Originally Posted by celtan
... In Spain, a batel was an early type of medieval boat/small ship with a roundish, wide bottom, I believe they were known as cockles in the English world?
In the discoveries context, the batel was the largest of the boats carried aboard ships. It could carry several men, manoeuvered by oar or sail, and was used for several heavy duty services, like taking personel ashore, bring the water barrels aboard, engage in battle, do exploitation or fighting incursions up rivers, and even tow the ships when the wind was weak or absent, or from an incovenient direction. In the battle of Ormuz (Afonso de Albuquerque 1507) the bateis were used to tow the ships to the vicinity of the enemy's (Turks) vessels, for close quarters bombardment and consequent boarding. They were often carried inside the ships, near the main mast; in the case of smaller ships (caravels), bateis were often carried sideways ( board to board) and upside down, between the mast and the stern.
The smaller boats aboard (or towed) were the esquifes, operated by four or six oarsmen, and only used for small tasks, including the transportation of some person, like taking a captain to the admiral ship, for a meeting.