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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Marine Paintings by J. Robert Burnell: Exhibit Opens December 3, 2010 at Skipjack

"Winona Morning" watercolor on paper by J. Robert Burnell

Portsmouth artist J. Robert Burnell grew up around the water in a family of watermen, and sailing his own boat since he was ten years old. He has sailed on nearly every type of workboat on the Chesapeake Bay. It's no wonder that Burnell's love of the water reflects so naturally in his marine paintings.

You won't have to go far to see one of the largest collections of Burnell's marine art all in one exhibit. Over 20 new acrylic and watercolor paintings by J. Robert Burnell will be on display and for sale in the 'foyer gallery' at Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery at One High Street in Olde Towne Portsmouth. You will also be able to preview his nautical artwork on Skipjack's web gallery in conjunction with the show opening.

The exhibit opens Friday, December 3, 2010 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. during Olde Towne Portsmouth Virginia's monthly 'First Friday' event. The exhibit runs through January 25, 2011.

"Headin Home" acrylic on canvas by J. Robert Burnell

Award-winning artist J. Robert Burnell is recognized for his vivid depictions of life on and around the Chesapeake Bay. The subject is his favorite - each piece open and honest, providing a unique understanding of its mood and people.

One of the keys to Burnell's sucess on the canvas is the work he does outside the studio. Burnell believes in details. They are a reflection of his work. He has amassed a library of thousands of slides and photographs of work boats to which he constantly refers to for accuracy of detail.

Among his favorite subjects are the working boats and marine scenes of New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. He is equally conscientious of historical correctness, researching every object’s time, place and use. Each piece open and honest, providing a unique understanding of its mood and people.

About the Artist - J. Robert Burnell

"Evening Tide" watercolor on paper by J. Robert Burnell

Burnell began studies in architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology, studied printmaking at Old Dominion University, and participated in independent studies with John Pike, Edgar Whitney, Ed Betts, Don Stone, Rex Brandt, Robert Bateman and George Post.

From 1972 to 2002, Burnell was an instructor of watercolor painting at Tidewater Community College in Portsmouth, and has led summer workshops in watercolor and acrylic painting for over 30 years. He is a member of the American Society of Marine Artists and is listed in Archibald’s Dictionary of Sea Painters.

During his career, J. Robert Burnell has won numerous art awards including eight “Best in Show.” He has been honored with solo museum exhibitions at The Courthouse Galleries in Portsmouth and the Reedville Fisherman’s Museum, and group shows at the Rawls Museum Arts and Virginia Lifesaving Museum.

In addition to museum shows, Burnell had annual solo exhibitions at Atlantic Gallery in Washington D.C. during its operation. Other gallery exhibitions of his work have been offered by River Gallery in Chesapeake, VA., Cudahy’s Gallery in Richmond, VA., Turtle Creek Gallery in Dallas, TX., and Vincent Hester Gallery in Portsmouth, VA,. His work is also shown in the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT., and Skipjack Marine Gallery in Portsmouth, VA.

His work is included in several museum and major corporate collections. Among them are the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, Old Ebbitt Grill (Clyde’s Restaurants, Inc.), Branch Bank & Trust, Inc., Towne Bank, Bank of America, Inc., Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Nature Conservancy of Virginia, Bons Secours Health Systems, Inc. and Leesylvania State Park.

He was selected to create the signature painting for OpSail 2000, for the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race in 2002, and three times for Norfolk’s Harborfest. Additionally, his work was selected for exhibition in the 2007 Mystic International at the Maritime Gallery of Mystic Seaport Museum.

When Robert Burnell is not painting boats, he continues to maintain and sail one of his own. You just might see him out on the Elizabeth River.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nautical Jewelry- Sail Away With Classic Designs From Skipjack

NEW Sea pendants by Patty Anderson

Set sail in style with Skipjack's collection of nautical and beach inspired jewelry- perfect for everyday wear and your passion for nautical/coastal living.
You'll adore our selection of woman's elegantly crafted nautical-themed jewelry including sterling silver sailboat necklaces and earrings by Barbara Vincent and distinctively coastal and beach designed creations by Patty Anderson and Betty Burnell. You can see our total nautical jewelry collection on our web gallery at Skipjack Nautical Wares

Pictured above: NEW pewter beach jewelry "sea pendants" by Patty Anderson. Comes with silk  ribbon. Pendants measure 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches. $28.00

"Something Fishy" a custom made necklace with matching earrings by Betty Burnell

Sterling silver chain, betelnut beads, Hill Tribe silver fish. "Something Fishy" is an original beach creation by Betty Burnell from her Coastal Collection. Necklace with matching earrings. $165.00 with free shipping!

