How To Tell The Difference Between A Ketch And A Schooner

A Definitive Guide

Sloops and cutters.


Let’s start off with the basics. Most sailing vessels have only one mast and would be classed as sloops or cutters. A sloop has one headsail, a cutter has two or more. Sloops and cutters can be either gaff rigged like the drawing here or bermudan rigged like most yachts. The majority of  yachts today will be bermudan sloops.

Where’s the mizzen mast?
In most cases it’s the after-most mast. A ketch or yawl has a main mast and a mizzen mast but on a two masted schooner or square rigger such as a brig or brigantine the masts are called the fore mast and main mast.
On three masted square riggers and schooners the mizzen is the after-most mast. More than three masts? Lets not go there just now…

Line drawing of a sloop

Ketches and Yawls

A ketch has two masts with the mizzen mast stepped before the rudder head. If the mast is stepped aft of the rudder head the boat becomes technically a yawl not a ketch.
Yawl rig tends to be used on smaller boats, ketch rig is often used on larger vessels, notably the Brixham trawlers and trading ketches of the last century.
The mizzen sail in a ketch is a driving sail, in a yawl it is more of a balancing sail. The mizzen sail is always is smaller, often much smaller than the mainsail. If it was the same size or larger the boat would be a schooner.

Line drawing of a ketch

Schooners

Schooners have two or more masts.
The defining thing for a schooner is that the after masts must be the same height or greater than the foremast.
Two masted schooners are simply called schooners, schooners with more than two masts are called by the number of masts they have unless that is they are a topsail schooner. The American seven masted schooner, the Thomas Lawson had more masts than any other schooner but was the only one of its kind.

When Does A Schooner Become A Topsail Schooner?
Any time a schooner has a square topsail it becomes a topsail schooner. They were once common in the UK and were just called schooners, a schooner without square topsails was called a fore and aft schooner. In America the situation was reversed and  the standard schooner did not carry square topsails.

Line drawing of a schooner

Sprit Rig

Sprit rig is usually reserved for dinghies but is also used on the Thames barges.
The sprit is the spar that runs diagonally across the largest sail. This rig is not ideal in a big seaway because the sprit cannot be lowered and could become an unmanageable weight aloft. In coastal waters it is an extremely handy rig, the topsail can catch a high up breeze above river banks and the mainsail can be quickly brailed up to the sprit if bit of a breeze gets up (it’s like drawing a large curtain)
If you want to know more about its use in dinghies there is an article on our web site.

Line drawing of a Thames Barge

Articles About Learning To Sail A Schooner

Enough Reading About it? Why Not Sail On A Schooner

Voyages In Date Order

Uk Sailing weekends on the schooner TrinovanteSchoonerSail

Tall Ships Sailing Weekend UK

3 Nights, 15th May to 18th May 2020 £440
A weekend on the water in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Limited Spaces Remaining
View of waves sailing offshore to Norway.SchoonerSail

UK To Norway Sailing Holiday Offshore - Ipswich To Bergen

14 Nights 23rd May To 6th June £1445
An offshore voyage to the fjords and islands of Norway

Limited Spaces Remaining

The bowsprit of a schooner, Hardanger Fjord, Norway.SchoonerSail

Norway Sailing Holiday Fjords & Islands - Bergen To Stavanger

10th June to 16th June 2020 £895
Sail in the Fjords of Norway from Bergen to Stavanger
One Space Only
The schooner Trinovante sailing amongst small islands, bowsprit view.SchoonerSail

Norway Sailing Holiday - Stavanger To Sandefjord

10 Nights, 20th June to 30th June 2020 £1395
Coastal sailing with stunning scenery on the south coast of Norway
Sailing through the Swedish islands near GothenburgSchoonerSail

Norway To Sweden Sailing Holiday - Sandefjord To Gothenburg

6 Nights 5th July to 11th July 2020 £855
Coastal sailing with stunning scenery through Sweden's Bohuslän coastal archipelago
Limited Spaces Remaining
Kronborg Castle, Helsingor, Denmark seen from the deck of a sailing shipSchoonerSail

Sweden To Denmark Sailing Holiday - Gothenburg To Copenhagen

6 Nights, 15th July to 21st July 2020 £855
Sail the Swedish islands to wonderful Copenhagen.
Limited Spaces Remaining
Ships moored at Nyhavn, Copenhagen DenmarkSchoonerSail

Denmark To Germany Sailing Holiday - Copenhagen To Kiel

7 Nights, 25th July To 1st August 2020 £925
Sail the Danish Islands to Germany.
The Parade Of Sail, at the start of Sail Amsterdam, the largest sail festival in EuropeSchoonerSail

Sail Amsterdam Festival - Kiel To Amsterdam

5th Aug to 13th Aug 2020 £1095
Transit the Kiel canal, sail to Ijmuiden to join Europes largest Festival Of Sail
Limited Spaces Remaining
Trinovante alongside the quay at Hoorn, NetherlandsSchoonerSail

Netherlands Sailing Holiday - Amsterdam to Den Helder

15th August to 22nd August 2020 £850
Sheltered water coastal sailing to the beautiful old seaports of the Ijsselmeer
Limited Spaces Remaining
A view of Felixstowe Port through the booms of a sailing shipSchoonerSail

Netherlands To UK Sailing Holiday - Den Helder To Ipswich.

24th Aug To 31st Aug £755
Sail on an offshore voyage to the Thames Estuary in the UK
The Waverly paddle steamer ship heading under Tower Bridge LondonSchoonerSail

UK Sailing Holiday - Ipswich To London

5th September to 9th September 2020 £545
Sail the rural rivers of the Thames Estuary and sail up the Thames to Tower Bridge.