Follow TV Tropes


Space Sailing

Go To

As has been established, Space Is an Ocean, and in fiction, naval and maritime terms are often applied to spaceships. Some works, however, take things further beyond metaphors, and make their characters go Space Sailing on literal ships IN SPACE! The reason for this? The Rule of Cool, and nothing else.

While, in Real Life, there are proposals for spacecraft with solar sails or magnetic sails, those are different concepts. Those would be spacecraft-with-sails but otherwise designed like any other spacecraft; these are literal oceangoing-type boats in space, with all the shape and features that implies.

A subtrope of this is the idea of a space Titanic, an oddly common meme. They are invariably doomed.

Interestingly, Space Ships don't go after Space Whales as often as you might think. They are quite likely to house Space Pirates, though.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The aircraft carrier-esque Rugger Guard from Dairugger XV, known to U.S. audiences as Vehicle Voltron.
  • Particularly abundant in the Leijiverse; the anachronistic vehicles are partially what gives the shows their charm.
  • Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam has the Mother Vanguard, which has broadside beam cannons, a sail that mounts more cannon plus missiles and a high-speed flight system, and a masthead statue of a woman made of gold. This fits with the series' general pirate aesthetic, even if the ship was built before the heroes decided to become Space Pirates.
  • The anime Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water has none other than Captain Nemo take a Yamato-esque New Nautilus into space to battle a gigantic Atlantaean Flying Saucer named Red Noah. The scene in which the New Nautilus first breaks free of the ground it is imprisoned in is a direct and clear homage to a similar scene in the aforementioned Yamato.
  • The anime Odin: Photon Space Sailor Starlight begins with a scene showing lots of futuristic ships plying the spaceways — then brings on its masterstroke, a new, better space ship, which is... a wooden sailing ship, complete with decks and rigging and masts and such.
  • Had Toei Animation accepted the Toon Makers bid for remaking Sailor Moon (in the infamous "Saban Moon"), instead of DiC's dubbing, Americans would have gotten the Sailor Senshi battling evil by going sailing in space... on space-windsurfers... involving fights with such ships. Needless to say, they took the "sailor" part of the title a bit literally.
  • Sol Bianca revolves around a space "submarine", which "dives" and "surfaces" to enter and leave its cloaking effect.
  • Space Carrier Blue Noah, a.k.a. Thundersub.
  • Lalaco's Cool Starship in Space Patrol Luluco takes cues from stereotypical pirate ships, complete with sails and an anchor. She lends it to Luluco during the finale so she can go and confess to Nova.
  • The Super Dimension Fortress Macross and its successors also have an aircraft carrier look.
  • The Hyper Galaxy Dai-Gurren from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann looks much like a HUGE aircraft carrier.

    Comic Books 
  • Vertigo Comics' Lucifer launches the Naglfar, a legendary Norse ship made from the fingernails of the dead and capable of making journeys "beyond the heavens".
  • Marvel Universe villain Captain Fate is a Flying Dutchman Space Pirate who travels through space in his golden age of piracy sailing ship.
  • The Star Wars Legends comic Jedi vs. Sith, set during Darth Bane's time, includes a wooden-hulled starship called the Fairwind.
  • Jason Aaron's Thor: God of Thunder run features Thors from the past, present, and future sailing through the heavens together in a Viking longboat named Skithblathnir. Gorgeous art, plus space sharks.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Wonder Woman and the Holliday Girls end up captured aboard a Saturnian spy submarine which they soon afterwards discover is both submarine and spaceship.

    Film — Animation 
  • In the movie version of BraveStarr, Bravestarr and JB travel on a spaceship with sails, which has leather couches, huge picture windows, and shelves of paper books.
  • Disney's Treasure Planet takes this to the extreme, with a 70/30 blend of 18th-century ships combined with technology. It works quite well.
  • WALL•E featured the Axiom, a "Starliner" with a design evoking that of a sea-going cruise ship.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Fhloston Paradise hotel in The Fifth Element actually does double as both a space and a (hovering-just-above-the-) sea vessel. It looks like a futuristic version of a steam paddleboat. The steam-stacks, however, may be just for show — it is a luxury toy meant for the amusement of rich tourists, after all.
  • There is a B-Movie called Message from Space, which has this very thing but takes it to the extreme. These space sailors are wooden Renaissance-era ships! Oh, and it also includes Humongous Mecha, Planet Looters, Space Pirates, and even a planet with rocket engines! Also has a musket-toting droid.

