Barquentine or Brigantine?

Starting in 1749, Captain Ephraim Cook sailed several times to Nova Scotia, bringing settlers from Europe. In 1754, Cook sailed to the South Shore to start his own settlement at Mahone Bay and began shipbuilding. By 1900, every man, woman, and child was directly or indirectly sustained by this industry. Shipyards remained the primary business of Mahone Bay until the mid-1970s, producing well over 1,000 ships in 220 years of shipbuilding.

As you make your way along the main streets, you’ll notice the metal ship silhouette signs fixed to poles along the route. Hosted by the Mahone Bay Heritage Boat Yard Co-op, these represent many of the styles of ships that were produced here in those years. Though many seem similar, they were carefully designed to suit particular needs, functions, and crew sizes.

Enjoy learning the names of these proud vessels and some of the terms that distinguish the features of each, and visit us to see the bay where seafarers from near and far continue to make port. You might even catch sight of a schooner!


A barque or bark is usually a three-masted vessel, with the fore and main masts square-rigged and the mizzen mast or after mast rigged fore and aft. The four-masted barque was a relatively common rig on the oceans, but only two were built in Canada. The John M. Blaikie was launched in 1885 at Great Village, and the Kings County was launched in 1890 at Kingsport.


A barquentine is a vessel with the foremast rigged square, and the other masts rigged fore and aft. In Mahone Bay, the Nicanor, 463 tons, and Ravenswood, 524 tons, were built in the John H. Zwicker shipyard in 1886 and 1890.

Bermuda Sloop

The Bermuda sloop rig, also known as a Marconi rig, refers to a configuration of mast and rigging and is the typical configuration for most modern sailboats. This configuration was developed in Bermuda in the seventeenth century, but the term “Marconi” was a much later reference to the inventor Guglielmo Marconi, whose wireless radio masts resembled Bermuda rigs.


A brig is a two-masted vessel square-rigged on both masts and differentiated from the snow rig by the absence of a trysail mast and having the trysail, also known as a spencer, spanker or driver, hoisted on the aft side of the main mast. The brig is a very old and efficient sailing rig, and the class was still in use up to the very end of the age of sail.


A brigantine is a two-masted vessel square-rigged on the foremast, with fore-and-aft sails on the mainmast. The brigantine is shown with two staysails set between the masts. Used primarily for cargo and plying the eastern seaboard and northern Altantic Ocean, these vessels hauled wood, coal, fish, and local products south, returning to our shores with sugar, rum, molasses, and other southern manufactured goods.

Cat Boat

A cat boat or a cat-rigged sailboat, is a single-hulled sailing vessel characterized by a single mast carried well forward, near the bow of the boat.

Coastal Schooner

The coastal schooner was the workhorse of our coastal trade. She was probably not much more than 100 tons, and carried everything from timber and coal, to bricks, general cargo, and loads of hay to offshore island communities.

Fishing Schooner

A fishing schooner has two or more masts with fore and aft sails. Similar to the famous Bluenose, in addition to all the normal lower sails, they carry a main gaff topsail and a fisherman staysail set between the masts. This silhouette depicts a vessel with her winter rig.

Four-Masted Schooner

The four-masted schooner’s design attempted to reduce individual sail area, raise tonnage, and still manage with a small crew. All sails were set fore and aft and were gaff-rigged with topsails.

Full-Rigged Ship

A full-rigged ship such as the Kinburn, length 183’, weight 1200 tons, was square-rigged on all masts and was built in 1873 at John H. Zwicker Shipyard. The Kinburn ruled the waves off Lunenburg County for many years, and was widely regarded as the largest ship east of Shelburne for much of the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Gaff Sloop

The gaff sloop is a fore-and-aft rigged vessel with one mast. Most sloops in the nineteenth century were small inshore fishing vessels. In the twentieth century, sloops became the most popular rig for yachts. O. A. Ham Yacht Works, located in Mahone Bay, was a well-known builder of fast and luxurious boats of this design.

Grand Bank Fishing Schooner

The Grand Bank fishing schooner has two or more masts with fore-and-aft sails. Similar to the famous Bluenose, schooners carry a main gaff topsail and a fisherman staysail set between the masts.


The snow or snaw is a type of brig often referred to as a snow-brig, carrying square sails on both masts but with a small trysail mast, sometimes called a snow-mast, stepped immediately abaft the mainmast. This mast would carry a fore and aft trysail — a gaff-rigged sail with boom. The sail and its rigging resembled the mizzen of a ship. A variation had an iron rod called a horse on the aft side of the mainmast, with the luff of the trysail attached to it by rings.

Square Topsail Schooner

A square topsail schooner has a combination of fore-and-aft sails and small square sails. They were popular for coastal trading in the early 1800s. A number of topsail schooners were built and many were sold in Great Britain.

Tancook Whaler

The Tancook whaler evolved in the Mahone Bay area. The double-ended whaler was first built in the 1860s to 1870s. Early boats, 24 to 28 feet, featured lapstrake planking with centreboard and schooner rigging.

Tern Schooner

A tern schooner (“tern” meaning a series of three) is a three-master built in great numbers all along our shores between 1880 and 1920. These vessels were cargo carriers of between 200 and 400 tons, requiring a crew of six to eight. Our tern silhouette is shown with all sails set except for staysails between the masts.