Tuesday, November 24, 2009

World's Smallest Schooner?

None of my many hundreds of highly knowledgeable and attentive readers seem to have picked up on what I thought was a glaring error of nautical terminology in Sunday's post which included the lyrics to Mr. Kenny Chesney's song "The Life".

Mr. Chesney claims that he met a gentleman called José who had a "12 foot Schooner".

Hmmm. I'm no expert on boats but according to Wikipedia (which is never wrong) a schooner is "a type of sailing vessel characterized by the use of fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts with the forward mast being shorter or the same height as the rear masts."

A 12 foot boat with at least two masts and fore-and-aft sails? Seems unlikely to me.

Was Mr. Chesney just groping for a word that sorta kinda rhymes with "cooler"?

Or do Mexican fisherman really use 12 foot boats with two masts? Or is the word "schooner" used to describe some other kind of boat in Playa del Carmen?

So how small could a schooner be? What is the world's smallest schooner?

According to the The Google (which contains all the knowledge in the universe) this photo on Flickr may be of the world's smallest schooner.

How long is that? 30 foot including the bowsprit? Certainly more than 12 foot. I haven't been able to discover any more information about this boat. Can anyone help? Or does anyone know of an even smaller schooner?

What about this boat?

I stumbled upon this picture on 70.8% yesterday, in a post in which Thomas Armstrong reviews A VOYAGE OF PLEASURE: the Log of Bernard Gilboy’s Transpacific Cruise in the Boat, “Pacific” 1882-1883. Armstrong describes the Pacific as an 18 foot schooner.

Hmmm. At first I was going to argue whether this strange looking craft (with only one mast apparently) was really a schooner, but then I read the text of the post and learned that Gilby was capsized by a wave 90 days out of San Francisco and that in this accident he lost "a mast". He subsequently contrived a jury rig which is shown in the "lead photograph" in the book. So now I'm confused. Is the drawing on the cover of the boat as built, or of the jury rig? Did the boat have one or two masts originally? And if only one, was it really a schooner? I have no compunction about challenging Mr. Chesney's nautical credentials but am very reluctant to second guess Mr. Armstrong on such a subject.

Can someone please help me to find a way out of this fog?


Anonymous said...

Let me the first pedant to point out that the foremast is not smaller in the photo above so this can't be a schooner.

As ever I look forward to being corrected.

Tillerman said...

Good point 6p00d8341c05bf53ef. What an interesting name, by the way. You must have been teased a lot at school with a name like that. Couldn't your parents have chosen something easier like Adam?

Perhaps you'll like this boat better?

bonnie said...

Well, the Pioneer at the South Street Seaport started life as a sloop; her owners eventually re-rigged because a schooner takes fewer hands (downsizing isn't so new after all) and when she got a 2nd mast, she stopped being a sloop & became a schooner. You'd think the same would be true going the other way - but then of course there's the difference between an intentional re-rigging, and a jury rig...which means I've done nothing to answer your question & am stumped in the same way.

Maybe I just like talking about the Pioneer!

EscapeVelocity said...

I agree with 6p that that's no schooner, although it is a pretty boat.

You could add a second mast to a Laser and not be too much over 12 feet, although I'm not sure it would be a schooner--I'm thinking submarine might be the more correct term.

And just because we didn't comment doesn't mean we didn't notice. I've never been on a schooner where the dinghy wasn't more than 12 feet.

Jolea said...

I love love love schooners and that 30 footer is adorable! Cant imaging a 12 footer though...

Anonymous said...

I googled "schooner federalist" since I recalled there is a scaled down reproduction of a colonial era ship here on the Chesapeake.

Here's a link that will create even more confusion:


Steve in Baltimore

harrymvt said...

Since you didn't specify the seaworthiness of the schooner, here's my nominee:


Bubbles said...

Oh, like, you guys are all so silly! Schooners look like this. It says so right in the label.

tillerman said...

OK, this is getting silly. (Who would have thunk it... a comment thread here getting silly! And we haven't even heard from the Oracle of O Dock yet!)

Anyway let's not count replicas and models, no matter how cute.

