Evolution of Vessel Types in Maine

The pinnace Virginia, 1607

The first vessel built in Maine by Europeans was the pinnacePinnace

A small vessel of about 20 tons dating from the 16th century, with two masts, normally both square-rigged, but occasionally with a lugsail on the mainmast. Later the square rig was abandoned for a schooner rig.
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Virginia, built in 1607-8 at the Popham ColonyPopham Colony

The first English colony in New England, established at the mouth of the Kennebec River in 1607, called Fort St. George. The colonists returned to England in 1608.
at the mouth of the Kennebec River. Though the colony did not last more than a year, the Virginia did, and it later served to bring supplies to JamestownJamestown

The first English colony in Virginia, founded in 1607. 2007 was the 400th anniversary of the settlement. Maine contributed to this by building re-creations of two of the Jamestown Expedition's ships, Godspeed and Discovery.
, also settled in 1607. Virginia was about fifty feet long, with two masts: one with square sailsSquare sail

A trapezoidal-shaped sail laced to yards on square-rigged ships.
and the other with a triangular fore-and-aft Fore-and-aft sails

Sails that attach to the mast or stays by their forward edge. They are set on stays, gaffs, booms, etc., and are generally triangular or trapezoidal in shape.
sail. Launched in 1608, it helped bring the settlers back to England after the colony’s leader died. Note the sideways picture of the vessel on the left side of the map of Popham Colony.

With a slow growing European population, there was little shipbuilding in Maine in the colonial era. In 1640-41, a barkBark

A sailing vessel with three masts; square-rigged on the fore and main masts and fore-and-aft rigged on the mizzen.
was built at Richmond Island, south of Portland.

Some of the few colonial vessels built were mast shipsMast ship

A seventeenth century vessel that carried cut white pine trees, several hundred feet tall, to England for use as masts for the British Navy.
, designed to carry Maine’s mast-sized white pinesWhite pine

A fast-growing pine tree with white wood and smooth gray bark. Often used for ships' masts in the past.
to England for the Royal Navy. More common were smaller sloopsSloop

A sailing vessel with a single fore-and-aft rigged mast.
and schoonersSchooner

A sailing vessel of two or more masts, all fore-and-aft rigged. The Thomas W. Lawson, built in 1902, had seven masts. In comparison to a square-rigged vessel of comparable tonnage, a schooner is better for coastwise sailing.
used for fishing and for shipping goods to Boston or the West Indies. Ship construction around Penobscot Bay didn’t really start until after 1759, when the French retreated from Castine, and the British encouraged settlement east of the Penobscot River.

Three-Masted Schooner Sailplan

Sloops and Schooners

During the early years of settlement around Penobscot Bay, most vessels built were small sloops and schooners. With little money or market for larger vessels, Bay residents needed these smaller ones for fishing and coastal transportation. Designed for coastal trips, they could sail closer to the windClose to the wind

Of a sailing vessel when it sails as near as possible to the wind's direction, sailing to windward.
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than square-riggedSquare-rigged

The arrangement of sails in a vessel where the main driving sails are laced to yards lying square to the mast. It is the oldest type of known rig. Such a vessel is called a square rigger.
vessels and were smaller, handier, and required fewer crewmen. More schooners were built around Penobscot Bay than any other type of vessel.


Fishing schooner Joy Schooner Sailplan

Brigs and Brigantines

Small square-rigged brigsBrig

Vessel with two masts; both square-rigged.
and brigantinesBrigantine

Vessel with two masts; the fore mast square-rigged and after mast fore-and-aft rigged.
were first built on the Penobscot soon after the American Revolution, as new markets opened for the new nation. They typically had a fuller hull than a schooner, and carried more cargo. Square rigs were better for deepwater, transoceanic passages. Shipbuilding then slowed after the imposition of Jefferson's EmbargoJefferson's Embargo

Embargo Act of 1807 forbidding international trade to and from American ports. It was an attempt to counter British and French restrictions on neutral trade during the Napoleonic Wars. The act failed and was repealed in 1809/10 after devastating what had been a profitable New England shipping industry.
in 1807.


Brig Sailplan Brig Off Liverpool, 1823

Mary Jenness

Barks and Ships

After the War of 1812, more people settled in the Penobscot Bay area. They fished, lumbered, quarried rock, and built and sailed shipsShip

A vessel with three masts, all square-rigged.
to link the growing communities around the Bay and trade to the south. Ship owners prospered from carrying lumber to the West Indies and the cities of the East Coast, and wanted larger vessels for that trade. At the same time, with shipbuilding becoming more costly in southern New England, Maine-built vessels became competitive for carrying southern cotton to northern cities and to England. For these new markets, shipbuilders built barks and ships, much bigger sailing vessels that, by the 1850s, carried cargoes to ports around the world. Slightly smaller barkentinesBarkentine

A sailing vessel with three masts; square-rigged on the fore mast and fore-and-aft on the main and mizzen masts.
were popular in the Atlantic deep water trades.


Ship Sailplan Bark Sailplan


Clipper Flying Cloud Model

Clipper Ships

The famous clipper shipsClipper ship

Fast, narrow-hulled sailing ship with tall masts, many sails, and large crews. Built and used primarily in the mid-19th century.
were a short-lived phenomenon that had little impact on Maine shipbuilding. Clippers were designed for carrying small, high value, perishable cargo products like teaTea

Tea comes from a shrub, Camellia sinensos, whose leaves, buds, and internodes are made into a beverage by infusion with boiling water.
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from the Orient, and for transporting people and goods to booming gold fields. The economics of the clippers, too large a crew for too small a cargo, killed them after less than 20 years. Because of their high building cost, most American clippers were built in Boston and New York, where there was plenty of investment capital and many experienced shipbuilders. A few clippers were built in Maine, including the famous Red JacketRed Jacket

Red Jacket was a famous Maine-built clipper, built in Rockland by George Thomas and launched in 1853. She was the largest and fastest of the Maine clippers, 251 feet long and registering 2,305 tons.
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, built in Rockland in 1853. Red Jacket was 251 feet long and registered 2,305 tons. It was known as a fast-sailing ship and could sail 17 to 18 knotsKnot

A nautical measure of speed. One knot is equal to one nautical mile (6,080 feet) per hour. The term comes from the knots on the line of a chip log.
in a good breeze.


Poster Advertising Clipper Red Jacket Ship Red Jacket