Man has always held a fascination with the sea, as an island all our invaders traveled her waters to reach our shores. The Romans invaded us in AD40 and learning from the early craft produced a second sail this had a short mast with a paddle shaped rudder.
The Arabs found that a triangular sail can be sailed closer to the wind, this was also adopted by the Latin peoples and became known as the lateen. The Vikings came in their longboats first raiding and pillaging our shores then deciding to settle done so on the East Coast. Their longboats were steered by a steering board on the right of the craft this later was adopted as the starboard side of a craft. When the Normans invaded us in 1066 they used a stern rudder to make them easier to steer and because they were fighting ships they had a forecastle and sterna castle for their archers to fire from. The crows nest was now inployed as another vantage point for their bowmen.
By Plantagenet times London was a major port in England and made pacts with the German Hanseatic League to carry their wool over the world. It took until about 1450 for us to start making our own cloth but the German ships ships still exported it. The Portuguese caravel was then built, it had two square masts and a third lateen rigged mizzen mast, it was with this ship that Columbus discovered America.
In 1550 the Hanseatic League ran into trouble when the cloth trade collapsed, the Eastland Company took this opportunity to gain ground and started to trade in timber, pitch and ropes. and as the shipbuilding trade flourished so did they. All along the East Coast shipbuilding was expanding.
The 200 ton galleons were now being made with three masts and tops on the fore and main sails these were being equipped with armament and used in the Spanish Armada by Drake, this was our finest hour as a sea faring nation.
By 1660 most of the bulk carrying was done by the Dutch but the navigation Act of 1651 stopped this as it stated any foreign ship bringing goods to this country could only do so if it originated from the vessels home country. This caused trouble between the Dutch and English which resulted in the Anglo-Dutch war in 1652. The English captured a vast number of the Dutch bulk carriers and caused our fleet to double. The East Coast now boomed so much that by 1700 English oak was in short supply and the ships started trading with the Baltic's for raw materials. The East Coast ports were now thriving because of their location.
By 1800, America was now a growing market and the west coast ports of Britain begun to gain. The East Coast ports started to lose their impetus and slowly faded many skilled men were now out of work.
Until the end of this century it was common to describe a ship by the shape of the hull but it now became the masts and rigging that distinguished her from others. The jib was to revolutionise design. by improving progress against a head wind. At the same time the spanker gaff which was held out at an angle was being used instead of the lateen, this gave yachts the same advantages as the jib.
The brig was used by the beginning of 1900 but sailing vessels were now to have a major competitor, the steamship.