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Friday, April 30, 2010

U.S.S. Monitor Engine Room Clock conserved and on display at Mariners' Museum

The Monitor sank on the 31st of December, 1862 in 230 ft of water off the coast of Cape Hatteras. 16 of the crew were lost but most of the men were saved by the brave Rhode Island.

By Jim Dyson

The U.S.S. Monitor made naval history when it fought the C.S.S. Virginia to a draw on March 9, 1862. This battle, the first of ironclad vessels, made all wooden warships in the world obsolete and ushered in the age of rotating gun turrets. The Monitor and Virginia never met again, the C.S.S.Virginia was blown up by her crew to avoid capture near Craney Island, Portsmouth, Virginia and the U.S.S. Monitor sank December 31, 1862 in a violent storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina .
U.S. Navy divers search for U.S.S. Monitor artifacts.

Some artifacts from the C.S.S.Virginia have been salvaged over the years but the wreck site is now covered by increasing amounts of dredge material as Craney Island has increased in size. The U.S.S. Monitor, however, and all her relics remained lost for nearly 140 years. Significant Monitor artifacts were recovered by U.S. Navy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration personel in 2001 and for the last 9 years have been undergoing detailed research and extensive conservation at the Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia

Conserved clock face of the U.S.S. Monitor clock

Conserved case of the U.S.S. Monitor Clock

The Mariners' Museum has been, since it's inception in the late 1930's, a world class maritime museum and with the addition of the U.S.S. Monitor Center, has become a unique treasure. One of the artifacts recovered from the Monitor was the brass engine room clock with the remains of the clock hands frozen in time at 1:05 am, just 25 minutes before the ship disappeared beneath the waves. The clock's position low in the ship's engine room was flooded before the Monitor sank at 1:30 am, so this dial time fits with eye witness accounts.

Movement as recovered with 140 years of sediment
Because of the high quality construction and parts used to produce clocks of this period, full restoration to working condition was obtainable if desired, even after being submerged for over 140 years. The Monitor clock was a special challenge of conservation vs. restoration. Nearly all steel parts of the clock, had rusted away, with the notable exception of the dial hands near the center of the dial. Removing the hand remnants would have destroyed significant history. Additionally, the required machining of the brass movement plates and wheels would have altered the clock which museum personel found unacceptable.

Roger Conner (left) and Jim Dyson conserve parts of the U.S.S. Monitor Clock

(left to right) Roger Connor, Jim Dyson and Mariner's Museum Senior Conservator Eric Nordgren discuss conservation procedures of U.S.S. Monitor clock.

The decision was made to conserve the clock case and dial to stabilize it and save the frozen dial time for future generations to contemplate. The clock movement was a much more difficult problem. The missing parts that had completely rusted away required extensive research and skillful machining to reproduce. Clockmaker Roger Conner of Virginia Beach, marine clock historian James Dyson of Portsmouth and Mariners' Museum Senior Conservator Eric Nordgren collaborated on making the movement look as it did in 1862 and presenting it along with the case and dial for public display.

A trip to Mariners' Museum to see the clock and other artifacts recovered from the Monitor is a trip that all students of the Civil War and maritime history should make. The USS Monitor Center
The Mariners' Museum . U.S.S. Monitor Center at the Mariners Museum
About the author: Jim Dyson is a renowned expert on Chelsea marine clocks with over 20 years experience collecting and researching all facets of Chelsea history. He is the author and curator of the “Chelsea Clock Museum,” the online source of Chelsea history and museum quality marine clock knowledge Chelsea Clock Museumand Director of the Marine Clock and Instrument Division of Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery. Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery-Chelsea Clocks & Barometers

Click here to go to Skipjack's Nautical Living home page.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Nautical Folk Art- A Dealers Passion

Shad carved from white cedar by Jac & Tricia Johnson for Skipjack Nautical Wares.  L 72" W 24" D 4
I feel inclined to begin this blog by stating that throughout the 30 plus years of being a dealer, appraiser and collector of period American Furniture as well as fine and decorative arts, that I have received the greatest pleasure from collecting American folk art. We have also been fortunate to have represented some of the best contemporary folk artist from around our great country. Our focus today of course is nautical/marine folk art, both period and contemporary and a number of collectors have found their way into our gallery doors to acquire them. Here are a few great examples that have adorned the rooms and walls of Skipjack throughtout the years.