Silver sand dollar earrings by Patty Anderson

Delicate but beautiful replicas of a treasure from the beach by Patty Anderson. These sand dollar earrings  compliment any beach-inspired apparel and also matches Patty Anderson's exquisite sand dollar belt. $36.00.

Sea life charm bracelet from Barbara Vincent.

The Sea Life sterling silver charm bracelet with nine under-the-sea sterling silver charms. From the Barbara Vincent Collection $120.00 and free shipping.

Sterling silver schooner pendant by Barbara Vincent

 The sterling silver Schooner pendant. The Schooner is all dressed up under full sail and is polished to a mirror finish. A perfect item to dress up your wardrobe. Available with sterling silver snake chain in varying lengths and matching sterling silver earrings. $44.00

Rope sterling silver  earrings by Barbara Vincent

Sterling silver hoop earrings with a nautical rope design from the Barbara Vincent Collection. Polished to a mirror finish.

Sterling silver sheepshank earrings by Betty Burnell

 Seriously seaworthy nautical jewelry! Sterling silver sheepshank earrings by Betty Burnell. $90.00

"HOPE" sterling silver nautical sailboat pendant by Barbara Vincent.

"Hope" nautical pendant rendered in sterling silver from the Barbara Vincent Collection. Polished to a mirror finish. Available with sterling silver snake chain in lengths from 16" to 24". Pendant is $44.00.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nautical Gifts For Men & Women From Skipjack

We've selected some of our favorite nautical picks featuring easy gift options for anyone on your shopping list!

Nautical Code Flag Acrylic Drinkware. 

Guaranteed to help you navigate in style! Barware has just become more entertaining. Inspired by the Code Flags themselves, Skipjack brings you a unique line of Nautical Drinkware from Up2Code. Say Cheers, in a new & entertaining way. Our drinkware is sure to launch lively conversation at parties or anytime, and will amuse the saltiest of sea dogs and landlubbers alike. Each adorned with their nautical signal flag and double entente meaning. The limes in the gin & tonics won’t be the only twists! Perfect at home, on the patio, at the beach or on the boat. A great addition to any home decorated with a coastal or beach decor style. Dishwasher safe. Made in the USA & Canada. Special price: $19.95 set of four 

Blue Crab Beach Bag, tote or Coastal Weekend Purse

Possibly the biggest, roomiest, most useful everything bag a gal can own -- made of tough acrylic fabric that wears and wears and holds oodles of stuff.
The artist has decorated this huge weekender from a very lively blue crab caught in the Chesapeake Bay. The vibrant shades of blue on tan with red pinchers makes a dramatic statement. Enlarged to unearthly scale, the image is guaranteed to either 1) elicit compliments, or 2) warn strangers of your cranky temperament and thereby preserve your personal space.
Just how big is it? Fifteen inches high, 16.5" wide, 5" deep, with 26" straps. Magazine-size double thick outside pocket, handy checkbook pocket on the inside, and fastened with a magnetic snap. If you love this particular lining fabric, order up quick as there's not much available. Also available as a 19" X 19" pillow for $49.00.  Blue Crab Beach Bag, tote or Coastal Weekend Purse  $65.00  Another great gift idea is our Chesapeake blue crab tote filled with Blue Crab Bay products and spice up their Christmas and holiday season!

