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Artistic License – Ships

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The naval equivalent of Just Plane Wrong. Writers sometimes get maritime procedures, depictions of naval vessels etc. wrong.

Often invoked simply because of practicality — if you're shooting a movie about the Pearl Harbor attack, for example, it's highly unlikely you'll get the Navy to actually raise anchor and ship out so that you can fill it with (ludicrously expensive) period-accurate recreations, so just dress up what ships are there and understand the audience will (hopefully) suspend their disbelief.

This was also deliberately invoked, out of superstition. It was common to depict ships with the flags pointing in the "wrong" direction (i.e. toward the stern), because to depict them actually sailing—in a physically possible wind that made the sails and the flags point in the same direction—was considered bad luck. Sailors are famous for being superstitious, after all.

See also Artistic License – Military and the Useful Notes on Naval Gazing. Not related to artistic ships.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The eponymous boat crewed by the protagonists in Black Lagoon is a restored and modified World War II-era 80-foot Elco PT boat. While this was the most common version, only three of that model are known to still exist, none of them operational (the majority of the PT boats to survive the war were scrapped).
  • The prologue of the Heavy Object anime depicts a ballistic missile submarine (possibly meant to be an American Ohio-class) launching a nuclear missile at the first Object in a vain attempt to destroy it. Problem being that the submarine is doing this while surfaced: no sane boomer captain is going to launch from the surface if he can help it, and the first successful test of a submerged launch was done in 1960.
  • Kurogane Pukapuka Tai, an odd mixture of Girls' Love romp and World War II military action, largely avoids this trope.
    • The main ship, the Imperial Japanese Navy heavy cruiser Unebi, is fictional, but plausible and explained; its operational history is based on that of real Japanese commerce raiders. It also represents a class of ship that other nations, primarily the US, actually believed at the time that Japan had.
    • The German submarine U-800 is a fictional example of a real U-boat class, the IX-C, which is a feasible type to be in the Indian Ocean attacking British shipping.
    • The destroyer HMS Cutlass is a fictional example of the C Class destroyer, and is obviously visually identifiable as the 1931-built class, not the 1943 and onward newer C class. However, the older C class had by then been transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy. However, the almost identical D class was still in service, and it would have worked just fine; it's quite likely the C class was just chosen instead to allow a name beginning with C.
  • Super Atragon: In their effort to stuff more anti-American cliches into the show, the writers overlooked the fact that US battleships were named after states, not abstract concepts. Those are reserved for pre-Nimitz-class carriers (USS Independence) or new, headlines-worthy corvettes note , such as the USS Freedom.

  • The Fighting Temeraire depicts a real event — a famous warship being towed away to be scrapped — but records show that the real event would have been nothing like the depiction; the Temeraire had its masts removed before it went to the scrapyard, it was towed by two tugs rather than one, and it would have travelled westwards, into the sunset rather than out of it. The Rule of Symbolism applies here.

    Comic Book 
  • Superman: Year One: Issue 2 has "pirates" capture what's called an oil tanker off the coast of California. Ignoring that Navy SEAL cadets wouldn't be sent to respond to such a situation, the ship is consistently depicted in the artwork as a cargo ship with stacks of shipping containers loaded onto it, not a tanker ship of any kind.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: In issue 32 Wonder Woman comes across a ship that is torn in half and stuck in a maelstrom and not only does it appear to be floating just fine by having the broken ends up in the air all the passengers are sitting on deck as though it is sitting perfectly horizontal and not a single lifeboat has been deployed. She then lashes the two halves together with her lasso, still leaving a massive gap as the halves are not lined up perfectly and tows the ship to shore. At no point does the thing start sinking.

    Film — Animation 
  • Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire features the Ulysses, a Steampunk submarine the size of two aircraft carriers that can dive as deep as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. In real life, submarines of that size cannot dive that deep because the high pressure underwater would cause their hulls to implode-the bigger the ship, the more pressure it has to deal with. The Ulysses would have trouble getting even that far because its steampunk engine would consume all interior oxygen if it dove underwater, and as a result the crew would all die of asphyxiation. Real-life diesel submarines exist, but ordinarily they can only use their diesel engines at or near the surface where they use a snorkel to draw in air. For completely submerged operation, most use electric engines powered by batteries, but this greatly limits their submerged range. Attempts to carry oxygen on board for a combustion engine were never really successful, until Kockums developed AIP stirling engines.

    Film — Live-Action 


  • It is common for warships to be 'played' by other classes of ship.
    • The South Dakota-class USS Alabama (BB-60, now a museum ship) has stood in for several other battleships on film, such as in the miniseries War and Remembrance and the movie Under Siege. The limited number of battleships in the world (only 9 have been preserved) means that any film not using CGI, stock footage or stage props to replicate a battleship has very limited choices. Especially since 7 of the surviving battleships are all very similar late 1930s/early 1940s designs (the North Carolina, South Dakota and Iowa classes) with identical turret layout.
    • The Longest Day tried to get around this by only showing warships in silhouette, though all that did was exaggerate their anachronistic features, like post-war lattice masts.
  • In any World War II movie, if you see a carrier with an angled flight deck (the catapults launch the plane forward, the landing takes place at an angle), you are seeing something built/modified after the war, which accounts for any post-World War II carrier afloat. Sadly, there are no straight-decked carriers left in the world, as attempts to get the USS Enterprise (CV-6), the most decorated warship in history, preserved as a museum ended in failure. As did attempts in the 1990s to preserve the Spanish light carrier Dédalo, formerly USS Cabot (CVL-28), the last unconverted carrier (being too small for such a conversion, Dédalo was instead used for STOVL jets and helicopters) and the last of the World War II light carriers.
    • The angled deck, invented late into the war, was so much superior (as it allows the carrier to launch and receive planes simultaneously, without fearing that the landing plane would crash into the launching one at the bow) that all straight-deck carriers were either decommissioned soon after the end of hostilities, adapted into other (often non-combat) roles, or converted into the angled deck configuration, and the only straight-deck carriers that have been built since have been either purpose-built STOVL carriers (since STOVL aircraft land vertically, the issues that gave rise to the angled deck in the first place don't really exist for them) or amphibious assault warships with a secondary "sea control" (read: "light carrier") function.
  • USS Ranger, being among the last of the non-nuclear-powered aircraft carriers until her decommissioning in 1993, was often used by the Navy for filming movies for precisely this reason — not only were her internal spaces not classified, but she was a lower-priority operational unit and was thus available more for filming. USS Ranger appears in:
    • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, with the Enterprise crew members are even wearing USS Ranger ball caps. In addition to reactor spaces being classified, the actual Enterprise was out to sea at the time of filming.
    • Top Gun
    • Flight of the Intruder, although here it makes sense, since the Ranger and Independence were sister ships of the same class, with only slight differences in appearance.
  • Fictional depictions of RMS Titanic have something of a mixed history in regards to accuracy to Real Life.
    • In Titanic (1997), at first it appears that the production crew managed to get port and starboardnote  mixed up, but in this case the writers and directors got it right and the audience didn't. At that time, crews and vessels (at least British merchant ships) were still under what are known as "Tiller Commands," which in fact reverses the directions: whereas today it's "Hard To Starboard = Bear Right" and "Hard to Port = Bear Left," using tiller commands it would be "Hard to Port = Bear Right" and "Hard to Starboard = Bear Left."
    • SOS Titanic has the deck scenes filmed on the Queen Mary, with no attempt to disguise the Cunard Line's distinct differences to the designs of White Star Line ships.
    • The 1953 Titanic film didn't even try to be accurate with the ship's interiors, relying on a stock "luxury ocean liner" setting.
    • The 1996 miniseries Titanic (1996) made many, many errors in the design of the ship. The exterior sets have no resemblance to the actual layout, the Grand Staircase has a chandelier instead of its famous dome, and there is a two-story tea room even though there was no room for such a structure.

