General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Sail ho! What kind of boat is here in the bay?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (32463points) September 30th, 2013

I drove down the street to pick up one of the daughters from high school today, and as always, there’s an unobstructed view of part of the bay.

There in the middle of my view was a lovely two-masted sailing vessel. I was about a mile from the water, and I’m not good at judging sizes. Thus, I cannot give an estimate of its length.

It had two upright masts without any beams that would be necessary for square sails. While its sails were not visible, I believe they must be triangular.

It was long and low in the water. It was not a large vessel.

Wikipedia had this picture of a schooner, and I’m tempted to call it that. Could I be right?

When is it proper to call something a boat and when a ship?

It is a pretty thing and brightened my day.

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26 Answers

janbb's avatar

If the mast in front was taller, it was a ketch. If the mast in back was taller, it was a yawl..

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Thank you, @janbb. I believe it’s a Bermuda-rigged ketch. I’ve never even heard these terms, being the land-lubber that I am.

janbb's avatar

Aargh – it be all right, laddie! Sure and you’re a knucklehead but you do know your Shakespeare.

CWOTUS's avatar

Actually, the ketch / yawl distinction is somewhat different from that, @janbb.

It’s the placement of the mizzen mast (the rear mast) in relation to the tiller or wheel that determines whether it’s a ketch or yawl. If the mizzen mast is forward of the wheel or tiller (whatever is used to steer the boat), then it’s a ketch. If the mizzen mast is aft of the steering station, then it’s a yawl. At least, that’s how it goes with sloop-rigged boats. I don’t know schooners as well as sloops.

Schooners are generally gaff-rigged. What that means is that they have a spar at the top of the main sails, making them a sort of skewed trapezoidal shape (not triangular) when raised. They may also fly topsails above the mains (as in your drawing, where sails 3 & 5 are topsails). Those would generally be flown only in fair weather with relatively light winds.

Both schooners and sloops are fore-and-aft rigged, meaning that the sails are generally raised and rigged along the centerline of the boat. (Spinnakers, the balloon-shaped and often very colorful light sails flown at the bow of some boats while on broad reaches or runs, are an exception to that rule. Although the sail is still raised to a point at the top of the mast, which is also along the boat’s centerline, the sail itself is designed to be more or less athwart the beam.)

There aren’t a lot of square-rigged ships (or boats) these days, because in general the old-fashioned rig from centuries ago is so labor-intensive that no one can afford to hire the crew for a working ship, and pleasure boat owners prefer somewhat more privacy than a huge crew affords. There is a remarkable and beautiful exception to that rule, though, in the ultra-modern, ultra-sleek and ultra-high tech Maltese Falcon. Many national navies, coast guards and merchant marine colleges do own, maintain and operate square-rigged ships as training vessels for their students and cadets. The US Coast Guard barque Eagle is one such.

In general, I think the dividing line between “ship” and “boat” often depends upon purpose. Working vessels are more apt to be “ships”. Pleasure vessels of whatever size are generally going to be considered “boats”. The US Navy until recently always called submarines “boats”. Hence, Groton, Connecticut’s “Electric Boat Company”, where many of them originate.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Ah, Cyanotic Wasp to the rescue. Thank you for that very informative lesson in the rigging of boats and ships. I also enjoyed the pictures. The Eagle is a very beautiful vessel.

ETpro's avatar

I was going to chime in but it looks like @CWOTUS has covered the question admirably so I’ll ketch yawl later.

gailcalled's avatar

@janbb: And if the masts are of equal heights, its a kvetch.

janbb's avatar

@CWOTUS I was thinking of sending this to you rather than taking the plunge myself.

@gailcalled It’s nice to have you back with your pun-ishing wit.

gailcalled's avatar

^^—-Thanks. I am just about to put my new knee on Craig’s List. Discount for family and friends.—

DWW25921's avatar

I reckon you’re probably right.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I went down to the bay today and had a look. It’s a gorgeous boat. It’s too far out for me to see where the steering wheel might be. There is a cabin between the masts, which are amazingly tall. I do wish I was good at estimating lengths and heights.

I could see people on the deck. If I had to guess given the size of the figures on the deck, the mast in the front of the boat was at least 30 feet high. I was enormously tall.

It is definitely Bermuda-rigging. There were no other beams than the mast and the lower ones. It had a long beam at the bow, and I could see ropes there obviously for sails.

The whole boat was very long. Again, I can’t guess at its length. I want to, but I know I would be wrong.

I took pictures with my phone, but they are extremely poor quality.

