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Three-masted barque (US Revenue Cutter Salmon P. Chase, 1878-1907) USRC Salmon P Chase - LoC 4a25817u.jpg
Three-masted barque (US Revenue Cutter Salmon P. Chase, 1878–1907)
Three-masted barque sail plan Sail plan barque.svg
Three-masted barque sail plan

A barque, barc, or bark is a type of sailing vessel with three or more masts having the fore- and mainmasts rigged square and only the mizzen (the aftmost mast) rigged fore and aft. Sometimes, the mizzen is only partly fore-and-aft rigged, bearing a square-rigged sail above.



The tall ship Elissa is a three-masted barque in Galveston Elissa-Sailing-Ship.jpg
The tall ship Elissa is a three-masted barque in Galveston
Russian Sedov at the Kantasatama Harbour in Kotka, Finland, during the Tall Ships' Races 2017. Sedov in TSR at Kotka July 2017 2.jpg
Russian Sedov at the Kantasatama Harbour in Kotka, Finland, during the Tall Ships’ Races 2017.

The word "barque" entered English via the French term, which in turn came from the Latin barca by way of Occitan, Catalan, Spanish, or Italian.

The Latin barca may stem from Celtic barc (per Thurneysen)[ dubious ] or Greek baris (per Diez), a term for an Egyptian boat. The Oxford English Dictionary , however, considers the latter improbable. [1]

The word barc appears to have come from Celtic languages. The form adopted by English, perhaps from Irish, was "bark", while that adopted by Latin as barca very early, which gave rise to the French barge and barque.

In Latin, Spanish, and Italian, the term barca refers to a small boat, not a full-sized ship. French influence in England led to the use in English of both words, although their meanings now are not the same.

Well before the 19th century, a barge had become interpreted as a small vessel of coastal or inland waters, or a fast rowing boat carried by warships and normally reserved for the commanding officer. Somewhat later, a bark became a sailing vessel of a distinctive rig as detailed below. In Britain, by the mid-19th century, the spelling had taken on the French form of barque. Although Francis Bacon used this form of the word as early as 1592, [2] Shakespeare still used the spelling "barke" in Sonnet 116 in 1609. Throughout the period of sail, the word was used also as a shortening of the barca-longa of the Mediterranean Sea.[ citation needed ]

The usual spelling convention is that, to distinguish between homophones, when spelled as barque it refers to a ship, and when spelled as bark it refers to either a sound or to a tree hide. [3]

"Barcarole" in music shares the same etymology, being originally a folk song sung by Venetian gondolier and derived from barca "boat" in Italian, [4] or in Late Latin. [5]


A 1993 replica of HM Bark Endeavour. Endeavour entering Fremantle.jpg
A 1993 replica of HM Bark Endeavour.

In the 18th century, the Royal Navy used the term bark for a nondescript vessel that did not fit any of its usual categories. Thus, when the British admiralty purchased a collier for use by James Cook in his journey of exploration, she was registered as HM Bark Endeavour to distinguish her from another Endeavour, a sloop already in service at the time. She happened to be a full-rigged ship 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 mizzen topsail. 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." [6]

The UK's National Archives state[ citation needed ] that a paper document surviving from the 16th century in the Cheshire and Chester Archives and Local Studies Service, notes the names of Robert Ratclyfe, owner of the bark "Sunday" and 10 mariners appointed to serve under Rt. Hon. the Earl of Sussex, Lord Deputy of Ireland.

Barque rig

Rigging of a three-masted barque Barkskibs staende rigning2.png
Rigging of a three-masted barque

By the end of the 18th century,[ citation needed ] the term barque (sometimes, particularly in the US, spelled bark) came to refer to any vessel with a particular type of sail plan. This comprises three (or more) masts, fore-and-aft sails on the aftermost mast and square sails on all other masts. Barques were the workhorse of the golden age of sail in the mid-19th century as they attained passages that nearly matched full-rigged ships, but could operate with smaller crews.