Individual works

  • In the 1982 Australian/Taiwanese movie Attack Force Z, the World War II commando unit is deployed from an Oberon-class submarine. You don't have to be a naval buff to notice this either, given the straight sail and lack of a deck gun on the Cold War-era sub.
    • The Taiwanese navy actually had (and has) a number of WWII-era submarines in service at the time. Unfortunately, they were heavily-modified GUPPY boats, and it's likely the filmmakers simply couldn't get permission from the Taiwanese government.
  • Averted, partly, in Battle Of The River Plate, where the cruisers HMS Achilles and HMS Cumberland were played by the actual Achilles (by this point in Indian service as INS Delhi) and Cumberland. Then again, Graf Spee was played by USS Salem, which looked nothing like the real Graf Spee, and Cumberland was minus a turret thanks to a refit. The Real Life Graf Spee, having been sunk in the titular battle, was obviously unavailable for filming. Lampshaded when the German Captain says sometimes they even disguise themselves as an American cruiser and the captured British merchantman Captain accepts that as being why they have a number painted on the bow. This treads the line between Truth in Television and Very Loosely Based on a True Story because there are plenty of pictures of the real Admiral Graf Spee disguised as a US Navy cruiser, and at the Battle of the River Plate she really was sporting a fake extra turret (Admiral Graf Spee had only 2 real turrets while Salem has 3).
    • Made worse since US Navy refused any Nazi insignia, flags, or uniforms onboard its ships. So everyone onboard Graf Spee was wearing US uniforms.
    • Oddly, HMS Ajax (sister ship of Achilles) was played by the completely dissimilar HMS Sheffield instead of simply having INS Delhi portray both ships (though this would've required splicing together any scenes in which both cruisers were on screen simultaneously). And HMS Exeter was in an even bigger mismatch played by HMS Jamaica, meaning that in the film "Ajax" was larger than "Exeter", when the opposite was true of the real ships. Cumberland actually would've been ideal for portraying her near-sister Exeter since removing one of her turrets (as mentioned above) actually made her look extremely similar to Exeter.
  • Battleship:
    • The production crew seem to think that a 50,000 ton Iowa-class battleship can perform handbrake turns. This is an actual maneuver called "clubhauling," and it really does work as shown. The catch is that it's a maneuver used during the age of sail. Given the stoutness of anchor cable compared to the relatively low mass of sailing vessels, it was a workable if somewhat tricky and risky maneuver for sailing ships, mainly used for towing the ship in windless conditions, not for tightening turns. The aforementioned mass of the Mighty Mo would render any attempt futile; either the chain would shatter or the chain locker shacklenote  would snap like a damp pretzel.
    • Apparently a museum ship can be brought up to fighting condition in under a few hours, complete with fuel and ammunition. The USS Iowa took two years to recommission in the 1980s. And any ammunition left on a museum ship would have been rendered inert before being put on board.
    • Firing 16 inch guns like AK-47s in semi-automatic, at least 4 times in 10 seconds.note  Made even more unrealistic by the fact the ship is crewed by current Navy sailors, who would be entirely unfamiliar with a battleship's weapons, and retired sailors, who even if they remembered their training, are too few and 60+ years removed from their sailing days.
    • At one point the crew needs to move a shell by hand from one turret to another and though straining, five of them are able to do so. An actual 16" shell weighs 2,700 pounds (1,225kg, or 1.35 tons), even presuming they could lift and carry such a weight, there is no way they would be able to fit it through the corridors and into another turret moving it by hand.
      • Made all the more infuriating by the fact that the Iowa class ships had a system of overhead rails and chain hoists installed in a passageway running fore and aft between the turretsnote  for exactly the purpose of moving ammo between turrets. They actually filmed the movie aboard the real life USS Missouri, which is now a museum ship. There's a strong chance they walked through that very passageway during production and could have fixed this error by simply looking up and asking "what's that thing for?"
    • The grenades launched by the alien vessel blowing up a turret and leaving the rest of the vessel intact. While the turrets themselves could be (and with other real-life ships such as Seydlitz, were) safely destroyed, said grenades land on the deck around the turret and thus also wreck the barbette (the circular part underneath) in the process. Not only is the barbette a major structural component of the ship, the explosion would have almost certainly cooked off any remaining ammunition, either of which would have been far more destructive than what is shown.
    • The Real Life John Paul Jones is the third ship in the Arleigh Burke Class of Destroyers, which means she is a Flight 1. Flight 1s have a helipad, but lack a hangar. USS Sampson (which was destroyed) is a Flight 2A. These models HAVE a hangar. However, someone in the film studio seemed to think that all Burkes have hangars, which would be excusable if the ship and hull number were fictional, but USS John Paul Jones is one of the better known of the destroyer fleet, and there are hundreds of photos to reference from.
  • Mostly averted in Das Boot which in fact is praised for its realism of portraying how would be to live in a WWII Uboat. However, there're a few errors, most notably the film taking place in December 1941, when things were going much better for the Kriegsmarine than later in the war (1943 onwards).
  • Avoided entirely in The Caine Mutiny, which replaced the novel's four-piper destroyer-minesweeper conversion with a Gleaves-class conversion. The only problem is that this leaves a few comments about the Caine being a rusty old tub sounding slightly odd, since she would've been less than five years old during the Pacific campaign.
  • The climax of Down Periscope involves the USS Stingray, a recommissioned World War II-era diesel sub, attempting to make a suicide run at Naval Station Norfolk as part of a war game, while being chased by the USS Orlando (a Los Angeles-class nuclear sub). With their stealth gone, Lieutenant Commander Dodge orders the Stingray to surface and gun the engines. Rear Admiral Graham, in temporary command of the Orlando, orders his sub to surface as well in order to get close (using Stock Footage from The Hunt for Red October). The problem with this is that, while it makes perfect sense for a WWII diesel sub to surface to move faster, it makes no sense for a modern nuclear sub to do the samenote , since this actually reduces the Orlando's speed. The Orlando should've stayed at periscope depth in order to maximize her speed.
  • Although much of it was filmed aboard the actual USS Nimitz, with the participation of many of that carrier's crew, the scene in The Final Countdown that showed the carrier sailing into Pearl Harbor, in the present, showed USS Kitty Hawk, as at the time the movie was filmed, the Nimitz was part of the Atlantic fleet. On the plus side, funnel aside, the Kitty Hawk and Nimitz classes are fairly close in silhouette and flight deck layout.
  • Most of the ships in the Kamikaze movie For Those We Love only exist in the FX computers. However there are a number of action and beauty shots of what is recognizably an American Destroyer Escort. Much of the filming was in the Philippines and apparently the crew were able to use the Philippine flagship BRP Rajah Humabon (Ex Cannon-class, USS Atherton, later Naval SDF Hatsuhi). Even better, it still carries its WWII-era 3 inch, 40mm, and 20mm mounts. The only jarring part is the lack of deck clutter near the stern (the depth charges are long gone).
  • Three aircraft carriers were used shooting Godzilla (2014), none of them the USS Saratoga as the movie says, because the real Saratoga was decommissioned in 1994, making it safe from bragging by current sailors. The hull number on the Saratoga is CVN-88, which isn't even being planned yet (the highest hull number assigned to any carrier as of 2020 is the Doris Miller, CVN-81, not scheduled to enter service until 2030), so go with Alternate History again on this.
  • The Hunt for Red October:
    • Although the frigate Reuben James was being played by the Real Life Reuben James (FFG-57), the latter wasn't commissioned until two years after the film's setting. Possibly, however, a Shout-Out to Red Storm Rising, which had Perry-class "figs" in service in 1984.
    • During one scene a torpedo is dropped by a helicopter on a submarine, but then remotely detonated by the helicopter's mothership prior to impact in order to fake the destruction of the sub. This is in reality impossible. The torpedo depicted in the movie is a US Mk 46, and once you have put one in the water—assuming it's working correctly—it will search for and then chase after its target until it either detonates or runs out of fuel. This could have been Truth in Television if a submarine had launched the torpedo, as most submarines in existence by the late 1980s could launch torpedoes connected to the submarine by control wires which would let operators control it remotely to a certain degree. This gives them the advantage of being able to ignore decoys or other countermeasures, though the torpedo guidance system itself is still what is used to steer it towards it's target and it's not public information whether they can be remote-detonated or not. But no platform, even today, has the ability to remote detonate a torpedo wirelessly.
    • The film portrays the caterpillar drive as making the submarine ultra-quiet because the propeller isn't moving. In reality a nuclear submarine's biggest noise source are the cooling pumps on the reactor. In real life a diesel-electric sub is far quieter, with the tradeoff being a reduced underwater operating duration.
    • The climax of the film involves members of the USS Dallas transferring over to the Red October, then successfully crewing it during an attack from a Soviet submarine. All this in spite of the fact that the crew is operating a sub on which they've never seen before, have no training on, the language is completely foreign and even the measurements (metric vs. imperial) are different. Even Jonesy replaces the Red October's sonar operator, who is standing right next to him, even though the latter should be more familiar with the equipment—though it's given a bit of a handwave when Captain Mancuso is overheard asking one of Ramius's officers if he speaks English and then to come over and help him.
  • Independence Day features a submarine operating in the Persian Gulf while surfaced. A US Navy submarine would not be surfaced while patrolling close to a hostile country.