This early 20th century sailor-made folk compass box was hand-carved from walnut with whale bone clasp and keep. A carving of a mermaid carrying a light in oval adorns the top of the lid and a carved star in circle centered on the box front. The gimballed compass was made by Wilcox & Crittendon and dated to the 1920's.

Essex Whaler Weathervane by Steve Hazlett
This elegant ship and whale weathervane depicts the classic whaler Essex boat guided by Captain George Pollard, out of Nantucket on August 12th, 1819. This weathervane captures the history of this great voyage.It was perhaps an incomparable aid in forecasting the maritime weather. Although the boat motif is popular in maritime folk art, wooden examples are rarely found today, merely due to the unpredictable weather conditions in New England that these boat weathervanes endured. Handcrafted from a single heart pine beam and board. Iron and copper is applied to the piece. Cream, green, gray and blue buttermilk paint is applied in numerous layers to produce an as-found crusty appearance. The piece is hallmarked and placed on a metal museum mount for display. Carved by New York folk artist Steve Hazlett. 45L by 36H by 4D Folk art carvings by Steve Hazlett

Early 20th century folk made sailboat with wooden sails, artist unknown.
This early 20th sailboat featured all wood construction including the sails with painted composition seas. This example would typically be found in a wooden diorama box.

"Deep Sea Charter" trade sign hand-carved and painted by Jac & Tricia Johnson.

This wonderful marine folk art trade sign is reminiscent of the days of Ernest Hemingway where deep sea fishing was prevalent at many fishing marinas. This sailfish was hand-carved from cedar and measured 60 inches in length.  

Marine folk art carving of a horseshoe crab by Jac & Trishia Johnson.

Another favorite carving created by the Johnson's was this Horseshoe crab carved out of yellow pine with walnut stained finish. The horseshoe crab is wall hung with kinetic tail (swings) L 36" W 24" D 4-6"

19th century sailor-made rope basket

Sometimes wonderful folk created pieces are quite simple in construction. I can envision a sailor making this knotted basket during his leisure time aboard a great sailing ship.

Early 20th century mermaid weathervane, artist unknown

This New England weathevane was hand-carved and painted then applied to a metal arrow directional.  Artist unknow.  Measured approximately 30 inches in length. Wall mounted using a custom made iron bracket.

Hunter and  dog weathervane, early 20th century

The provenance that accompanied this unique (almost comical) weathervane suggests that it once decorated the roof of an old hunting lodge from the Back Bay region of North Carolina. Constructed from two sheets of metal creating a full-bodied perspective and mounted on a metal directional. Retained an old dark red painted surface and mounted onto contemporary wooden stand.

We will be featuring other great nautical folk carvings in the weeks to come including pictures from a customers private collection. You can read more about American folk art by visiting our blog "From Sidewalks to Rooftops": Outdoor Folk Art. 
Click here to go to Skipjack's Nautical Living home page.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nautical Flea Market and Yard Sale Comes to Portsmouth

By David Cartier
Author of "A New Day ion Olde Towne"

Here is your opportunity to sell, swap, barter or buy and visit with boating friends.

Ocean Marine Yacht Center
Ocean Marine Yacht Center will hold its first Elizabeth River Boat & Nautical Yard Sale and Flea Market on Saturday, April 24, 2010. The event will take place in the Ocean Marine parking lot on Wavy Street, south of the nTelos Wireless Pavilion at Harbor Center in downtown Portsmouth. It will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Got Nautical Stuff? Interested vendors should clean out their vessels and/or storage lockers for items like marine equipment, dive gear, marine products, clothing, electronics, antiques, fishing gear, nautical arts and crafts, boats on trailers, etc. In other words, if it's nautical, bring it!

Vendors will not be charged a fee; admission is free for all. Vendors should bring their own tables and/or tents.

To sign up, call Ocean Marine Yacht Center at 757-321-7432. The deadline to register for this free opportunity is Thursday, April 22, 2010.

My recommendation is to show up early because with most flea markets and yard sales, the best stuff will be leaving early.