Skipjacks- 12oz. Spicy Honey Toasted Peanuts

Skipjacks- Extra large Virginia peanuts (from the peanut capital of the world here in good old Virginia) blanketed in a crisp honey-toffee coating spiked with Blue Crab Bays Chesapeake Bay Seasoning. A deliciously addictive snack and a perfect holiday gift. 12 oz tin. All natural.  Also, try our sea salt nuts and other varieties of Blue Crab Bay Co. products  $7.50

Skipjack's wine stopper is a perfect gift for the nautical wine enthusiast made with a hand-tied Turk's head or monkey's fist knot. Perfect for use in the nautical/coastal home and on your private yacht. Clear urethane finished knot for easy maintenance. Made by one of our artists right here in Olde Towne Portsmouth, VA. Great stocking stuffer too! $14.95

Silver sand dollar earrings by Patty Anderson

Delicate but beautiful replicas of a treasure from the beach by Patty Anderson. These sand dollar earrings  compliment any beach-inspired apparel and also matches Patty Anderson's exquisite sand dollar belt (See below). $36.00.

Pewter sand dollar belt buckle with over 14 belt colors to choose from. By Patty Anderson.
Sand Dollar Buckle. Pewter sand dollar buckle with your choice of belt color. Shown above with White Silver Tip Gator belt. Match it with the sand dollar earrings. Each belt features an exclusively designed buckle inspired by the beach and sea. Using CAD (Computer Aided Design), Patty Anderson buckle designs are converted into molds, and molten pewter is poured into the mold to yield the finished product. The result is an exact, high-quality duplicate of her original three-dimensional design.
Pair the buckle of your choice with a leather belt in any of 14 colors. The choices range from the classic subtlety of Chestnut Brown to the bold statement of Sunshine Gator. $120.00

Nautical mirror re-purposed and created from an authentic aluminum porthole.
An authentic large opening ship's aluminum porthole with 3 dogs that we have recycled from the shipping industry, expertly re-purposed into an impressive nautical mirror. These portholes are made from aluminum and to the highest marine specifications, salvaged from British and European ships built in the 1970's/ 80's. Aluminum portholes are much lighter than their brass and bronze predecessors which makes them usable as a wall hanging in any nautical/coastal interior. These portholes are paint-able and we have a number available in a bright red and blue paint finish. The diameter of the glass is 16 inches. The overall diameter is 22 inch The weight is approximately 32 pounds. 

Skipjack's bay rum and lime soap.

Skipjack's bay rum and lime soap is spicy and manly!....but women love it as well. Great for salt of the earth types or for an old salt, it conjures memories of vintage sailing ships, the smell of teak and salt air and long naps in a hammock stretched between the main and the mizzen - with a twist of boat drinks, of course! You’re guaranteed to fall in love with this refreshing reminder of the sea. Our favorite! $5.95

Turk's head coasters hand-tied on Nantucket Island, Mass.

Go nautical with this set of four coasters hand-tied using the turk's head knot; made from a cotton/polyester twine; quadrupled three-lead; five-bight turk's heads that go right in the washing machine ... drip dry!  $35.00

Our new palm tree Christmas ornament from the Barbara Vincent collection.

New from the Barbara Vincent Nautical Christmas Ornament Collection. The palm tree ornament is composed of three different metals—nickel, copper and brass with small green glass bead decorations on both sides of the ornament. There is no lead or any other harmful substances in the metals; all metal pieces are designed to be safe, with a minimum of sharp corners and edges. Only lead free solder is used. A great Christmas ornament for the nautical enthusiast. The ornament measures 4 3/4 inches tall and comes with an attached hook measures 7 inches overall. Also available from Barbara Vincent is the sailboat and crab ornament. Looks great on any Christmas tree! $19.95

The Yachtsman Brass Gimbal Lamp with Smoke Bell

The Yachtsman is a traditionally styled, high quality gimballed oil lamp- a subtle yet practical way to illuminate your vessel or nautical/coastal home. Constructed of solid brass, the Yachtsman includes a 4-way gimbal and smoke bell. Comes with a two year limited warranty. Burns any standard lamp fuel. $134.99

The Barbara Vincent sterling silver nautical sailboat jewelry collection.

A great nautical gift for the female sailor in your life is Barbara Vincent's sterling silver sailboat collection. Necklaces are available individually with five different sailboats to choose from or the total collection on a 20 inch sterling silver snake chain with bead dividers. Pendants can be purchased separately at $44.00 each and sterling silver chains are available in 5 different lengths starting at $24.00.

