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Sailing Boats from Around the World: The Classic 1906 Treatise

Sailing Boats from Around the World: The Classic 1906 Treatise

by Henry Coleman Folkard

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Comprehensive, profusely illustrated book documents early-20th-century sailing. Includes detailed, instructional manual for beginning and experienced sailors, review of small vessels then in use; racing boats, odd and experimental vessels, and more. Over 380 line drawings and photographs, including body, deck, and sail plans. Nautical vocabulary. Indexes.


Comprehensive, profusely illustrated book documents early-20th-century sailing. Includes detailed, instructional manual for beginning and experienced sailors, review of small vessels then in use; racing boats, odd and experimental vessels, and more. Over 380 line drawings and photographs, including body, deck, and sail plans. Nautical vocabulary. Indexes. Bibliography.

Editorial Reviews

Documents the state of the sailing arts in the beginning of the 20th century, including instructions for beginning and experienced sailors, a review of the great varieties of small vessels then in use, an overview of the history of boats and sailing, and a nautical vocabulary. Illustrated with b&w line drawings. Comprises an unabridged reprint of the 6th Edition of a work originally published in 1906 under the title by Chapman and Hall, Ltd., London. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Dover Publications
Publication date:
Dover Maritime Series
Product dimensions:
6.49(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.18(d)

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Sailing Boats from Around the World

The Classic 1906 Treatise

By Henry Coleman Folkard

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2000 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-31134-0



'Illi robur et æs triplex
Circa pectus erat, qui fragilem truci
Commisit pelago ratem
Primus.'—HOR. Od. I. iii. 9.

THE boats or vessels of the Ancients were of a very diminutive size in comparison with those of later date. Few of them exceeded the ordinary dimensions of a modern ship's launch. But as civilization advanced boats and vessels of larger size were constructed, though in a rude and primitive style; and when provided with vessels of burthen, it was a long time before the boldest mariners ventured to trust themselves and their vessels far from land.

The earliest mode of navigation was by rafts constructed of balks or planks of wood, to which were afterwards added borders of wicker-work, covered with the skins of animals. Of this kind were the Coracle of Ancient Britain, and the Cymba sutilis of Virgil.

It is mentioned by Homer that the boat built by Ulysses was put together with wooden pegs instead of bolts; and that the gunwale was raised by hurdles of osiers to keep off the waves of the sea.

The Egyptians had boats of terra cotta, and some of the leaves of the papyrus; the Indians made rafts and boats of bamboo cane. The skins of animals were used by the Romans and others for the outer covering of boats; and the Roman boatmen were called Utricularii.

The invention of ships was not known to the Romans until after the first Punic war, A.U.C. 490.

To be represented in a boat was the Egyptian symbol of apotheosis; and many Emperors (as our Kings in a ship on their coins) are thus distinguished.

The early Greeks are mentioned in history as the first who devoted attention to boat-building; the Trireme, Bireme, and other galleys were of their invention. The Trireme, which had three ranks or benches of rowers, was preceded by the Bireme with two such ranks; and the latter was a modification of the simple galley or long-ship, with only one rank on each side. The bows of some of the war-galleys were ornamented with carved heads of boars and other ferocious animals, projecting four or five feet; beneath which was a sharp iron pike or rostrum. It was in boats of this kind that the first naval action recorded in history was fought between the Greeks and their colonists, the inhabitants of Corfu.

The Romans afterwards improved upon the trireme, and built a faster class of vessels, called the Liburni: these were more manageable than the others, and better adapted for sailing. The Liburnian galleys were in use at the beginning of the Roman Empire; and the naval engagement at Actium, in which Augustus Cæsar was victorious over Antony, was fought and won in Liburnian galleys.

An Etruscan boat has the prow turned up, but the stern flat and concave, with a hole in the side for the rudder. The latter is merely a long oar for steering.

