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sailing aspirations and history

sailing aspirations and history

sailing aspirations and history

Hello dear readers. In this post on Solsarin we are going to talk about ”sailing aspirations and history“ . Continue reading to find the answer. Please write your comment, Thanks for your attention.

A Brief History of Sailing

Sailing uses the wind acting on sails, wingsails or kites to propel a craft forwards.

Throughout history sailing has helped civilizations to develop as people sailed across oceans to settle in new areas or trade with others.

  • The earliest record of a ship under sail appears on an Egyptian vase from about 3500 BC.
  • Vikings sailed to North America around 1000 years ago.
  • Advances in sailing technology from the 15th century onward enabled European explorers in Canada to make longer voyages into regions with extreme weather and climatic conditions.
  • Further improvements in sails and equipment allowed colonization of America, Australia and New Zealand, and world trade to flourish in the 18th and 19th century.


Two main periods of voyaging can be identified:

  1. Ancient voyaging: from 50,000 to 25,000 BC people from Asia sailed simple rafts from island to island, reaching Near Oceania (Australia, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands). They traded in stone, hunted animals and gathered seafood and local plants.
  2. Recent voyaging: from 1200 BC people sailed canoes further east, into Remote Oceania (Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia). The islands were much further apart and more difficult to find. Migrating voyagers kept in contact with their home islands through trading trips.

Thousands of years ago, the ancestors of Māori journeyed out of South-East Asia and across the Pacific Ocean. Migration eastward across this large body of water took place over thousands of years. They sailed in waka (canoes), and were some of the world’s greatest waka builders, navigators and mariners.

sailing aspirations and history
sailing aspirations and history

The Lapita people

Archaeologists believe that the Lapita culture is the ancestor of historic cultures in Polynesia, Micronesia, and some coastal areas of Melanesia. The Lapita were the first to reach Remote Oceania. Between 1200 and 1000 BC they spread to West Polynesia (including Tonga and Samoa) on single-hulled outrigger canoes.

Polynesian explorers

About 3,000 years ago Polynesian culture developed in West Polynesia. Skilled navigators in double-hulled waka gradually discovered remote islands to the east, using their knowledge of the stars and the winds to return home safely. Groups would then set off to start new settlements.

To New Zealand and the Chatham Islands

New Zealand’s remote islands were the last to be settled. Around 1300 AD Polynesian settlers navigated their way here. These migrants were the ancestors of Māori. The original migrants came from a region in East Polynesia which Māori later called Hawaiki. At about the same time, they reached the smaller northern islands of Norfolk and the Kermadecs.

Later still, early Māori exploring eastward from New Zealand discovered the Chatham Islands, a few centuries before the first European expeditions reached the Pacific.


10 Top innovations in the history of sailing

The first sailing boats:

Visual depictions of sailing boats have been dated as far back as 5500 BCE, discovered on painted discs from ancient Mesopotamia found in modern day Kuwait. These sailing boats, used on the Nile River, were simple, square-rigged reed ships with a single square papyrus sail attached to a mast. Ancient civilisations including the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used sailing boats, and many cultures and practitioners have contributed to advancements in the science and practice of sailing over the millennia.

Polynesians sailed dugout outrigger canoes to colonise islands, using sticks to create navigational charts of wave patterns and currents that experienced pilots would commit to memory. Arab, Chinese and Indian cultures all had prehistoric sailing traditions. Although Norse Viking ships supplemented sail power with oars but managed to do that cross between the Atlantic’s northern islands, and as far as North America, mostly under sail. And European societies took up the mantle of innovating sailing technologies and techniques during the so-called Age of Discovery.

sailing aspirations and history
sailing aspirations and history

Steering oars and rudders:

As sailing and navigation increased in importance, ancient cultures began to innovate and improve sailing technology. One crucial technological advancement was the steering oar — an innovation that predated more modern stern-mounted rudders and allowed for the construction of larger boats.

A steering oar was a basic lever – typically an oversized oar or board – attached amidship on the starboard (an etymological derivation of the original ‘steerboard’) side of the vessel or at the stern. The innovation allowed a helmsman to pilot the craft more accurately.

Viking ships exclusively used steering oars. Smaller boats, for example punts on English waterways, still use a basic version of the steering oar.

The invention of the stern-mounted rudder is credited to the Chinese, who came up with the idea of affixing a manoeuvrable steering apparatus to the back of a ship’s hull during or before the first century AD during the Han Dynasty. It took Western civilisations another thousand years to affix a stern-mounted rudder to ships.

sailing aspirations and history
sailing aspirations and history

Celestial navigation by the stars:

The prospect of navigating through a featureless landscape – like the sea at night – is still a daunting one for the uninitiated, and the fact that ancient cultures were able to achieve it is a testament to human ingenuity.

Celestial navigation is the method by which ancient mariners piloted in darkness or when out of sight of land. The method requires angular measurements taken between heavenly bodies and the horizon as well as accurate time keeping to keep a ship on course.

Written records of the practice go back to the mythical text of Homer’s Odyssey written nearly 3,000 years ago. In the story, the nymph Calypso tells the hero Ulysses to keep the constellation of stars known as the Bear, Ursa Major and The Big Dipper, on his left hand side while observing the position of several other constellations to aid in his position.

The keel:

A structural beam that runs from a ship’s bow to its stern and sits lower than the rest of the hull, the keel was first invented by those intrepid Norse sailing men known as Vikings. Because their sailing ships were square-rigged, they were prone to making a lot of leeway when tacking close to the wind. The addition of a keel prevented this lateral movement, increased speed and made Viking ships more stable.

Initially, keels were small and didn’t increase boats’ draughts a great deal. Modern fixed keels can be quite deep and restrict yachts from sailing in shallow waters, but the innovation of fixed keels has also made designing for stability in modern boats much easier.

Many keels add ballast to boats and lower the centre of gravity, helping to keep them from capsizing. On racing yachts, for instance a canting keel provides righting momentum to keep the yachts upright.

The lateen (triangular) sail:

One of the biggest jumps in the history of sailing technology was the invention of the lateen or latin-rig sail. The lateen is a triangular sail mounted at an angle and running in a fore-and-aft direction. With a manoeuvre called ‘tacking,’ the sail allows boats to make way to windward in a zig-zagging fashion.

Though its exact origin is unknown, the lateen sail is the earliest-known fore-and-aft rigged sail and was in use in Greece in the first century BC. It is believed to have been introduced to the Mediterranean region by Arabic or Persian sailors. Polynesians also invented a mastless lateen-rigged sail that is very different in construction from that used in the Mediterranean.

The lateen sail effectively allowed for the advent of the Age of Discovery.

sailing aspirations and history
sailing aspirations and history

The carrack and the first circumnavigation of the earth:

It was a carrack ship that completed the first full circumnavigation of the world. It took the Spanish expedition two captains and nearly four years to make the voyage. Portuguese captain Ferdinand Magellan, who initially led the expedition, set off from Spain in 1519 and died in the Philippines in 1521. Juan Sebastian Elcano brought the carrack ship Victoria – the only one of five ships that started the expedition to survive the trip – back to Spain in 1522.

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