You could say any boat that uses a sail for propulsion could classify as a sailboat. However, in this article, we are going to look at the six (6) most common types of sailboats found on the water. When searching for a sailboat for sale, a sailboat will fall into one of the six types which are outlined below starting with the most popular.
When most people envision of what a sailboat looks like in their head, they picture a sloop - as it’s the most desired sailboat amongst sailors. However, they do not realize that it’s a sloop that they are envisioning, they just assume it to be a sailboat. A sloop is equipped with a single mast, located forward of the boat, with one head sail. The reason a sloop is the most popular is because it’s the easiest to sail singlehanded (and the most beautiful looking too) and they are very good sailing to windward. A sloop has less configurations and allows for easier maneuverability. Most sloops up to 40 feet can be sailed by just one person, which for that reason alone is why they are so desired. If you have a “normal” looking sailboat, chances are, you are sailing a sloop
A cutter is very similar to a sloop in that they both have just one mast. What makes the cutter distinct is the extra head sail that gives the sailboat greater speed downwind and can also act as a readily accessible storm jib. Another significant distinction in a cutter is that the mast is located further aft of the boat compared to a sloop.
A ketch has two masts, the main forward and the mizzen aft. A ketch is very similar to a sloop with the only difference of having an extra mast aft of the boat, called the mizzen. The mizzen is much smaller compared to the mast and serves its purpose well on a beam or broad reach. In the unfortunate event that a ketch loses its rudder, the mizzen sail can be used as a rudder (in the air) to steer the sailboat in an emergency.
A schooner is a beautiful sailboat however very few manufacturers produce them anymore. Chances are if you see a schooner out on the water, it’s many years old or it was a custom build by a private owner. A schooner has two large masts with the mast aft being taller than the mast forward with one or two headsails. Schooners were the ships of the past that used sails for propulsion. They sail incredibly well into the wind with great speed and versatility. Schooners were never meant for pleasure sailing but rather for commercial services such as shipping and transportation.
A typical catboat is anywhere from 15 feet to 23 feet in length, although bigger and smaller vessels of this type are produced. A catboat is equipped with one mast, located forward of the boat in the bow, and one large main sail. Like the schooner, the catboat is a boat of the past, mainly used by fisherman. Due to only having one main sail, it performs poorly into the wind. A catboat can still be a fun day sailor on a lake or in the inner coastal but you won’t see anyone taking a catboat on a blue water sailing trip, unless they are crazy.