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Archimedes Ships is a mod that allows the creation of pilotable boats and airships. In this case, it'd only be boats. All it would take to be shifted into a lore-friendly state is the ban of the Air Balloon, Steam Engine, and Gauge blocks (similar to how the slope and collapsible blocks from Carpenters Blocks are banned.)
This mod could encourage the use of port cities, add new means of transportation, and allow for more creative freedom in builds. However, the mod may or may not be taxing on the server, im not sure.