  • And sometimes, you just can't win: the production crew of the John Wayne/Kirk Douglas film In Harm's Way went to a lot of trouble to avoid this by using models for the battle scenes, but sadly they only sailed straight into another trope.
  • Master and Commander manages to avoid blatant errors. This was done by using a real period naval ship, and through meticulous detail to ensuring accuracy. The biggest mistake is that the ship is actually motoring in a few shots, as indicated by the sails being pushed backwards against the mast by the wind, while the ship continues forward. Due to the nature of filming out at sea using a real ship, and the nature of well, nature, the crew simply didn't have enough time to ensure fully accurate manoeuvring while filming the ship.
  • Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. Stock Footage of an Iowa-class battleship is identified as a destroyer. The rest of the movie is equally ridiculous. The title does, after all, give a good indication of what type of movie it is.
  • Any submarine that flipped upside down, as depicted in The Navigator, would not right itself but would go straight to the bottom, guaranteed.
  • Pearl Harbor:
    • The movie featured an impressive effects model of Battleship Row which managed to use the wrong superstructure for the U.S. battleships, despite the production crew having several hundred pictures to work from, and also hideously messed up the sinking of the Oklahoma. There are also several seriously anachronistic ships present, most obviously Spruance-Class guided missile destroyers. Then again, this is the same movie that didn't notice an M26 Pershing tank in stock footage, the Arizona Memorial visible in a movie set before it even sank, or a large building with 'Est 1952' printed on the front.
    • The aircraft carriers on both sides were visibly modern designs with angled flight decks when viewed in long shots, due to the lack of "straight" deck carriers in Real Life since shortly after World War II.
    • One of the Japanese intelligence photographs shows a North Carolina-class battleship. No such ship was in Pearl Harbor at the time, and indeed, the type was so new that both North Carolina and her sister ship Washington were still on the East Coast getting various issues with their engines corrected. North Carolina would not arrive in the Pacific until June 1942.
    • The Queen Mary appears in the movie in her civilian paint scheme: in reality, she was painted battleship grey during the war.
    • Moving the battleships 100 feet apart just so they could film cool sequences of airplanes flying between the rows while Cuba Gooding Jr. shoots at them with .50 caliber machine gun even though he also would have been shooting up the ship moored alongside.note  The real Doris 'Dorie' Miller was awarded the Navy Cross and certainly deserved a better portrayal of his heroism.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • The trilogy is a major offender, with extensive yelling about naval maneuvers, which never accomplish anything, as all the ships continually sail in any direction in every weather with main and topsails square to the masts at all times. Bonus points for Captain Jack Sparrow yelling for adjustments to pieces of rigging his ship does not even possess: "Scandalize the lateens!" The torn and tattered sails of the Pearl and the Dutchman do not qualify, as they are both supernatural vessels.
    • Along with many films featuring Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Real Life fully rigged sailing ships couldn't be turned simply by spinning the wheel like it's a Formula 1 car. There is a whole array of multi-man, complex procedures for doing so. Also bizarre is how Jack Sparrow managed to "disable the rudder chain" in The Curse of the Black Pearl - the cables (not chains) on a ship like the Dauntless would take a single man days to cut through even if he had a proper implement (which he doesn't).
    • Jack Sparrow's sinking ship at the start of the first film is impossible (but awesome).
    • Later on, hilariously, the Royal Navy officer says that the Dauntless "cannot be crewed by two men." Neither can the Interceptor, in reality.
    • The whole Maelstrom battle in At World's End. Also, a first-rate ship of the line like the Endeavour could eat a pair of heavy frigates like the Black Pearl and Flying Dutchman for breakfast, though this is excusable given that Lord Beckett was unable to break out of his Villainous Breakdown and order his ship to attack. Also, the Dutchman is probably too supernatural to sink even with superior firepower.
    • No lower-deck gun (or even a maindeck carronade) could possibly achieve the angle of elevation shown by the Black Pearl attacking Port Royal (or for that matter, any of the ships in the whirlpool battle). If you want to fire that high, you're looking at small pintle mount weapons like swivel guns, or dedicated mortars (which tended to be either little 1-3 pounder boat mortar jobbies or fitted to specially built/modified bomb ketches). Anything else would rip a hole in the deck it's mounted on with the recoil (and bomb ketches had to sit the mortar on a hold full of coiled rope to compensate).
    • The Flying Dutchman's triple-guns cannot be reloaded, as cannon are muzzle-loading. Unless Davy Jones has invented breech-loading cannons. Which presents the additional problem of how the cascabel screw threads don't seize using 17th-century ironwork. Unless the guns are magical. Which presents the additional problem of why Davy Jones bothers to crew his gundecks.
    • The stunt with the upturned boat in the first film would not work. While you could overturn a boat and float it across the water, you could not drag it underwater like a poor-man's submarine unless you were inhumanly strong (and heavy).
  • PT 109. Since there were no surviving examples when the film was made in 1963 the PT boats in the movie were actually 88 foot Air/Sea rescue boats heavily modified to resemble wartime 80 foot Elcos.
  • Red Tails drew complaints about the scene where Lightning strafes and cripples a "German destroyer". That part actually happened: the torpedo boat TA22—formerly the Italian Royal Navy Rosalino Pilo-class destroyer Giuseppe Missori, seized by the Kriegsmarine after Mussolini's overthrow—was damaged beyond repair in an airstrike by two Tuskeegee Airmen. The problem is that the ship depicted in the film isn't TA22 or anything similar, but rather a Littorio-class battleship to which a pair of P-40 Warhawks would have been an at worst an irritant.
  • As with many other World War II films, Sink the Bismarck! has an aircraft carrier with an angled flight deck standing in for period correct straight deck carriers. In a bit of irony, however, the carrier in question - HMS Victorious - is actually in part standing in for itself, having participated in the battle, survived the war, and been modernized prior to filming.
  • In Spider-Man: Homecoming, a malfunctioning superweapon cuts the Staten Island Ferry in half lengthwise, in the middle of the Hudson River. Somehow, the ferry doesn't immediately sink from all of its major compartments below the waterline being flooded, and somehow, the spilled fuel from fuel tanks and the split engine room appears to neither gush into the river nor ignite in a raging inferno. Spidey trys to hold the two halves together, as if that would actually do anything besides allowing both halves to stay near each other as they sank. Then Iron Man welds the ship back together with his supertech... but still, the issue of thousands of gallons of water in the engine room is not addressed.
  • The Spy Who Loved Me has the Soviet submarine (a Murena/"Delta I") missing its fairwater planes.
  • In The Sum of All Fears, an American aircraft carrier is shown sailing without active escorts and no air patrols flying, within striking range of Russian airfields during a serious international crisis. If this had happened in real life, they would deserve to get sunk.
  • They Were Expendable, the fictionalized story of MTB Squadron 3 in the Philippines at the start of the war. MTB Squadron 3's boats were PT-20 class 77 foot Elcos, but were portrayed in the movie by PT-103 class 80 foot Elcos and 78-Foot Huckins boats. The 80-footers were same class boats as JFK's PT-109 mentioned above. This is because, although the film was actually made during the war with actual US Navy PT boats, by the time of filming in 1945 there were nearly no Elco 77 foot boats left, most having been destroyed and replaced by a different class.
  • Tora! Tora! Tora! partly averted this trope, by constructing an accurate full-scale mockup of the main deck and superstructure of the battleship Nagato, and another of the rear main deck and after turrets of the USS Arizona (doubling in some scenes as the Nevada). However, the carrier Enterprise was played by the USS Yorktown, a later, larger carrier which had been rebuilt in the 1950s with an angled flight deck and other modifications for operating jet aircraft. Moreover, the actual destroyer Ward was an old four-piper from 1918, nothing at all like the 1943 Edsall-class DE that portrayed her.
  • U571 wasn't much more accurate in its ship displays than its accuracy to historical events. One of the more glaring errors is how roomy the captured U-Boat is. Compare this to Das Boot in which even the officers having dinner are required to stand up and stuff themselves into a corner whenever someone needs to get through.
  • Under Siege:
    • The main guns of USS Missouri are loaded and fired by a crew of maybe 10 sailors who were not specialist artillerymen. It took 47 highly trained men for each gun's machinery (charge hoists, shell hoists, gun laying, firing) during World War II.
    • The 16 inch gun fires at a distant target as small as a surfaced submarine in the night, supposedly under turret-rangefinder control. The sub would be nearly-invisible in Real Life, to score a hit in wartime conditions it needed complex calculations using data from radar plotting, main rangefinder plotting, a specific charge for the gun and so on. This assuming the gun can depress enough to fire at such a close target. Effects of the gun firing are downplayed as well, in Real Life the muzzle flame of a capital ship gun was at least 20 yards long and the water splash nearly the size of a 10 story building. Here is an overhead view of the USS Iowa firing a broadside for comparison.
    • Real Life space inside turret was far more cramped.
  • Waterworld manages to multiply the sins, by having a fore-and-aft rigged Trimaran that is powered by wind so reliable the main character felt it wise to build a giant wind turbine on his mast. Lord only knows what would happen if the wind ever went slack and the sail slumped back into the turbine.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): There is no wind blowing on the sails when Steve and Diana leave Themyscira for London. Also, both characters then proceed to go to sleep overnight on the boat, despite at least one of them needing to stay up and keep the boat on course. (Unless, of course, it's a magic boat, which isn't improbable, but never remarked upon).

