Y is for Yawl ….

Y is for Yawl….


noun \ˈyȯl\

Definition of YAWL

1 a ship’s small boat : jolly boat

2: a fore-and-aft rigged sailboat carrying a mainsail and one or more jibs with a mizzenmast far aft

Low German jolle

First Known Use: 1670

(I really should have gone with the Yeti Tim suggested)

Why? It will quickly become abundantly clear. For a Maritimer to pick a type of sail rig is a dangerous thing. I mean, oh, look! It’s a YAWL and I can make some cute joke about how it shouldn’t be confused with “y’all” and we’d have a laugh and I’d write a poem, but no. I wandered around Merrian-Webster (mistake), and then cracked open Chappelle (he’s a ship-rigging guy who wrote volumes about this subject), and then wondered about Ketches, because they’re close to Yawls, and then I thought, well, we call Ketchikan “Ketch” (sometimes we call it “Ketch-a-plane” since that’s usually why we go over there) and got to wondering if Ketchikan, being a fishing place, if that’s where the name came from. Nope. “Ketchikan” is actually from the Tlingit Kitschk-hin, meaning “Thundering Wings of an Eagle.” (The Encyclopedia Britannica) So, its history as a fishing town (at least since the Contact Period) has nothing to do with boats rigged especially for fishing and net handling (which is what a Ketch is by definition).

A yawl is a boat of a different sail rig. Maybe. You see, in the last century, Herreshoff (as in American yacht designer Francis Herreshoff) defined a yawl in the old Dutch sense—that of being a small boat that was propelled primarily by rowers, and if there ever was a mast stepped in it, it would have to have been out of the way of the rowers and would have provided only secondary propulsion. There’s also the placement of the mizzen. I mean, just look at the rigging configurations of the yawl vs. the ketch.

I mean, seriously, just look at that. It’s glaring the difference. Well, maybe not glaring unless you’re staring at it or writing about it, but sailors are like that. Albatross (our sailboat) is cutter rigged, but we run her like a sloop because we never have had the nerve to run two foresails (we’ll get the nerve at some point, but sure as heck not in Clarence Strait, and sure as heck not this year). Apologies to Jim or Frank or Don or Steve who may be reading this. Remember, you just convinced us to take a run at Dry Pass this summer (there’s A REASON IT’S CALLED DRY PASS, okay? Don’t push your luck with trying to get us to make more than 6 knots under sail, boys. Thanks.)

Where was I?

Oh, yes, yawl.  Famous ones include the Salcombe Yawl from Devon (in England). These are single-handed sailers. They’re clinker-built (as opposed to carvel built). Clinker means … well, here’s a picture of what clinker built looks like followed by a carvel-built hull.

They’re wooden boats, and I like that people (boat builders and people who mess about in boats) have decided that wooden is the way to go for a Salcombe Yawl. If you want to go with any newfangled fiberglass (or “glassfiber” across The Pond), that’s not a Salcombe Yawl, that’s called a Devon Yawl.

They’re fast boats, these yawls. In the 1950s and 1960s, a number of them were developed for ocean racing. I like that—wooden boats participating in ocean races. That doesn’t happen much anymore. Single-hulled vessels hardly participate in that kind of racing, either. That’s not to say the newer boats aren’t glorious, I mean, they’re absolutely stunning, and I would love to see one under sail. I’d love to see it from a distance….or from the deck of another boat nearby. While I always try to remember it’s called “heeling” and not “WE’RE GONNA FLIP OVER AND DIE!” sometimes, I’m still not successful.

We’re rounding the top of Prince of Wales Island in July of this year.

That yelp (or screaming) you’ll hear … wherever you are … is me forgetting that.

Poetry Form: Ya Du

S.E Asia (Burma)


As the Than Bauk is to the Haiku, then the Ya Du is to the Tanka and consists of four syllable lines and a fifth one that can comprise of 5, 7, 9,or 11 syllables. The staircase rule applies to the four lines, and the last syllable of the fourth and fifth line must rhyme, giving a pattern of:

O. O. O. a.
O. O. a. O
O. a. O. b
O. O. b. c.
O. O. O. O. O. O. O. O. c.

Unlike the Than Bauk, this must be a completed stanza, and no more than three stanzas are permitted.

(From: www.thepoetsgarret.com )


Love of the sea

Wind blows free and

In three sails fills

Wanton thrills soar

Until darkest clouds drive us inshore.


Single-hand reef

Not to grief brought

Haul sheets and call

Wildest squall wails

Adrenalin pumping we wrench in our sail.


Danger has passed

The sea, glassed, stills

The mast sways soft

Light breeze wafts ‘round

Our fears and our terror all lay drowned.


In case you’ve made it this far and are TRULY a sail-rigging geek, all I have to say is WELCOME FELLOW SAILOR, HOME FROM THE SEA! And, since you’ve endured, here are some pictures of sail rigs with their definitions (wrenched from Wiki-pedia and cross-checked in a number of sources to ensure accuracy)

Cutter: like a sloop with two or more headsails in the foretriangle. Better than a sloop for light winds, it is also easier to manage, due to the sail area being split up between smaller sails which require less force to trim as compared to the larger single jib of the sloop. The mast is located at about 50% of boat length. This is what our sailboat is supposed to look like fully-rigged. We run the Yankee, but not the Staysail. Give us time. We’ll get brave … or stupid … or brave…


Yawl: like a sloop or catboat with a mizzen mast located aft (closer to the stern of the vessel) of the rudder post. The mizzen is small, and is intended to help provide helm balance.


Ketch: like a yawl, but the mizzenmast is often much larger, and is located forward of the rudder post. The purpose of the mizzen sail in a ketch rig, unlike the yawl rig, is to provide drive to the hull. A ketch rig allows for shorter sails than a sloop with the same sail area, resulting in a lower center of sail and less overturning moment. The shorter masts therefore reduce the amount of ballast and stress on the rigging needed to keep the boat upright. Generally the rig is safer and less prone to broaching or capsize than a comparable sloop, and has more flexibility in sailplan when reducing sail under strong crosswind conditions—the mainsail can be brought down entirely (not requiring reefing) and the remaining rig will be both balanced on the helm and capable of driving the boat. The ketch is a classic small cargo boat.