CWOTUS's avatar

If the sails are down, then you won’t be able to tell (from that alone) if it’s a gaff rig or not, because they’ll be down on the lower spars (the booms) and lashed in place there with the sails. Typically, the main sails on gaff rigs are pretty ginormous, since they are that trapezoidal shape instead of triangular. But when the sails are raised, you’d be able to see the gaff at the top pretty clearly, and that distinctive shape to those sails. (The foresails won’t tell you much, since those are always triangular, except for the aforementioned spinnaker (which I’ve never seen a schooner fly, anyway).

One other giveaway to whether it’s a schooner or not, if you can see from the far distance, is that the topmast on a schooner may be an entirely separate spar, lashed in place and removable. A sloop’s mast is always one piece, a single continuous member. If you notice the photo in the top link here about the Rose Dorothea, which “won a race even with a broken foretopmast”, that would never happen with a sloop rig. A sloop who lost its mast at nearly any point, even at the top, would be badly crippled, and could only then sail under a severe jury rig. On the schooner, they’d simply shorten sail and press on.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

You are correct, @CWOTUS. I can’t tell if it’s gaff rigging. I’m looking at my fuzzy picture on my phone, and I can’t see any indication that the mast is not one single piece. I could see the masts clearly, and I remember how straight and strong they appeared.

ETpro's avatar

Call your local TV news station. If they haven’t already run a piece on a boat that interesting, they will probably chopper out with a camera crew, get some good close-ups and let everybody know on the 6 o’clock news who is in port just now.

janbb's avatar

@CWOTUS You had me at “single continuous member.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Delightful! A friend got a good picture

janbb's avatar

WAs told I did not have permission to view the album.

CWOTUS's avatar

That is indeed a lovely boat, @Hawaii_Jake. It’s a mega-yacht, for sure, probably 100’-plus. I’d say that the masts are at least 110’ tall. I can’t quite make out the ensign (flag) flying at the stern; that might help to determine its nationality, and then identify it.

It does appear to be a ketch rig. At the base of the masts, just above the booms, you can see the triangle of the sails’ heads attached to the halyards. No gaffs. A gaff-rigged sail doesn’t have a “head” per se, as these sails obviously do.

What an extraordinary and lovely boat. Thanks for sharing.

Incidentally, there is a listing of many of the world’s premier sailing yachts, right here*. I’m sure it’s not a perfectly complete listing, but boats like that do tend to attract a lot of attention from aficionados, as you might expect.

* 110 ketches are listed. I decided not to go through the whole list.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Thank you very much, @CWOTUS. You see why I was so reluctant to name a measurement. I mistakenly thought the masts were only 30’ tall, but now that I can see how large they are in relation to the boat, I agree they are as tall as 110’.

The ensign has the Union Jack in the corner and then some unidentifiable insignia on a red field. There was a fuzzy picture of it from my friend, but I didn’t share it because the insignia on the red field is behind a fold in the ensign and is too fuzzy to see at all.

janbb's avatar

Yup, now I see it.

“My, she is yar.”

gailcalled's avatar

So,@janbb is allowed to see the photo and I am not? (Actually, I got a peek on FB. It is stunning.)

CWOTUS's avatar

I think I may have just seen another reference to your boat, @Hawaii_Jake. (I’m sorry that it couldn’t have been a nicer context.)

But at least now we have a name and size, and I was off by an order of magnitude. For those who don’t care to click the link, the boat that @Hawaii_Jake first noted seems to be the yacht Hetairos, at 236’ in length. (I wasn’t looking for this, but I get the Sailing Anarchy feeds on my Facebook newsfeed, so the photo jumped out at me.)

janbb's avatar

Ooh – I don’t like that bow.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@CWOTUS That’s her, and I’m sorry she’s so unfriendly. 236’? Crickey, she’s gargantuan.

CWOTUS's avatar

When I got home this evening, I did look her up, and she’s quite a beauty. (Interestingly, if you google “yacht Hetairos” you’ll find that there is another green sailing yacht, also a ketch and with a somewhat similar sail plan, but ten years older and almost 100’ shorter (but still a super-yacht in her own right) with the same name. Obviously, not the same boat, though.

In any case, I don’t think that I’d have a problem with a crew that was determined to keep uninvited guests at bay. Owners of boats such as this have a problem – maybe more of us would like to have the problem! – of being so attractive, because of the boat itself and because of the wealth and likely celebrity attached to the owner, that it can be very difficult to maintain privacy and, sadly these days, occasional attackers.

As to her looks, @janbb, it would depend to me on how she handles. If she handles well, then I could grow to love that nose. As it is, I find it… striking. That’s a word that I taught my kids to use when someone’s looks, such as a spouse’s godawful haircut, for example, was just so outrĂ© that they couldn’t wrap their minds around it and didn’t care to blurt out, “How awful!” I think I could love that boat.

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