There are a lot of different ways to approach naval combat, from tactical miniature battles to the purely cinematic. I hope to use this thread to get some ideas arising from the answer to two questions:
1) What is your ideal level of detail for ship battles? Do you love the gritty details of rigging? Maybe the fun of customization? Or the tactical battle of positioning? What makes for good naval battle mechanics? Etc...
2) Knowing what we know about the system and John's design philosophy, what kinds of ship mechanics would you be happy with? Not thrilled, not ecstatic, but happy. By happy I mean that you would use the system as is or with only minor revisions.
I am still working out my answers to both these but my initial thoughts are something like this:
Too Much Specialization Breeds Contempt
One of the things I have always hated in sci-fi games is that no matter how large or complex the ship is, there are very few meaningful options for actions if you're not the pilot or a gunner. Whatever system I come up with or use will have to provide meaningful and varied options for at least most of the major archetypes; at least enough to sustain combat through a decent number of rounds. Profession (Sailing) is a good place to start but more skills need to be involved. Still, there needs to be room for that characters who dedicated some points to naval combat to shine. Figuring out the balancing act will be the most important part.
It's Not a Ship, It's MY Ship
I like customizations not merely for mechanical benefits but for the attachment they generate. Knowing all the little tweeks and modifications gives me the sense that I know the ship like the back of my hand, which is precisely how my character would feel. Pirates were known to make radical alterations to a ship (such as a razee) and I'd like a system where I could at least distinguish my ship in some fashion both mechanically and otherwise.
“Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.”
- H.L. Mencken