Signal Flags from Skipjack's nautical belt collection.

Our men's signal flags nautical belt is perfect to wear with your favorite khakis, jeans, or corduroys. This cotton web ribbon belt for all seasons has full grain drum-dyed leather billet and buckle ends accentuated by the solid brass buckle. Sizes range from 32 to 46 in stock. This belt is available with your choice of red or white webbing as a background to the signal flag ribbon. Other sizes available upon request. Preview our other selections of nautical designed belts in our nautical wears category. $24.95

Skipjack's nautical dog collars are a perfect gift for you four legged family members.

Dress up your salty dog or cat with Skipjack's nautical pet products featuring a great selection of colorful nautical themed ribbon designs on durable nylon webbing for comfort and easy care.
Collars feature Delrin Acetal side release buckles for ease of fastening and separating and solid nickel plated “D” rings for strength, are available in three widths and are all easily adjusted for length. Our matching leashes feature strong nickel-plated swivel snaps. All of Skipjack's nylon webbing products are easy to clean. Just wash with mild detergent (not bleach), rinse well and hang to dry. Perfect for your nautical dog or cat! Produced in Massachusetts, USA.

Skipjack gift certificate- perfect for everyone.

Looking for the perfect gift. Give them exactly what they want with a Skipjack gift certificate . A white embossed note card personalized with your message will be sent to the gift recipient. Starting at $25.00.

Support Your Local Businesses Throughout the Holidays

The buzzword for 2010 might just be "local" -- buy local products, eat local foods, support local artists. But especially around the holidays, there's more to shopping locally than just saving on shipping costs or reducing your carbon footprint. There are less tangible benefits -- connecting with a friendly shopkeeper, reveling in the aroma from a wall of scented candles, places where you can find something for that person on your list who doesn't just want cold hard cash or an iTunes gift card.

November 27, 2010 is the first-ever Small Business Saturday. A day to come together in support of the small businesses we love. The shops and restaurants that employ our neighbors and reinvest our money close to home. The businesses that are the heartbeat of our communities and local economies.

Here at Skipjack as a participating merchant, we are offering  a store-wide 20% Off Sale on Saturday, November 27th. This is a great opportunity to come out and find that unique gift for those that cherish anything nautical on your holiday shopping list. And, while in Olde Towne, please make it a memorable day-- shop in our great specialty stores along High Street, visit the opening weekend of Winter Wonderland: The Coleman Collection and enjoy a great lunch or dinner in one of our local chef-owned restaurants. Make it a small business day and we thank you in advance!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Start Your holiday Season With Some Old-fashioned Fun at the 15th Annual Arts & Antiques Open House in Olde Towne Portsmouth!

Friday, November 19, 2010
5 p.m. til 10 p.m.

Kick the holiday season off in style and support your local small businesses. Skipjack will be serving refreshments and hosting three or our favorites...back by popular demand!

"From Rockland to Hampton Roads" 
featuring original coastal watercolor paintings by Virginia artist Shirley Cook. 
"Eddies" watercolor by Virginia artist Shirley Cook.
Schrimshander Anthony Perry will be demonstrating
his delicate art form during 
First Friday at Skipjack

Schrimshawed antique whales tooth by Anthony Perry

"Unforeseen Circumstances": A Novel by Debbiann Holmes

Book signing with Portsmouth Novelist Debbiann Holmes
during First Friday at Skipjack

Finalist in the USA book awards for 2010 best book of the year in romance fiction!

 Riverview Gallery will be featuring the Norman Goodwin Art Show and ceramic sculpture show by students of B. Kobylinska. 
Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery & Riverview Gallery will be open together for this event. Come and meander through both galleries during Olde Towne's Arts and Antiques Open House!
Light refreshments served. 
And elsewhere on High Street: 
Visit Winter Wonderland: The Coleman Collection at Courthouse Galleries
Enjoy the 41st Annual Art Faculty Exhibition at the Visual Arts Center
History comes alive when you bump into our own Colonel Crawford
View antique cars and motorcycles parked along High Street
Start at the welcome table (free high chocolate!) at High Street Landing!

