Which Boat is That?


Sailboat Identification 1: Mast Q&A


Do the masts have horizontal spars?

If the masts carry horizontal spars ("yards") which are perpendicular ("square") to the keel of the ship, it is "Square Rigged"

These yards usually carry rectangular sails which are most efficient when running downwind. Usually used only on large ships like you see in movies.

See Square Rigged


Most boats today are are not Square Rigged. They are "fore-and-aft rigged", where the sails run primarily along the keel from bow to stern. Let's look at them.


Does it have only one mast?

It is a Sloop (or a Cutter), a common and easy to handle type.

See Sloops


Next, let's look at boats that have two masts.


Is the tallest mast ("mainmast") in the rear?

The mainmast is the tallest mast on a boat. If it is in the rear of a two-masted vessel, it is a Schooner.

See Schooners


If the tallest mast is not in the rear, it must be in the front! Let's look at the size and position of the smaller aft mast, the "mizzenmast".


Is the mizzenmast pretty small?

If the mizzenmast is pretty small, and set well aft in the boat (behind the tiller), it is a Yawl. A Yawl's mizzensail frequently overhangs the water behind the boat by a large amount.

See Yawls


Is the mizzenmast fairly tall?

If the mizzenmast is fairly tall, and set about 2/3 of the way back in the boat, (in front of the tiller) it is a Ketch. A ketch's mizzensail seldom overhangs the water behind the boat, or does so by just a little bit.

See Ketchs

What are all those symbols by the boats?

Some or all of the following symbols may appear over the boat's picture: