History of Tall Ships

Anyone with a particular fascination to water activities would definitely not miss out on tall ships. Whether you have sailed on one or are a satisfied spectator, there is really something special about tall ships. For one, these giant vessels did not just come out of nowhere, and most, if not all of them, tell a story.

History shows that ships were an important part of human civilization. For one, shipbuilding was an art that the British mastered. Despite the progress of other colonial empires such as Portugal, Spain, Denmark, and France, to name a few, the British navy still dominates the trade routes. Tall ships were also regarded as the quickest form or mass transportation. As such, it has served men and women who traveled around the world during those days.

A Tall Ship is basically a sailing vessel and typically distinguished by its keel, hull, rigging, or number and configuration of masts. These heavily rigged vessels have a complex sail plan. Traditional rigging include square rigs, gaff rigs with separate tap masts and topsails. Modern riggings, on the other hand, use aluminum and steel for taller, lightweight masts with fewer versatile sails. Different modern schooners, brigantines, brigs, and barques designs are included in tall ships. These have fore-and-aft sails and may have at least two masts, one being square rigged. The tall mast and the number of sails make it easily recognised. However, before becoming the tall ships that we see these days, there has been an evolution of these vessels.


These were primarily designed for war and commerce. Techniques in building these ships greatly improved to allow the construction of larger crafts with multiple masts. A rudder had replaced the side oar of steering; while lateen sails worked as windfoils to allow upwind sailing.


The typical caravel had at least two pole masts and was lateen-rigged. These were usually built with a double tower at the stern and single tower in the bow.


These were designed to carry cargo and troops to faraway lands. It has a “U” shape characteristic. Larger ones had enough room for large crews, provisions, and cargo required for trading.


Galleons were particularly longer, lower, and narrower. There were mostly under 500 tons. These ships started using portholes which allowed guns to be mounted lower in the hull.

19th Century Clippers

These were designed for speed, which were often capable of reaching 20 knots; a huge difference to the usual 5-6 knots that other cargo ships attained.

The history of tall ships does not only speak of the evolution of structure. How its design has changed also tells something about world history. These vessels were not made for nothing. They had significant roles in the lives of men and women. The ships were part of wars, trade, and travel. How they have changed over time all the more cemented the fact of man’s advancement in knowledge and innovation, with every design serving very specific purposes.

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