A Birlinn was a Scottish variant of a Norse Longship.
Rendered in Cycles, using the Ocean Sim, dynamic paint for water displacement and a particle system for spray. Crew made in MakeHuman.
Phew, this was one of those images where I learned more than I thought I would! I initially messed up the Ocean settings, dynamic paint effects and the animation speed of the ship. I realised (after a long time pulling my hair out) that I had the ship travelling at 20 m/s, no wonder the spray was kicking up like an explosion and the ship was leaving the water after hitting a big wave.
Big learning for me: pay attention to scale when using physics!
The dynamic paint is really cool. With the ocean modifier as the canvas, I have two displacement brushes, one the same shape as the hull and a sphere at the bow with a negative displacement to push up a small bow wave. I also have a wave effect brush. I added a particle system at the bow to create spray with collisions enabled for both the hull and the ocean surface.
Full res and a bit more on the history lesson at: http://gavin-bain.blogspot.com/