1) Bowsprit2) Jib, followed by fore staysail3) (Fore) gaff topsail4) Foresail5) Main gaff topsail6) Mainsail7) End of boom] A schooner (pronEng|ˈskuːnɚ) is a type of sailing vessel characterized by the use of fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts. Schooners were first used by the Dutch in the 16th or 17th century, and further developed in North America from the early 18th century onwards.


According to the 1911 "Encyclopædia Britannica", the first ship called a schooner was built by builder Andrew Robinson and launched in 1713 from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Legend has it that the name "schooner" was the result of a spectator exclaiming "Oh how she scoons", "scoon" being a Scots word meaning to skip or skim over the water. Robinson replied, "A schooner let her be." [Babson, John. "History of the Town of Gloucester, Cape Ann, including the town of Rockport". 1860. p. 251–252.] According to Walter William Skeat, the term "schooner" comes from the word "scoon", while the "sch" spelling comes from the later adoption of the Dutch and German spellings.


The schooner sail-plan has two or more masts with the forward mast being shorter or the same height as the rear masts. Most traditionally rigged schooners are gaff rigged, sometimes carrying a square topsail on the foremast and, occasionally, a square fore-course (together with the gaff foresail). Schooners carrying square sails are called square-topsail schooners.

Modern schooners may be Marconi, or Bermuda, rigged. In Bermuda, Bermuda rigged schooners had appeared by the early 19th century, and were known as 'Ballyhoo schooners'. Some Bermudian schooners of this period, such as the HMS "Pickle", are historically referred to as Bermuda sloops, despite having a schooner rig. Some schooner yachts are Bermuda rigged on the mainmast and gaff rigged on the foremast. A staysail schooner has no foresail, but instead carries a main staysail 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 (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.

The schooner may be distinguished from the ketch by the placement of the mainsail. 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.

Schooners were more widely used in the United States than in any other country.Fact|date=August 2008 Two masted schooners were and are most common. They were popular in trades that required speed and windward ability, such as slaving, privateering, blockade running and offshore fishing. They also came to be favoured as pilot vessels, both in the United States and in Northern Europe. In the Chesapeake Bay area several distinctive schooner types evolved, including the Baltimore clipper and the pungy.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") or seven masts to carry a larger volume of cargo. The only seven-masted (steel hulled) schooner, the "Thomas W. Lawson", was built in 1902, with a length of 395 ft (120 m), the top of the tallest mast being convert|155|ft|m|0 above deck, and carrying 25 sails with 43,000 ft² (4,000 m²) of total sail area. 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 was the most significant shipbuilding center for schooners.Fact|date=August 2008. 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 fishing industry. [ has information about shipbuilding in Essex]


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. Three-masted "terns" were a favourite rig of Canada's Maritime Provinces. The scow schooner, which used a schooner rig on a flat-bottomed, blunt-ended scow hull, were popular in North America for coastal and river transport.

Three of the most famous racing yachts, "America", "Atlantic", and "Bluenose", were schooners.

Famous schooners

* "America", namesake of the America's Cup
* "La Amistad", site of a famous slave revolt
* "Bluenose", a Canadian racing and fishing vessel
* USS "Hannah", first armed American naval vessel
* "Liverpool Packet", famous Nova Scotian privateer schooner
* "Pride of Baltimore", a Baltimore clipper recreation sunk in a white squall
* "Thomas W. Lawson", the only seven-masted schooner ever built
* "Wyoming", the largest wooden schooner ever built


ee also

*List of schooners


External links

* [ directory of schooner websites]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • schooner — [ skunɶr; ʃunɶr ] n. m. • scooner 1751; mot angl. ♦ Anciennt Petit navire à deux mâts, goélette utilisée pour la pêche et le commerce. « Je m embarquai sur le schooner américain » (Chateaubriand). ● schooner nom masculin (anglais schooner)… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Schooner — Schoon er, n. [See the Note below. Cf. {Shun}.] (Naut.) Originally, a small, sharp built vessel, with two masts and fore and aft rig. Sometimes it carried square topsails on one or both masts and was called a {topsail schooner}. About 1840,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • schooner — (n.) 1716, perhaps from a New England verb related to Scottish scon to send over water, to skip stones. Skeat relates this dialectal verb to shunt. Spelling probably influenced by Dutch, but Du. schoener is a loan word from English, as are Ger.… …   Etymology dictionary

  • schooner — [SCÚNĂR] s. n. / scúnă s. f. navă cu vele, cu două catarge înclinate, asemănătoare cu goeleta, folosită pentru pescuit şi cabotaj. (< engl., fr. schooner) Trimis de raduborza, 28.05.2008. Sursa: MDN …   Dicționar Român

  • schooner — ☆ schooner [sko͞o′nər ] n. [< ? Scot dial. scun, to skip a flat stone across water] 1. a sailing vessel with two or more masts, rigged fore and aft 2. short for PRAIRIE SCHOONER 3. a large beer glass, usually holding a pint …   English World dictionary

  • Schooner — Schoon er, n. [D.] A large goblet or drinking glass, used for lager beer or ale. [U.S.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Schooner — (v. engl.), ein zweimastiges Fahrzeug von 100 u. mehr Lasten, lang u. schmal, hat am großen Mast ein Gieksegel u. am Fockmast ein Gafselsegel, vor demselben aber eine Breesocke u. einige dreieckige Segel auf dem Bugspriet, zu denen noch kleine… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Schooner — Schooner, s. Schoner …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Schooner — Schooner, Segelschiff mit zwei Masten mit je einer Stenge sowie Gaffelsegel und Gaffeltopsegel; s. Segelschiffstypen …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik

  • Schooner — Schooner, Schiff, s. Schoner …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Schooner — Schooner, langes, schmales, 2mastiges Schiff, zum Schnellsegeln eingerichtet; eine Art des S. ist die Goelette …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

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