Ocean Marine Yacht Center, One Crawford Court, Portsmouth, Virginia 23704.

About Ocean Marine Yacht Center
Ocean Marine's prime location is just one half mile south of Mile Marker Zero on the Intracoastal Waterway, and its unrestricted access from sea. They are located on the southern branch of the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth, Virginia.

The Marina at Ocean Marine Yacht Center consists of 122 all-floating slips accommodating boats to 65' as well as 1500' of alongside dockage for larger (mega) yachts. All slips have water, telephone and cable television, and electricity hook-ups. Wireless Internet Service and a Courtesy Car are also available. Restrooms, showers, laundry room and ships' store are located in the Dockmaster Building.

A certified 'Green Marina', Ocean Marine Yacht Center was built to meet and exceed the stringent requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Upon check in, you will receive a welcome package containing information about local shops, restaurants, pubs, museums and scheduled events on the downtown waterfront, all within walking distance of Ocean Marine Yacht Center.

Ocean Marine is more than just a marina. It's the most modern, state-of-the-art yacht repair facility on the East Coast of the United States. The facility provides refit and repair, dockage and storage to yachts of all sizes. It's no wonder why Ocean Marine was selected as "Marina of the Month" in the January/February 2010 issue of Marina Dock Age magazine. "Ocean Marine's biggest business its its megayacht repair facility, which is an environmental caretaker" - Marina Dock Age magazine.

The mega yacht repair facility is second to none, boasting a 1,250-ton Syncrolift capable of hauling yachts to 235' via a ground level rail transfer system to an impressive paint/repair building capable of housing two megayachts simultaneously. Both bays of the indoor paint repair facility offer a cascading water wall washdown system, smooth paneled walls, overhead and recessed surround lighting, pressurized ventilation system, and heated floors for year round operation. In addition, Ocean Marine has unrestricted access from sea and offers 1500' of alongside dockage. The Refit Projects link lists some of the most beautiful privately owned megayachts that have called to Ocean Marine Yacht Center since its inception in April of 2002.

At Ocean Marine, their technicians are qualified to repair engines, transmissions, air conditioning, refrigeration, steering and hydraulic systems. The skilled and well-seasoned yard crew handles fiberglass and gelcoat repair, bottom paint, stabilizer, propeller, shaft and strut repairs. In addition, Ocean Marine features an 80-ton Travelift, a complete parts department and engine showroom.

A note about the auther:  Throughout his hospitality career, David Cartier has been responsible for marketing destinations from Maine to Virginia. He will share the latest on the people, events and what’s happening in historic Olde Towne, Portsmouth. David, along with his wife Betsy own and operate Starboards Coffee Kiosk at High Street Landing, where they provide area information to locals, visitors and boaters alike. David regularly contributes articles to Mile Marker "0" and other Skipjack blogs.

Click here to go to Skipjack's Nautical Living home page.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Help Put the Wind Back in the Sails of the Schooner Virginia

By David Cartier
Author "A New Day in Olde Towne"

The time has come for us to help the Schooner Virginia. We need to put some wind back in her sails to keep the Hampton Roads icon afloat.

Since its inception, the Schooner Virginia provides an invaluable contribution to Hampton Roads and the Commonwealth of Virginia. As with many organizations, corporate donations and grants have been severely impacted by the economy. The Schooner Virginia is no exception. Private contributions have slowed as a result of the poor economy and a state grant was discontinued two years ago. The Foundation ran out of operating capital to support the mission of the vessel beyond January 1, 2010.

As a result, the Schooner Virginia returned to Norfolk in December 2009. The Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation, owners and operators of Schooner Virginia returned the vessel and crew to her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia and have winterized her until further notice.

The return to Norfolk does two things. First, it reduces the overall expenses of Schooner Virginia. Second, it gives The Foundation the time needed to intensify efforts for additional funding and the development of a sustainable operating model. Both are keys to the long term success of Virgina's Tall Ship.

It is hopeful that a modified 2010 schedule can be released at a future date to include the Schooner Virginia's signature Youth Sail Training program this summer. In order for that to become reality, the volunteers have organized an event to help raise some money.

The Schooner Virginia Spring Fling Fundraiser will be held Saturday, April 24, 2010 from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. It will be held at Rebel Marina, 1553 Bayville Street, Norfolk.

