A yawl is a type of boat. The term has several meanings. It can apply to the rig (or sailplan), to the hull type or to the use which the vessel is put.
As a rig, a yawl is a two masted, fore and aft rigged sailing vessel with the mizzen mast positioned abaft (behind) the rudder stock, or in some instances, very close to the rudder stock. This is different from a ketch, where the mizzen mast is forward of the rudder stock. The sail area of the mizzen on a yawl is consequentially proportionately smaller than the same sail on a ketch.
As a hull type, yawl may refer to many types of open, clinker-built, double-ended, traditional working craft that operated from the beaches of Britain and Ireland. These boats are considered to be linked to the Viking or Nordic design tradition. Most of these types are now extinct, but they include the Norfolk and Sussex Beach Yawls (called "yols" by the men who crewed them), which were probably the fastest-sailing open boats ever built.
A yawl is also a type of ship's boat. The definition, size, number of oars and sailing rig varied over time. This was one of the normal working boats carried by a ship in the age of sail.
In local usage, the term yawl was sometimes applied to working craft which did not fit any of the definitions given above. An example of this is the Whitstable yawl, a decked gaff-cutter-rigged fishing smack that dredged for oysters.
The etymology of "yawl" is obscure - especially considering the different meanings of the word.
Yawl rig appears to have originated in the early 19th century. Working craft of this type include the later versions of the Falmouth Quay Punt - and interest in this local type were taken by Dixon Kemp, an authority on yacht racing, in 1875. Yachts were rigged as yawls as early as 1814. John MacGregor had his 1867-built Rob Roy designed as a yawl. (MacGregor had a number of boats, all of the same name.) British and European racing yachts were rigged as yawls from the second half of the 1870s, with a resurgence in popularity from 1896, when a change to the handicap rating system gave advantages to yawls. They remained prominent in handicap classes through the 1920s - with yachts like Rendezvous (built 1913) measuring 74 feet (23 metres) and setting 5,500 square feet (510 square metres) of sail.
A yawl is often considered a suitable rig for a short handed or single handed sailor. This is because the mainsail is not quite so big to handle and the mizzen (before the days of modern self steering gear) could allow the sails to be trimmed to keep a boat on the same course. Also, handing (taking down) the mizzen is a quick and easy way of reducing sail, often thought of as the equivalent of the first reef in a cutter or sloop. Less well known are the advantages of setting a mizzen staysail when reaching, which can give a considerable amount of extra drive - which is clearly not available to a single-masted rig. Alec Rose (single handed circumnavigator) used a mizzen staysail on his yawl Lively Lady but did not set a mizzen - he felt it was of little value (and it would interfere with the Hasler self-steering gear).
Yawls are currently popular in cruising dinghies. The Drascombe Lugger is a good example of this type.With the mizzen sheeted to an outrigger or boomkin and a jib set on a bowsprit, the rig extends a lot horizontally. This allows the sail area to have a lower centre of pressure than, for example, a Bermudan sloop. This gives a lower heeling moment.
Before "yawl" became the name of a rig, it was a hull type. Generally, a yawl is a double-ended, clinker built open boat, which can be worked under sail or oar. They are considered to have Viking or Norse influence in their design. Most were operated from a beach or a small harbour, with the boat being hauled out of the water when not in use.
In the North of Scotland, yawl is cognate with yole or yoal. There are examples in both Shetland and Orkney, with type and local variations in design. The Shetland boats include foureens and sixareens - the names denote the number of oars they were designed to use. Both also had sailing rigs - usually a single masted dipping lug. A sixareen was typically 24 to 25 feet (7.3 to 7.6 metres)long overall. The foureen was around 20 feet (6.1 metres) overall. Other smaller Shetland types were the Ness Yole and the Fair Isle Yole. Sixareens and foureens were used in the haaf fishery - catching white fish species such as cod and saithe with long line fishing. These undecked sixareens operated between 30 and 50 miles offshore -sometimes within sight of Norway. The foureens ventured up to 20 miles offshore (where they "sank the land" - i.e. when the land had just sunk below the horizon, it was 20 miles away). Until the 19th century, most of these boats were built in Norway and then transported to Shetland disassembled, where they were put back together again. It appears that the Norwegian boatbuilders built specific types of craft to meet the needs of the Shetland market, as these boats differed somewhat from the ones used in Norway. Surviving examples and a replica of some of these Shetland boats are in the Shetland Museum.
The Orkney yoles had more beam than their Shetland counterparts. This allowed slightly more sail to be set, so these were two-masted with standing lug rigs.