The advantage of these rigs was that they needed smaller (therefore cheaper) crews than a comparable full-rigged ship or brig-rigged vessel, as fewer of the labour-intensive square sails were used, and the rig itself is cheaper.[ citation needed ] Conversely, the ship rig tended to be retained for training vessels where the larger the crew, the more seamen were trained.

Another advantage is that, downwind, a barque can outperform a schooner or barkentine, and is both easier to handle and better at going to windward than a full-rigged ship. While a full-rigged ship is the best runner available, and while fore-and-aft rigged vessels are the best at going to windward, the barque and the barquentine, are compromises,[ citation needed ] which combine, in different proportions, the best elements of these two.

Whether square-rig, barque, barquentine or schooner is optimal depends on the degree to which the sailing-route and season can be chosen to achieve following-wind. Square-riggers predominated for intercontinental sailing on routes chosen for following-winds.

Most ocean-going windjammers were four-masted barques, due to the above-described considerations & compromises. Usually the main mast was the tallest; that of Moshulu extends to 58 m off the deck. The four-masted barque can be handled with a surprisingly small crew—at minimum, 10—and while the usual crew was around 30, almost half of them could be apprentices.

Five-masted barque Potosi (circa 1895-1920) Potosi - SLV H99.220-2488.jpg
Five-masted barque Potosi (circa 1895–1920)

Today many sailing-school ships are barques.[ citation needed ]

A well-preserved example of a commercial barque is the Pommern , the only windjammer in original condition. Its home is in Mariehamn outside the Åland maritime museum. The wooden barque Sigyn , built in Gothenburg 1887, is now a museum ship in Turku. The wooden whaling barque Charles W. Morgan , launched 1841, taken out of service 1921, [7] is now a museum ship at Mystic Seaport [8] in Connecticut. The Charles W. Morgan has recently been refit and is (as of summer, 2014) sailing the New England coast. The United States Coast Guard still has an operational barque, built in Germany in 1936 and captured as a war prize, the USCGC Eagle, which the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London uses as a training vessel. The Sydney Heritage Fleet restored an iron-hulled three-masted barque, the James Craig, originally constructed as Clan Macleod in 1874 and sailing at sea fortnightly. The oldest active sailing vessel in the world, the Star of India, was built in 1863 as a full-rigged ship, then converted into a barque in 1901.

This type of ship inspired the French composer Maurice Ravel to write his famous piece, Une Barque sur l'ocean, originally composed for piano, in 1905, then orchestrated in 1906.

Statsraad Lemkulhl is in active operation in its barque form, stripped down without most of its winches and later improvements more aligned to the upbringing of future sailors both as a schoolship, training operations for the Norwegian Navy and generally available for interested volunteers.

During the summer of 2021 it hosted "NRK Sommarskuta" with live TV everyday sailing all of the Norwegian coast from North to South and crossing the North Sea to Shetland. After this it will perform its first full Sailing trip around world, estimated to take 19 months with many promotional event along the way.

Scientific equipment has been installed in support of ongoing university studies[ which? ] to monitor and log environmental data.

Barques and barque shrines in Ancient Egypt

In Ancient Egypt, barques, referred to using the French word as Egyptian hieroglyphs were first translated by the Frenchman Jean-François Champollion, were a type of boat used from Egypt's earliest recorded times and are depicted in many drawings, paintings, and reliefs that document the culture. Transportation to the afterlife was believed to be accomplished by way of barques, as well, and the image is used in many of the religious murals and carvings in temples and tombs.

The most important Egyptian barque carried the dead pharaoh to become a deity. Great care was taken to provide a beautiful barque to the pharaoh for this journey, and models of the boats were placed in their tombs. Many models of these boats, that range from tiny to huge in size, have been found. Wealthy and royal members of the culture also provided barques for their final journey. The type of vessel depicted in Egyptian images remains quite similar throughout the thousands of years the culture persisted.

Barques were important religious artifacts, and since the deities were thought to travel in this fashion in the sky, the Milky Way was seen as a great waterway that was as important as the Nile on Earth; cult statues of the deities traveled by boats on water and ritual boats were carried about by the priests during festival ceremonies. Temples included barque shrines, sometimes more than one in a temple, in which the sacred barques rested when a procession was not in progress. [9] [10] In these stations, the boats would be watched over and cared for by the priests.