In most of the vessels of the ancients it appears that the prow was made in the form of a fish, a dolphin, or the head of some animal, with the eyes very distinctly marked on both sides.

Vessels with oars long preceded those with sails. But whatever kind of sail was used, it was never relied on as the only means of propulsion: all ancient vessels were provided with oars, but the use of thowls in which to work them was apparently unknown, as the bulwarks or sides of the vessel were pierced with round holes, through which the oars were thrust and worked; and in vessels of the larger size, such as theLiburni, in which the rowers sat in tiers one above the other, the oars were worked in the same manner: the boat being termed a bireme if there were two tiers of rowers, and trireme if three. Homer mentions masts, but not fixed, only put up as wanted.

As to rudders, some vessels had two, others four, two at the prow and two at the stern.

The ancient practice of rowing was as follows:—a boatman-director, called Celeustes, gave the signal for the rowers to pull, and encouraged them by his song. This song, termed the celeusma, was either sung by the rowers, played upon instruments, or effected by striking a gong, after the manner of the Chinese, Japanese, and others at the present day. Ossian and others mention the rowing song:—

'And all the way to guide their chime,
With falling oars they kept the time.'

The commander of the rowers, called Hortator remigum, Pausarius, and Portisculus, was placed among them in the middle of the boat. He carried a staff, with which he signalled by waving or otherwise when his voice could not be heard. The Anglo-Saxon batswan (boatswain) also used a staff wherewith to direct the rowers.

The Greeks had boats called ampheres; these were long and narrow, and were rowed by a single boatman only, with one pair of sculls. Rowing with the face to the prow is mentioned as customary with the ancients; but this may have been paddling, or pushing ahead with a paddle or sweep.

The oar upon the Etruscan vases is in the form of a narrow pyramid from top to bottom.

Baldarius was the inventor of oars, as applied to large fighting vessels.

Masts and sails are said to have been invented by Dædalus. Varro says they were invented by Isis, who, with an affection bolder than usually falls to the lot of women, sailed in quest of her son Harpocrates: so that while her maternal fondness urged her to the completion of her wishes, she appears to have displayed to the world arts till then unknown to it.

In Stosch and the Florentine Museum is a small vessel with oars, the prow of which ends in a cheniscus of the form of a swan's neck. Precisely in the place of a mast and mizzen sail are two large extended wings, proper to catch the wind, as if for flying. This would seem to explain the fable of Dædalus.

The cheniscus, or swan's neck, was also, it appears, an ornament of the stern, but bent downwards towards the sea.

The hull of the ancient galleys, as improved by the classical ancients, was made in conformation of the body of a duck, which was said to furnish the best model.

The materials of which sails were anciently made were rushes, broom stuff, skins of animals, and the dried skins of the intestines of animals and fish; linen and hemp were afterwards used; indeed, from the time of Homer, linen was in use.

The forms of ancient sails were various—square, circular, crescent-shaped, and triangular, and the colours white, blue, purple, and sometimes curiously painted. According to Pliny, they were at first set one above another on the same mast; and afterwards on two masts, at the stern and prow.

The sails set on the stern or mizzen-mast were called epidromus; those on the foremast at the prow dolones; at the top of the mast thoracium; stun sails, called orthiax, were also used occasionally in very light winds. Sometimes, when two or more masts were used, the sail of the main-mast was called artemon.

The topsails were of a triangular or latine shape, and were sometimes set with the apex downwards.

It is clear that both sails and oars were employed in many of the vessels of the ancients. Winckelman, however, observes that ships disposed for battle had neither sails nor yards.

The boats and vessels of the classical ancients were of many kinds; with ten, twenty, thirty, and up to 100 oars. Those distinct from war service were as under:—

Actuariœ naves— Long and light vessels, propelled both by oars and sails: never manned by less than twenty rowers.

Annotinœ Frumentariœ—Provision vessels.

Busse—A ship made like a wine-cask.

Calones—Boats for carrying wood.