Tickets are $45 per person. At the gate, it's $50. The ticket includes pig picking with all the trimmings, soft drinks, two beer tickets. Additional beer tickets available for purchase.

Musical entertainmet will be provided by Joe Maniscalco, Bob Zentz, Tanner's Creek Whalers and Elton Williams.

Joe Maniscalco, well-known throughout Hampton Roads, has opened for a long list of acts including Jimmy Buffett, Faith Hill, Chicago, Hall & Oates, Daryl Worley, B52 and Lee Greenwood.

The Tanner's Creek Whalers have been a folk music and sea chanty tradition in Hampton Roads since the early 1970's. The Whaler's sea songs and chanties come from all over the world: England, Scotland, South America, New England and Virginia.

Bob Zentz has been performing for more than thirty years. He is a guitarist and also plays the autoharp, lute, melodeon, mouth harp, banjo, concertina and mandolin. He specializes in historical and maritime music.

Elton Williams is a professional musician that has travelled and worked throughout the Caribbean, France, Germany and North America. He is a recording artist and Solo Performer specializing in steel drum music.

Advance tickets are available at Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery at One High Street (on the riverfront), Olde Towne Portsmouth. For more information on the event, call 757.339.8738 or at Skipjack at 757.399.5012. Skipjack store hours are currently Tuesday-Saturday 10am -5pm.

Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery is the official ship's store for the Schooner Virginia for merchandise and apparel. You can buy direct in their store or online. Buy, Wear and Support the Schooner Virginia. Remember, the majority of the proceeds from the sales of this merchandise goes to the Schooner Virginia!

The Schooner Virginia had a a very successful year in 2009. It had the most successful youth sail training season in her history during the summer months. Appearances at multiple tall ship festivals up and down the east coast (including The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race and Portsmouth's Schooner Days) continued to solidify the Schooner Virginia's as the Commonwealth’s goodwill ambassador. Last year an estimated 40,000 persons crossed her decks), and more.

Most recently, the announcement of an exciting new partnership venture in adult education with Ocean Navigator Magazine proved the schooner was on the right course. The Ocean Navigator School of Seamanship Aboard Schooner Virginia and also a new program with Exploritas continue the important adult education mission. After completing two weeks of adult education programs on Celestial Navigation in conjunction with Ocean Navigator Magazine, it is unfortuante the program was cut short and the Schooner Virginia had to return home.

For more information on how to get involved or to make a contribution, contact the Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation, 500 E. Main Street, Norfolk, Virginia 2351 or call 757.627.7400 or email Their website is

The Schooner Virginia has sent out a distress call – an S.O.S. to ‘Save Our Schooner!’ Presently, the Schooner Virginia (shown right) is stored away with an uncertain future. However, the future of the Schooner Virginia is now. You can help. Be a part of it.

Let’s help keep the Schooner Virginia on its course and put the wind back in her sails. She deserves to be put back where she belongs - in the water.

Courtesy photo of the Schooner Virginia (above). Photo of the Schooner Virginia under cover by Mike Goodwin, Schooner Virginia volunteer and local boat builder. Mike helped build the Schooner Virginia and also helped put her in storage.

A note about the auther: Throughout his hospitality career, David Cartier has been responsible for marketing destinations from Maine to Virginia. He will share the latest on the people, events and what’s happening in historic Olde Towne, Portsmouth. David, along with his wife Betsy own and operate Starboards Coffee Kiosk at High Street Landing, where they provide area information to locals, visitors and boaters alike. David regularly contributes articles to Mile Marker "0" and other Skipjack blogs.

Click here to go to Skipjack's Nautical Living home page.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Nautical Living in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge

The stone fireplace mantle displays a Chelsea clock and a Bendix Friez barometer saved from salvage below Robert Lyn Nelson's "Extinction is forever." A Royal Copenhagen bowl, an Inuit soapstone fish carving,  part of an Alaskan Oosic and an old coin-dot lamp.
An unplanned excursion is certainly a great way to discover new horizons as well as promising prospects for upcoming blogs. So it was when our recent trip to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain of Virginia took us to visit with long-time friend and photographer Allen Graves. Allen, while visiting us a few months back to photograph 360 degree panoramic views of the interior and exterior of Skipjack’s showroom and the interior of the Schooner “Spirit of Independence,” told us about a friend's farm house that we should view and include in a Nautical Living blog. So off we went to meet with Jacqualin Davies and preview her wonderful farmhouse -- her home is nothing like you might expect in the mountains of Virginia!

