An enemy ship has been spotted and an engagement is emminent.
All hands immediately scramble for their action stations.
The crew soak the sails, deck and sides of the hull with water. Pikes, muskets and axes are distributed, and the barber breaks out his bandages, saw and knife in preparation for amputations.

Below, on the gundecks, the soldiers take up their positions by the cannon. Cannonballs, handspikes, rammers and swabs are positioned beside each gun. Powder, however, is never stored in the vicinity of the cannon due to the risk of explosion and must therefore be brought up from below for each shot.

And finally, extra rations of beer are distributed amongst the crew to strengthen their courage and make them fight more fiercely during the eminent battle.

The only thing left is the wait.

It was for exactly this type of engagement that Vasa was built. During King Gustav Adolf’s time there were about 30 warships in the Swedish Baltic fleet and Vasa was to be the most powerful.
For the king, the importance of the fleet could not be over-emphasized. The ships could escort troop transports, blockade enemy ports and control trade. Vasa would be used primarily in the war against Poland.

Vasa represents the last phase of medieval tactical thinking, but anticipates the fleet tactics of the later 17th century.
During the 1500s, ships had fought at close quarters and boarding parties were sent between opposing ships. It was thus important to have a high stern, so that soldiers could fire from protected positions above the enemy ship and subsequently board it. In Vasa’s time, it was still expected that battles at sea would culminate in hand-to-hand combat on the decks. Not long after, tactics began to shift, and the enemy was engaged via broadside cannon salvos fired from greater distances.
Vasa reflects a combination of these two tactical ideas. She has a high stern to facilitate easy boarding of enemy ships , but also features two gundecks with unusually powerful armament.

Sea battles during the 1600s were often confusing affairs.
The large ships were slow to maneuver, smoke from the black powder used in the cannon made it hard to see anything from the gundecks and it was difficult to fire the great guns with accuracy. Communication was via flags, cannon shot and messengers who rowed between the ships. It was a well developed system which usually worked, but could easily break down in the heat of battle.

It was unusual that a ship went to the bottom after a battle. It either burnt up or was captured, which was the enemy's foremost goal. The barber, who functioned as the ships surgeon, often had much to do after a battle. Open wounds, gunshot, splinters and burns were common, and amputations were done without anesthetics.