And it's already apparent that the world "schooner" is used very loosely by many people who don't know any better to refer to all kinds of sailing craft, whether fore-and-aft rigged or not, and whatever the mast configuration. I even read an article today that described amazon.com as the schooner to Wal-Mart's ocean liner. Huh?

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that 'schooner' is also a large beer glass.


Steve in Baltimore

O Docker said...

Bah, late to the party.

Steve in Baltimore is right, though the exact definition varies from place to place.

Jerry said...

Your photo looks to be one of Phil Bolger's designs, his Light Scooner. I believe it is about 23 feet in length.

Bursledon Blogger said...

So if both masts are the same height is it a schooner or ketch?

Nelson Zimmer's Mackinaw Boat has always intriged me at 18 foot, I'd be tempted to build the foremast a litle bit shorter!!!



doryman said...

Not to be outdone in pedantry - in the first photo, the aft mast appears shorter due to foreshortening of the camera angle and the rake of the mast (on a schooner, the aft mast rakes a few degrees more than the forward).
In the second, a jib with a boom has replaced the aft mast, without which the boat would have incredible lee helm. My guess is the jib boom is anchored in the aft mast partner - very clever!
We see many small two-masted vessels these days, but due to the fact that they still need to carry crew, most are rigged as yawls.
It may be that cowboys are strong contenders with sailors for stretching a yarn.

Antolin said...

Hola...I guess it all depends on what is the meaning of the word "foot".

Sorry guys...I felt the urge to be silly as well!!

be well.


ps as long as you have two (or more) masts between the bow and the rudder post....she is a schooner....gaff rigged, cat rigged, top masted, etc. "Royce's sailing illustrated" the sailor's Bible since 1956

Tweezerman said...

My guess is that Kenny Chesney isn't much of a boater, less a sailor, and is really referring to a 12' fishing skiff, something that could really take a 3' cooler of beer, some bait and rods much better than a 12' schooner. As lyrics go, maybe schooner flows better in his song than boat or rowboat or skiff or sloop or ketch etc...... But continue your search. I did feature a 16' Brigantine on my blog.

Janna Cawrse Esarey said...

If that sailboat on the book cover doesn't match the schooner in the book, I wouldn't actually be surprised. When my pub sent me the mock-up of my book, they had a little windsurfer image on the chapter pages. I protested. They said what's the big deal--windsurfer? world cruiser? eh? I offered to doctor their little picture, which now looks like a cheesy doctored windsurfer with a hull. Oh well. My point is that clip art may have been in use even back when that book came out.

Chikokishi said...

Hey! Im looking into building a schooner thats roughly 20' long. its called a single handed schooner, a bolger design (Its smaller than the light schooner mentioned earlier)

Also... i built a very small 8' made up sailboat (Pictures on my website). Im half tempted to put a second mast on it just to create a schooner smaller than 12'! But i dont know where id sit.

Discusa said...

That SCHOONER is my "TEXAS BUTT HEAD SCOW SCHOONER" and that picture was taken in Traverse City, Michigan during there Fall Schooner festival.

Tillerman said...

Thanks Discusa for clearing up the mystery.

mahi said...

This may or may not be a schooner, but it's a 12 foot boat with two masts... http://sites.google.com/site/threeyearsina12footboat/home

The book makes for a fascinating read, anyway.

harrymvt said...

mahi, technically Squeak is a yawl (or in Dutch, a Jol). Thanks Wikipedia!

Laszlo said...

Mine's smaller (18 feet) and it's a proper schooner with the mainmast in back taller than the foremast in front. It has no bowsprit or headsails, so it's a bald-headed knockabout schooner. I based it on Bolger's single-handed schooner but applied a 94% scaling factor. Can't seem to post a picture here, so look at:


Anonymous said...

A sprit rigged schooner from a Canoe, looks a lot smaller than 30 feet. Probably around 13-14 feet. http://www.tropicalboating.com/wp-content/uploadsboating/images/boat-building/cortez-small-craft-fest/schooner-canoe-lg.jpg

Anonymous said...

He didn't write the song, Casey Bethard and James T Slater did.

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