Of course historically it was very different for those sailing on those 'leaking coffins' for months at a time. Conditions were sometimes appalling, cramped cabins, restricted diet, seasickness, and for the sailors hard, dangerous work.
One of the famous ships of the era was 'The Cutty Sark'. On the afternoon of Monday, 22nd November, 1869, a beautiful little clipper ship displacing 963 tons was launched from Scott and Linton's shipyard at Dumbarton, on the Clyde. She bcarried a name that was to become famous throughout the world and was destined to win a place in the hearts of British seamen second only to Nelson's immortal Victory. Her name was the Cutty Sark.
The Cutty Sark was designed by Hercules Linton as a composite built extreme clipper ship for "Old White Hat" Jock Willis of London. She sailed on the China Tea Trade for a couple of seasons without distinguishing herself and lost her rudder in 1872 off the Cape of Good Hope when racing Thermopylae for London with the first tea.
She was moved over to the Australian wool trade when the tea trade was taken over by the steam ships. Here she proved to be a regularly fast sailer. But was sold to the Portuguese in 1895 and served for many year's as the training ship Fereirra. Rerigged as a barquentine after having been dismasted in a gale off the Cape of Good Hope in May 1916 and renamed Mario do Ambaro.
Then in 1922 she was purchased by Capt. Dowman and restored for use as a stationary training ship, first at Falmouth then later in 1938 she was moved to The Thames where she remained until 1949 after which she was permanently dry-docked at Greenwich as a museum ship.
Her registered measurements were as follows: gross tons - 963; net tons - 921; length - 212 feet, 5 inches; breadth - 36 feet; depth - 21 feet; moulded depth - 22 feet, 5 inches
The extreme length of bowsprit and jib-booms was 60 feet, the length of mainmast from deck to truck 145 feet 9 inchesmainyard 78 feet and spanker-boom 280 feetThe Cutty Sark was by far the most powerful of the tea clippers. Find out more at the Cutty Sark web site.
Some more websites to learn about sailing ships:
17th century Layout of a East Indiaman
18th & 19th century Sailing Vessels
History of Sailing Ships
Maritime History & British Sailing Ships
Maritime History & Naval Heritage
Naval History centre
Articles & nautical terms
Tall Ships Books
Types of ships