Schooner
Overview
 
A schooner is a type of sailing vessel
Sailing ship
The term 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...

 characterized by the use of fore-and-aft
Fore-and-aft rig
A fore-and-aft rig is a sailing rig consisting mainly of sails that are set along the line of the keel rather than perpendicular to it. Such sails are described as fore-and-aft rigged....

 sails on two or more mast
Mast (sailing)
The mast of a sailing vessel is a tall, vertical, or near vertical, spar, or arrangement of spars, which supports the sails. Large ships have several masts, with the size and configuration depending on the style of ship...

s with the forward mast being no taller than the rear masts.

Such vessels were first used by the Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 in the 16th or 17th century (but may not have been called that at the time - see etymology, below). The development of the schooner is connected with that of the Bermuda sloop
Bermuda sloop
The Bermuda sloop is a type of fore-and-aft rigged sailing vessel developed on the islands of Bermuda in the 17th century. In its purest form, it is single-masted, although ships with such rigging were built with as many as three masts, which are then referred to as schooners...

. In Bermuda
Bermuda
Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about to the west-northwest. It is about south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and northeast of Miami, Florida...

, countless vessels of otherwise identical description were built with between one and three masts, carrying Gaff or Bermuda rig
Bermuda rig
The term Bermuda rig refers to a configuration of mast and rigging for a type of sailboat and is also known as a Marconi rig; this is the typical configuration for most modern sailboats...

.
Encyclopedia
A schooner is a type of sailing vessel
Sailing ship
The term 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...

 characterized by the use of fore-and-aft
Fore-and-aft rig
A fore-and-aft rig is a sailing rig consisting mainly of sails that are set along the line of the keel rather than perpendicular to it. Such sails are described as fore-and-aft rigged....

 sails on two or more mast
Mast (sailing)
The mast of a sailing vessel is a tall, vertical, or near vertical, spar, or arrangement of spars, which supports the sails. Large ships have several masts, with the size and configuration depending on the style of ship...

s with the forward mast being no taller than the rear masts.

Such vessels were first used by the Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 in the 16th or 17th century (but may not have been called that at the time - see etymology, below). The development of the schooner is connected with that of the Bermuda sloop
Bermuda sloop
The Bermuda sloop is a type of fore-and-aft rigged sailing vessel developed on the islands of Bermuda in the 17th century. In its purest form, it is single-masted, although ships with such rigging were built with as many as three masts, which are then referred to as schooners...

. In Bermuda
Bermuda
Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about to the west-northwest. It is about south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and northeast of Miami, Florida...

, countless vessels of otherwise identical description were built with between one and three masts, carrying Gaff or Bermuda rig
Bermuda rig
The term Bermuda rig refers to a configuration of mast and rigging for a type of sailboat and is also known as a Marconi rig; this is the typical configuration for most modern sailboats...

. Although Bermudians generally describe all as sloops (see the Bermuda Sloop Foundation´s Spirit of Bermuda
Spirit of Bermuda
The Spirit of Bermuda is a modern-built Bermuda sloop. She is a replica of a Royal Navy Sloop-of-war, depicted in a well-known 1831 painting.-History of the Bermuda Sloop:...

), purists elsewhere limit that term to single-masted vessels, those with more than one mast being historically described as Ballyhoo schooners. Schooners were further developed in North America from the early 18th century, and were more widely used in the United States than in any other country..

Two-masted schooners were and are most common. They were popular in trades that required speed and windward ability, such as slaving
Atlantic slave trade
The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the trans-atlantic slave trade, refers to the trade in slaves that took place across the Atlantic ocean from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth centuries...

, privateer
Privateer
A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers...

ing, and blockade running
Blockade runner
A blockade runner is usually a lighter weight ship used for evading a naval blockade of a port or strait, as opposed to confronting the blockaders to break the blockade. Very often blockade running is done in order to transport cargo, for example to bring food or arms to a blockaded city...

. They were also traditional fishing boats, used for offshore fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

. They were favoured as pilot vessels, both in the United States and in Northern Europe. In the Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's drainage basin covers in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West...

 area several distinctive schooner types evolved, including the Baltimore clipper
Baltimore Clipper
Baltimore Clipper is the colloquial name for fast sailing ships built on the south-eastern seaboard of the United States of America, especially at the port of Baltimore, Maryland...

 and the pungy
Pungy
The Pungy is a type of schooner developed in and peculiar to the Chesapeake Bay region. The name is believed to derive from the Pungoteague region of Accomack County, Virginia, where the design was developed in the 1840s and 50s....

