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(Dutch schooner, German schouer, Danish skonnert, Spanish and Portuguese escaña), all possibly deriving from the Scottish verb to ‘scon’ or ‘scoon’, to skip over the water like a flat stone. The name is said to have come from a chance remark ‘there she scoons’ from a spectator at the launch of the first vessel of the type at Gloucester, Mass., in 1713. There is some evidence that the schooner did originate in North America and probably at Gloucester.

A typical schooner has a fore-and-aft rig on two or more masts. The type originally carried square topsails on the foremast, though later, with the advance in rig designs, these were changed to jib-headed or jackyard topsails. Yachts rigged as schooners generally set Bermudan sails and so have no topsails. Properly speaking, a schooner has two masts only, with the mainmast taller than the foremast, but three-masted, four-masted, and five-masted schooners have been built, and one, the Thomas W. Lawson, the largest schooner ever built, had seven. These were commercial schooners, largely used in the coasting trade and also in local fisheries on the Grand Banks, their attraction to their owners being that they required a smaller crew than a square-rigged vessel of comparable size.

The last remaining wooden-hulled topsail schooner in Britain is the three-masted 30-metre (100-ft) Kathleen & May, based at Bideford, north Devon. Built in 1900 she worked as a trading schooner until the 1960s and is still sailing.

See also fram.

See also fram.

Gaff schooner rig

Subjects: Maritime History.

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