AskDefine | Define bowsprit

Dictionary Definition

bowsprit n : a spar projecting from the bow of a vessel

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A spar projecting over the stem of a sailing vessel to provide the means of adding sail surface.


Extensive Definition

The bowsprit, or boltsprit, of a sailing vessel is a pole extending forward from the vessel's prow. It provides an anchor point for the forestay(s), allowing the fore-mast to be stepped further forward on the hull.
On large tall ships the bowsprit may be a considerable length and have several forestays attached. When not in use the foresails are stowed by being tied onto the bowsprit. The crew must then work out on the bowsprit to stow or prepare the sails. To minimise the risk of the bowsprit (and any crew working on it) being buried in large waves, the bowsprit is normally angled upwards from the horizontal.
Early ocean-going vessels tended to tilt the bowsprit at a high angle, and hung one or two square spritsails from yards. In the 17th century and early 18th century a vertical sprit topmast was added near the end of the bowsprit and another square sail added to it; this was not a particularly successful design however, the mast tending to carry away in heavy weather. Fore-and-aft sails known as jibs hung from the stays proved more useful for speed and maneuvering, and the basic bowsprit was lengthened with a jibboom and then even further with a flying jibboom, resulting in bowsprits of tremendous length, up to 30 meters total.
On smaller vessels, where the bowsprit is not used for stowing sails, it is often horizontal. Bowsprits are rare on modern yachts; the forestay merely runs down to the tip of the bow. On some modern racing yachts and dinghies, the bowsprit is retractable and primarily used to fly an asymmetrical spinnaker.
The very end of the bowsprit is traditionally painted white on tall ships, unless the ship in question has ventured into either the Arctic or Antarctic circles, in which case it is painted blue (i.e. bluenose).

External links

bowsprit in Bulgarian: Бушприт
bowsprit in Czech: Čelen
bowsprit in Danish: Bovspryd
bowsprit in German: Bugspriet
bowsprit in Spanish: Bauprés
bowsprit in Esperanto: Busprito
bowsprit in French: Beaupré (marine)
bowsprit in Icelandic: Bugspjót
bowsprit in Italian: Bompresso
bowsprit in Dutch: Boegspriet
bowsprit in Japanese: バウスプリット
bowsprit in Norwegian: Baugspryd
bowsprit in Polish: Bukszpryt
bowsprit in Romanian: Bompres
bowsprit in Russian: Бушприт
bowsprit in Slovak: Čeleň
bowsprit in Swedish: Bogspröt
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