Located at One High Street on the riverfront in historic Seaboard Railroad Terminal, Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia.  For additional information, call Skipjack at 757-399-5012 and Riverview Gallery at 757-397-3207.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"From Rockland to Hampton Roads" A New Collection of Nautical/Coastal Themed Watercolor Paintings by Virginia Artist Shirley Cook

"Boats Docked in Maine" watercolor on paper by Shirley Cook.

"I realize now that I am painting again that, although when I was not actively painting, my eyes were open and I was absorbing layer upon layer of images. I savored the beauty of God’s universe, stared at it, meditated on it, drank it in, stored it in my memory, unaware that I would  one day be painting it". These are words expressed by Virginia artist Shirley Cook about her recent collection titled "From Rockland to Hampton Roads" of over 20 new watercolor paintings now on exhibit in the foyer gallery at Skipjack nautical Wares. The collection is comprised largely of plein air paintings created during her last visit to Maine combined with regional views of Virginia's Chesapeake Bay coastline and the Virginia Beach oceanfront.

"Lobster Traps". Watercolor on paper by Shirley Cook.

Shirley earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Indiana University in 1971, and then she went off with my husband to minister the gospel to college students. She carried her sketchbook all the time until starting a family, at which time there was no longer room or time to pursue her artwork. So she took a 35 year sabbatical to be a wife, mother and missionary. I guess I “forgot I was an artist."

"Three boats, Rockland, Maine". Watercolor on paper by Shirley Cook.

"I am learning to paint from life or photographs and choose shapes and colors to make an intriguing composition. I like recognizable subject matter, but I don’t fuss. Ultimately I realize God has given me this ability and I hope to honor Him with all of it. My joy is in watching the painting develop to a stage at which I can say: I like looking at this."

"Owl's Head Light". Original plein air watercolor by Shirley Cook

Stop by and peruse through Shirley Cook's new collection of nautical/coastal themed watercolor paintings this month at Skipjack nautical Wares & Marine Gallery. You can also see a portion of the collection on-line on our web gallery. Please click here to visit her page.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hog Island Lighthouse First Order Lens

The Hog Island First order Fresnel lens on the Portsmouth, Virginia waterfront.
"Shine on", guiding light--
I see your lighted beacon, shining "bright".

Your light is strong, shining bold and bright--
It can be seen for many miles, your "guiding" light.

Whether arriving from the sea, or standing real near--
Your light shines bright,
dissolving all "sense" of fear.

"Shine on", guiding light--
I feel safe, with a sense of home,
when I see your "bright" beacon light.

From the poem "Shine On" by Snow W. Frost
The Hog Island Pavilion stands sentinel on the Portsmouth, Virginia seawall in front of the historic Seaboard building that houses  Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery.
Standing sentinel encased in a glass exhibit pavilion located on the seawall along the Elizabeth River in downtown Portsmouth, Virginia, is the retired first-order Fresnel lens from the historic Hog Island Lighthouse on permanent display.

The lens, the second largest lighthouse lens in the U.S., stands 10 feet tall and weighs 2,500 pounds. 368 prisms make up the reflective body of the lens.

Hog Island lighthouse lens is the second largest in the U.S.

The structure that houses the lens was designed to simulate the lantern room of a lighthouse is 16 feet in diameter and is approximately 25 feet from the floor of the pavilion to the top of the spire and the lens can be viewed from 360 degrees through the pavilion windows. The platform surrounding the structure is raised 4 feet above the surrounding grade to give the lens more prominence. Stairs and a handicapped accessible ramp access the raised platform.The lens is mounted on a turntable that rotates slowly, much as it once turned at the top of the Hog Island Lighthouse. Spotlights mounted at the ceiling of the pavilion reflect off the lens’ prisms creating a magnificent scene at night as the lens sparkles and shines.

The lens is on loan to the City of Portsmouth from the United States Coast Guard, and HBA was hired by the City to design a pavilion to preserve and showcase the valuable, first-order Fresnel lens.

Original Hog Island lighthouse on Virginia's eastern shore.


