The schooner is a fore-and-aft rigged vessel with at least two masts, named the fore and the main mast.

According to the tradition the word schooner was first used in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1713 when a new vessel was launched at the shipyard of Andrew Robinson. It has been said that when the vessel entered the water that a spectator remarked Oh, how she scoons!, upon which Robinson replied: A scooner let her be. True or not, fore-and-aft vessels of the schooner type had been built before that date and are illustrated in Dutch paitings from the early 17th century.

Three-masted Schooners:

The first three-masted schhoners appeared around 1800. This type of schooners are too numerous to enumerate and the few which are mentioned below should not be considered as representiative for the type.

A fore-and aft three-masted schooner, which is called a tern schooner in North America, is sometimes called a "111" in Sweden.

Year Name GRT Material Type Owner
1874 Sunbeam 334 composite top-sail schooner Lord Brassey
1929 Sunbeam II 505 steel top-sail schooner Walter Runciman
1929 Yngve 96,71 wood tern schooner Later the Alexandria

Four-masted Schooners:

The first four-masted schooner was a re-builing in 1864 of the 344 ton barge Victoria in San Francisco. Steamer hulls seemes to have made excellect sailing ships and in 1879 the steamer Weybosset was converted into a four-masted schooner. The following year the first four-masted schooner was built on the American East Coast. During the years 1864 to 1904 130 four-masted schooners were built on the American Pacific Coast. According to the late John Lyman around 130 four-masted schooners were built on the American East Coast alone during the years 1917-1920.

Five-masted Schooners:

From information published by John Lyman and D.R. MacGregor we find that 56 five-masted schooners were built on the US East Coast during 1888-1920, while on the West Coast 9 were built during 1888-1916, 22 in 1917 and 57 in 1918.
Five-masted Schooners
A list of 75 five-masted schooners built between 1896 and 1922.
Five-masted Schooners with Auxiliary Machinery
Of this list of 71 five-masted schooners with aux. machinery which were built in 1916-1918, the French Government ordered 40 five-masted schooners equipped with auxiliary steam machinery to be built in Oregon and Washington.

Six-masted schooners:

Re-rigged ships:

Seven-masted schooner

A proposal for building an eight-masted schooner of steel was published in the Nautical Gazette for December 1901, in an arcticle which discussed the suitability of wood and steel as material for shipbuilding. Its dimensions were to be 400'×52'×30'. The following year Bowdoin B. Crowninshield designed the only seven-masted schooner ever built, The suitablity of the large New England schooners for trans-Atlantic trade was discussed in an article in the Mariner's Mirror Vol. 61 (1975). It was observed that compared with square-rigged ships, a large proportion of the fore-and-aft schooners were lost at sea. The conclusion was that when sailing free in a following sea, the heavy unsupported booms and gaffs subjected a long wooden hull to undue stresses.


Updated 1998-12-30 by Lars Bruzelius

Sjöhistoriska Samfundet | The Maritime History Virtual Archives .

Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.