Cercuri—Ships of burthen, both with sails and oars.

Celoces, or the Greek Celetes—Light vessels, used chiefly for piracy, with only two sets of oars, without deck or rostra.

Catascopia—Small despatch vessels, for carrying letters and reconnoitring.

Constratœ—Those which were entirely decked.

Cubiculatœ—Those with cabins and the conveniences of a house.

Dromones—Long boats, first used in rowing matches.

Fluviatiles—Boats of the river, as distinguished from those of the sea.

Gauli—Phœnician, and round for carriage.

Hippagines, or Hippagogœ—Transports for carrying horses and cavalry after the fleet.

Horiolœ—Small fishing boats.

Hornotinœ—Those built in a year.

Lenunculi—Small fishing boats.

Lentriœ. Pontones fluviatiles—Those employed exclusively upon rivers.

Lembus—Light and undecked, used chiefly on rivers, and on the sea by pirates.

Liburna, Liburnica—Light galliots, used both with sails and oars; from one to five ranks of rowers.

Lintres—Canoes made out of the trunk of a tree, and capable of carrying three persons.


Leves—Very light boats without decks.

Longœ Militares—Built to carry a large number of men, all with oars.

Lusoriœ—Pleasure boats and vessels, used by the guards of the boundaries of the empire in large rivers.

Myopara—A fly boat; a corsair's vessel.

Moneres Monocratœ—Modern galleys, and vessels with only one rank of oars.

Navestabellariœ—Advice boats.

Navigiolum ad animum oblectandum—A pleasure boat.

Onerariœ—Ships of burthen, both with sails and oars.

Orariœ, Littorariœ, Trabales—Coasting vessels.

Oriœ—Wherries, and very small fishing boats.

Parunculus—A small bark.

Phaselus—A small vessel, with sails and oars.

Prosumia—A small watch boat.

Piscatoriœ—Fisher boats.

Pontones—Ferry boats of a square form for carrying horses and carriages.

Plicatiles—Portable boats, built of wood and leather in such a manner as to be capable of being taken to pieces and carried over land.

Prœcursoriœ—Boats which preceded the fleets.

Piraticœ,Prœdatoriœ,Prœdaticœ.— Long, swift, and light boats, used by pirates or picaroons.

Serilla—Boats or barges stuffed in the chinks with tow.

Sagitta, Saguntia—A kind of galley.

Scapha— A long boat.

Solutiles—Boats which fell to pieces of themselves, such as that in which Nero exposed Agrippina.

Stationariœ—Those which were moored or remained fixed at anchor.

Sutiles—Made of strong staves, and covered with leather.

Stlatœ—Broader than high; used by pirates.

Trabariœ—Canoes (same as Lintres ).

Thalamegus—A yacht or vessel of parade and pleasure.

To the above list a few others might be added from Rosinus; but as the definitions are doubtful and various, the author has extended it no farther.

Although it is abundantly clear from this list that sails, as well as oars, were employed on some of the vessels of the ancients, it is doubtful if they practised the art of sailing to windward, with its accompanying tactics. There is, however, evidence that the Romans were acquainted with the art.

But whatever knowledge the ancients possessed of the use of sails as a moving power to the vessel, there is no doubt that they relied mainly on the oars as a means of propulsion, particularly in adverse winds; and that the sails were used only as an auxiliary in a fair wind.

The engraving represents the elevations, head and stern, of a Roman galley, with oar or paddle; it is taken from a model presented many years ago to Greenwich Hospital by Admiral Lord Anson.

This model is one of the most reliable authorities that can be referred to; it is made from one in marble, which was found in the Villa Mathei during the sixteenth century, and now stands before the Church of Santa Maria in Rome.

The model is not a war-galley, but was probably used for commercial purposes, or for the transportation of warlike stores, provisions, and troops.


THE Anglo-Saxons appear to have had pleasure vessels, if such be the proper meaning of pleg-scip, i.e., 'play-ship.' Some of these are described as having ovens, fireplaces, and other domestic conveniences: and boats covered with hides accompanied them.

