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definitions - schooner

schooner (n.)

1.sailing vessel used in former times

2.a large beer glass

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Merriam Webster

SchoonerSchoon"er (?), n. [See the Note below. Cf. Shun.] (Naut.) Originally, a small, sharp-built vessel, with two masts and fore-and-aft rig. Sometimes it carried square topsails on one or both masts and was called a topsail schooner. About 1840, longer vessels with three masts, fore-and-aft rigged, came into use, and since that time vessels with four masts and even with six masts, so rigged, are built. Schooners with more than two masts are designated three-masted schooners, four-masted schooners, etc. See Illustration in Appendix.

☞ The first schooner ever constructed is said to have been built in Gloucester, Massachusetts, about the year 1713, by a Captain Andrew Robinson, and to have received its name from the following trivial circumstance: When the vessel went off the stocks into the water, a bystander cried out,“O, how she scoons!” Robinson replied, “ A scooner let her be;” and, from that time, vessels thus masted and rigged have gone by this name. The word scoon is popularly used in some parts of New England to denote the act of making stones skip along the surface of water. The Scottish scon means the same thing. Both words are probably allied to the Icel. skunda, skynda, to make haste, hurry, AS. scunian to avoid, shun, Prov. E. scun. In the New England records, the word appears to have been originally written scooner. Babson, in his “History of Gloucester,” gives the following extract from a letter written in that place Sept. 25, 1721, by Dr. Moses Prince, brother of the Rev. Thomas Prince, the annalist of New England: “This gentleman (Captain Robinson) was first contriver of schooners, and built the first of that sort about eight years since.”

SchoonerSchoon"er, n. [D.] A large goblet or drinking glass, -- used for lager beer or ale. [U.S.]

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-Adventure (schooner) • Adventuress (schooner) • Alabama (schooner) • Albatross (1920 schooner) • Alexandria (schooner) • American Eagle (schooner) • Appledore II (schooner) • Arbuthnot (schooner) • Argia (schooner) • Armed schooner • Australia (schooner) • BOWDOIN (schooner) • Ballahoo class schooner • Bethune Blackwater Schooner • Betsey (schooner) • Bowdoin (Arctic schooner) • Brilliant (schooner) • Cadboro (schooner) • Californian (schooner) • Clipper City (schooner) • Cuckoo class schooner • Delawana (schooner) • Denis Sullivan (schooner) • Equator (schooner) • Ernestina (Schooner) • Esperanto (schooner) • Evelina M. Goulart (schooner) • Fort Chesterfield (schooner) • Governor Stone (schooner) • Grace Bailey (schooner) • Helen Miller Gould (schooner) • Isaac H. Evans (schooner) • John Palmer (schooner) • L. A. Dunton (schooner) • La Recouvrance (schooner) • Lettie G. Howard (schooner) • Lewis R. French (schooner) • Lotus (schooner) • MERCANTILE (two-masted schooner) • Maple Leaf (schooner) • Mercantile (schooner) • Mystic (schooner) • Ocean Star (schooner) • Paul Palmer (schooner) • Pioneer (schooner) • Prairie Schooner • Reaper (schooner) • Schooner (disambiguation) • Schooner (glass) • Schooner A.W. Greely • Schooner Bayou Control Structure • Schooner Black Douglas • Schooner Channel • Schooner Fare • Schooner Gulch State Beach • Schooner Jenny • Schooner Lager • Schooner Rebecca • Schooner Te Vega • Schooner Virjen de Covadonga • Shenandoah (schooner) • Sir Winston Churchill (schooner) • Sooner Schooner • Stephen Taber (schooner) • Sweepstakes (schooner) • Tennie and Laura (Schooner) • Texan schooner Brutus • Texan schooner Independence • Texan schooner Invincible • Texan schooner Liberty • Texan schooner San Antonio • Texan schooner San Bernard • Texan schooner San Jacinto • Texan schooner Zavala • The Christmas Schooner • The Schooner Exchange v. M'Faddon • Tradewind (schooner) • United States v. Schooner Peggy • United States v. Schooner Sally • Victory Chimes (schooner) • Virginia (schooner) • Wapama (steam schooner) • Western Union (schooner) • Wyoming (schooner) • Zodiac (schooner)

analogical dictionary



  Three-masted schooner Regina Maris
  Schooner rigging:
1) Bowsprit 2) Jib, followed by fore staysail 3) (Fore) gaff topsail 4) Foresail 5) Main gaff topsail 6) Mainsail 7) End of boom

A schooner (play /ˈsknər/) is a type of sailing vessel characterized by the use of fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts with the forward mast being no taller than the rear masts.

Such vessels were first used by the Dutch in the 16th or 17th century (but may not have been called that at the time - see etymology, below). The development of the schooner is connected with that of the Bermuda sloop.[1] In Bermuda, countless vessels of otherwise identical description were built with between one and three masts, carrying Gaff or Bermuda rig. Although Bermudians generally describe all as sloops (see the Bermuda Sloop Foundation´s Spirit of Bermuda), purists elsewhere limit that term to single-masted vessels, those with more than one mast being historically described as Ballyhoo schooners. Schooners were further developed in North America from the early 18th century, and were more widely used in the United States than in any other country.[citation needed].

Two-masted schooners were and are most common. They were popular in trades that required speed and windward ability, such as slaving, privateering, and blockade running. They were also traditional fishing boats, used for offshore fishing. They were favoured as pilot vessels, both in North America and in Northern Europe. In the Chesapeake Bay area several distinctive schooner types evolved, including the Baltimore clipper and the pungy.



