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A brigantine was a two-masted sailing vessel with a fully square rigged foremast and at least two sails on the main mast: a square topsail and a gaff sail mainsail (behind the mast).[1] The main mast is the second and taller of the two masts.

Brigantine copperEtch.png
Brigantine Experiment of Newburyport, 114 tons, built at Amesbury in 1803.
TypeSailing rig
Place of originAtlantic maritime nations

Modern American definitions include vessels without the square sails on the main mast.


Mediterranean brigantinesEdit

In the Mediterranean Basin during the 13th century, a brigantine referred to a sail- and oar-driven war vessel.[2] It was lateen rigged on two masts and had between eight and twelve oars on each side. Its speed, maneuverability and ease of handling made it a favourite of Mediterranean pirates. Its name is derived from the Italian word brigantino, which in turn is derived from brigante[3] "brigand". Other than in names, this vessel has no relation to the later brigantines developed in Northern Europe.[4]

17th century and onwardsEdit

A brigantine sail plan

By the 17th century the term was adapted by Atlantic maritime nations. The vessel had no lateen sails but was instead square-rigged on the foremast and had a gaff-rigged mainsail with square rig above it on the mainmast.[5] The main mast of a brigantine is the aft one.

By the first half of the 18th century the word had evolved to refer not to a kind of vessel, but rather to a particular type of rigging: two-masted, with her foremast fully square-rigged and her mainmast rigged with both a fore-and-aft mainsail (a gaff sail) and square topsails and possibly topgallant sails.[1]

The brigantine was the second most popular rig for ships built in the British colonies in North America before 1775[6] (the most popular type of vessel being a sloop). The brigantine was swifter and more easily maneuvered than a sloop or schooner, and was hence employed for purposes of piracy, espionage, and reconnoitering, and as an outlying attendant upon large ships for protecting a ship, or for supply or landing purposes in a fleet.

The brigantine could be of various sizes, ranging from 50 to 200 tons burden. The brigantine was generally larger than a sloop or schooner but smaller than a brig.[7]

The last sailing true brigantine in the world is the Eye of the Wind.[1]

Modern terminologyEdit

A modern brigantine sail plan or "hermaphrodite brig"
The steamship Columbia, an example of a late 19th century auxiliary brigantine rig vessel.

The definition given above describes the international usage of the term brigantine. In modern American terminology, the term brigantine now usually means a vessel with the foremast square rigged and the mainmast fore-and-aft rigged, without any square sails. Historically, this rig used to be called a schooner brig or hermaphrodite brig.[8] In Europe, the distinction is typically still made. The training ship Zebu, which circumnavigated the Globe as part of Operation Raleigh, is a good working example of a schooner brig.

Differences from brigEdit

The word brig is an 18th-century shortening of the word brigantine, but came to mean a different type of rigging. It is the gaff-rigged mainsail on a brigantine which distinguishes it from the brig, which is principally square rigged on both masts. In addition to the different sail configuration, the brigantine's main mast is made from two parts and equal to that of a schooner: a quite long mast and a top mast. The main mast of a brig is made from three parts and equal to that of a fully rigged ship: a mast, topmast and topgallant mast. With the advent of modern (metal) pole masts, this last difference typically no longer exists.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-09. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  2. ^ Dik; Hans (2006). Aken, tjalken en kraken: zeilschepen van de Lage Landen : de binnenvaart. De Alk. ISBN 978-90-6013-274-6.
  3. ^ (in Italian) 'Brigantino' at
  4. ^, Gooii Ltd. "Brigantin donnant chasse a une Felouque et prest a la border – National Maritime Museum". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  5. ^ Peter Kemp, ed. (1994). The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  6. ^ "Brigentines Described". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  7. ^ Dik Vuik, Hans Haalmeijer (2006). Aken, tjalken en kraken. Alkmaar, the Netherlands: Uitgeverij De Alk B.V.
  8. ^ "brigantine". Retrieved 19 March 2018.

External linksEdit