Retired designer Jacqualin Davies was the owner and creative force of Jacqualin Interiors. Her Virginia home reflects her personal tastes and interests after growing up with a father in the merchant marines.

Wyland's striptych "Hawaii" is viewable
from multiple floors.
Jacqualin  believes that a big part of good design is tying together items that may or may not seem to go together in a visually pleasing way. Here Wyland's contemporary striptych "Hawaii" is brought together with a Winslow Homer's etching "Life Line," a clever stormy sea watercolor, and photographs of tropical fish using an antique octant and a native South American oar.

Vintage rope fender lamp was
 found in the bargain section
 of a consignment shop.
A lamp made from an old rope boat fender, topped with a custom metal shade, furnishes reading light on a table beside the owner's favorite chair and is paired with a turk's head coaster on which to safely set a drink and a Spode ironstone bowl for a snack.

Custom lamp made from antique
round bottom soda bottles rests
upon a wine-barrel end table.

The only custom-made pieces shown are the cocktail table and the wine-barrel end table. They are both one-of-a-kind commissioned or created by the owner. The rope fender lamp was found, sporting a shade with orange-ball fringe, in the greatly reduced section of a consignment shop in Rancho Mirage, CA.

I asked Jacqualin a few specific questions:

What are your favorite items in your home?

“It is difficult to choose favorites. I love my Chelsea clock. The bell strike sound has been with me for a while. Recently I had the clock serviced. I not only missed its appearance, but its marking the hours with its chime. The one sextant always reminds me of my godfather. I think of him each time I dust it.”

A carved dolphin with pup swims
above a driftwood  base.
Any suggestions that you can share with our readers about creating a successful coastal home?

“Don't limit coastal decor to the beach. When I began working on this look in my home, I was living in the desert. Many people there were using the Santa Fe southwestern theme. I embrace being different. Don't get cutesy with it. There is nothing interesting about fifty little resin lighthouses. Buy quality pieces that somehow speak to you and blend them with other things you love.”

Take a 360 X 180 degree virtual tour of Jacqualin Davies Blue Ridge Farm house. . Interior photos and virtual tour by Allen B. Graves.

Visit Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery virtual tours @

Visit the Schooner "Spirit of Independence" virtual tour @

Click here to go to Skipjack's Nautical Living home page.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Celestial Navigation Course Aboard the Schooner "Spirit of Independence"

Participants sight the sun using a sextant
Most of us are enthralled with the sea and are drawn to stories and movies that have a sea theme. We can all relate to the human experience of these stories and movies accept when we consider how they found their way across the featureless expanse of ocean. That to many of us is a mystery.

Peter Youngblood demonstrates the use of a sextant.
Recently, area sailors and crewmembers had a workup on celestial navigation in preparation for our cruise aboard Schooner SPIRIT OF INDEPENDENCE to Bermuda. The workup session was held on board at her berth, which is docked at Tidewater Yacht Marina in Portsmouth, VA. Sun sights were taken throughout the day, with emphases on sextant technique used to bring an object to the horizon. Between shooting sessions the group discussed the geometry behind finding ones position with a sextant. Additionally each person used his or her sight data for sight reduction using a celestial navigation computer program that removes the drudgery of using the almanac and sight reduction tables.

Captain J. C. Waters of the SPIRIT OF INDEPENDENCE
The workup continued the following weekend when the SPIRIT OF INDEPENDENCE cruised out to the Bay where they were able to take advantage of a true sea horizon for our shots.

If you and a group of your friends would like to plan a similar cruise with hands on experience let us hear from you.

Thanks goes to Joe Elder of Skipjack Nautical Wares, also of Portsmouth, who attended and brought with him several very nice sextants from his inventory.

Visit the Schooner SPIRIT OF INDEPENDENCE  by clicking on the link here.

Capt. J. C. Waters
757 971 1865

Click here to go to Skipjack's Nautical Living home page.