According to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, the first vessel called a schooner was built by builder Andrew Robinson and launched in 1713 from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Legend has it that the name was the result of a spectator exclaiming "Oh how she scoons", scoon being similar to scon, a Scots word meaning to skip along the surface of the water.[2][3] Robinson replied, "A schooner let her be."[4] According to Walter William Skeat, the term schooner comes from scoon, while the sch spelling comes from the later adoption of the Dutch and German spellings ("Schoner").

Other sources state the etymology as unknown[5] and uncertain.[6]


  Rig of topsail schooner Shenandoah without sails
  Schooner Governor Ames preparing for launch, Waldoboro, Maine
  1793 newspaper ad for a packet schooner, Chestertown, MD

The schooner sail-plan has two or more masts with the forward mast being shorter or the same height as the rear masts. Most traditionally rigged schooners are gaff rigged, sometimes carrying a square topsail on the foremast and, occasionally, a square fore-course (together with the gaff foresail). Schooners carrying square sails are called square-topsail schooners.

  The only seven-masted schooner ever built, Thomas W. Lawson

A staysail schooner has no foresail, but instead carries a main staysail between the masts in addition to the fore staysail ahead of the foremast. A staysail or gaff topsail schooner may carry a fisherman's staysail (a four-sided fore-and-aft sail) above the main staysail or foresail, or a triangular mule. Multi-masted staysail schooners usually carried a mule above each stay sail except the fore staysail. Gaff-rigged schooners generally carry a triangular fore-and-aft topsail above the gaff sail on the main topmast and sometimes also on the fore topmast (see illustration), called a gaff-topsail schooner. A gaff-rigged schooner that is not set up to carry one or more gaff topsails is sometimes termed a "bare-headed" or "bald-headed" schooner. A schooner with no bowsprit is known as a "knockabout" schooner. A "cat-rigged" schooner not only has no bowsprit but has no headsails, and has the foremast set as far forward as possible.[7]

The schooner may be distinguished from the ketch by the placement of the mainsail. On the ketch, the mainsail is flown from the most forward mast; thus it is the main-mast, and the other mast is the mizzen-mast. A two-masted schooner has the mainsail on the aft mast, and therefore the other mast is the fore-mast.

There was no set number of masts for a schooner. A small schooner has two or three masts, but they were built with as many as six (e.g. the wooden six-masted Wyoming) or seven masts to carry a larger volume of cargo. The only seven-masted (steel hulled) schooner, the Thomas W. Lawson, was built in 1902, with a length of 395 ft (120 m), the top of the tallest mast being 155 feet (47 m) above deck, and carrying 25 sails with 43,000 sq ft (4,000 m2) of total sail area. It was manned by a crew of only sixteen. A two or three masted schooner is quite maneuverable and can be sailed by a smaller crew than some other sailing vessels. The larger multi-masted schooners were somewhat unmanageable and the rig was largely a cost-cutting measure introduced towards the end of the days of sail.

Essex, Massachusetts was the most significant shipbuilding center for schooners.[citation needed]. By the 1850s, over 50 vessels a year were being launched from 15 shipyards and Essex became recognized worldwide as North America’s center for fishing schooner construction. In total, Essex launched over 4,000 schooners, most headed for the Gloucester, Massachusetts fishing industry.[8] Bath, Maine was another notable center, which during much of the nineteenth century had more than a dozen yards working at a time, and from 1781 to 1892 launched 1352 schooners,[9] including the Wyoming.


Schooners were used to carry cargo in many different environments, from ocean voyages to coastal runs and on large inland bodies of water. They were popular in North America, and in their heyday during the late 19th century over 2,000 schooners carried cargo back and forth across the Great Lakes. Three-masted "terns" were a favourite rig of Canada's Maritime Provinces. The scow schooner, which used a schooner rig on a flat-bottomed, blunt-ended scow hull, was popular in North America for coastal and river transport.

Schooners were used in North American fishing, especially the Grand Banks fishery. Some Banks fishing schooners such as Bluenose also became famous racers.

Two of the most famous racing yachts, America and Atlantic, were rigged as schooners. They were about 152 feet (46 m) in length.

  Famous schooners


  See also


  1. ^ An excerpt from "Tidewater Triumph", by Geoffrey Footner, which discusses the influence of Bermudian shipbuilders on the design of Chesapeake vessels.
  2. ^ Jamieson, John (1825). Supplement to the Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language. Edinburgh University Press. p. 349. http://books.google.com/?id=amAJAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA349&lpg=PA349&dq=jamieson+%22to+skip+in+the+manner+described%22#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition 1989. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Editors John Simpson and Edmund Weiner. Volume 14, page 641
  4. ^ Babson, John. History of the Town of Gloucester, Cape Ann, including the town of Rockport. 1860. p. 251–252.
  5. ^ Merriam-Webster: schooner
  6. ^ Dictionary.com: schooner
  7. ^ Collins, Joseph William, "The Evolution of the Fishing Schooner" in Oppel, Frank, ed. Tales of the New England Coast, Book Sales, Inc., Secaucus, New Jersey, 1985. p.121
  8. ^ has information about shipbuilding in Essex
  9. ^ Reed, Parker McCobb. History of Bath and environs, Sagadahoc County, Maine: 1607–1894. Portland, Maine: Lakeside Press, 1894. page 179.

  External links



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