  • Ships in the Alexis Carew are propelled through darkspace via charged sails that harness the "winds" of dark energy, which tends to flow towards massive objects like planetary systems. Since nothing electrical works in darkspace unless shielded with expensive gallenium, this means the sails have to be set by hand, and complexity and cost of sailplan governs the size of interstellar ships.
  • In The Book of the New Sun, the spaceships of the Hierodules are described in terms almost identical to nautical vessels, with decks, sails, and rigging. They are almost certainly not supposed to look like nautical ships (for example, Tzadkiel's ship has a series of decks all around the ship, rather than deck, sides, and keel) but the reader must struggle to escape that impression given Severian's habit of not drawing distinction between nautical and space-going ships.
  • The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids has the "tachyonic sailing ships", which are interdimensional vessels that just so happen to look like 18th century sailing ships. They are lampshaded as Awesome, but Impractical, with only eccentrics using them anymore, while most dimensional travellers use less overdesigned Void Ships.
  • Michael J. Martinez's The Daedalus Series is set in an Alternate History where an alchemical invention made in the late 15th century allows ordinary sailing ships to fly through space. The story follows the adventures of an 18th century British naval officer who is employed on a perfectly ordinary wooden, sail-driven frigate — that happens to be en route to the planet Jupiter.
  • A follow-on novella to David Drake's Ranks of Bronze, "Delenda Est Carthago" by Eric Flint features the newly created space navy of Terra, based on stolen technology brought back to 21st century Earth by the survivors of Crassus' Roman legions. Said technology included a warp drive and Deflector Shields which would also work to keep the air in, resulting in humanity's first space fleet consisting of converted submarines, frigates, carriers, and battleships, pulled from the waves and into space. The battleship Missouri's part of the action was particularly reminiscent of Uchuu Senkan Yamato. There was, however, one ship included in honour of the returned Romans: a restored Roman galley.
  • In John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor's Into the Looking Glass series, the Human-Adar Alliance's first warp ship is a converted Ohio class ballistic missile submarine, the USS Nebraska (SSBN-739), and is mostly crewed by US Navy personnel who primarily use naval terminology except where the third dimension is involved.
  • In Philip Reeve's Larklight novels, the star ships are nothing more than Victorian sailing vessels with alchemical engines.
  • Although regular spaceships are also seen, the pirates in Mark Delewen and the Space Pirates use 18th century style ships.
  • David Drake also has the RCN series where the ships maneuver through a hyperspace with sails.
  • In Leo Frankowski's The Two Space War, Hyperspace is literally two dimensional, and spaceships are sailing ships made of wood infested with an alien fungus.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the 1983 serial "Enlightenment", the Fifth Doctor and his companions find themselves on board a Sufficiently Advanced Alien Edwardian ship in space, powered via solar sails, which is participating in a race around the planets, along with other such ships from different periods from human history, including a Greek trireme... with rowers.
    • "Voyage of the Damned" features one of the aforementioned Space Titanics. It could be justified, though, since the aliens purposely made it to look like the Titanic, and many other spaceships in the series look nothing like boats. In other words, it doesn't look like a boat because space is an ocean, it looks like a boat because they wanted it to. The aliens, that is, not just the scriptwriters.
  • Gokai Galleon from Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, the Space Pirates Super Sentai. It's the Red Ranger's mech, the central piece to the Combining Mecha, and transportation (with pretty nice living quarters) for the entire team.
  • Commander Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine built a lightship that employed a solar sail for propulsion - Bajorans had even traveled faster than light with these contraptions.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Star Fleet gives us the Skull, a space-going pirate ship complete with sails.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is the whole point of the Dungeons & Dragons Spelljammer setting. Somewhat justified in that the whole thing is done by magic. Also, sails only provide maneuverability — conventional means of propulsion has the same performance when strapped on almost any object of acceptable size.
  • GURPS: Spaceships discusses solar sails. You can even give space boats wooden hulls if the setting demands it or the characters are incredibly desperate. One example is the Star Galleon which uses astral sails to move through space and is designed to sail on a normal sea.
  • There's artwork in Traveller, where a space carrier appears with flight deck and island as if it was a seagoing one.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Eldar's ships use solar sails for propulsion, which means that if you play as them in the space combat spin-off, Battlefleet Gothic, you'll have to keep track of which side of the table is sunward and adjust your movement rates accordingly.
    • In the regular game, Dark Eldar skimmers fit the trope to a T. Especially fifth edition ones released in November 2011.

