The intention behind creation of this book was to present the reader with a broad outline of the history and development of working sail in Northern and North-western Europe. The vessels depicted represent hundreds of years of evolution in merchant and fishing ship design and construction. Although many tend to believe that the "age of sail" is long gone and destined never to return, it has in fact never faded completely away, merely decreased in presence and, remarkably enough, some of the technologies and inventions of the past are now revealing their potential to become more important in the future.
Throughout human history, ship propulsion has become more and more advanced. In the earliest days it was provided mostly by paddles/oars, followed by sails. Only after the Industrial Revolution did things start to change more and ship propulsion became increasingly diverse over the years that followed, first with the introduction of steam engines, followed by steam turbines, gasoline and diesel engines, electrical motors, nuclear power and even hydrogen-fueled systems, but the development of wind-based methods never stopped. Sailing merchant ships are making a quite unexpected comeback, and their numbers are increasing. These days the family of commercially active sailing ships is becoming more diverse once again, as the vessels carrying 'classic' canvas sails are being joined by ones carrying the so-called mechanical sails, such as rotor sails, dyna sails, wing sails, wind turbines and various other wind powered mechanisms.
The 1973 oil crisis gave birth to many initiatives towards sailing cargo ship revival, but few of them actually came to fruition. Some examples from this "forgotten decade" of ship design are included here, to an extent permitted by the size constraints of this publication and an unfortunate limitation stemming from a limited source base for these often extremely imaginative projects. Yet, many engineers dared to take the challenge of pushing the bounds of sail technology to wholly new levels and they will all be honoured in this publication as a result
The focus is on ships built (or intended to be built) in countries located in Northern & North-western Europe, as well as those vessels built elsewhere but for clients from the aforementioned areas. As mentioned, obvious practical considerations allowed us to present only a limited selection from an immense multitude of ships that potentially could be included, and some tough choices had to be made in order to find a proper balance between the various categories of vessels while keeping this publishing project manageable. The categories of all kinds of sailing merchant and fishing ships were eligible to be included in this book, on the condition that they were originally built for these purposes, even if not necessarily "sailing" ships from the start, merely converted from motor vessels at some point in their service lives:
Countries that will be represented: Åland, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, France , Germany, Ireland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia/Soviet Union, Sweden, United Kingdom.