The first Hog Island Lighthouse was built in 1852 and was a white conical brick tower. This lighthouse lasted until 1896 when it was replaced with a cast iron pyramidal skeletal tower with a central cylinder. This lighthouse was similar to the Cape Charles lighthouse today.

Both lighthouses were built on what was the southern end of Hog Island. Hog Island was the northern most part of the natural barrier islands of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

By the 1920s the ocean had eroded much of the island. A hurricane in the 1930s claimed even more of the land. The lighthouse was demolished in 1948.

The 10-foot high lens, a first order produced by the Henry-LePaute company in France, was removed from the lighthouse before its final destruction. It is now on display on the Portsmouth Seawall adjacent to the High Street Landing. for more information and a printable brochure, click on this link.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Skipjack's Porthole Mirror- A Nautical Classic

Large authentic aluminum porthole re-purposed into a mirror. Perfect for the nautical/coastal interior.
With a barrage of replica porthole mirrors available on the market today, there's certainly something out there at every size and price point for the nautical/ coastal home decorator. But if you're wanting something more than the typical knockoff, then take a look at Skipjack's classic nautical porthole mirror. Made with an authentic large opening ship's 2 or 3 dog portholes that we've recycled from the shipping industry, these are handsomely re-purposed into an impressive nautical mirror. These portholes are made from aluminum and salvaged from ships built in the 1970's/ 80's and made to the highest of marine specifications. Aluminum portholes are much lighter than their brass and bronze predecessors which makes them very usable as a wall hanging in any nautical/coastal interior.

Side view of our classic nautical porthole mirror.

An example of a porthole painted antique-white and mirroring an angel-fish sculpture.
These portholes are paint-able and we have a number available in a bright red and blue paint finish. The diameter of the glass is 15 1/2 inches and the overall diameter is 21 inch. The weight of each porthole mirror is approximately 22 pounds.

Close-up view of the dog closure.

You can buy these on-line at our web-store at this link: Skipjack's classic nautical porthole mirror or stop by our Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia showroom and pick one out! While supplies last! We also have a smaller version available. Here is the link to Skipjack's small aluminum porthole mirror.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Your Hole in the Water

The Schooner Virginia docked at Norfolk's Nauticus. Photo by Claire Trego Goodwin.
A recent article published by a Hampton Roads newspaper titled "Your hole in the water- Virginia taxpayers shouldn't be forced to support private causes, like a schooner"  is a blatant attack on the now docked "Schooner Virginia." This same newspaper that has published numerous positive articles about the famed schooner, has now decided to change its position. So I feel inclined to republish the article and the current rebuttal written by Captain Stefan Edick, Master of the "Schooner Virginia." The newspaper I understand will publish Captain Edick's response, but in a condensed version.  So here it is in its entirety. Please write us and leave your comments. We thank you for your support of the "Schooner Virginia." Let's get her under sail once again!

Editorial: Your hole in the water
Virginia taxpayers shouldn't be forced to support private causes, like a schooner
October 27, 2010

Tied up to a dock in Norfolk is a wooden-hulled, two-masted, schooner-rigged, 122-foot long reminder of the kind of dubious decisions that elected officials sometimes make when the public money is flowing.

And flow it did in Virginia. Between 1999 and 2009, the annual state budget doubled from $22 billion to $44 billion. When the flow was particularly strong, the General Assembly was generous in diverting some of it to private organizations.

At least $5 million (about half of it federal transportation dollars that came to the state) showered down on the Schooner Virginia.

Why, you might ask, when colleges are underfunded and bridge maintenance is being deferred — and they were, even in those good days — did legislators think that the best use of public money was for a replica of a boat harbor pilots used in 1906 to guide vessels into and out of Hampton Roads?

Why indeed?

The intent behind the schooner was to use it to teach sailing and seamanship, compete in races and generally preserve the memory of the state's long maritime heritage. It is a good idea, and the Virginia is an impressive sight under way.

But it's an idea that should be not just run but also funded by the private sector.

While young Virginians need to learn many things to prepare for life in the 21st century, how to trim sail on a schooner is not one of them. And while the stated purpose of promoting Virginia tourism and economic development sounds nice, how exactly does that work? Are corporate relocation decision-makers actually swayed by a floating "goodwill ambassador," as the project's backers like to call the Virginia?