Beach Yawls could be found along a section of the East Anglian coast - mainly from Winterton on the north Norfolk coast down to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast. (They were called "yols" by the men who sailed in them.) Each boat was operated by a "company" that shared the profits of operations between their members, subject to strict rules. The members were entitled to serve as crew when the yawl was launched. These companies are known to have existed at the start of the 18th century and yawls operated right through the 19th century, until steam power, efficient tugs and lifeboats put the last of them out of business by the start of the 20th century.
The yawls serviced the ships anchored in Yarmouth Roads, took pilots to and from ships, carried stores and performed salvage work. The Royal Navy often had warships anchored in Yarmouth roads, so providing a lot of work additional to that from the many merchant ships that passed along the East Anglian coast.
The Norfolk and Suffolk Beach Yawls were probably the fastest open boats ever built. 14 knots could be achieved in the right conditions, and 16 knots has been measured for one of these boats. Clinker-built and double-ended, the hulls were typically 50 feet (15 metres) long with a beam of 8 to 10 ft (2.4 to 3.0 m). Reindeer, built in 1838 was at the top of the size range, at 75 ft (23 m) long (with a 12 ft (3.7 m) beam). Whilst the earlier boats had three lug-rigged masts, in common with other types of British lugger, from the middle of the 19th century the mainmast was usually dispensed with to give a dipping lug foresail and a standing lug mizzen. The foresail tack fastened to an iron bumkin protruding from the stemhead. The mizzen sheeted to an outrigger (called an "outligger" by the crews of these boats). The fastest type of Beach Yawl was used for taking pilots and passengers out to ships. The slightly shorter and beamier "bullock boats" carried supplies out to ships moored in the roads and would land catches of herrings from luggers.
Beach yawls were kept ready for launching at a moment's notice. A lookout tower was manned to spot any ship signalling for a pilot or in distress. There was competition between each company to get any potential work. The boats were run down the shingle beach on greased wooden skids laid at right angles to their route. Men ran alongside to hold the boat upright as it started to move, crew members scrambled aboard and others passed bags of ballast on board. As the boat entered the water she was given a final shove with a spar. Then each boat raced to get the work on offer.
Large crews were needed: 25 men would be common. They were fully occupied if going to windward. On tacking, the foresail would be dipped behind the mast to set on the other side, and the halyard (which was made fast at the gunwale to help support the mast) and burton (a moveable stay) would be shifted to windward and hauled taught again, whilst others would be heaving bags of shingle ballast to the new windward side of the bilge. Some would be continuously baling to rid the boat of the spray that came aboard. The most important man aboard tended the foresheet, which was never cleated, but held in hand after taking a couple of turns around the main sampson post. If a gust was too strong, the sheet would instantly be eased to prevent a capsize. If worked under oar, a yawl would have ten or more oars a side - though the beach companies usually operated a gig in light weather if delivering or collecting a pilot, as they were faster under oars.
The yawl as a type of Royal Navy ship's boat appeared early in the second half of the 17th century. In early mentions, they were sometimes referred to as "Norway yawls", so showing a Scandinavian influence. Later yawls were built in Deal, Kent. Both were clinker built, but those from Deal had transom sterns. When Navy dockyards started to copy the Deal-built boats, they moved to carvel construction. The size of an individual yawl would vary depending on the size of the ship to which she belonged - though the yawl was usually the smallest of the several types of boat typically carried on each ship. In 1817, Royal Navy yawls were issued in eight different lengths between 26 ft and 16 ft. After this date, the yawl was less commonly used. The sailing rig was two-masted, typically setting identical sprit-sails. The number of oars depended on the size of the boat, eight and six being common, with some pulling just four oars.
A sloop is a sailboat with a single mast typically having only one headsail in front of the mast and one mainsail aft of (behind) the mast. Such an arrangement is called a fore-and-aft rig, and can be rigged as a Bermuda rig with triangular sails fore and aft, or as a gaff-rig with triangular foresail(s) and a gaff rigged mainsail. Sailboats can be classified according to type of rig, and so a sailboat may be a sloop, catboat, cutter, ketch, yawl, or schooner. A sloop usually has only one headsail, although an exception is the Friendship sloop, which is usually gaff-rigged with a bowsprit and multiple headsails. If the vessel has two or more headsails, the term cutter may be used, especially if the mast is stepped further towards the back of the boat.
A schooner is a type of sailing vessel defined by its rig: fore-and-aft rigged on all of two or more masts and, in the case of a two-masted schooner, the foremast generally being shorter than the mainmast. A common variant, the topsail schooner also has a square topsail on the foremast, to which may be added a topgallant. Differing definitions leave uncertain whether the addition of a fore course would make such a vessel a brigantine. Many schooners are gaff-rigged, but other examples include Bermuda rig and the staysail schooner.