  • John Winton's novel Aircraft Carrier:
    • Combined with Just Plane Wrong: the fictitious HMS Furious (probably based on the real HMS Hermes) defends itself against enemy missile attacks with 60s-vintage Seacat missiles (good in their day, but by no means an adequate anti-missile defense even in the 1980s) and 40mm Bofors guns (only an adequate anti-missile defense if Lady Luck is at the controls) while the Sea Harriers of its air group carry AMRAAM missiles. By the time AMRAAM was available to the Fleet Air Arm, 20mm Phalanx anti-missile guns and the much superior Seawolf point defense missile would have been available to a fictitious aircraft carrier.
    • The aviation blunder has the ship's air group sacrifice itself by going out to tackle an incoming bombing raid and then being unable to land back on the carrier due to rough weather, whereas in fact the Harrier, of all aircraft, is best suited to doing this (the pilots elect to eject and be picked out of the sea, and drown to a man instead; the author appears to have done this for dramatic effect, in order to make the carrier's gun and missile fit the only thing that was still defending the convoy).
    • Downplayed elsewhere in the same novel, when the fires on the ship are licking at the walls of the missile magazines. The captain orders them flooded to prevent the ship from exploding, despite the fact that there are still men inside. This has been done in the World Wars, and would be done again if necessary. Whether the missiles would survive the dunking is another matter.
  • Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series is both played straight and averted. The bulk of the named ships, especially the World War II-era ones, never served in said war despite clearly taking part in the battle of the Java sea and later engagements in the book. However, wherever else possible, the series is brutally accurate with very few licenses in regards to the ships and their operations wherever possible. The changes made are intentional: the author did not want to disrespect sailors killed in combat by using a ship that participated in the war. (Mahan and Amagi for instance were decommissioned and scrapped before the second world war, while Walker was scuttled seventeen days after Pearl Harbor.)
  • Tom Clancy got enough right in The Hunt for Red October that he was briefly investigated by the US government, thinking they had a security leak somewhere: he was an experienced nonfiction writer and had simply made some very good educated guesses for things he couldn't find in publicly available sources. However, some of his guesses were wrong, especially when it came to the Soviet subs (many technical details of which were not available in unclassified Western sources at time of writing).
    • Very few Soviet submarines were ever given official names, Akula-class boats like the Red October being notable exceptions (all but two were christened, though TK-202's was somehow forgotten). In the novel, all of the Soviet submarines with viewpoint characters aboard—the pursuing V.K. Konovalov and the ill-fated E.S. Politovskiy, both Lira-class attack subs—are named. Speaking of which, all the submarine classes are referred to by their NATO reporting names (e.g. Typhoon-class and Alfa-class) rather than their original Russian-language names, even by the Soviet characters.
    • The noisiest thing on a nuclear submarine isn't the screws by a long shot, it's the nuclear power plant itself. A caterpillar drive, if possible, would do nothing to help with this. In the novel, the caterpillar is a pump-jet propulsor rather than a phlebotnium drive; at best it would confuse sonar operators and mask the reactor noises.
    • The described internal layout of all the Soviet subs bears essentially no relation to reality. This was one of the things Clancy had to guess at.
    • The subplot about the E.S. Politovskiy suffering a fatal reactor accident is essentially impossible. Clancy erroneously describes the Lira-class (NATO reporting name Alfa-class) as using a pressurized-water reactor like most nuclear-powered ships (he also states that the Americans mistakenly think it's a sodium-cooled or "hot salt" design). In fact, the Lira-class used a molten lead-barium alloy for reactor coolant. Reactors with molten metal coolant are extremely difficult to melt down since the boiling point of most metals is hotter than any fission reactor could possibly get: in the event of accidents, they tend to absorb and re-radiate the excess heat until the coolant solidifies, which the solution in question does at 125°C.note  This is also partly why the Lira-class was so fast: it could safely generate far more power from its reactor than a conventional pressurized-water design (Clancy wrongly attributes this to an advanced heat exchanger). Furthermore, the accident is said to be caused by a coolant leak, which would be self-sealing with the use of molten metal coolant. And if it was so catastrophic that it didn't self-seal, it would have rather horrific immediate consequences for the crew, and also cause some nasty chemical reactions and steam explosions if one attempted to cool the reactor in an emergency by introducing seawater into the containment vessel, as the Politovskiy's reactor chief does.
    • The Americans' gambit to cover up their acquisition of the Red October involves scuttling the USS Ethan Allen, a real US nuclear ballistic missile sub from the '60s that had been decommissioned by the time of the novel, to fake the Red October's destruction. An Ethan Allen-class SSBN masses less than a sixth of what an Akula-class sub does and wouldn't have produced nearly enough debris. The novel handwaves this via the cast seeding the debris field with spare parts and an ejected missile from the actual Red October;note  also, they do it in extremely deep water not far from the East Coast to make a Soviet wreck dive technically and politically difficult.
  • The Hunting of the Snark had fun with this - see "Fit the Second".
  • There was an illustration in a Robert Lawson book which pictured a 3-masted ship, all the sails full of wind, with flapping flags facing the wrong direction (i.e, flags were pointing to the stern). The flags and the sails are affected by the same wind, and so the flags should be pointing more or less toward the bow.
  • Discussed in Jane Austen's Persuasion. The protagonist, Anne, finds Admiral Croft bemusedly looking at a painting in the window of a print shop. When she approaches him he asks "What queer fellows your fine painters must be, to think that anybody would venture their lives in such a shapeless old cockleshell as that?" and declares "I would not venture over a horsepond in it." He goes on quite a bit about it, not at all like a modern day geek ranting about their particular area of interest.
  • Discussed in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when the narration points out the logic of having the ship's galley in the bow. In a motor-powered ship such as readers might be familiar with, engine smoke trails behind a fast-moving vessel regardless of wind direction, but sailed watercraft normally move with, and more slowly than, the wind. If the galley were in back, smoke from the ovens would flow forward onto the deck.
  • Invoked In-Universe in the second novel of the X-Wing Series. The Rogues find a freighter named Contruum's Pride. Lt Cracken, a native of Contruum, takes one look at its IFF and declares that it's hostile: Due to the naming conventions for spaceships on Contruum, if it had really been part of their merchant marine, Pride would have been named for an animal or a river, not a virtue, something that was restricted for warships.

