American Revolution Sailing Ship Boat Transportation Souvenir Sheet MNH
A sailing ship uses sails, mounted on one or more 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—schooners. Still others employ a combination of square and fore-and-aft sails, including the barque, barquentine, and brigantine. Sailing ships developed differently in Asia, which produced the junk and dhow—vessels that incorporated innovations absent in European ships of the time.
Sailing ships with predominantly square rigs became prevalent during the Age of Discovery, when they crossed oceans between continents and around the world. Most sailing ships were merchantmen, but the Age of Sail also saw the development of large fleets of well-armed warships. The Age of Sail waned with the advent of steam-powered ships, which permitted more reliable water transport.
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