The large sailing ships of the Anglo-Saxons were called Carikes.

There were also gallyetis, which were probably a small sort of galley.

They had also Crayers, or small fishing boats; and Balingers, small sailing vessels.

The Saxon ships of the eighth century were not much larger than the open pleasure boats of the present day; such as are used at seaside places for taking pleasure parties out to sea for a sail. Their prows and sterns were very erect, and stood high out of the water; and they were ornamented at the top with the rudely-carved head of some animal. They had but one mast, the top or head of which was also decorated with a bird, or some such device. To the mast was made fast a large sail, which from its nature and construction could only be available for the purpose of driving the vessel before the wind.

The Saxons were very magnificent in the appearances of their royal vessels. King Athelstan had one (which was presented to him by Harold, King of Norway), the head of which was wrought with gold, the sails were purple, and the deck was elegantly gilt all round with gold.

Both sails and oars were sometimes used in the galleys of the Normans.

An ancient author, who wrote a history of King Richard the First, in rhyme, says of the King:—

Were the Maryners glad or wrothe,
He made them seyle and rowe bothe,
That the galley gede so swyfte,
So doth the fowle by the lyfte.'

Persons skilled in climbing the shrouds and rigging and furling the sails, were styledfunambuli, as they were in the classical æra.


THERE is overwhelming evidence that canoes made out of the solid trunks of trees, by rounding them on the outside and hollowing them on the inside, were in general use by the Ancient Britons. Several of these have been dug out of the fens and beds of rivers in various parts of England and Scotland within the last century; some of them perfect in form, and in an excellent state of preservation.

Sir Chas. Lyell mentions that Mr. John Buchanan, a zealous antiquary, writing in 1855, states that in the course of the eighty years preceding that date no less than seventeen canoes had been dug out of the estuarine silt on the margin of the Clyde at Glasgow; and that he had personally inspected a large number of them before they were exhumed. Five of them lay buried in silt under the streets of Glasgow. Twelve others were found about a hundred yards back from the river at an average depth of about nineteen feet from the surface of the soil. And that within the then last few years (1869) three other canoes were found in the silts of the Clyde between Bowling and Dumbarton, which were preserved for inspection in the adjacent grounds of Auchentorlie.

Almost everyone of these ancient boats was formed out of a single oak stem, hollowed out by blunt tools, probably stone axes, aided by the action of fire. A few were cut beautifully smooth, evidently with metallic tools. Hence a gradation could be traced from a pattern of extreme rudeness to one showing great mechanical ingenuity. In one of the canoes a beautifully polished celt or axe of greenstone was found.

Two of the canoes were built of planks, one of which, dug up on the property of Bankton in 1853, was eighteen feet in length and very elaborately constructed. Its prow was not unlike the beak of an antique galley; its stern, formed of a triangular-shaped piece of oak, fitted in exactly like those of our day. The planks were fastened to the ribs, partly by singularly shaped oaken pins and partly by what must have been square nails of some kind of metal; these had entirely disappeared, but some of the oaken pins remained.

It is further observed that there can be no doubt that some of these buried canoes are of far more ancient date than others. Those most roughly hewn may be relics of the Stone period; those more smoothly cut, of the Bronze age; and the regularly built boat of Bankton may perhaps come within the age of Iron.

It is stated in King's 'Munimenta Antiqua,' that in a morass called Lockermoss, a very little distance from the Castle of Wardlaw, in Dumfries, an ancient canoe was dug up in the year 1736. This canoe was seven feet long, and dilated to a considerable breadth at one end: its paddle was found at the same time in the morass near to it.

A canoe was also found near Kiblain, eight feet eight inches in length, and two feet in breadth; having a cavity of six feet seven inches in length, and of eleven inches in depth, the hollow of which had plainly been formed originally by means of fire.


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