    Live Action TV 
  • 10.5 Apocalypse seems to think the standard method of approaching a tsunami in an ocean liner is to have the wave broadside the ship, and that it's apparently unusual that this didn't work. In reality, facing into the wave is the only chance you have at either riding over the top of the wave if you're at a sufficient distance from land, as seen here with this Japanese Coastguard ship in 2011), or being carried by the wave into land without capsizing and being torn to pieces by the tsunami, as seen with this boat, which managed to rest relatively intact on top of a building because it was washed straight ahead by the rising water.
  • Airwolf features a "Delta III" submarine with vertical launched SAMs. Which just happen to look like US Polaris ballistic missiles. Between shots it turns into a US Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine. The submarines look completely different, with different functions. The "Delta III" doesn't even carry surface-to-air missiles.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the episode "World War Three", a Trafalgar class attack submarine was depicted with Trident nuclear missiles, found only on ballistic missile submarines in Real Life.
    • In "Cold War", the Soviet nuclear submarine Firebird, despite looking like a Murena-M class (Delta-II class) missile sub, seems to be far more massive. For comparison, the more modern Akula (Typhoon) class is larger than a Delta-II, and yet the protagonists are dwarfed by the conning tower when standing on the bridge in the epilogue of the episode. This is not something anyone was at risk of with a Typhoon.
  • The History Channel loves World War 2 documentaries. One such is The World Wars. The final episode of this mini-series features on the outbreak of war in the Pacific in 1941. Careful examination of the war footage reveals some use of Stock Footage from recent war films. It also features footage of aircraft carriers and a carrier battle group. Modern, early 21st century aircraft carriers and support ships. Also seen is footage of a modern Japanese Aegis class ship. Guess they figured they didn't have enough of the kinds of footage they wanted, so the went and found or filmed footage of similar-looking ships.
  • Season 3 of Peaky Blinders features a brief shot of a Cunard Line ship docked in Liverpool. Likely meant to be the RMS Mauritania, the CGI model appears to be the hull and superstructure of the RMS Titanic with the vents, forecastle, and colors of the Mauritania added.
  • H.R. Pufnstuf's intro includes an especially severe example. A sailboat is scudding along on a broad reach, sails properly filled and trimmed, then when Witchiepoo dispels her illusion, the boat turns sinister, the weather turns dark, and the boat is now "sailing" directly into the wind. But, then ahgain, it is a magic boat.
  • JAG: In "Cowboys & Cossacks", the exterior of the Russian destroyer is actually stock footage of a British Type 42 destroyer.
    • Most US Navy vessels on the show, other than decommissioned ones or historic references, have fictional names. This may have been intentional. They usually also have either fictional hull numbers, or ones that are shared by a real ship with a different name (hull numbers are never reused in the US Navy). The fictional names also rarely conform with standard US Navy naming conventions (though even in real life, the US Navy doesn't always follow its own naming conventions). All of these issues carried over to NCIS, which even has some of the same fictional ships that appeared in JAG.
  • Generally The Last Ship is alright with its portrayal of naval warships, but in "Two Sailors Walk into a Bar", the aft deck of what is supposed to be a Kirov-class guided missile battlecruiser has a prominent turret with three large guns. This is because, lacking a proper Kirov to film on, that scene was filmed on the USS Iowa, which today serves as a museum ship in Long Beach, California. The show also wildly underestimates the ability of the hero ship Nathan James as one of the Arleigh Burke destroyer class. On multiple occasions it gets damaged or attacked by forces that it should have spotted from miles away and annihilated without much problem.
    • There is an English Astute class submarine that gets shown as launching 26 Tomahawk missiles vertically out of the water, first issue is that class doesn't have VLS tubes and even if it did it wouldn't have 26 of them. They would have to launch via the regular torpedo tubes.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Captain Hook starts out in flashbacks with a sizable crew for his brig, the Jolly Roger. In the "present day" portions, he continues to sail around single-handedly on the same ship, somehow managing to control multiple sails on two masts just by standing at the helm.
  • The Suite Life on Deck features the S.S. Tipton, which should be the M.S. Tipton, as it is a motor ship and not a single-screw steam ship.
  • The Vital Spark 1965 Had the main cabin of the titular vessel, a Clyde Puffer, situated in what ought to be the engine room below the wheelhouse. This allowed the interior scenes to take place in a typical sitcom room, suitable for the camera work of the day, instead of replicating the tiny forecabin that a real Clyde Puffer would have. The 1994 remake, The Tales Of Para Handy, depicted the layout of a Puffer more faithfully though

