Before the Caravel, ships were limited to coastal navigation. The Caravel, with its relatively small hull and large sails, enabled long-distance navigation over large bodies of water; it was the jetliner of its era. Invented in the mid-1400s, the Caravel — among other things — enabled Columbus to navigate from Europe to North America. Other famous Caravel explorers include Diogo Cāo, Bartolomeu Dias, and Miguel Corte-Real.
The Caravel had to types of sails, lateen which allowed it to navigate close to shore and Atlantic; heavy sails used for long-distance navigation. This flexibility made the Caravel lower cost than larger, slower ships, affording a substantive trading and military advantage to Portugal and Spain, which both quickly transformed into world powers of their day.
As time went by, sails evolved from triangular to square shapes, that are familiar in medieval drawings. Eventually, the more efficient Carrack ship superseded the Caravel.