.

Etymology

According to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, the first vessel called a schooner was built by builder Andrew Robinson and launched in 1713 from Gloucester, Massachusetts
Gloucester, Massachusetts
Gloucester is a city on Cape Ann in Essex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. It is part of Massachusetts' North Shore. The population was 28,789 at the 2010 U.S. Census...

. Legend has it that the name was the result of a spectator exclaiming "Oh how she scoons", scoon being similar to scon, a Scots
Scots language
Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster . It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language variety spoken in most of the western Highlands and in the Hebrides.Since there are no universally accepted...

 word meaning to skip along the surface of the water. Robinson replied, "A schooner let her be." According to Walter William Skeat
Walter William Skeat
Walter William Skeat , English philologist, was born in London on the 21st of November 1835, and educated at King's College School , Highgate School, and Christ's College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow in July 1860. His grandsons include the noted palaeographer T. C...

, the term schooner comes from scoon, while the sch spelling comes from the later adoption of the Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 and German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 spellings ("Schoner").

Other sources state the etymology as unknown and uncertain.

Construction

The schooner sail-plan
Sail-plan
A sail-plan is a set of drawings, usually prepared by a naval architect. It shows the various combinations of sail proposed for a sailing ship.The combinations shown in a sail-plan almost always include three configurations:...

  has two or more mast
Mast (sailing)
The mast of a sailing vessel is a tall, vertical, or near vertical, spar, or arrangement of spars, which supports the sails. Large ships have several masts, with the size and configuration depending on the style of ship...

s with the forward mast being shorter or the same height as the rear masts. Most traditionally rigged schooners are gaff rig
Gaff rig
Gaff rig is a sailing rig in which the sail is four-cornered, fore-and-aft rigged, controlled at its peak and, usually, its entire head by a spar called the gaff...

ged, sometimes carrying a square topsail
Topsail
A topsail is a sail set above another sail; on square-rigged vessels further sails may be set above topsails.- Square rig :On a square rigged vessel, a topsail is a square sail rigged above the course sail and below the topgallant sail where carried...

 on the foremast and, occasionally, a square fore-course
Course (sail)
In sailing, a course is the lowermost sail on a mast.This term is used predominantly in the plural to describe the lowest sails on a square rigged vessel, i.e., a ship's courses would be the foresail, mainsail, and, on the rare occasions in which one is shipped, mizen...

 (together with the gaff foresail
Foresail
A foresail is one of a few different types of sail set on the foremost mast of a sailing vessel:* A fore and aft sail set on the foremast of a schooner or similar vessel....

). Schooners carrying square sails are called square-topsail schooners.

A staysail schooner has no foresail, but instead carries a main staysail
Staysail
A staysail is a fore-and-aft rigged sail whose luff can be affixed to a stay running forward from a mast to the deck, the bowsprit or to another mast....

 between the masts in addition to the fore staysail ahead of the foremast. A staysail or gaff topsail schooner may carry a fisherman's staysail
Fisherman's staysail
A fisherman's staysail is a staysail placed between the fore and main masts of a sailing ship, usually a schooner but also including brigantines. All four of its sides are typically set flying. The purpose of a fisherman is to catch light winds aloft, as it is a large sail set high on the masts...

 (a four-sided fore-and-aft sail) above the main staysail or foresail, or a triangular mule. Multi-masted staysail schooners usually carried a mule above each stay sail except the fore staysail. Gaff-rigged schooners generally carry a triangular fore-and-aft topsail above the gaff sail on the main topmast and sometimes also on the fore topmast (see illustration), called a gaff-topsail schooner. A gaff-rigged schooner that is not set up to carry one or more gaff topsails is sometimes termed a "bare-headed" or "bald-headed" schooner. A schooner with no bowsprit is known as a "knockabout" schooner. A "cat-rigged" schooner not only has no bowsprit but has no headsails, and has the foremast set as far forward as possible.

The schooner may be distinguished from the ketch
Ketch
A ketch is a sailing craft with two masts: a main mast, and a shorter mizzen mast abaft of the main mast, but forward of the rudder post. Both masts are rigged mainly fore-and-aft. From one to three jibs may be carried forward of the main mast when going to windward...

 by the placement of the mainsail
Mainsail
A mainsail is a sail located behind the main mast of a sailing vessel.On a square rigged vessel, it is the lowest and largest sail on the main mast....