  • Johnny Horton's Sink the Bismarck, set during the Battle of Denmark Strait and the following pursuit of the Bismarck, gets several facts about the German warship wrong. Contrary to what the song states, the Bismarck did not "have the biggest guns", as her 15-inch guns were smaller than the 16-inch guns carried by the "Big Seven" (which she found herself on the wrong end of when HMS Rodney intercepted her) and, at the time of the events of the song, the American battleships North Carolina and Washington had just been commissioned with the newest, most powerful 16-inch cannons yet mounted by any battleship, the 16-inch Mk 6 45-caliber cannon, which was capable of firing the new 2700 lb "super heavy" armor-piercing shell, unlike the previous 16-inch Mk 1 45-caliber cannon used by the preceding Colorado-class. Bismarck was also not "the fastest ship to sail the seas", with many cruisers, battlecruisers (including the Hood that Bismarck famously sunk), and destroyers being able to top her 30 knot top speed. Even among battleships, Bismarck at best tied for that top speed, being matched with the French battleship Richelieu, Italian battleships Littorio and Vittorio Veneto, and Japanesee battleships Kongo, Hiei, Haruna, and Kirishima. Furthermore, her own sister ship, Tirpitz, was slightly faster due to having significantly more powerful engines (while Bismarck could barely make 30 knots, Tirpitz could nearly hit 31 knots). Lastly, while Bismarck was not the largest ship in the world (several passenger liners, including the famous Titanic and her sister ships had been larger, and at the time, RMS Queen Mary held the crown of largest operational passenger ship with a displacement of nearly 82 kilotons, dwarfing Bismarck's roughly 42 kilotons displacement), she was the largest battleship in the world by displacement at the time of her commissioning. However, by the time the song takes place, she no longer held that title, having been surpassed by her sister ship, Tirpitz, which displaced about 1200 tons more, though that is technically still consistent with the song's statement that "the Germans had the biggest ship", provided that the lyric is taken to only refer to warships. Additionally, the song gets the flow of the Battle of Denmark Straits wrong, saying "The Bismarck started firin', fifteen miles away". Hood opened fire fifteen miles away while rapidly closing with Bismarck. Bismarck would not return fire for three minutes, likely closer to thirteen miles away.
  • In the song Highwayman by Jimmy Webb (better known in the version sung by The Highwaymen), the protagonist describes being a sailor on a schooner that sailed around the Cape Horn to Mexico and how he went aloft to furl a mainsail in a storm, and he got killed when the yards broke off. This is not entirely wrong, as in the 19th Century there were big merchant schooners, and although schooners have fore-and-aft rig, and their mainsails are reefed from the deck, some of them had had squarenote  topsails above their main sails.note  But it's very unlikely that a sailor would call them mainsail.
  • The inaccuracies in the narrator's story are Played for Laughs in the Irish folk song The Irish Rover. According to the narrator's account, the titular ship had 27 masts (the sailing ship with the most masts in recorded history had only seven) and an absurdly large cargo capacity for a ship which set sail "in the year of our lord eighteen-hundred and six". Conveniently, of course, by the end of the song the ship has sunk and the singer is the only member of the crew left alive (even the captain's dog died) so no one can contradict his account.
    We had one million bags of the best Sligo Rags
    We had two million barrels of stone
    We had three million sides of old blind horses hides
    We had four million barrels of bones

    We had five million hogs
    Six million dogs
    Seven million barrels of porter
    We had eight million bails of old nanny goats' tails
    In the hold of The Irish Rover!

