The Tall Ships Explained

Exciting Rides Into The Past Aboard Schooners , Brigantines , Brigs and Barques !

The Ships

There are many tall ships registered and the listing is available in the Wikipedia .  Here are the ones we sail on every year.


The word barc appears to have come from Celtic languages. The form adopted by English, perhaps from Irish, was bark, while that adopted by French, perhaps from Gaulish, was barge and barque. French influence in England after the Norman Conquest led to the use in English of both words, although their meanings now are not the same. Well before the ninteenth century a barge had become interpreted as a small vessel of coastal or inland waters. Somewhat later, a bark became a sailing vessel of a distinctive rig as detailed below. In Britain, by the mid-nineteenth century, the spelling had taken on the French form of barque. Francis Bacon used this form of the word as early as 1605. Throughout the period of sail, the word was used also as a shortening of the barca-longa of the Mediterranean Sea.

In the eighteenth century, the British Royal Navy used the term bark for a nondescript vessel which did not fit any of its usual categories. Thus, when on the advice of Captain James Cook, a collier was bought into the navy and converted for exploration, she was called HM Bark Endeavour. She happened to be a ship-rigged sailing vessel with a plain bluff bow and a full stern with windows. William Falconer's Dictionary of the Marine defined, Bark, as "a general name given to small ships: it is however peculiarly appropriated by seamen to those which carry three masts without a mizen top-sail. Our northern mariners, who are trained in the coal-trade, apply this distinction to a broad-sterned ship, which carries no ornamental figure on the stem or prow."


In nautical terms, a brig is a vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and maneuverable and were used as both naval war ships and merchant ships. While their use stretches back before the 1600s the most famous period of the brig was during the 1800s when they were involved in famous naval battles such as the Battle of Lake Erie. Because they required a relatively large crew and were difficult to sail into the wind (the latter trait is common to all square-rigged ships), brigs were phased out of use by the arrival of the steam boat. They are not to be confused with a brigantine which has different rigging.


In sailing, a brigantine is a vessel with two masts, only the forward of which is square rigged. Originally the brigantine was a small ship carrying both oars and sails. It was a favorite of Mediterranean pirates and its name comes from the Italian word "brigantino" which meant brigand's ship.[1] In modern parlance, a brigantine is a principally fore-and-aft rig with a square rigged foremast, as opposed to a brig which is square rigged on both masts. In the late 17th century, the Royal Navy used the term brigantine to refer to small two-masted vessels designed to be rowed as well as sailed, rigged with square sails on both masts. By the first half of the 18th century the word had evolved to refer not to a ship type name, but rather to a particular type of rigging: square rigged on the foremast and fore-and-aft rigged on the mainmast.


A schooner is a type of sailing vessel characterized by the use of fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts. Schooners were first used by the Dutch in the 16th or 17th century, and further developed in North America from the early 18th century onwards.

Hawaiian Chieftain

The Chieftan
The Hawaiian Chieftain

Hawaiian Chieftain is the name of a sailing vessel briefly known as the Spirit of Clarinda. Built in 1988 in Lahaina on the island of Maui, the Hawaiian Chieftain is a contemporary interpretation of a traditional design. She is unique with the rig of an 19th century trading vessel and a modern triple keel, shallow draft hull. Drawing only 5.5 feet (1.7 m), she is highly maneuverable in shallow waters.

She was based for many years on the West Coast of California, sailing up and down the coast with the Lady Washington on Voyages of Rediscovery, providing hands-on history programs teaching 4th and 5th graders about the exploration and trade along the West Coast in the 1790s.

In the winter of 2004, she was sold to a Cape Cod sailing program and renamed the Spirit of Larinda; however, due to the unexpected death of her owner, she remained inactive. In October 2005, the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, owner of Lady Washington, purchased her to add to their fleet. Returning to her original identity as the Hawaiian Chieftain, she joined up with the Lady Washington on February 25, 2006 and is now providing joint education and sail training up and down the west coast of the United States.

Lady Washington

Lady Washington
The Lady Washington

The original Lady Washington was a 90-ton trading vessel built in Massachusetts around 1750. She sailed around Cape Horn and participated in the fur and pelt trade with the coastal Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest and in tea and porcelain across the Pacific in China.

She was captained originally by Robert Gray, and later by John Kendrick, former captain of her larger sailing partner, the Columbia Rediviva (Kendrick insisted he and Gray switch vessels mid-journey). Under the command of Kendrick, she was refitted as a brig (she was formerly a sloop).

She became the first American vessel to reach the island of Japan in an unsuccessful attempt to move some unsold pelts. The Lady remained in the Pacific trade and eventually foundered in the Philippines in 1798.

A replica of the Lady Washington was built in Aberdeen, Washington, USA in time for the 1989 Washington State Centennial celebrations. Aberdeen is located on Grays Harbor, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean named for Robert Gray, the man who discovered the harbor as Master of the Columbia.

Named "Washington State's Tall Ship Ambassador", as well as the State Ship,[1]the new Lady Washington has already made plenty of her own history. Operated by a professional and volunteer crew under the auspices of the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, she sails up and down the Pacific coast reaching out to sailors and lubbers of all ages through the romance of the sea in the hope they take a little of her history back with them.

Recently, she has appeared in various films, portraying the brig Enterprise in Star Trek: Generations and the HMS Interceptor in the film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She also provided the basis for the RLS Legacy in the Disney animated feature Treasure Planet.

Today she sails regularly in pair with the "Hawaiian Chieftain", educating students in the history of merchant trading, life of common sailors, and responsibilities of the ship's officers.