Ketches come in many shapes, sizes, and designs, because what makes a boat a ketch is as much about the rigging as it is about the boat itself. Ketches are sailboats with two masts, with the forward mast being taller than the aft mast, which is called the mizzenmast and is located forward of the rudder. Yawls are of a similar design, but in their case, the mizzenmast is located aft of the rudder. Having multiple smaller sails as opposed to fewer larger ones makes them easier to handle, and allows for a different mix in the sail plan to enhance a sailor’s ability to adapt to the conditions. This can be particularly important in rough weather, when strong winds make it difficult to balance the rig.

Ketches have a long and interesting history, dating back to the days when sailboats were the only form of fishing vessels on the water. They were often used for this purpose as well as for hauling goods, and some were even used as small warships. In all of these cases—as well as in modern times—having the mizzenmast provides the extra advantage of having a small boom that can be used as a crane to lift heavy gear, dinghies, and the like. There are two main drawbacks to the ketch: adding the mast and rigging also adds expense to the boat, and in certain conditions, sloops and other single-mast rigs can sail faster.

Many sailors gravitate towards the ketch simply because they find its look appealing. These sailboats do have an unquestionably beautiful, dignified appearance. And since it’s the rig that makes a ketch a ketch, sailors of all types have a huge range of designs to choose from. You can find them in deck saloon designs, aft cockpits, center cockpit sailboats, pilothouses, and more. There are ketch-rigged cruisers intended for near-shore use, and there are some capable of crossing oceans. Whatever your next adventure may be, there’s a good chance a ketch can help you make it happen.