At the Historical Novel Society Conference in London, in the “Ships Ahoy! The challenges and joy of writing nautical HF,” there was a discussion about how one goes about writing about ships and the sea if you don’t know a buntline from a baggywrinkle. There are no inclusive or easy answers, but here are a few hints which might help.
In 2010 and 2011, I was the nautical columnist for the Clarion blog, a science fiction and fantasy blog. I wrote a series of articles for fantasy writers about how to write about ships and the sea. The focus is on merchant rather than naval ship. The challenges faced by historical writers and fantasy writers in writing about nautical topics can be similar. The links below are as published in the Clarion blog so the reference is to fantasy writing. In most cases replacing “fantasy” with “historical fiction” should suffice.