Centuries before Mark Twain wrote about paddleboats on the Mississippi River, Leonardo applied his knowledge of mechanical engineering to build a craft that was fast and easy to navigate. In this design, sailors worked the pedals to turn rotating paddles and move the boat rapidly over the water.
Leonardo looked to nature to inspire many of his designs. He based his watercraft, for instance, on the shapes and movements of fish. This ship’s tapered prow would make the vessel easy to maneuver, just as a fish moves easily through the water.