Often the first stop on the fund-raising campaign for a private project is the General Assembly building. Many of its members enjoy winning friends by snagging some money — not theirs, of course, but taxpayers' — for a favorite cause back home.

So Virginians who did not choose to contribute to the Schooner Virginia project were compelled to contribute. Just as they were compelled to contribute to several churches, lots of arts groups, more than one railroad museum and many local social service programs serving specific communities.

Sometimes these legislative favors make sense, when the project delivers a meaningful service for Virginia and Virginians and there's a reasonable connection to the public realm. But that's a hard case to make for the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance.

To the Editor:
By Captain Stefan Edick
Master, Schooner Virginia

A ship that is dead in the water makes for an easy target, and so it is no surprise that the Editorial Board of the Daily Press has seized upon the recent news coverage of the schooner Virginia to weigh in on the subject of the public funding used in her construction and initial phase of operations. Hindsight is acute, as we all know, and in the current economic and political climate the temptation to criticize public expenditure for all but the most basic necessities is all but irresistible. To use the current context to evaluate past decisions, however, is to employ a faulty critical faculty.

In times of prosperity great governments have, throughout history, chosen to make expenditures from the public coffers for the public good. Such was the case with the schooner Virginia, which received but a tiny fraction of the nearly $200 million per year Non-State Agency funding allocated by the Commonwealth. The funds were disbursed to a wide variety of civic interests statewide, and while one can look at the list of projects and debate their individual merits, it is shortsighted and capricious to take the stance that each was the result of “legislative favors” rather than as investment in civic advancement.

When conceived and initiated, the schooner Virginia was heralded as an effort to build a monument to the region’s history and potential, and to employ her as a traveling representative of both Commonwealth and common good. Educational programming was to be a key part of her operations, and Virginia’s elected representatives at every level supported the project wholeheartedly, as did the Fourth Estate, including the Daily Press.
Thousands toured the Harbor Park shipyard while she was being built, including schoolchildren from across the region, many introduced for the first time to the fact that such a magnificent vessel could be crafted by hand in traditional fashion.

When launched, the ship was celebrated across the region. She was perceived as a graceful and powerful testament to the capabilities of Southeastern Virginia, and while she could easily have been named “Pride of” or “Spirit of”, as other comparable vessels have, her simple naming spoke only to an eloquent representation of all the citizens of the Commonwealth.

the "Schooner Virginia racing the "Pride of Baltimore II." Photo by Fred LeBlanc
The ship was launched with a two-part mission, that of ambassador vessel and educational platform, and the editorial is critical of each facet without being particularly well-informed. As ambassador of the Commonwealth and Hampton Roads, the ship has been viewed and visited by hundreds of thousands at Tall Ships and port festivals throughout the Atlantic Basin, and has appeared regularly in national, international, and regional publications, including numerous front page or cover stories. She is the subject of tens of thousands of images on the Internet and in galleries up and down the Atlantic coast. Throughout, she is seen as a proud example of the ‘brand’ of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  A common metric used to gauge the economic impact of advertising places the value of her appearances at approximately $1.5 million dollars per year. In port at home and abroad, she has hosted civic and corporate receptions, and in Hampton Roads she has been employed by a host of organizations like the Elizabeth River Project to help support their own causes. Did she influence any “corporate relocation decision-makers”?
The answer to that question is elusive, but the question misses the mark.

Students, once placed in the demanding environment of a traditional sailing vessel, learn much more than how to trim sail, as the editorial suggests. Rather, they are charged with real work and real responsibilities as shipmates engaged in a common purpose, and one need only speak to the participants or their parents to learn just how powerful a positive impact the experience can have on their self-esteem and in introducing a new found awareness of their capabilities.

As an educational platform, the ship has provided a challenging, success- driven learning environment for hundreds of adolescent students from all demographic groups, drawn from the communities of the region and beyond. Here again, the editorial displays a stunning lack of insight: “sail training” is a generic term applied to the practice of experiential learning aboard traditional ships, and while learning the mechanics of sail are part of the practice, the ship is the medium, and not the full extent of the message. Students, once placed in the demanding environment of a traditional sailing vessel, learn much more than how to trim sail, as the editorial suggests. Rather, they are charged with real work and real responsibilities as shipmates engaged in a common purpose, and one need only speak to the participants or their parents to learn just how powerful a positive impact the experience can have on their self-esteem and in introducing a new found awareness of their capabilities.

