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Revised 2010-06-08

Names of Masts & Sails

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A studding sail or studsail is a sail used to increase the sail area of a square rigged vessel in light winds. Traditionally pronounced stuns'l, it is an extra sail hoisted alongside a square-rigged sail on an extension of its yardarm. It is named by prefixing the word studding to the name of the working sail alongside which it is set.

Studding sail or Stuns'l
Masts & Sails

Top. A platform enclosing the head of each mast of a sailing ship, to which the topmast rigging is attached.

A general description of the masts, yards, and sails, working from the bow to the stern and from the deck up.

The jib* boom to which is attached the jib, a staysail†.

* The origin of jib is uncertain.
† So called because they are attached to stays, the lines which support the masts longitudinally forward. They are supported aft by backstays.

The jib boom is attached to the bowsprit* to which is attached the spritsail yard to which is attached the spritsail. The topmast stay is also attached to the bowsprit and to it is attached the topmast staysail.

The sprit comes from an Old English word spreot which meant pole.

Then we have the foremast, to which is attached the foreyard, to which is attached the foresail, also called the fore course*.

Course from an Old French word, "course; run, running; flow of a river."

Above the foremast is the foretopmast, foretopyard, foretopsail, and foretopmast staysail.

Above the foremat is the foretopgallant* mast, foretopgallan yard, and foretopgallant sail.

* The gallant perhaps from the meaning "grand, noble," since the next mast up would be the fore royal (The Bounty wasn't fitted out with royals, but in the logbook for Jan 19, 1788, he mentions that he fashioned a royal out of another sail, but he doesn't say to which mast it was put to use.)

Next in line we have the mainmast, mainyard, mainsail or main course.

Up the maintopmast, maintopyard, maintopsail, maintopmast staysail, maintopgallant mast, maintopgallant yard, maintopgallant sail.

Last in line we have the mizzen* mast, crossjack† yard, spanker gaff, spanker, mizzen topmast, mizzen topyard, mizzen topsail, and mizzen topmast staysail. There was such a thing as a mizzen sail, but it wasn't much used because it interfered with the spanker.

* mizzen comes from a Middle French word meaning "foresail, foremast" and ultimately from the Latin word medianus, middle. (That's funny.)
† I don't know the etymology of crossjack, but it was given the name because mizzen yard was in use elsewhere.

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