Take a look at this blast from the past – with giant fan blades whirling rapidly in ocean breezes, proposed by an English inventor as a substitute for both sails and engines on ocean-going vessels. Mounted high above the deck, the whirling propeller transfers the wind’s unlimited power to the marine screw propellers of the boat. Since the propeller could face into the wind regardless of the direction the ship is traveling, it is believed highly probable that windmill boats could travel directly into the wind. A generator mounted on the windmill tower could develop current for electric motors mounted on the propeller shafts, or a shaft could be used to transmit the power.
This looks cool, but there has to be a major backdrop with the concept for it not being practically implicated. The problems I see with this are it’s really tall sails that would be difficult or impossible to trim down in a storm, and the drag issue. Sure, it might be able to move directly into the wind very slowly, but far more likely is that the wind will push it backwards- in order for the “sailing directly into the wind” theory to work, there has to be very, very little drag- a ship has tons of drag.