Exotic and Old Sail Names

There are many different sail names, each of which is a different type of sail.

There are some very exotic sails that are used across the world and in third world countries, where advanced materials used in the manufacture of sails are not available. There are also the sails used on old sailing ships such as those used between the 16th and 19th century during the Age of Sail.

The sails used on old square rigged ships were put on different types of masts, which on a regular 3 mast ship, were called: the fore mast (the front mast at the bow of the ship and was the second tallest), the main mast (the central mast, which was also the tallest) and the mizzen mast (the back mast at the stern of the ship and was the smallest mast).

The sails were then named according to their type and on which mast they were on (for instance a course on the main mast, would be called the main-course).

On this page, I will attempt to describe each sail, which type of boat it is used on and how it is used.

Square Rigged Ships

  • Course: The principal sail on a mast and is the largest and lowest sail on each mast of the ship.
  • Topsail: The sail above the course on the mast.
  • Topgallant: The sail above the topsail on the mast. Sometimes the sails were divided into an upper topgalant and a lower topgalant.
  • Royal: A small sail above the topgallant and was used in quite light winds. They were only usually found on larger ships, which had masts that could accommodate the extra material. They were introduced in the 18th century.
  • Skysail: A very small sail above the royal
  • Moonsail: An unusual sail that was above the skysail and not often used except in extraordinary circumstances when speed was of the essence.

Exotic Ships

  • Crab Claw: A triangular sail with spars along the upper and lower edges, which is used in many traditional pacific cultures.
  • Lanteen: A triangular sail with a boom attached at an angle across the sail's middle. Very much like a boat with a single large genoa. Common in old times in the Mediterranean sea by Arab traders.

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