Cruiser Wiki Click Here to Login

Join Cruiser Log Today

Cruiser Log World Cruising & Sailing Forums

Cruiser Log World Cruising & Sailing Forums (
-   General Cruising Forum (
-   -   Yawl We Need Help (

K35auxiliary 07-23-2007 07:53 PM

We have recently "traded" up from a Mitchel 24 sloop to a K35 S&S designed Yawl. Our first reaction is utter amazement at how much more boat we no have! We have lived aboard our little sloop with great success over the past few years. Cruising/sailing around the Puget sound area while going attending school. The addition of the mizzen mast "into the family" has been both exciting and, well, puzzling. What, exactly, does it do? And other than a really skookum place to stretch the hammock to, what is it for. It is an elegant wooden thing tipped in white but i'm afraid it looks at us much the same way a Parisian Saucier would glare if asked to prepare French Fries. Please believe we are not incompetent. We have read the limited resources available concerning our unemployed mizzen mast. Things like: Is it a Yawl or Ketch, the illuminating hunt for your rudder post. And as far as we can discern a Ketch's mizzen mast is stepped forward of the rudder post and is rigged for "propulsion". Where as, Yawl's mizzen mast is stepped aft of the rudder post and is designed for "trim". (and somewhere between the electronic cyber-shoals of the internet and our favorite library we grounded on this salty morsel of knowledge: The Yawl vs Ketch classification as distinguished by the stolid rudder post was in fact a recent classification for IOR and RORC handicap allowances. Is this true?)

So if all this is true, then why good sailors, does our mizzen main sail have three reef points and enjoy the company of a mizzen staysail? Any and all help, information, tactics, and free pints would be greatly appreciated.


A & J

Lighthouse 07-23-2007 08:06 PM

Welcome aboard - enjoy your stay. I know some members will be along shortly to answer your very interesting questions.

Fair winds!

duckie 07-23-2007 11:45 PM


Yawl's mizzen mast is stepped aft of the rudder post and is designed for "trim"
I'm guessing this means "trim" in the sense of weather helm and lee helm.

If the centre of resistance in the keel is further astern than a sloop, it may need the mizzen to balance the centre of effort.

Without the mizzen up, do you notice weather or lee helm when tacking or reaching?

duckie 07-24-2007 05:11 AM

An afterthought.

I presume the mizzen affects the design of the sail and rigging layout (centre of effort) vs the underwater design (centre of lateral resistance).

It might allow a bigger headsail, or more spinaker on a tight reach or placing the main mast further forward or a fuller keel that comes right to the back of the boat.

Or it might just allow you to correct weather / lee helm in different conditions without using adjustable rigging.

However, this is just boat design theory.

I'm sure there are people out there who know the precise design reasons for a mizzen.

K35auxiliary 07-24-2007 05:36 AM


Thanks for the theory. We haven't been able to play as much as we'd like but I can tell you she ghosts right along in light airs with drifter and mizzen alone. And tacking is interesting with the mizzen. more than once have we found ourselves in irons because we've forgotten about the bloody sail behind us!

Auzzee 07-24-2007 05:51 AM

The main benefit of a ketch rig is in making sail handling easier. The yawl has alawys intrigued me...but not enough to research it. It seems the mizzen on a yawl is much smaller than a ketch mizzen on a comparably sized boat. Yawls seem to have the same mast height as sloops, so it would appear the yawl mizzen, as Duckie suggests, is there to assist the trim on the wind.

I haven't the faintest idea! But ketch mizzens are a nuisance as they destroy the after deck. Yawl mizzens at least leave the deck a little more clear.

Do yacht makers still make yawls and ketches, or was that just a 70's trend that disappeared along with flared jeans?


duckie 07-24-2007 09:27 AM

I was curious as well to find more about yawl design principles, so I did some Googling. Not much about design.

Sir Francis Chichester did a super fast solo circumnavigation in Gypsy Moth IV, a yawl.

The rig was supposed to make it easier to stick to a course just maintained with light self steering gear.

Apparently the design principles do not always work in practice.


In his book The Circumnavigators Don Holm describes Gipsy Moth IV as "perhaps one of the worst racing yachts ever built," while Chichester commented:

Now that I have finished, I don't know what will become of Gipsy Moth IV. I only own the stern while my cousin owns two thirds. My part, I would sell any day. It would be better if about a third were sawn off. The boat was too big for me. Gipsy Moth IV has no sentimental value for me at all. She is cantankerous and difficult and needs a crew of three - a man to navigate, an elephant to move the tiller and a 3'6" (1.1m) chimpanzee with arms 8' (2.4m) long to get about below and work some of the gear.
In contrast, your boat sounds a delight!

Happy sailing.


Charlie Jones 07-24-2007 01:26 PM

Find some copies of Don Street's Ocean Sailing Yacht books, vols I and II. He's sailed a yawl for years and is quite high on them. He goes into a good bit of detail on why in those books.

Piotrek 07-24-2007 03:28 PM


I was sailing mainly sloops, but I have some experience with ketch and I had my practical training and exam on a 45', 19000lb disp. full keel wooden yawl.