Barque of St. Peter

A stained glass window depicting the Barque of Saint Peter in Holy Trinity Catholic Church (Trinity, Indiana) Holy Trinity Catholic Church (Trinity, Indiana) - stained glass, Barque of Peter.jpg
A stained glass window depicting the Barque of Saint Peter in Holy Trinity Catholic Church (Trinity, Indiana)

The Barque of St. Peter, or the Barque of Peter, is a reference to the Roman Catholic Church. The term refers to Peter, the first Pope, who was a fisherman before becoming an apostle of Jesus. The Pope is often said to be steering the Barque of St. Peter. [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

Rigging Ropes, cables and chains which support masts of sailing ships

Rigging comprises the system of ropes, cables and chains, which support a sailing ship or sail boat's masts—standing rigging, including shrouds and stays—and which adjust the position of the vessel's sails and spars to which they are attached—the running rigging, including halyards, braces, sheets and vangs.

Sailing ship Large wind-powered water vessel

A sailing ship is a sea-going vessel that uses sails mounted on masts to harness the power of wind and propel the vessel. There is a variety of sail plans that propel sailing ships, employing square-rigged or fore-and-aft sails. Some ships carry square sails on each mast—the brig and full-rigged ship, said to be "ship-rigged" when there are three or more masts. Others carry only fore-and-aft sails on each mast, for instance some schooners. Still others employ a combination of square and fore-and-aft sails, including the barque, barquentine, and brigantine.

Sail plan Description of the specific ways that a sailing craft is rigged

A sail plan is a description of the specific ways that a sailing craft is rigged. Also, the term "sail plan" is a graphic depiction of the arrangement of the sails for a given sailing craft.

Brig Sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts

A brig is a type of sailing vessel defined by its rig: two masts which are both square-rigged. Brigs originated in the second half of the 18th century and were a common type of smaller merchant vessel or warship from then until the latter part of the 19th century. In commercial use, they were gradually replaced by fore-and-aft rigged vessels such as schooners, as owners sought to reduce crew costs by having rigs that could be handled by fewer men. In Royal Navy use, brigs were retained for training use when the battle fleets consisted almost entirely of iron-hulled steamships.

Tall ship Large, traditionally rigged sailing vessel

A tall ship is a large, traditionally-rigged sailing vessel. Popular modern tall ship rigs include topsail schooners, brigantines, brigs and barques. "Tall ship" can also be defined more specifically by an organization, such as for a race or festival.

Cutter (boat) Type of boat

A cutter is a type of watercraft. The term has several meanings. It can apply to the rig of a sailing vessel, to a governmental enforcement agency vessel, to a type of ship's boat which can be used under sail or oars, or, historically, to a type of fast-sailing vessel introduced in the 18th century, some of which were used as small warships.

Barquentine Sailing rig

A barquentine or schooner barque is a sailing vessel with three or more masts; with a square rigged foremast and fore-and-aft rigged main, mizzen and any other masts.

Running rigging Lines that control sails

Running rigging is the rigging of a sailing vessel that is used for raising, lowering, shaping and controlling the sails on a sailing vessel—as opposed to the standing rigging, which supports the mast and bowsprit. Running rigging varies between vessels that are rigged fore and aft and those that are square-rigged.

Mast (sailing) Pole used in rigging of a sailing vessel

The mast of a sailing vessel is a tall spar, or arrangement of spars, erected more or less vertically on the centre-line of a ship or boat. Its purposes include carrying sails, spars, and derricks, and giving necessary height to a navigation light, look-out position, signal yard, control position, radio aerial or signal lamp. Large ships have several masts, with the size and configuration depending on the style of ship. Nearly all sailing masts are guyed.

This is a glossary of nautical terms; some remain current, while many date from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Square rig Generic type of sail and rigging arrangement

Square rig is a generic type of sail and rigging arrangement in which the primary driving sails are carried on horizontal spars which are perpendicular, or square, to the keel of the vessel and to the masts. These spars are called yards and their tips, outside the lifts, are called the yardarms. A ship mainly rigged so is called a square-rigger.