. On the ketch, the mainsail is flown from the most forward mast; thus it is the main-mast, and the other mast is the mizzen-mast. A two-masted schooner has the mainsail on the aft mast, and therefore the other mast is the fore-mast.

There was no set number of masts for a schooner. A small schooner has two or three masts, but they were built with as many as six (e.g. the wooden six-masted Wyoming
Wyoming (schooner)
The Wyoming was a wooden six-masted schooner, the largest wooden schooner ever built. She was built and completed in 1909 by the firm of Percy & Small in Bath, Maine...

) or seven masts to carry a larger volume of cargo. The only seven-masted (steel hulled
Hull (watercraft)
A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat. Above the hull is the superstructure and/or deckhouse, where present. The line where the hull meets the water surface is called the waterline.The structure of the hull varies depending on the vessel type...

) schooner, the Thomas W. Lawson
Thomas W. Lawson (ship)
The Thomas W. Lawson was a seven-masted, steel-hulled schooner originally planned for the Pacific trade, but then used primarily to haul coal and oil along the East Coast of the United States. Built in 1902, the ship holds the distinction of being the largest schooner and the largest pure sailing...

, was built in 1902, with a length of 395 ft (120 m), the top of the tallest mast being 155 feet (47 m) above deck, and carrying 25 sail
Sail
A sail is any type of surface intended to move a vessel, vehicle or rotor by being placed in a wind—in essence a propulsion wing. Sails are used in sailing.-History of sails:...

s with 43000 sq ft (3,994.8 m²) of total sail area. It was manned by a crew of only sixteen. A two or three masted schooner is quite maneuverable and can be sailed by a smaller crew than some other sailing vessels. The larger multi-masted schooners were somewhat unmanageable and the rig was largely a cost-cutting measure introduced towards the end of the days of sail.

Essex, Massachusetts
Essex, Massachusetts
Essex is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts, north of Boston. The population was 3,504 at the 2010 census.Part of the town comprises the census-designated place of Essex.- History :...

 was the most significant shipbuilding center for schooners.. By the 1850s, over 50 vessels a year were being launched from 15 shipyards and Essex became recognized worldwide as North America’s center for fishing schooner construction. In total, Essex launched over 4,000 schooners, most headed for the Gloucester, Massachusetts
Gloucester, Massachusetts
Gloucester is a city on Cape Ann in Essex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. It is part of Massachusetts' North Shore. The population was 28,789 at the 2010 U.S. Census...

 fishing industry. Bath, Maine
Bath, Maine
Bath is a city in Sagadahoc County, Maine, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 9,266. It is the county seat of Sagadahoc County. Located on the Kennebec River, Bath is a port of entry with a good harbor. The city is popular with tourists, many drawn by its...

 was another notable center, which during much of the nineteenth century had more than a dozen yards working at a time, and from 1781 to 1892 launched 1352 schooners, including the Wyoming
Wyoming (schooner)
The Wyoming was a wooden six-masted schooner, the largest wooden schooner ever built. She was built and completed in 1909 by the firm of Percy & Small in Bath, Maine...

.

Operation

Schooners were used to carry cargo in many different environments, from ocean voyages to coastal runs and on large inland bodies of water. They were popular in North America, and in their heyday during the late 19th century over 2,000 schooners carried cargo back and forth across the Great Lakes
Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are a collection of freshwater lakes located in northeastern North America, on the Canada – United States border. Consisting of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, they form the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total surface, coming in second by volume...

. Three-masted "terns" were a favourite rig of Canada's Maritime Provinces. The scow
Scow
A scow, in the original sense, is a flat-bottomed boat with a blunt bow, often used to haul bulk freight; cf. barge. The etymology of the word is from the Dutch schouwe, meaning such a boat.-Sailing scows:...

 schooner, which used a schooner rig on a flat-bottomed, blunt-ended scow hull, was popular in North America for coastal and river transport.