    Tabletop Games 
  • There are a fair number of older Harpoon scenarios that pit a Soviet carrier group against an American one. The actual Soviet use of the "Kiev" (armed with really shitty Yak-38 jump jets) and "Moskva" (which actually was a helicopter carrier) classes were to defend areas for missile submarines, not engage in a suicidal tangle against a Nimitz group, unless the latter got close to the Soviet mainland. If the Soviets were going to take on a U.S. Carrier Battle Group, they'd use submarines and/or land-based aircraft. Even then, the Motherland would lose a lot of units in the process. Part of this is due to Technology Marches On; Harpoon predates the current ubiquity of AEGIS ships in the USN, meaning there was a greatly increased risk of the heartstopping "SS-N-12 SANDBOX detected. METHOD: Visual" happening - this obviously did not stay true for long after the game's release.
  • Invoked in Munchkin Booty - several of the level up cards depict the characters entangled in ropes, with the card name describing what they are doing: "careen the futtock-shrouds," "splice the forecastle" and "belay the aft topgallants". None of these make any degree of sense.
  • Some players of Pirates Of The Spanish Main build their models with the flag (properly called pennant) flowing backwards (although that would indicate that the ship is sailing directly into the wind) because they find it looks funny the other way around. The redesign starting with the tie-in to Pirates of the Caribbean removed these, saving players the hassle.

    Video Games 


  • The majority of naval simulators offer far more customization than would be feasible on any Real Life design, along with the usual abstractions.
  • Most real life vessels larger than about 40 feet (12 meters) require a crew of greater than one person to operate. Most warships require a crew of dozens or hundreds, since beyond navigating and operating the sails or machinery, they need to also operate weapons and deal with battle damage. Unless teamwork is a core part of the game, most naval games simplify this to the point that a single player can operate everything. A common abstraction is that the player is the captain and the interface is an abstraction for giving orders to the rest of the crew.

Individual Games

  • Modern Warfare:
    • The third game has one level set in New York harbor, which is an active battleground between American and Russian ships. Quite apart from the aircraft carriers, heavy cruisers, Tarantul missile corvettes, and submarines slugging it out at Napoleonic ranges, there's the whole bit about having an SSGN just offshore instead of at standoff distances, or the insanely short minimal range on those SS-N-19s allowing them to hit targets less than a couple hundred meters away.
    • Modern Warfare in general is just awful about this. In the same battle, you drive over the sunken USS Nimitz (CVN-68), which is stationed in Washington state. Even worse was in 2, when the Sixth Fleet was transplanted from the Mediterranean to the Pacific.
  • In Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, during the mission "Fleet Destruction", when you sink the Erusean aircraft carrier Njörðr, her crew mentions the catapults becoming inoperable, despite Njörðr being a Kuznetsov-class carrier, which is a STOBAR design with no catapults in the first place.
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • Assassin's Creed III has Connor take command (and helm) of the Aquila, a Revolution-era frigate, despite never setting foot on a ship before. The experienced former captain of the ship becomes your Number Two and just gives out advice. The Aquila is extremely maneuverable for a frigate, and the cannons reload way too fast. Also, you can go from "no sail" to "full sail" in two seconds, with the ship immediately accelerating to that speed. There are no consequences to having all sails unfurled when sailing into the wind. This can be explained away as being a heavily abstracted and condensed reconstruction of Connor's memories by the Animus 3.0 (which is supposed to be the most realistic Animus yet).
    • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag falls prey to many of the same pitfalls as its predecessor with its increased focus on naval gameplay, but also makes the Hand Wave an explicit Justified Trope: Abstergo is trying to make an entertaining game out of Edward Kenway's experiences, not a minutely-detailed naval simulator. Some additional inaccuracies include various upgrades Edward can put on his brig the Jackdaw:
      • You can buy mortars for an Area of Effect attack, which is particularly useful for attacking fortresses. Ordinary ships couldn't carry mortars on deck due to the weight and recoil: they had to be installed in specially built artillery ships called bomb ketches. And explosive cannon shells wouldn't be introduced until the next century.
      • The highest-level hull upgrades give the Jackdaw what appears to be an ironclad hull, something that likewise wouldn't come into being until the 1850s.
      • Naval rams weren't used on sailing ships on any large scale due to the difficulty maneuvering them and being outranged by cannons. They wouldn't come back into vogue until the advent of steam propulsion in (again) the 1850s (first used successfully in the Battle of Hampton Roads). There's also the Fridge Logic that they'd be kinda counterproductive for a Caribbean pirate, given that a pirate makes money by robbing ships but a ram is designed to sink them (in gameplay, ramming another ship just does a ton of hull damage; a ship only sinks if it's hit again after being disabled).
    • The same Hand Wave also works for Assassin's Creed Rogue, where naval gameplay is almost as important as in Black Flag.
  • Crysis: The last act of the first game takes place aboard the fictitious USS Constitution, CVN-80. Aside from various errors of Navy uniforms and terminology, the US Navy would never name a carrier the Constitution because the original 1800s heavy frigate affectionately called "Old Ironsides" is still in commission. Since the game came out, CVN-80 has been announced to be the Gerald R. Ford-class USS Enterprise, replacing CVN-65 which was decommissioned in 2017.
  • Donkey Kong Country
    • The Gangplank Galleon in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest might just be the single largest traditional sailing vessel in any video game. The first five levels of the game take place there, and any one of them alone would make it far larger than any real sailing ship. Pirate Panic shows us a ridiculously long and elaborate top deck, Mainbrace Mayhem features absurdly tall masts with many sails, and Lockjaw's Locker takes place in the hold, which is apparently at least as deep and expansive as a salt mine. The remaining two levels, Gangplank Galley and Topsail Trouble, are repeats of the deck and mast themes, respectively. All of these give the impression that the Gangplank Galleon isn't a ship so much as a ship-themed Eldritch Location, though it appears as a somewhat normal galleon on the overworld map. Later in the game, a nameless shipwreck in Krem Quay features three more ship levels, all of them equally as ridiculous as the ones from earlier.
    • The Gangplank Galleon also featured in the first game, where it was much more normal, serving as the setting of the final boss fight, with the strangest thing about it being that it only had one mast with one sail.
  • GoldenEye (1997) was supposed to feature a La Fayette-class frigate like the movie did; the ship actually looks nothing like the La Fayette and rather more like an American Kidd-class destroyer. The devs were apparently at least somewhat aware of this, as a Dummied Out multiplayer version of the Frigate level is named "destroyer".
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker takes some care to play sailing realistically: Link can quarter by turning the sail at an angle to the boat so that it catches the wind fully, and goes faster when the wind is directly behind. However, Link doesn't need to turn the rudder while doing this, can quarter at a right angle to the wind, and, by picking up speed and making a sharp turn, can sail against the wind. Since lacking these abilities would make the game immensely tedious and frustrating, this can be filed under Acceptable Breaks from Reality.
  • In Pacific Fleet and Atlantic Fleet, all ships have the exact same rate of fire, regardless of class or size, as the games are turn-based. Every ship can fire once per turn, no matter if it's a destroyer with 5" guns or a battleship with 18" guns. In reality, a destroyer would be able to fire much faster. Subs can also dive and surface pretty quickly.
  • Pixel Piracy given that there is a ship editor in which anything can be placed anywhere. this is inevitable.
  • Sea of Thieves
    • Sailing a ship is more involved than it is in most games, but greatly simplified compared to real life. Convenient pulleys are operated to open, close, and turn the sails, while all that's required to steer the ship is the wheel. No climbing the rigging to manually adjust the sails required. Furthermore, a full-sized galleon can only be crewed by up to four players, and even one player can sail one if they try.
    • Several features of real ships are also notably absent or unused. The anchor is operated from a capstan on deck, but the anchor itself is never seen; the necessary below-decks hardware is also missing, with the capstan just sitting on the top deck with nothing below but empty crew space. None of the ships have shrouds, even though they have the chainplates they would be attached to, and instead a ladder on the back of the mast is used to climb up to and down from the crow's nest. The ship's wheel is not visibly connected to anything, just spinning on its axle without the pulley system needed to actually pivot the rudder. All ships have cannons on the top deck, but none below deck in what is usually called the gun deck, and the galleon even has gun ports down there!
    • Of course, most of this is in the name of the Rule of Fun, as a completely accurate representation of sailing would require more players on one ship than the game and its servers can handle, be too complex to coordinate, and preclude single players and small groups from having much fun at all.
  • Sid Meier's Pirates! abstracts the complicated nature of commanding an 18th-century sailing vessel down to an extremely simplified operation schema, but this is in the name of approachability and Rule of Fun—requiring players to suffer every line of rigging in combat or even day to day sailing would bog things down. Less explicable is how they developed the concept of 'ship classes,' where there are large, medium, and small varieties of a given ship type. For instance, the Pirates! version of the Barque bears little resemblance to the historical vessel type, while the Pirates! Sloop is more like a cutter.
  • In World of Warships, besides the usual "invisible crew" and "single operator" abstractions, there are a few departures from reality in the name of making the game quicker and eaiser to play:
    • Gun ranges and rates of fire are set up for game balance, not historical accuracy.
    • Guns are much more accurate than in history, to enable a faster game.
    • Distances are compressed for ship movement, so that although they appear to be traveling realistic speeds you're actually moving much faster, likewise to make matches faster.
    • Many ships that historically had radar or sonar don't have it, and those that do can only activate it for short periods, for game balance.
    • Running aground is merely an inconveience in-game, compared to the ship-destroying disaster it would be in real life.
    • Collisions with friendly ships do very little, compared to the massive damage that would occur in real life. Conversly, colliding with an enemy ship generally leads to both ships instantly exploding, also a bit of an extreme and unlikely outcome.
    • Submarines are much faster in general, and especially when submerged, than they were in that period of history. Conversely they run out of air much faster than historically.
    • All ships with torpedoes can reload them during battle; historically only Japanese destroyers were designed to reload at sea. And even they only carried one set of reloads, compared to the infinite torpedoes in the game, and it took a long time to reload them, not minutes or seconds.
    • Aircraft carriers have unlimited aircraft, though the more you lose the slower they regenerate. Aircraft also have shorter vision ranges than ships, where the opposite is true in real life. Both of these inaccuracies are for game balance.
    • Some ships, particularly destroyers and submarines, are scaled up from their historic sizes to make them easier to hit, for balance.

