Sailing ship rigged with fore-and-aft sails on its two or more masts. Though apparently developed from a 17th-century Dutch design, the first genuine schooner was built in the American colonies, probably at Gloucester, Mass., in 1713, by Andrew Robinson. Compared to square-rigged ships, they were ideal for coastal sailing; they handled better in the varying coastal winds, had shallower drafts for shallow waters, and required a smaller crew in proportion to their size. By the end of the century, they were the most important North American ship, used for the coastal trade and for fishing. After 1800 they became popular in Europe and around the world. Clipper ships married the schooner design to that of the old three-masted merchantman.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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