Schooners were used in North American fishing, especially the Grand Banks
Grand Banks
The Grand Banks of Newfoundland are a group of underwater plateaus southeast of Newfoundland on the North American continental shelf. These areas are relatively shallow, ranging from in depth. The cold Labrador Current mixes with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream here.The mixing of these waters...

 fishery. Some Banks fishing schooners such as Bluenose
Bluenose
Bluenose was a Canadian fishing and racing schooner from Nova Scotia built in 1921. She was later commemorated by a replica Bluenose II built in 1963. A celebrated racing ship and hard-working fishing vessel, Bluenose became a provincial icon for Nova Scotia as well as important Canadian symbol in...

 also became famous racers.

Two of the most famous racing yachts, America
America (yacht)
The America was a 19th century racing yacht that was the first to win the eponymous international sailing trophy now known as the America's Cup; in 1851 the trophy was known as the Royal Yacht Squadron's "One Hundred Guinea Cup", but was later renamed after the original winning yacht...

and Atlantic
Atlantic (yacht)
The Atlantic was built in 1903 by Townsend and Downey shipyard, and designed by William Gardner, for Wilson Marshall. The three-masted schooner was skippered by Charlie Barr and it held the record for fastest transatlantic passage by a monohull in the 1905 Kaiser's Cup race...

, were rigged as schooners. They were about 152 feet (46 m) in length.

Famous schooners

  • Charming Betsy, the namesake of a famous canon of statutory interpretation.
  • Effie M. Morrissey
    Effie M. Morrissey
    The Effie M. Morrissey was a schooner skippered by Robert Bartlett that made many scientific expeditions to the Arctic, sponsored by American museums, the Explorers Club and the National Geographic Society. It also helped survey the Arctic for the United States Government during World War II...

    , now Ernestina, the oldest surviving Grand Banks
    Grand Banks
    The Grand Banks of Newfoundland are a group of underwater plateaus southeast of Newfoundland on the North American continental shelf. These areas are relatively shallow, ranging from in depth. The cold Labrador Current mixes with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream here.The mixing of these waters...

     fishing schooner
  • America
    America (yacht)
    The America was a 19th century racing yacht that was the first to win the eponymous international sailing trophy now known as the America's Cup; in 1851 the trophy was known as the Royal Yacht Squadron's "One Hundred Guinea Cup", but was later renamed after the original winning yacht...

    , namesake of the America's Cup
    America's Cup
    The America’s Cup is a trophy awarded to the winner of the America's Cup match races between two yachts. One yacht, known as the defender, represents the yacht club that currently holds the America's Cup and the second yacht, known as the challenger, represents the yacht club that is challenging...

  • La Amistad
    La Amistad
    La Amistad was a ship notable as the scene of a revolt by African captives being transported from Havana to Puerto Principe, Cuba. It was a 19th-century two-masted schooner built in Spain and owned by a Spaniard living in Cuba...

    , the site of a famous slave revolt
  • Bluenose
    Bluenose
    Bluenose was a Canadian fishing and racing schooner from Nova Scotia built in 1921. She was later commemorated by a replica Bluenose II built in 1963. A celebrated racing ship and hard-working fishing vessel, Bluenose became a provincial icon for Nova Scotia as well as important Canadian symbol in...

    , a Canadian racing and fishing vessel
  • Clotilde
    Clotilde (slave ship)
    The schooner Clotilde was the last known U.S. slave ship to bring slaves from Africa to the United States, arriving at Mobile Bay in autumn 1859 , with 110-160 slaves. The ship was a two-masted schooner, 86 ft long by 23 ft , and it was burned and scuttled at Mobile Bay, soon after...

    , the last ship to bring African slaves to the United States
  • HMS Halifax
    HMS Halifax (1768)
    HMS Halifax was a schooner built for merchant service at Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1765 and purchased in 1768 by the British Royal Navy for coastal patrol in North America in the years just prior to the American Revolution...

    , built as Nova Scotia Packet in 1765, well documented early colonial schooner.
  • USS Hannah
    USS Hannah (1775)
    The schooner Hannah was the first armed American naval vessel of the American Revolution and is claimed to be the founding vessel of the United States Navy. She was owned by John Glover's in-laws of Marblehead, Massachusetts and was named for his wife, Hannah Glover...

    , the first armed American naval vessel
  • Separación Dominicana
    Separación Dominicana
    The schooner Separación Dominicana was the first armed Dominican naval vessel of the Dominican War of Independence and is claimed to be the founding vessel of the Dominican Navy. She was captained by Commander Juan Bautista Cambiaso.-See also:...

