Full-rigged ship

A vessel that has at least three masts, all of them fully square rigged is called a full-rigged ship or just a ship. Most such ships also have a small gaff sail on their sternmost mast.

Note that usage of the term ship often leads to confusion because any large vessel is commonly regarded a ship, although strictly speaking only full-rigged ships are ships.

The ship on the picture is perhaps the most well-known full-rigged ship ever, the Cutty Sark.

The full-rigged ship was a very common deep-water cargo-carrier in the 19th century. By far most of them had three masts, but many four-masted ships were built at the end of the 19th century. Many of them were later converted to four-masted barques because it was realized that a barque in most cases is a better sailer, is cheaper to maintain, and can be handled by a smaller crew.

Only one five-masted full-rigged ship was built, the Preussen.

The full-rigged ship has also been very popular for school ships because it's the most complicated type of rigging and there is a lot of work to do with all the square sails. There are a few such fine full-rigged ships that are still sailing, for example the Danish ships Georg Stage and Danmark and the Norwegian Sørlandet and Christian Radich.


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