History of Sailing – Part 1

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Sailing has been around for quite a considerable time now. In fact the earliest recordings of man’s time on the sea dates back to 4000 BC. As you might expect with something as old as sailing there have been considerable changes in the way people have taken to the water over time. Design, skills, charting and of course technology has played its part in helping sailing evolve to what it is now. In this blog we will take a look at the time-line of sailing, highlighting some of the breakthroughs’ along the way.\

The Egyptian Era

The Egyptian Era

At the outset of sailing, the Egyptians used animal skins to make sails. Thought to be one of the hardiest materials available at the time, animal skins did an efficient job for sailing boats. However, these were soon replaced with other materials. Time would see the introduction of sails made from hemp, flax, jute and ramie. It was not unusual to see sails adopting a wide variety of shapes and sizes as shipman started to develop and understanding of what worked to help propel their boats best. Around 3000 BC there was a definite lean towards square sails, which at the time provided some of the best movement possible.

2000 BC

The second millenium BC saw the inception of extensive trading networks in the Mediterranean region. In addition, ice boats in Scandinavia were used for the first time. The Phoenicians appeared on the scene and developed boats with a keeled hull. It was this development that allowed them to sail onto the high-seas, which was the springboard to allow them to flourish. The manufactured goods produced by Egypt started to find themselves sold in many different countries, thanks largely to the sea-faring aptitude of the Phoenicians. Around 1200 BC there was a huge growth in larger cargo ships in the Mediterranean area. Ships from Greece were starting to help the country get noticed as a sailing powerhouse. Development continued, with the Phoenicians leading the way. Around 500 BC they were the first to introduce ships featuring a 2nd mast.

The Roman Empire

Rome wasn’t to be left too far behind with sea travel and around 100 BC saw their introduction to maritime affairs.  At that time they produced the largest cargo ships that the world had ever seen, often dwarfind the size of other boats. The Romans had ships that were as large as 180 feet in length by 45 feet in width. Aside from cargo ships they also started to develop a range of passenger boats.

The Roman Empire

400 AD

Catamarans were first seen around the time of 400 AD, with South East Asia being the initial area that introduced them to the world. In essence these boats were two canoe type objects that were bound together with a wooden frame. The word catamaran is a translation of the Tamil word “kattumaram” which means logs that are bound together. Interestingly catamarans didn’t find themselves in the western world until close to the 19th century. The first account of caterman written in English language came from navigator William Dampier, who noted that these strange looking boats were nothing more than light-weight logs that carried a single man. He went on to add that the sailor on these vessels would have their legs dangling into the water below them.