Sailing ship

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For the song of the same name by After the Fire, see here.
INS Tarangini, a sailing ship in service with the Indian Navy.

Sailing ship is now used to refer to any large wind-powered vessel. In technical terms, a ship was a sailing vessel with a specific rig of at least three masts, square rigged on all of them, making the sailing adjective redundant. In popular usage "ship" became associated with all large sailing vessels and when steam power came along the adjective became necessary. Large sailing vessels which are not ship rigged may be more appropriately called boats.


There are many different types of sailing ship, but they all have certain basic things in common. Every sailing ship has a hull, rigging and at least one mast to hold up the sails that use the wind to power the ship. The crew who sail a ship are called sailors or hands. They take turns to take the watch, the active managers of the ship and her performance for a period. Watches are traditionally four hours long. Some sailing ships use traditional ship's bells to tell the time and regulate the watch system, with the bell being rung once for every half hour into the watch and rung eight times at watch end (a four-hour watch).

Ocean journeys by sailing ship can take many months, and a common hazard is becoming becalmed because of lack of wind, or being blown off course by severe storms or winds that do not allow progress in the desired direction. A severe storm could lead to shipwreck, and the loss of all hands.

Sailing ships can only carry a certain quantity of supplies in their hold, so they have to plan long voyages carefully to include many stops to take on provisions and, in the days before watermakers, fresh water.

Types of sailing ships

There are many types of sailing ships, mostly distinguished by their rigging, hull, keel, or number and configuration of masts. There are also many types of smaller sailboats not listed here.[1] The following is a list of vessel types, many of which have changed in meaning over time:

  • barque, or bark - at least three masts, fore-and-aft rigged mizzen mast
  • barquentine - at least three masts with all but the foremost fore-and-aft rigged
  • bilander - a ship or brig with a lug-rigged mizzen sail
  • brig - two masts square rigged (may have a spanker on the aftermost)
  • brigantine - two masts, with the foremast square-rigged
  • caravel
  • carrack
  • clipper - a square-rigged merchant ship of the 1840-50s designed for speedy passages
  • cog - plank built, one mast, square rigged
  • corvette - an imprecise term for a small, often ship-rigged vessel
  • cutter - Fore-and-aft rigged, single mast with two headsails
  • dhow a lateen-rigged merchant or fishing vessel
  • dinghy - a small open boat, usually one mast
  • frigate - a ship-rigged European warship with a single gundeck, designed for commerce-raiding and reconnaissance
  • fishing smack
  • fluyt - a Dutch oceangoing merchant vessel, rigged similarly to a galleon
  • full-rigged ship - three or more masts, all of them square rigged
  • galleon - a large, primarily square-rigged vessel of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
  • hermaphrodite brig - similar to a brigantine

  • junk - a lug-rigged Chinese tradeship
  • ketch - two masts fore-and-aft rigged, the mizzen mast forward of the rudder post
  • Koch (boat)
  • longship vessels used by the Vikings, with a single mast and square sail, also propelled by oars.
  • lugger at least two masts, carrying lugsails
  • luzzu
  • pram
  • schooner - fore-and-aft rigged sails, with two or more masts, the aftermost mast taller or equal to the height of the forward mast(s)
  • ship of the line - the largest warship in European navies, ship-rigged
  • sloop - a single fore-and-aft rigged mast and bowsprit
  • snow - a brig carrying a square mainsail and often a spanker on a trysail mast
  • tjotter
  • xebec - a Mediterranean warship adapted from a galley, with three lateen-rigged masts
  • yawl - two masts, fore-and-aft rigged, the mizzen mast aft of the rudder post
  • catamaran Vessel with two parallel hulls, usually identical or mirror images, linked by beams and deck or 'trampoline', with a central mast or hull mounted in rarer circumstances e.g. Team Philips.
  • trimaran vessel with three hulls, the central usually larger, linked by beams and deck.
  • waʻa kaulua

sailing ships tied to shore, circa 1900-1920

See also


  1. The International Sailing Federation's list of sailing classes and equipment

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