Rigging of American Sailing Vessels

Adapted from the Peabody Museum Publication:
RIGS of the Nine Principal Types of American Sailing Vessels.


  • The rigid members which carry the sail of a vessel are called spars. The vertical spars are the masts.
  • Horizontal spars which cross the masts are called yards.
  • A horizontal spar which is anchored on one end and extends the foot of a sail is called a boom.
  • A horizontal spar ( usually angled ) which supports to top of a sail is called a gaff.
sloop The sloop is a small vessel with one mast and a fore and aft rig. The mainsail is attached to a gaff at the head and a boom at the foot and above it a gaff topsail can be set. Before the mast are one or more jibs.
The full rigged brig is a vessel with two masts (fore and main), both of which are square rigged. The foremast is made in three spars and square-rigged. On the mainmast there is a standing gaff to which is rigged a small fore-and-aft sail. brig
brigantine The brigantine is a vessel with two masts whose foremast is made in three spars and square rigged like that of the full-rigged brig. The mainmast, however, is made in two spars and carries a fore-and-aft mainsail, above which are two or three yards on which are carried a square main-topsail and topgallant sail.
The hermaphrodite brig is a vessel whose foremast is identical to the full rigged brig and brigantine and whose mainmast is that of a schooner; the mainmast is made in two spars and carries no yards. hermaphrodite brig
topsail schooner The topsail schooner is a two-masted vessel, the mainmast of which has a fore-and-aft mainsail and gaff topsail identical to those of an ordinary schooner. Both masts are made in two spars, but the lower foremast is a little shorter than the corresponding spar of the mainmast, and the topmast is a little longer.
The schooner is a vessel with two or more fore-and-aft rigged masts. The fore- and mainsails are suspended from gaffs and laced to booms on the foot of the sails. The first schooners had two masts, but the most popular had three. In modern times the number of masts has increased. schooner
bark The bark is a three-masted vessel with the foremast and mainmast square rigged and the mizzenmast fore-and-aft rigged. The mizzenmast carries no yards: there is a hoist-and-lower fore-and-aft sail and a gaff topsail.
The barkentine is a vessel of at least three masts similar to a bark with fore-and-aft rigging of the mainmast. The foremast is made in three spars in square rigging, but the main- and mizzenmast carry hoist-and-lower mainsails and gaff topsails of the schooner type. barkentine
full ship The ship is properly only a vessel of at least three square rigged masts, each composed of a lower-mast, top-mast, and topgallant mast. Each is outfitted with a yard and a full complement of square sails.


PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM

Last Modified November 24, 1996