What I can remember, while ketch evolved from fishing sailboat (as the name suggests) where the mizzen was used to keep the boat upwind while working with nets, yawl is derived from rowing boats with auxiliary sails. They put mizzen mast as far back as possible to make more room for oarsmen.

On modern yawl yacht mizzen is usefull mainly for maneuvering under sail and self steering. The sail is small enough to be pushed against the wing so you can easly sail backward or tight turning circle. While we were training on this 45' boat we were able to turn 90deg within one boat length easly or make full 360deg circle without use of the tiller. You can use mizzen sail to push the stern to the dock and tie docklines and so on.

Since almost all maneuvering tooday is done under motor power and working with mizzen require extra crew there is little use for this design.

Hope that my english is readable.

Check this too:


Gallivanters 07-24-2007 04:21 PM

I'm certainly no expert, but...

It's my understanding that yawls & ketches were designed as a way to bend the rules of offshore racing.

But I may be wrong.

What I do know is that they sure are pleasing to look at... but they really do little in terms of performance. And the additional spars, rigging, hardware & software all add significantly to the cost of building and maintaining the vessel.

Nobody seems to be producing ketches, schooners or yawls now-a-daze.

In my opinion - sail & rig performance is (and has always been) driven by the limitless finances pouring into the America's Cup syndacates.

And judging by the shape of the mainsails (square heads) used by all boats in the last running off Valencia - Aye wouldn't be too surprised if we soon see a revival of some sort of gaff rig with new-fangled backstays.

To Life!


redbopeep 07-24-2007 07:27 PM

Good luck to you with sailing your yawl. You may wish to play around with a mizzen staysail since it is considered a great asset to the yawl and ketch rigs. It is an easy to manage sail and a great puller. Functionally--the mizzen staysail is hoisted to the mizzen masthead and tacked down on the weather side-deck. The sheet is usually led through a turning block on the mizzen boom and belayed near its goose neck. If you don't have running backstays, it is very easy to have and use the mizzen staysail. With running backstays, you have to be a bit more careful and clever. Some owners of yawls use the mizzen staysail without even using the mizzen sail because it is the staysail that is so useful!

Answering many questions you may have about the yawl rig, there is a great chapter on the history and development of the yawl in John Leather's book "The Gaff Rig Handbook". (this book is available from as well as other marine-focused booksellers like

Quoting from this resource:

"The yawl rig evolved for convenience of handling by docking the long boom of a cutter and adding a small mizzen stepped on the counter or transom of the vessel. For many years the definition of difference between a yawl and a ketch as been the yawl's mizzen steps aft ot he rudder stock and the ketch's forward of it. However the rig should more practically be defined by the relative size of the mainsail and mizzen rather than the position of the latter.

The date of origin of "yawl" applied to rig is obscure but appears to originate in the early 19th century, probably contemporary with the many coasting and fishing craft setting the dandy rig, where were in effect short-boomed cutters with small lug mizzen stepped aft and usually sheered to an outrigger. The early Clyde yacht Lamlash, built by the first William Fife in 1814, was so rigged...."

further of interest the author tells us:

"The shape of yawls' mizzens has changed over the years. Working craft favoured the standing lug, with or without a boom and sheeted to a bumpkin. This fashion persisted in early-19th century yachts until gaff mizzens became popular in the 1880s. A bermudian or triangular mizzen is probably the smartest setting, most efficient and lightest sail, which suffers least from the mainsail’s backwind but may require a very tall mast, making staying awkward. It is popular belief that a yawl’s mizzen is only a steering sail to make her “look up into the wind”. In a yacht designed for the rig it should be considered a driving sail otherwise it is worthless.

Old boats are sometimes converted to yawl rig in an attempt to improve their steering and some have even had the mizzen boom sheeted to the rudder in attempts to make them quicker in stays, with little effect.”

Finally, this chapter has several pages describing particular yawls, working boats and racing yachts alike. He does state that:

“the big racing yawls died out in the 1880’s but revived strongly after 1896 when rating changes caused the splendid larg cutters…to dock their main booms and step a mizzen in order to win. The mainsail was much to large in proportion to the mizzen, which was almost useless on the wind causing it to be despised by yacht skippers and crews as being ‘only fit to cheat the rule or fly the ensign from’”.

Also interesting:

“Joshua Slocum converted his sloop Spray to a yawl after sailing across the Atlantic, down to South America, and through the Straits of Magellan, by stepping a standing lug on her transom, sheeted to a bumpkin. It reduced the size of her mainsail and improved her steering, on the wind, but he furled the mizzen when running.”

Again, good luck with your yawl.>/smile.gif

Nausikaa 07-24-2007 07:35 PM

Thanks for this great piece of information redbopeep.>/nicepost.png

I love the ketch rig - it just looks so smart. Not a very sound reason but there it is.

Thanks anyway


Auzzee 07-24-2007 07:44 PM

Thanks Redbopeep...Once again, my education has been enhanced through the knowledge of others.

Very informative post.


