can't find any reference to a nef that isn't either a ship's name (n which case you could also call a bastard a type of ship given the number of ships named the lucky bastard) or a table decoration, or in a video game. References to a Nef being a table decoration however are quite common. Even if the term was used to refer to actual sailing ships at some point, I would expect a lot more material on a ship that was supposedly the most common ship used for trading in the period.
Incidentally, from the description and drawings, it appears the Blanche Nef was a cog.

Well, just go to amazon and order


It's a french word, you dummy.

Really...that's what you're going with?

OK, so... let's work this through.

Nef is the generic name for "ship" in French. The most common type of ship is called a "nef", because that's what it is: it's a ship. I'd remind you that in period, French is the language of nobility in not just France, but in England as well. It's also a or the language of trade in much of the West, including parts of North Africa, in part because of the French, but also in part because the Normans get everywhere.

The cog appears in the Med in 1304. We have a specific mention of their arrival and adoption in period (well, next generation) documents. It changes name there to the cocche. Prior to this the galley is used only for the main convoys of Venice: the manpower needs are too intense for virtually anyone else. Venice also didn't use galleys for the majority of their trade, which was in staples like grain. For this they had a smaller ship, which they called a navis, or a nao, or nef, or in places a buscia (which is confusing, because that's also the name of a larger, later ship type.).

As I've noted, there is some difficulty in being sure that a nef mentioned in London is a nef as mentioned in Alexandria, because it's the common word among those using French or (with a slight change to "navis/nao/nav") Latin-derived terms. Similar terms turn up in other places because it is not just from Latin, it descends from a Proto-Indo-European word for things that float or swim (néh₂us) so congate terms turn up everywhere from Irish to Iranian.

I'd like to quickly note that the thing you are calling a nef is technically called a "nef de table", that is "a ship of the table". (One source for example is

So, to be clear, is your argument that there's a thing that sits on the middle of the table, holding salt (which comes from the sea) and it is shaped like a ship, but it's name is original, and not named after ships, despite the name being used for actual ships? I don't think that's a sensible position, so I'd like to be clear on if I'm interpreting you correctly. If your argument is that nef is a term from the trading lingua franca, then sure: but as I've demonstrated so is "cog".

The problem, I'd venture to suggest, is that you are using sources in translation, where the most common ship is called a ship.

Yes, it may have been an early type of cog. was certainly an unusual design, although precisely what that entailed is unclear. Cogs become dominant in that area in the late C13th, and his voyage was in 1120, so although it's one interpretation, it has to be quite an early example. The lack of physical evidence makes it a matter of possibly-irresolvable dispute.

I'd note with regard to the drawings: do you have one that was made by a person who had seen the actual White Ship? All of the ones I'm familiar with were done later by people who used the ships they had seen as models. Similar drawings of the Norman invasion show cogs, for example, and we know from the Bayeux Tapestry that the Normans didn't use them that far back.

So, just to be clear...what are you now arguing? That because this ship was in some way different, it was called a "nef" and there had never previously been any similar thing called a nef? That all nefs are cogs? Rather than, say, people looking at this new thing and saying "That's a ship...but a weird new type of ship." I'm not clear on your argument, other than the original "salt cellar only" thing, which I don't think defensible.

according to what I have found in multiple places, cogs appeared in the 10th century, not the 14th.
And I understand that Nef translates to ship, but then by definition it is not a "type" of ship, it is simply a word which means ship, and apparently is most commonly used (outside of France) to refer to a table decoration.
Realistically the text should probably discuss the fact that every ship of this period was unique, within certain design choices, and trade off of issues like cargo capacity versus draft depth rather than trying to make statements about what the most common type was or give specific statistics given the degree of variation and speed of development of new styles for ships at the time.

Fighting to the last ditch, eh? Good for you...

Cogs were invented far earlier than when they became widespread.
Nef refers to the most common type of ship. For example, it's not a galley.
I used the French terms because Ars defaults to English, and in 1220, Anglo-Norman is the usual seafaring langague in the Atlantic littoral trade area.