Great question. It sounds like you are building a fairly large ship. If the scale is large enough, brick-built sails can look quite nice. You can add shape, contour, and texture using various building techniques.
If you want to keep things simple, you could just use a single layer of bricks as was done in this basic sailboat model that was an in-store ...
These are 3 different versions one the same shape / function that fit over axle.
The right one is the oldest from the 80
The left one came next
The middle one came after that.
To make it more confusing, lego is now back producing the right shape again
What I can remember had the original one a lot of clutch power and was hard to be removed.
Personal I ...
The BrickLink catalog has this option. List all parts, then click on "Year summary". There are 45510 parts in total. The list starts in 1950 (8 parts!), everything before that year is year "0". 2002 was the first year with more than 1000 parts, 2016 saw an impressive number of 3490 parts.
As pointed out in a comment, the entries in the BrickLink ...
I have done it see this video.
I have updated the spreadsheet so that it can give you a visual indication of the cross-section at each layer (in quarters) and uploaded it onto Google drive for public access