English Barges and Balingers of the Late Fourteenth Century
Barges and balingers were sea-going oared vessels with masts, with barges generally being of greater tonnage although balingers often had more oars. Together they sometimes comprised over a quarter of English naval fleets, with crews sufficient to pull (on average) 44 oars, which were often out-numbered by the complement of soldiers and archers. Barges and balingers were employed as convoy vessels; impressed for espionage; licensed as privateers; and used to transport ambassadors. They were also employed in overseas trade, for which it is assumed they relied upon sail-power to avoid potentially high manning costs.