In addition to the challenges of the ship and seamanship, students were instructed in the maritime history of the region and the coast, the ecology of the Chesapeake and beyond, and in the beauty and wonder of the literature of the sea. Adult students in dedicated programs were given instruction in celestial navigation and passage making, tutelage under professional and accomplished instructors and crew members valuable to the safety and success of their own individual pursuits on the water.

There’s even been a notable occasion on which the two missions have been combined. In the Halifax Tall Ships Festival of last year, the ship trained its complement of adolescent trainees to act as ambassadors of the Commonwealth, and utilized them as docents for the thousands of visitors that toured the ship. Each was able to demonstrate pride of accomplishment and pride of place in an exercise unusual if not unique among sail training ships. Have any of the thousands of Canadian visitors to Virginia Beach this year been influenced by their contact with these proud boys and girls? Again, the answer is elusive, but the question misses the mark.

The schooner Virginia has been a prominent participant in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, organized annually to support the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s efforts to protect and support the waterway. Here she’s developed a fiercely competitive yet gracious and thoroughly sportsmanlike rivalry with Pride of Baltimore II, and one could suggest that the rivalry’s example by itself would be valuable to both citizens and politicians in these contentious times.

So why, then, is the ship tied up alongside the dock at Nauticus? Here the editorial offers some constructive criticism, though again the thrust of the argument is faulty.  While the Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation can be criticized for some of its managerial and administrative decisions, the writer fails to consider that the organization was and has been engaged in the process of weaning itself from the public funding that got the project underway, as the last of the state funding allocated to the ship ended in fiscal year 2008. During the transition, however, the failing economy had a dramatic impact on the group’s traditional donor base, and private efforts fell well short of the revenue required to keep the ship going into 2010.

In the ten months since the ship has been idle, concerted efforts have been made by the Foundation’s Board of Directors to achieve a solution to the administrative shortcomings that have caused the hiatus, and much progress has been made. Numerous determined Board members and former staff have been serving as volunteers to watch over this proud asset in fair weather and foul, and to pursue the recruitment of the constituency the editorial identifies in support of future operations.  To these ends we have been both assisted and inspired by a corps of dedicated volunteers, who have shown unflagging support of the vision with which the ship was originally launched.

Since the beginning date of the project, one can count some fifty-six stories in the Daily Press which feature the schooner Virginia either wholly or in part.  Many of these stories and accompanying photographs appeared on the front page, whether of a dramatic and dramatically nautical marriage proposal during the Jamestown 400th celebration, or word of schooner Virginia’s record-breaking run down the Bay in the 2007 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.  In these fifty six articles, there’s nary a word of criticism about the validity of the project or of the use of public funding in support of what is portrayed throughout as a vital asset valuable to all of your readership.

With more limited government resources available now and in the future, the schooner Virginia clearly will need to build upon its natural constituency to support its operations, and with determined effort will no doubt do so, perhaps as early as next year. Operating a sailing ship is no easy task in the best of times, and these clearly are not the best of times. It’s a shame the Daily Press has chosen to change tacks and jump on the bandwagon of criticism of this fine vessel after your paper has provided so much support for its construction and achievements.


Captain Stefan Edick
Master, Schooner Virginia


It is disheartening that in troubled times some institutions target historic icons. The service to the youth & the maritime community that the Schooner Virginia provides truly cannot be measured monetarily, and any attempt to hamper her mission will only be a blemish on the Commonwealth.
Jim Goodwin 
Excellent letter to the editor, Stef.  Christina.

Wow, Well done! Linda G.

There are other cities in our region besides Norfolk. Can the VA become more regional. ? See what Portsmouth Hampton, and Chesapeake can do? Grants are on line in Portsmouth - under museums and fine arts on the city web page. There isn't much money, but together we may make a difference.
Susan C.