The mast of a sailing vessel is a tall, vertical or near vertical spar, or arrangement of spars, which supports the sails. Large ships have several masts, with the size and configuration depending on the style of ship. Nearly all sailing masts are guyed masts.
Until the mid-19th century all vessels' masts were made of wood formed from a single or several piece of timber which typically consisted of the trunk of a conifer tree. From the 16th century, vessels were often built of a size requiring masts taller and thicker than could be made from single tree trunks. On these larger vessels, to achieve the required height, the masts were built from up to four sections (also called masts), known in order of rising height above the decks as the lower, top, topgallant and royal masts. Giving the lower sections sufficient thickness necessitated building them up from separate pieces of wood. Such a section was known as a made mast, as opposed to sections formed from single pieces of timber, which were known as pole masts.
In a three-masted, square-sail carrying ship, the masts, given their standard names in bow to stern (front to back) order, are:
- Fore-mast: the first mast, or the mast fore of the main-mast.
- Main-mast: the tallest mast, usually located near the center of the ship.
- Sections: Main-mast lower—Main topmast—Main topgallant mast—royal mast (if fitted)
- Mizzen-mast: the third mast, or the mast immediately aft of the main-mast. Typically shorter than the fore-mast.
- Sections: Mizzen-mast lower—Mizzen topmast—Mizzen topgallant mast
Some names given to masts in ships carrying other types of rig (where the naming is less standardised) are:
- Bonaventure mizzen: the fourth mast on larger sixteenth century galleons, typically lateen-rigged and shorter than the main mizzen.
- Jigger-mast: typically, where it is the shortest, the aft-most mast on vessels with more than three masts.
- Sections: Jigger-mast lower—Jigger topmast—Jigger topgallant mast
Most types of vessels with two masts are supposed to have a main-mast and a smaller mizzen-mast, although both brigs and two-masted schooners carry a fore-mast and a main-mast instead. On a two-masted vessel with the main-mast forward and a much smaller second mast, such as a ketch, or particularly a yawl, the terms mizzen and jigger are synonymous.
Although two-masted schooners may be provided with masts of identical size, the aftmost is still referred to as the main-mast, and normally has the larger course. Schooners have been built with up to seven masts in all, with several six-masted examples.
On square-rigged vessels, each mast carries several horizontal yards from which the individual sails are rigged.
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Famous quotes containing the word mast:
“To coöperate in the highest as well as the lowest sense, means to get our living together. I heard it proposed lately that two young men should travel together over the world, the one without money, earning his means as he went, before the mast and behind the plow, the other carrying a bill of exchange in his pocket. It was easy to see that they could not long be companions or coöperate, since one would not operate at all. They would part at the first interesting crisis in their adventures.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)