How Did Early Ships Sail Against The Flow Of Rivers?

In the days before modern technology, sailing against the flow of rivers was a difficult task. Early ships had to rely on the strength of their sails and the skill of their sailors to make progress upstream.

The most common method used by early sailors was to tack against the current. This involved sailing at an angle across the river, with each tack taking them closer to their destination. The sails were adjusted so that they caught as much wind as possible, allowing them to make progress even in light winds. This method was slow and laborious, but it allowed ships to make progress against strong currents.

Another technique used by early sailors was poling. This involved using long poles to push off from the riverbed and propel the ship forward. The poles were usually made from wood or bamboo and could be up to 30 feet long. This method was often used in shallow waters where tacking wasn’t possible. It allowed ships to make slow but steady progress upstream.

The third technique used by early sailors was rowing. Oars were used to propel the ship forward, with each stroke pushing it a few feet closer to its destination. This method was often used in combination with tacking or poling, allowing ships to make faster progress against strong currents. It also allowed them to navigate around obstacles such as rocks or sandbars that would have blocked their path if they had been relying solely on sails or poles.

Early ships also relied on natural features such as eddies and backwaters for assistance when sailing upstream. Eddies are areas of water that move in a circular motion, creating a pocket of still water that can be used by ships for respite from the current’s pull. Backwaters are areas where two rivers meet and create an area of still water which can be navigated more easily than open water with a strong current running through it.

Sailing against the flow of rivers was no easy task for early sailors, but they managed it using a combination of skillful sailing techniques and natural features such as eddies and backwaters. Their ingenuity allowed them to explore new lands and discover new opportunities for trade and exploration – something we can all appreciate today!

Have something to add or correct? Please let us know by clicking here.
* See disclaimer in the footer of the site for use of this content.

Related Questions


Latest Posts

Don't Miss

Our Newsletter

Get the latest boating tips, fishing resources and featured products in your email from!