The Schooner Virginia

A few years ago, a friend of mine knowing that I paint ships, mentioned that the new schooner Virginia would be in Portsmouth, VA, for all to see. 

The next day, when I walked up to and alongside the sleek, black ship with Virginia carved and painted in gold leaf on its bow, I witnessed all 122 feet of hull majestically stretching along the Portsmouth dock and a new version of the tall pilot ships of yesteryear.  She was magnificent!

I took all the detail pictures from every angle I could think of.  The ship was open to the public that day and I was kindly allowed by the crew to tour the entire ship, including the quarters below.  Completely jazzed about my new discovery, I wasn’t quite sure what would come of it.  After all, the grand ship wasn’t under sail.  I could only imagine what she would look like flying her flags with her sails pulled tight. 

Not too long after, a good friend commissioned me to paint something for our club that I felt would represent our area and be of interest to the club’s members.  I immediately thought of the new Schooner Virginia.  Since it was winter time and the Virginia was in dry dock for the season, I only had a few photos (courtesy of the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, VA) of the original Virginia schooner to work from with her sails set. 

I ordered a copy of the ship’s plans from the Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation and then set about creating a sizeable model from the plans that I could turn to the desired angle that I wanted.  I then photographed the ship tilted to represent her listing to her starboard side and developed a drawing based on my photographs of my ship model. 

It was a rudimentary way of creating a desired effect that would have been much easier if I could have used a CAD/CAM software package, plugged in the ship's specifications and turned the ship 3 dimensionally on a computer screen. 

After much research on sails and rigging for the 1916 pilot schooner, I completed my 30” by 40” painting on a hardwood board.  It was quite a long project from beginning to end but I enjoyed it immensely.  The owners of the painting have generously lent it to our club where it is displayed prominently.

In the last few years the Virginia has been struggling to stay afloat financially.  I was flattered when the Foundation asked me to produce a limited edition print of my painting for their annual fundraiser.  The following year the state funding was cut due to the recession.   In order to keep her wonderful programs going she needs all the help she can get.  You can visit the Schooner Virginia website or see the ship in person at this year’s OpSail 2012 in Norfolk, June 1-12, along with many other tall ships. 


on 2012-05-29 15:56 by Administrator

The Virginia

By William R. Beebe

This painting, The Virginia,depicts the schooner Virginia with The Bluenose II off her bow, The Pride of Baltimore II off her stern, and the three-masted schooner The Victory Chimes on the far right.  It is a gathering of present day vessels sailing on the Chesapeake Bay heading for Norfolk.  The Virginia, The Pride of Baltimore II and the Bluenose II, all replicas of historic wooden ships, represent their states of Virginia, Maryland and their country of Canada respectively. They sail around the world representing our maritime heritage as ambassadors of goodwill.  They have as part of their mission youth training on seamanship and character building.

The Virginia, which was commissioned in 2005, is a 122 foot pilot schooner owned and operated by the Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation.  She is a replica of the 1917 Virginia which was one of the last great pilot schooners used to ferry captains to and from ships entering and exiting the ports of Virginia.  The present day Virginia has already been recognized for her beauty and speed, having won the 2007 Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.

The Bluenose II, which was built in 1963 and is 161 feet long, represents Canada and is a replica of the world’s most famous schooner The Bluenose.  The Bluenose won every race it ever entered in the International Fishing races between Canada and the USA during the 1920’s and 1930’s. The Bluenose II does not race so as not to tarnish the perfect record of her predecessor.  The original was built in 1921 and was gracing the waters along the East Coast at the same time as the original Virginia.  These replicas can occasionally be seen together, along with The Pride of Baltimore II, representing their country or state at the many gatherings of tall ships from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Norfolk and ports south.

The Pride of Baltimore II is 157 feet long and was built in 1988, replacing the Pride of Baltimore after she tragically sank in 1986.  Her captain and three of her crew were lost off the coast of Puerto Rico.  She is similar to the 1812 era topsail schooners called Baltimore Clippers, which helped America win the war of 1812.  She sails around the world and has logged more than 200,000 miles and visited over 200 ports in 40 countries.  Interestingly enough, for a number of years one of her captains was a fellow named John Beebe-Center.

The Victory Chimes schooner is a 127 foot three-masted, gaff-rigged Chesapeake Ram schooner.  She was built in 1900 in Bethel, Delaware and is now home-ported in Rockland, Maine.  In this painting, she is the only original historic wooden ship, now over 100 years old.  She is a true testament to the craftsmanship of local ship builders, the seamanship of her captains and the hard work and dedication of her owners over the years to keep her seaworthy.

In summary, the painting is about preserving the legacy of these beautiful sailing ships that have played such a significant role in our maritime history.