“From the Bridge”

Schooners as the one on the cover of “Salty & Saucy Maine” 

A schooner is a sailing vessel with two or more masts having fore and aft rigging. Usually the foremast of a schooner is shorter than the mainmast. These ships were first designed and used in Holland during the 16th or 17th century, however schooners became popular and were most frequently used along the coast of New England. They were known for their ease of handling, and being smaller were soon adopted for use as coastwise cargo vessels and fishing boats. Because of their speed and agility, they were also popular and used by pirates in the Caribbean. Schooners were reasonably maneuverable and could be handled by a smaller crew than most sailing ships. Because of their size, they usually drew less water than most sailing ships, thus allowing them to sail in relatively shallow water, while still carrying enough cannons to present a threat to most merchant vessels prior to the 20th century.

Schooners with three masts were first introduced around 1800. In the late 19th century, additional masts were added and some schooners were built with as many as six masts. The only seven-masted schooner, the ill-fated steel-hulled Thomas W. Lawson was built in 1902. The larger schooners only caught on towards the end of the days of sail ships but never replaced the larger square riggers and clipper ships that remained more popular as deep sea cargo vessels.

Photo Caption: A classic schooner (See picture on Facebook!)

My popular book Salty & Saucy Maine – Sea Stories from Castine tells many stories of my years at Maine Maritime Academy and certainly demonstrates that life should be lived to the fullest! It is rapidly becoming the most talked about book “Down East!”