Full-rigged ship Sailing vessel with three or more square-rigged masts

A full-rigged ship or fully rigged ship is a sailing vessel's sail plan with three or more masts, all of them square-rigged. A full-rigged ship is said to have a ship rig or be ship-rigged. Such vessels also have each mast stepped in three segments: lower mast, top mast, and topgallant mast. Other large, multi-masted sailing vessels may be regarded as ships while lacking one of the elements of a full-rigged ship, e.g. having one or more masts support only a fore-and-aft sail or having a mast that only has two segments.

Fore-and-aft rig Sailing rig consisting mainly of sails

A fore-and-aft rig is a sailing vessel rigged mainly with sails set along the line of the keel, rather than perpendicular to it as on a square rigged vessel.


The spritsail is a four-sided, fore-and-aft sail that is supported at its highest points by the mast and a diagonally running spar known as the sprit. The foot of the sail can be stretched by a boom or held loose-footed just by its sheets. A spritsail has four corners: the throat, peak, clew, and tack. The Spritsail can also be used to describe a rig that uses a spritsail.


A jackass-barque, sometimes spelled jackass bark, is a sailing ship with three masts, of which the foremast is square-rigged and the main is partially square-rigged and partially fore-and-aft rigged (course). The mizzen mast is fore-and-aft rigged.

<i>Potosi</i> (barque)

Potosi was a five-masted steel barque built in 1895 by Joh. C. Tecklenborg ship yard in Geestemünde, Germany, for the sailing ship company F. Laeisz as a trading vessel. Its primary purpose was as a "nitrate clipper" collecting guano in South America for use in chemical companies in Germany. As its shipping route was between Germany and Chile, it was designed to be capable of withstanding the rough weather encountered around Cape Horn.

Pinisi Type of rigging of Indonesian sailing vessels

Literally, the word pinisi refers to a type of rigging of Indonesian sailing vessels. A pinisi carries seven to eight sails on two masts, arranged like a gaff-ketch with what is called 'standing gaffs' - i.e., unlike most Western ships using such a rig, the two main sails are not opened by raising the spars they are attached to, but the sails are 'pulled out' like curtains along the gaffs which are fixed at around the centre of the masts.

Down Easter (ship) 19th-century sailing ship

The Down Easter or Downeaster was a type of 19th-century sailing ship built in Maine, and used largely in the California grain trade. It was a modification of the clipper ship using a similar bow but with better cargo handling. It achieved a balance between speed and tonnage such that it made the wheat trade between California and Great Britain competitive with east coast grain trade via steam ship. It could make the trip between San Francisco and Liverpool in 100 days, despite rounding Cape Horn and crossing the equator twice. A more unusual name for the rig was shipentine.

Windjammer Commercial sailing ship with multiple masts and rig configurations

A windjammer is a commercial sailing ship with multiple masts that may be square rigged, or fore-and-aft rigged, or a combination of the two. The informal term "windjammer" arose during the transition from the Age of Sail to the Age of Steam during the 19th century. The Oxford English Dictionary records the word "windjamming" from 1886 and "windjammer" with reference to a ship from 1892.


  1. "barque" . Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  2. The Works of Francis Bacon, Volume 8, Cambridge University Press, 2011
  3. "Bark". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  4. "Barca". Word Reference. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  5. "Barca". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  6. "William Falconer's Dictionary of the Marine". National Library of Australia. 2004-02-03. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  7. "Sailing Ships". Archived from the original on 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  8. "Mystic Seaport homepage". Archived from the original on 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  9. "Egyptian Temples". Odyssey Adventures in Archaeology. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  10. Ancient Egypt 2675–332 BCE: Religion: Temple Architecture and Symbolism. Arts and Humanities Through the Eras. BookRags.
  11. "Ship as a Symbol of the Church (Bark of St. Peter)". Jesus Walk. Retrieved 19 February 2013.

Further reading