    Video Games 
  • Aetherships in Lusternia allow players to fly through aetherspace. Since aetherships are customized entirely by the player who owns them, they run the gamut from hi-tech spaceships, to airships, to pirate ships, and even floating stately homes!
  • In Rayman 2: The Great Escape, the robot pirates invading Rayman's world are headquartered on a massive galleon outfitted with rocket engines. Smaller flying pirate vessels can occasionally be seen in the game, and you eventually end up piloting one near the end.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire: Some of the TEC's ships are space liners refitted for combat. The Akkan Battlecruiser for one looks like a cruise ship.
  • In Spore, a space ship can be designed like a boat, jet-ski, submarine, tank, blimp, or a solid cube, and still function the same.
  • The Douglas Adams game/novel Starship Titanic, one of the aforementioned Space Titanics. This particular ship also got a mention in Life, the Universe and Everything.
  • The airships in Super Mario Galaxy? Usually found in the sky, the game has Bowser's airship fleet flying through space in quite a few of the levels, notably Bowser Jr's Airship Armada.
  • At least one freighter model in Tachyon: The Fringe has a strong resemblance to oceangoing ships.
  • Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon: Similar to the film it is a sequel to, ships resemble 18th to 19th-century ships, with the solar-sail powered ships resembling 18th to early 19th century ships, and the Ironclads resembling mid-19th-century Ironclads and late 19th-century Cruisers and Battleships.
  • Vega Strike has Hidalgo. It's a luxury yacht made by Highborn faction, so extra-extra-fancifulness is to be expected. And yes, it's one of Space Pirate ships of choice too.

  • Grandpa's battleship in Homestuck, though The Medium is not exactly space. The white and black armies have such ships as well.
  • Oceans in the Sky features, very prominently, a sailing ship capable of space travel as a plot point.
  • In Phoebus Krumm thanks to "S-fields" starships are open-topped sail ships with no electronics on board. Not really any explanation why they're open aside from the field containing the atmosphere, and it seems like a rather bad idea since the field vaporizes organic matter that comes into contact.
  • The "Oceans Unmoving" storyline in Sluggy Freelance. This one wasn't space either, but flying sailing ships in a place outside time itself, which sailed above the frozen oceans of the title.
    • This one was an interesting variation in that, although the ships' hulls looked like those of sailing ships, they could have masts on the bottom as well with additional sails.

    Western Animation 
  • In Bobobobs, the eponymous creatures traverse deep space on a wooden galleon outfitted with a glass dome to protect them form the vacuum of space.
  • The 3-2-1 Penguins! episode "Runaway Pride at Lightstation Kilowatt" featured an entire setup of this, with a giant cargo spaceship and a lighthouse-like beacon that was set up on a beach-like asteroid with energy waves floating off of it.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door had this when the candy pirates "modified" their ship for space travel (modifications consisted of an air bubble...thing and engines)
  • Duck Dodgers features a spaceship designed to look like an eighteenth-century pirate ship assaulting a spaceship designed to look like a nineteenth-century cruise liner. Also, the Klunkian (not Klingon) warship resembles a Viking longship, complete with oars.
  • Futurama, the Space Titanic episode "A Flight to Remember". It survived Zapp Brannigan's decision to take it through a field of comets ("Ah, yes, comets, the ice-bergs of the sky!"), but then he had to steer it near "that black-ish, hole-ish thing". Also, a Dark Matter Tanker appears in "The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz" and a Pirate ship at the beginning of "Godfellas". While "Moebius Dick" has the crew hunting a Space Whale in a ship with solar sails.

    Real Life 
  • The closest thing even proposed in real life would be the Sea Dragon, an ultra heavy lift rocket concept launched from the sea to simplify logistics requirements. But it's almost an inversion of the concept, a conventional rocket that's a ship rather than a ship in space.


Video Example(s):


Captain Hook's Ship

Captain Hook's Ship is used as a vessel by Maleficent's gang to travel between worlds.

How well does it match the trope?

4.43 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / SpaceSailing

Media sources: