1 two-masted sailing vessel square-rigged on both masts
2 a penal institution (especially on board a ship)
- Rhymes: -ɪɡ
military jail or guardhouse
- Spanish: calabozo
- Scottish variation of bridge
- abbreviation for brigadier
- brig (two-masted vessel)
In nautical terms, a brig is a vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and maneuverable and were used as both naval war ships and merchant ships. While their use stretches back before the 1600s the most famous period of the brig was during the 1800s when they were involved in famous naval battles such as the Battle of Lake Erie. Because they required a relatively large crew and were difficult to sail into the wind (the latter trait is common to all square-rigged ships), brigs were phased out of use by the arrival of the steam boat. They are not to be confused with a brigantine which has different rigging.
RiggingIn sailing, a full-rigged brig is a vessel with two square rigged masts (fore and main). The main mast of a brig is the aft one. To improve maneuverability, the mainmast carries a small fore-and-aft sail (also called a gaff sail).
Brig sails are named after the masts to which they are attached: the mainsail; above that the main topsail; above that the main topgallant sail; and occasionally a very small sail, called the royal, is above that. Behind the main sail there is a small fore-and-aft sail called the boommainsail (it is similar to the main sail of a schooner). On the foremast is a similar sail, called the trysail. Attached to the respective yards of square-rigged ships are smaller spars, which can be extended, thus lengthening the yard, thus receiving an additional sailing wing on each side. These are called studding sails, and are used with fair and light wind only. The wings are named after the sails to which they are fastened, i.e. the main studding sails, main top studding sails, and the main top gallant studding sails, etc.
The brig’s foremast is smaller than the main mast. The fore mast holds a fore sail, fore top sail, fore top gallant sail, and fore royal. Between the fore mast and the bowsprit are the fore staysail, jib, and flying jib. All the yards are manipulated by a complicated arrangement of cordage named the running rigging. This is opposed to the standing rigging which is fixed, and keeps mast and other things rigid. Brigs vary in length between 75 and 165 ft (23–50 m) with tonnages up to 480. Historically most brigs were made of wood, although some latter brigs were built with hulls and masts of steel or iron (such as the brig Bob Allen). By the 1600s the British royal navy defined "brig" as having two square rigged masts.
Historic usageBrigs were used as small warships carrying about 10 to 18 guns. A skilled captain on a brig could "maneuver it with ease and elegance; a brig could for instance turn around almost on the spot". The need for large crews is what caused the decline of the production of brigs. They were replaced in commercial traffic by gaffsail schooners (which needed less personnel) and steam boats (which did not have the windward performance problems of square rigged ships).
- The brig USS Argus used during the First Barbary War and the War of 1812.
- The brig USS Oneida used during the War of 1812. James Fenimore Cooper was a midshipman aboard the Oneida while under construction.
- The cargo hauling brig Farmer owned by George Washington.
- The cargo hauling brig Fleetwing.
- The brig Leonora of Captain Bully Hayes.
- The brig USS Niagara captained by commander Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie, a pivotal victory for the United States in the War of 1812.
- The brig USS Oregon used in the U.S. Exploring Expedition.
- The cargo brig Pilgrim, whose 1834 trading voyage from Boston, Massachusetts to California is described in the book Two Years Before the Mast
- The brig Rebecca captained by Robert Jenkins whose boarding triggered the War of Jenkins' Ear.
- The brig USS Reprisal that fought in the American Revolution.
- The brig USS Somers, sunk in the Mexican-American War.
Note that while the famous ghost ship Mary Celeste is sometimes called a brig, she was probably a brigantine.
Brigs in fiction
- The brig Lightning in Joseph Conrad's “The Rescue”
- The brig Sea Hawk in "The Pirate of the Mediterranean" by William Henry Giles Kingston.
- The brig Interceptor in the film Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (portrayed by the brig Lady Washington).
- The brig Enterprise in the film Star Trek Generations (also portrayed by the brig Lady Washington).
- The brigs Porta Coeli and Amélie appear in the Horatio Hornblower series by C. S. Forester (which was later adapted to films and television).
- The brig HMS Sophie in Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian.
- The brig Molly Swash, in James Fenimore Cooper’s book “Jack Tier”.
- The brig Hellebore in the Nathaniel Drinkwater series by Richard Woodman.
- The brig Isle of Skye in Iain Lawrence's “The Wreckers (High Seas Trilogy)”.
- The brig Seahawk in Avi's novel The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
- The brig Blue Bird in Evert Taube's song "Balladen om briggen Blue Bird av Hull".
- The brig Grampus in Edgar Allan Poe's novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.
brig in Bosnian: Brik
brig in Czech: Briga
brig in Welsh: Brig
brig in Danish: Brig
brig in German: Brigg
brig in Estonian: Prikk
brig in Esperanto: Brigo
brig in French: Brick (bateau)
brig in Icelandic: Briggskip
brig in Dutch: Brik (zeilschip)
brig in Japanese: ブリッグ
brig in Norwegian: Brigg
brig in Norwegian Nynorsk: Brigg
brig in Polish: Bryg
brig in Portuguese: Brigue
brig in Russian: Бриг
brig in Albanian: Brigg
brig in Slovak: Briga
brig in Slovenian: Brig
brig in Serbo-Croatian: Brik
brig in Finnish: Priki
brig in Swedish: Brigg
brig in Ukrainian: Бриг
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