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The "Place Ship" action is somewhat confusing as presented in the rules. Page 7 it states that you cannot take the action without an available ship counter of the current era. No exception is made, it seems, for placing a ship that will trigger a new era. Page 9, right hand side, second paragraph only talks about clearing the card array but is silent about whether or not the ship counter from the prior era remains in the first box of the new era. I.e., it seems you must place a Galley if moving into the Sailing era.
On the other hand, if you turn a few pages later to page 12, describing the "Upgrade Ship" action, the rules indicate that this can be used to trigger a new age (and possibly a new era), but then in the fourth paragraph it seems to state that, in this case, the counter is replaced with one from the appropriate era.
Is this interpretation correct? Am I missing something?
You need to have a ship token for the era in which you place it.