What Is A Boat With 2 Masts Called?

Two-masted sailboats are wildly popular amongst sailors. Why? Because a two-masted sailboat looks classic, and timeless just like in the movies. They also offer perfect balance, which can be easily achieved by adjusting the masts in various ways.

In stronger winds, the main mast can be removed. Then the smaller mizzen mast can provide balanced and comfortable sailing even in poor weather conditions. Stability is essential, but what is a boat with 2 masts called?

Several sailboats have two masts. The most common types are the ketch, the yawl, the schooner, and the brig. In most cases, the design of the masts varies, but the basic structure remains the same. You can have the additional mast behind or in front of the main mast.

Sailing Boats with 2 Masts

If the extra mast is in front of the main mast, it is called a foremast, but if the additional mast is behind the main mast, it is called a mizzen mast.

Let’s review these two-masted sailing boats, starting with the ketch:

1. Ketch

ketch boat with two masts

Image credit: American Sailing Association

The mizzen mast of a ketch is almost as high as the main mast. The mizzen supports the mainsail. However, its primary function is to propel the sailboat forward, and it can sail the boat, especially in stronger winds.

This is very different from the mizzen mast of a yawl, which serves only to balance the rudder and not to propel the boat forward. This means that the mizzen mast of a ketch is larger than that of a yawl. In short, the mizzen mast of a ketch is technically a driving sail, while the mizzen mast of a dinghy is more of a balancing sail.

A ketch usually has an advantage over a sloop in downwind or high winds. This is because there is a greater variety of configurations than a typical sloop.

The mizzen mast gives you many options for depowering in strong winds and finding the perfect amount of sail. It can also help stabilize the sailboat under power, as the mizzen mast is in an excellent position.

A ketch has many practical advantages that can be ideal in most situations on the water. A ketch not only sails smoothly on a beam but is also easy to maneuver and gives you many options in different weather conditions and situations.

2. Yawl

Yawl stern

Image credit: American Sailing Association

A yawl is one of the typical two-masted sailing boats. It has two masts: a mizzen mast and the main mast. The mizzen mast is usually much shorter than the main mast. So, it is a leaning sailboat where the main mast is in the front part of the boat while the mizzen mast is in the back part.

The mizzen mast of a yawl is used to improve the balance of the rudder and is located aft or behind the rudder.

It is easy to confuse a yawl with a ketch. Both have two masts, the main mast forward and the smaller mizzen mast. The difference between a ketch and a yawl is the position of the mast. In a yawl, the mizzen mast is behind the rudder, while in a ketch, it is in front of the rudder.

3. Brig

brigantine sailboat

Like the two-masted sailing vessels mentioned above, the brig has two masts with a square main mast. The main mast can be square, partially square, or triangular. Some brigs have a battened mainsail on the main mast.

Historically, brigs were used by pirates. Their name derives from the Italian word “brigantine,” which translates to “pirate.” This type of sailing vessel was used by Mediterranean pirates in the 16th century before being converted into sailing ships.

The two common types of brigs:

  • Brigantine: The foremast is usually partially square, while the main mast is triangular.
  • Hermaphrodite brigantine: Also known as a schooner brig or half brig. The two masts are partially square, but the main mast is a gull and topsail, making it a half schooner.

In terms of speed and maneuverability, brigs are easy to handle and maneuver, which is why they were favored by pirates. Again, brigs tend to be larger than other two-masted or single-masted sailing vessels.

4. Schooner

Red schooner sailing boat

Image credit: American Sailing Association

In a two-masted schooner (a schooner can have two or more masts), the bow mast is usually smaller than the stern mast, which is the main mast. Therefore, the main characteristic of a schooner is that the masts are about the same height, but the foremast is slightly smaller.

While a schooner is easier to sail than a sloop or a single-masted sailboat, it is not very fast. For this reason, most sailors prefer a sloop to a schooner, but it is a beautiful sight, especially when sailing under full sail.

Although the schooner with a square topsail is the most common, there are also vessels with diagonally set spritsails. Schooners with spritsails are not ideal in the larger seaways because the spritsail rig cannot be lowered, or it will become unmaneuverable. On the other hand, the spritsail rig is ideal for coastal waters because the topsail can take a strong breeze.


There are different types of two-masted sailing ships, so there is no one name that fits all of them. You can choose any of them because they will serve you well and help stabilize the boat, especially in strong winds.

See Also: