The Armada comprised squadrons of different types of vessel. The principal naval ships were the great galleons of Portugal, sailing vessels with guns and naval crews.
The Armada set sail from Lisbon on 28th May 1588 (British date or Old Style), picking its way out of the Tagus River and working north up the Portuguese coast until it reached Corunna on the north west coast of Spain.
Philip’s scheme required an enormous fleet of vessels, provided by Spain, his newly acquired kingdom of Portugal and his kingdom of Naples, with such other vessels as could be commandeered, to sail from the Iberian Peninsular to the English Channel and land a substantial Spanish army, partly carried in the Armada, but mainly provided by the Spanish garrison in the Netherlands, on the coast of Kent. Once his army had conquered England, Phillip II would appoint a new king or assume the throne himself.
Squadron of Portugal
Twelve ships – total seamen 1,293; total soldiers 3,330
- São Martinho (48 guns). Known in Spanish as San Martin and in English as Saint Martin. Flagship of the commander-in-chief (Fleet Capitana), the Duke of Medina Sidonia and Maestre Francisco Arias de Bobadilla, the senior army officer. (São Martinho had an overall length of about 180 feet (55 m) with a beam of about 40 feet (12 m). She carried the aforementioned 48 heavy guns on two enclosed gun decks, plus multiple smaller weapons).
- São João (de Portugal). (50 guns). Vice-flagship (Fleet Almiranta). Known in Spanish as San Juan de Portugal and in English as Saint John of Portugal. Captained by Recalde (captain of this ship later in the expedition).
- São Marcos (33 guns). She was wrecked on the coast of County Clare, Ireland.
- São Filipe (40 guns). She ran aground between Nieuport and Ostend.
- São Luis (38 guns).
- São Mateus (34 guns). Known in Spanish as San Mateo and in English as Saint Matthew. She ran aground between Nieuport and Ostend.
- Santiago (24 guns).
- São Francisco (Florencia or Galleon of Florence). (52 guns). Italian-built nau integrated within the squadron of Portuguese galleons. 3 Portuguese galleons were dismissed after the storm that the Armada faced after leaving Lisbon (2 already older at the time and one sent to India).
- São Cristóvão (20 guns).
- São Bernardo (21 guns).
- Zabra Augusta (13 guns).
- Zabra Júlia (14 guns).
Galleys of Portugal under Don Diego de Medrano: 4 ships (each of 50 guns).