A sailboat or sailing boat is a boat propelled partly or entirely by sails and is smaller than a sailing ship. Distinctions in what constitutes a sailing boat and ship vary by region and maritime culture.
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.
A ketch is a two-masted sailboat whose mainmast is taller than the mizzen mast, and whose mizzen mast is stepped forward of the rudder post. The mizzen mast stepped forward of the rudder post is what distinguishes the ketch from a yawl, which has its mizzen mast stepped aft of its rudder post. In the 19th and 20th centuries, ketch rigs were often employed on larger yachts and working watercraft, but ketches are also used as smaller working watercraft as short as 15 feet, or as small cruising boats, such as Bill Hanna's Tahiti ketches or L. Francis Herreshoff's Rozinante and H-28.
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.
Gaff rig is a sailing rig in which the sail is four-cornered, fore-and-aft rigged, controlled at its peak and, usually, its entire head by a spar (pole) called the gaff. Because of the size and shape of the sail, a gaff rig will have running backstays rather than permanent backstays.
A lugger is a sailing vessel defined by its rig, using the lug sail on all of its one or several masts. They were widely used as working craft, particularly off the coasts of France, England, Ireland and Scotland. Luggers varied extensively in size and design. Many were undecked, open boats, some of which operated from beach landings. Others were fully decked craft. Some larger examples might carry lug topsails.
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.
A foresail is one of a few different types of sail set on the foremost mast (foremast) of a sailing vessel:
The Fifie is a design of sailing boat developed on the east coast of Scotland. It was a traditional fishing boat used by Scottish fishermen from the 1850s until well into the 20th century. These boats were mainly used to fish for herring using drift nets, and along with other designs of boat were known as herring drifters.
The word Drascombe is a trademark that was first registered by John Watkinson who applied it to a series of sailing boats which he designed and built in the period 1965–79 and sold in the United Kingdom (UK). They comprised the Coaster, Cruiser Longboat, Dabber, Drifter, Driver, Gig, Launch, Longboat, Lugger, Peterboat, Scaffie, Scaith and Skiff, together with a few other one-offs. They have wide and deep cockpits, adaptable boomless rigs and high bulwarks.
The ships of Medieval Europe were powered by sail, oar, or both. There was a large variety, mostly based on much older, conservative designs. Although wider and more frequent communications within Europe meant exposure to a variety of improvements, experimental failures were costly and rarely attempted. Ships in the north were influenced by Viking vessels, while those in the south by classical or Roman vessels. However, there was technological change. The different traditions used different construction methods; clinker in the north, carvel in the south. By the end of the period, carvel construction would come to dominate the building of large ships. The period would also see a shift from the steering oar or side rudder to the stern rudder and the development from single-masted to multi-masted ships. As the area is connected by water, people in the Mediterranean built different kinds of ships to accommodate different sea levels and climates. Within the Mediterranean area during the Medieval times ships were used for a multitude of reasons, like war, trade, and exploration.
The Falmouth Quay Punt was a type of working sailing vessel in the port of Falmouth, Cornwall in the 19th and early 20th century. They would be hired by merchant ships anchored in Carrick Roads – to carry stores, mail and passengers. Falmouth, with a good deep water harbour situated near the Western entrance to the English Channel, was a popular port for merchant sailing ships to call "for orders". Before the days of radio, captains would often not know which port their cargo would be destined for before they arrived in the country, and needed to collect instructions before continuing.
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.
A boomkin, bumkin, or bumpkin is a short spar that may project either fore or aft on a sailing vessel, depending on its function. Traditionally, it was a strong, usually wooden spar extending forward over the bow of a Western sailing ship holding a block through which the tack of the foresail was passed; on some modern sailing yachts with long main booms it is a short spar extending aft from the stern anchoring a central backstay.
The Montagu whaler was the standard seaboat of the Royal Navy between 1910–1970, it was a clinker built 27 by 6 feet open boat, which could be pulled by oars or powered by sail – a shorter version of 25 feet (7.6 m) was also built. It was double-ended; having a pointed stem and stern. Rretired Rear Admiral The Honourable Victor Montagu proposed the design.
The lug sail, or lugsail, is a fore-and-aft, four-cornered sail that is suspended from a spar, called a yard. When raised, the sail area overlaps the mast. For "standing lug" rigs, the sail may remain on the same side of the mast on both the port and starboard tacks. For "dipping lug" rigs, the sail is lowered partially or totally to be brought around to the leeward side of the mast in order to optimize the efficiency of the sail on both tacks.
The Drascombe Lugger is a British trailerable sailboat that was designed by John L. Watkinson and first built in 1968.