9. Too Much of a Good Thing
The Mary Rose‘s redesign and upgrade entailed the addition of a new gun deck. However, the addition of more and heavier cannon ended up increasing the ship’s weight from 500 tons to 700. That caused the Mary Rose to ride lower in the water, which in turn brought her lower deck – and the portholes cut in it for the guns to fire through – closer to the sea’s surface. This revealed a downside in the 1545 Battle of the Solent. In that engagement, the Mary Rose joined a fleet of English sailing ships that found themselves becalmed in the Solent. The fleet became unable to maneuver for lack of wind, when suddenly set upon by a fleet of French rowing galleys. The English ships found themselves in trouble, and the French galleys seemed on the verge of a victory over the immobilized English sailing vessels.
Fortunately for the English, the wind finally picked up. Sailing out in a stiff breeze, the Mary Rose led the English counter-attack, and the outgunned French galleys were now the ones in trouble. Unfortunately for the Mary Rose, her first broadside caused her to heel – that is, lean over – to her starboard side. That caused her gun portholes, now lower and closer to the water’s surface because of the additional weight from the 1536 upgrade, to dip into the water. The sea rushed in through the gun openings, and the crew was unable to correct the sudden imbalance. Guns, ammunition, and cargo shifted to the submerging side of the ship, causing it to tilt even further. The tilt became uncontrollable, and the Mary Rose sank rapidly, taking nine-tenths of her crew with her.