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The term sailing ship is used to refer to any large wind-powered vessel. In technical terms, a ship was a sailing vessel with a specific rig of at least three masts, square rigged on all of them, making the sailing adjective redundant. In popular usage "ship" became associated with all large sailing vessels and when steam power came along the adjective became necessary. Large sailing vessels which are not ship rigged may be more appropriately called boats.
There are many different types of sailing ships, but they all have certain basic things in common. Every sailing ship has a hull, rigging and at least one mast to hold up the sails that use the wind to power the ship. The crew who sail a ship are called sailors or hands. They take turns to take the watch, the active managers of the ship and her performance for a period. Watches are traditionally four hours long. Some sailing ships use traditional ship's bells to tell the time and regulate the watch system, with the bell being rung once for every half hour into the watch and rung eight times at watch end (a four-hour watch).
Ocean journeys by sailing ship can take many months, and a common hazard is becoming becalmed because of lack of wind, or being blown off course by severe storms or winds that do not allow progress in the desired direction. A severe storm could lead to shipwreck, and the loss of all hands.
Sailing ships are limited in their maximum size compared to ships with heat engines, so economies of scale are also limited. The heaviest sailing ships (limited to those vessels for which sails were the primary means of propulsion) never exceeded 14,000 tons displacement. Sailing ships are therefore also very limited in the supply capacity of their holds, so they have to plan long voyages carefully to include many stops to take on provisions and, in the days before watermakers, fresh water.
There are many types of sailing ships, mostly distinguished by their rigging, hull, keel, or number and configuration of masts. There are also many types of smaller sailboats not listed here. The following is a list of vessel types, many of which have changed in meaning over time:
Starting in 1902 the sail ship Preussen was the first to automate handling of sails by making use of steam power without auxiliary engines for propulsion. The steam power were used for operation of the winches, hoists and pumps. A similar ship Kruzenshtern, which was a very large sailing vessel without mechanized control, had a crew of 257 men; compared the Preussen, which succeeded to reduce this number to 48 men.
In 2006, automated control was taken to the point where sailing can be operated by one person using a central control unit on the boat using DynaRig. The DynaRig technology was first developed in the 1960s in Germany by W. Prolls as a propulsion alternative for commercial ships to handle a possible future energy crisis. The technology is a high-tech version of the same type of sail used by the Preussen, the "square-rigger". The main difference is that the yards do not swing around a fixed mast but are attached permanently to a rotating mast. DynaRig along with extensive computerization was used in the proof-of-concept Maltese Falcon to enable it to be sailed with no crew in the rigging.
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