Types of Boat Masts

Updated July 20, 2017

Boat masts come in many different shapes and sizes, depending upon the size of the boat and the mast's function. A mast is simply a long pole or spar that is attached to the deck of a ship or sailboat. The mast holds up the sails on the ship and may have other functions. Traditionally masts were shaped from the wood of trees; modern masts can be made from wood, different types of metal or synthetic materials. The different types of masts vary both in material made, where they placed on a ship or boat and their function.


Sailing ship masts were originally made from the trunk of a single tree. The tree was shaped to the desired mast size. This type of mast was called a pole mast. To make larger masts, additional trees were used and the wood was shaped together. These were called made masts. Metal masts are typically made out of aluminium as a single piece of this metal can be shaped as long as needed. Some modern racing sailboats use carbon fibre masts, which are lightweight but strong.

Placement On A Ship

Different types of masts can be found in different areas of a sailing ship, depending upon how large it is. A single mast or the largest mast on a ship is called the main mast. If the ship has more than one mast, any mast in front of the largest one is called the fore mast. Additional masts behind the main mast are usually called the mizzen mast and jigger mast.


Boat masts can have other functions than simply holding sails. Many modern ships have radar masts and communication masts for devices such as radio antennae. Some modern ships also have signalling masts that can be used by sailors for signalling as crow's nests once were.

Other Types

One of the more unusual types of mast is the wing mast, which can be found on some racing yachts. These masts can rotate to catch more wind than a traditional mast. Historically, some five-masted ships had a mast between the main mast and mizzen mast. This was referred to as a middle mast.

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About the Author

A former teacher, Mark Gillespie began writing professionally in 2011. He has been published in "Spectrum, the Illinois Science Teachers Association" journal. Gillespie attended Beloit College where he studied English literature and classical civilizations, earning a bachelor's degree.