K35auxiliary 07-24-2007 08:35 PM

What an incredible amount of information! Thank you all for the ideas and resources. We are certainly going to play with the mizzen staysail and explore the manuevability aspects of our mizzen. Yesterday, while admiring our new home a curious neighbor posed an interesting question: With our mizzen mast stepped well behind the cockpit, the mizzen boom is sheeted to our small but stout bumpkin. Where then were we planning to mount our windvane? And rather than offer an educated answer we simply refilled his wine glass and quickly changed the subject to zebra mussels.

In the immediate future a windvane is neither a necessity nor a requirement (all voyages being between the San juans and Seattle area) but our ultimate goal is extended cruising after we've finished school. At which point a windvane would be a very handy thing indeed. Are there Yawl compatible windvanes? Or should we be shopping for an autohelm?

Thankyou all again for the tremendous amount of information and helpful resources. We were beginning to think we'd purchased a sloop with a pretty walking stick!


Lew on Harmony 07-24-2007 08:51 PM

I crewed on a ocean racing yawl during the 1960's. At the start, the mizzen was not set because in increased weather helm. Nor was it set on a beat, usually. The rig had two real advantages. It was fantastic on a reach or downwind with extra sail, including staysail or mizzen spinnaker, which was not penalized by the ratings (i.e., a rule beater). The second real advantage was when the wind kicked up above 30. Then we set a jib staysail and the mizzen only and the boat flew. Even stronger winds...reef the mizzen.


K35auxiliary 07-24-2007 09:13 PM


The combination of mizzen & jib staysail is great. But we really curious about the mizzen spinnaker? Does such a thing really exist? How does it work?

redbopeep 07-25-2007 01:28 AM


Originally Posted by Nausikaa (Post 10273)
I love the ketch rig - it just looks so smart. Not a very sound reason but there it is.

I also find the ketch and schooner rigs to "look right" on the water. Before the purchase of the schooner we're presently rebuilding, we looked at numerous ketch and yawl rigged boats. We really though we'd be purchasing a ketch because that's mostly what was available in the 40-60 ft boats we were looking at. We're thrilled to have purchased schooner with its lovely lines.

Part of enjoying sailing and cruising is enjoying the feel of the wind, the smell of the sea, and the look of the boat and her rig.


Much of my life has been driven (too much!>/sad.gif ) by reason and justification of action with words like "cost effective" or "practical."

Now, I'm purely on a path to "enjoy" this world around me. That allows me to be very, very happy with our choice of cruising a classic sailing yacht. A schooner with its cloud of sail, bronze fittings, wood spars, deck, and hull. Happiness.>/smile.gif

SeaVenture 07-25-2007 02:59 AM

Re: windvanes and mizzen booms--

We have a ketch and a Monitor windvane. I think they have one that works with a boom that overhangs even more than ours does.

Have fun!

K35auxiliary 07-25-2007 05:11 AM

Redbopeep, the information you shared was wonderful. And we agree completely with your latest posting. Sailing for us is FUN. Learning together how to work our vessel and the wind is sheer enjoyment and moving aboard has been the best decision we've made together. And much of the fun is derived from being surrounded by the beauty of our vessel. The reflection of mahogany and bronze in the sunset bathed waters of Puget Sound mixed with the creak of hemp rigging on wooden spars for us holds a very special beauty. The aesthetics of life aboard is far more engaging than the layers of industrial concrete, steel, and micro chips that we to often find ourselves surrounded by.

Thanks again,

A & J

Nausikaa 07-25-2007 05:11 AM


Originally Posted by redbopeep (Post 10291)
Part of enjoying sailing and cruising is enjoying the feel of the wind, the smell of the sea, and the look of the boat and her rig.


Now, I'm purely on a path to "enjoy" this world around me. That allows me to be very, very happy with our choice of cruising a classic sailing yacht. A schooner with its cloud of sail, bronze fittings, wood spars, deck, and hull. Happiness.>/smile.gif

I quite agree and am pleased that you have been able to adopt that life style. Your schooner sounds great. How about a photo here?

Getting back to the topic, what I particularly like with ketch and yawl rigs, aside, is their versitility. In hard weather you can dowse the main and sail on using jib and mizzen in a well balanced boat.

The rig also makes heaving to simpler and more comfortable.

For open-ended cruising I would go for a gaff rigged ketch (or possibly gaff on main and marconni rigged mizzen) as they run well and the masts are shorter.



All times are GMT. The time now is 11:25 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
SEO by vBSEO 3.6.0

Our Communities

Our communities encompass many different hobbies and interests, but each one is built on friendly, intelligent membership.

» More about our Communities

Automotive Communities

Our Automotive communities encompass many different makes and models. From U.S. domestics to European Saloons.

» More about our Automotive Communities

RV & Travel Trailer Communities

Our RV & Travel Trailer sites encompasses virtually all types of Recreational Vehicles, from brand-specific to general RV communities.

» More about our RV Communities

Marine Communities

Our Marine websites focus on Cruising and Sailing Vessels, including forums and the largest cruising Wiki project on the web today.

» More about our Marine Communities

All times are GMT. The time now is 11:25 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
SEO by vBSEO 3.6.0