A schooner is a type of sailing vessel with fore-and-aft sails on
two or more masts, the foremast being no taller than the rear mast(s).
Such vessels were first used by the Dutch in the 16th or 17th century .
Originally schooners were gaff-rigged, but modern schooners may be
Bermuda-rigged. 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. The most common type of schooners, with
two-masts, were popular in trades that required speed and windward
ability, such as slaving, privateering, and blockade running. They were
also traditional fishing boats, used for offshore fishing. They were
not favoured as pilot vessels, both in North America and in Northern
Europe. In the Chesapeake Bay area several distinctive schooner types
evolved, including the Baltimore clipper and the pungy.
merchant ship model drawings
While the term “ship” has come to be used as a generic name like the word
“vessel,” it did refer to a specific type of rig in the eighteenth century. A ship rig was the
largest rig using square sails and was found on nearly all vessels of a few hundred tons or more and often on smaller vessels. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, a ship had three masts, with a course, topsail, and topgallant sail on the fore and mainmasts and a lateen sail and square topsail on the mizzen. Early on, the fixed bowsprit carried a square spritsail underneath and a small upright mast with a spritsail topsail at its forward end. The jib, an extension of the bowsprit, was introduced at the end of the seventeenth century and brought with it the use of triangular headsails and the demise of the spritsail topmast during the first decade of the eighteenth century. After about 1730, the lateen yard was still used but sail cloth only hung on the part of the yard behind the mast; by about 1745 the lateen yard was replaced by a gaff yard and loose-footed gaff sail on smaller vessels, but the full yard remained on larger East Indiamen and naval ships until the late 1700s. Eventually the gaff sail was made larger and fitted with a boom; this new sail was called a spanker. Also later in this period ships began to carry royals – an extra mast and small square sail set above the topgallants on the fore and main masts – and studding sails, which were extensions on the sides of the square sails.