The Nao was a bigger ship than the caravel. It has its origins in Cantabria, a region of northern Spain, and it is the consequence of the increasing maritime commerce and the need of vessels with greater capacity on their holds. It is the result of the evolution in shipbuilding and the skill of ship carpenters of the time that kept improving the vessel’s seaworthiness, stability, speed and hold capacity.
These ships had a quarter deck, a poop deck and a forecastle; as well as a good freeboard and high superstructures and a wide hold. Because they needed to keep a shallowest draft possible, they would have the maximum beam practically on the waterline, which forced them to narrow the beam on the main deck and even more on the forecastle, quarter deck and poop deck. The main and the fore masts were square rigged while the mizzen had a lateen sail. The ship was a milestone in transoceanic sailing and it was the first vessel to keep and important maritime commerce thanks to the capacity of its hold.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, these ships carried out hundreds of maritime expeditions that explored the new worlds and travelled across the planet’s oceans. The two most famous Naos in history were: the Nao Santa María, with which Christopher Columbus discovered America; and the Nao Victoria that accomplished the first tour around the world.