    Web Original 
  • Pirates SMP: The pirates' starter boats are stated to be sloops. However, actual sloops have only one mast, while the pirates' in-game boats have two masts, with the second mast located behind the ship's wheel. Thus, it is more accurate to refer to the boats as yawls.
  • Sabaton History: The "Bismarck" episode erroneously calls the Bismarck (and by extension his brother Tirpitz) the largest battleship ever built. Actually, that was his Japanese counterparts Yamato and Musashi, although this wouldn't become widely known until after the war. Additionally, Indy indicates the battleship was sunk by a torpedo Coup de Grâce from HMS Dorsetshire, but studies of the wreck confirmed claims by survivors that the ship had been scuttled.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Avatar Roku" the Gaang has to get to a temple inside the Fire Nation, the border of which is blockaded by the Fire Navy. However, the blockade as depicted is unrealistic even for a close blockade; two lines of ships steaming in opposite directions passing close abroad is overkill, risks collisions, and a waste of fuel and time. Realistically all that's required for an effective close blockade is for the various ships involved to have overlapping weapons ranges, so that nothing can penetrate without coming under fire. Based on their attempts to shoot down the Gaang riding on Appa, their maximum effective range is a few miles and they could easily maintain the blockade with about a third of the ships we see.
  • In Captain Pugwash, Pugwash runs his entire pirate ship—which appears to be a three-masted galleon—with a crew consisting of himself, the mate, two sailors and the cabin boy.
  • In the Justice League Unlimited episode To Another Shore, Special Agent Faraday threatens to to shut a supervillain's sub with Trident missiles. The Trident is an intercontinental ballistic missile that carries a nuclear warhead. It's not a missile that would be used against a submarine that's submerged, nor against anything that's close enough to be seen.
  • The Venture Bros. plays with this in "The Silent Partners". A few members of Team S.P.H.I.N.X. need to track villain Monstroso on his ocean-bound command ship, so they try to borrow a high-tech hydrofoil from Jonas Venture, Jr. The Captain tells them that the hydrofoil is decommissioned, but he can help them out by bringing his own ship out of mothballs. When we first met the Captain, he was leading a crew of "fake ghost pirates" stranded in the Sargasso Sea aboard an obsolete sailing ship, so that's what they get: a tiny "almost brigantine" named "Manny's Song" that was originally a sloop and re-rigged partly with pieces of a theme park ride. When the time comes to depart:
    Captain: Avast! We set sail! [beat] Well?
    Brock: What? What are we waiting for?
    Captain: We have to actually set sail. Like you guys have to help me tie down those sails.
    • Later, the Captain gets a little swept away:
    Captain: Hard full aft! Rudder astern! Jib the mainsail! Tally the sheets, ya swabs!
    Brock: What the hell does that all mean?
    Captain: Nothing. Made it up. I'm just all excited to be a fake pirate again!

Alternative Title(s): Artistic Licence Ships