    , the first armed Dominican
    Dominican Navy
    The Navy of the Dominican Republic or Marina de Guerra Dominicana , is one of the three branches of the Military of the Dominican Republic, together with the Army and the Air Force.-History:...

     naval vessel
  • Hispaniola
    Hispaniola
    Hispaniola is a major island in the Caribbean, containing the two sovereign states of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The island is located between the islands of Cuba to the west and Puerto Rico to the east, within the hurricane belt...

    from Robert Louis Stevenson
    Robert Louis Stevenson
    Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde....

    's Treasure Island
    Treasure Island
    Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of "pirates and buried gold". First published as a book on May 23, 1883, it was originally serialized in the children's magazine Young Folks between 1881–82 under the title Treasure Island; or, the...

  • Liverpool Packet
    Liverpool Packet
    Liverpool Packet was a privateer schooner from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, which captured 50 American vessels in the War of 1812. During the war the privateer ship was briefly captured by American privateers, eventually being recaptured by the British...

    , a famous Nova Scotian privateer schooner
  • HMS Pickle
    HMS Pickle (1800)
    HMS Pickle was a topsail schooner of the Royal Navy. She was originally a civilian vessel named Sting. of six guns, that Lord Hugh Seymour purchased to use as an armed tender on the Jamaica Station...

    , carried the news of Nelson's victory and death at Trafalgar back to Britain
  • Pride of Baltimore
    Pride of Baltimore
    The Pride of Baltimore was an authentic reproduction of a 19th-century Baltimore clipper topsail schooner commissioned by citizens of Baltimore, Maryland. It was lost at sea with four of its twelve crew on May 14, 1986...

    , a Baltimore clipper
    Baltimore Clipper
    Baltimore Clipper is the colloquial name for fast sailing ships built on the south-eastern seaboard of the United States of America, especially at the port of Baltimore, Maryland...

     recreation sunk in a white squall
    White squall
    A white squall is a sudden and violent windstorm phenomenon at sea which is not accompanied by the black clouds generally characteristic of a squall. The name refers to the white-capped waves and broken water, its meager warning to any unlucky seaman caught in its path...

  • Thomas W. Lawson
    Thomas W. Lawson (ship)
    The Thomas W. Lawson was a seven-masted, steel-hulled schooner originally planned for the Pacific trade, but then used primarily to haul coal and oil along the East Coast of the United States. Built in 1902, the ship holds the distinction of being the largest schooner and the largest pure sailing...

    , the only seven-masted schooner ever built
  • RYS Royalist
    The Royalist
    The Royalist was a 142-ton topsail schooner, comparable with HMS Pickle, which had brought the news of the Battle of Trafalgar home. She was probably built in Cowes in 1834 as a gentleman's yacht for Rev F.T. Lane, but purchased by James Brooke in 1836 with money he had inherited from his father...

    , sailed to Borneo by James Brooke
    James Brooke
    James, Rajah of Sarawak, KCB was the first White Rajah of Sarawak. His father, Thomas Brooke, was an English Judge Court of Appeal at Bareilly, British India; his mother, Anna Maria, born in Hertfordshire, was the illegitimate daughter of Scottish peer Colonel William Stuart, 9th Lord Blantyre,...

    , enabling him to become 1st White Rajah
    White Rajahs
    White Rajahs refers to a dynasty that founded and ruled the Kingdom of Sarawak from 1841 to 1946, namely the Brookes, who came originally from England. A Rajah is a monarch in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.-Rulers:...

     of Sarawak.
  • We're Here, from Rudyard Kipling
    Rudyard Kipling
    Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

    's book, Captains Courageous
    Captains Courageous
    Captains Courageous is an 1897 novel, by Rudyard Kipling, that follows the adventures of fifteen-year-old Harvey Cheyne Jr., the arrogant and spoiled son of a railroad tycoon...

  • Wyoming
    Wyoming (schooner)
    The Wyoming was a wooden six-masted schooner, the largest wooden schooner ever built. She was built and completed in 1909 by the firm of Percy & Small in Bath, Maine...

    , the largest wooden schooner ever built
  • Rich Harvest
    Offshore off-licence
    The "Offshore Off-Licence" is the name coined by the media to describe a 2004 venture to bring cut-price alcohol and cigarettes to the people of Teesside...

    , a 72' ferrocement staysail schooner used as an "offshore off-licence".

External links

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