Staying afloat in a bad economy ~ Keeping our Maritime Heritage Alive!

For many years I’ve painted present day historic wooden schooners, which eventually led me to being interested in the modern day replica ships built to represent their state.  They can be seen proudly sailing their state’s flag in the Tall Ship festivals all around the world. They usually are replicas of an important ship in the state’s maritime history.  

My first experience with seeing and painting one of these magnificent ships was the Schooner Virginia.  I was taken back by the size of the schooner when I first saw it.  It had a grandness and elegance to it, the way I imagined the famous Bluenose II out of Canada would look up close.  

The Virginia by William R. Beebe, commissioned

The Virginia by William R. Beebe, commissioned

Like many of the state replica ships the Schooner Virginia crew helps train the youth of today sailing techniques, teamwork, and helps build character and a sense of pride.  The building of the ship was a very expensive endeavor, over 4 million dollars, and the annual cost to maintain and operate the ship is sizeable.  

The state ships are usually run by foundations, which are charged with raising money to keep the ship afloat. Well, with the market crash in 2008, many of the ships have lost their state funding.  Donations have dwindled and patrons have pulled back and many of the ships are now in financial trouble.

I was recently on the Schooner Virginia website and noticed that in May of 2015 it was put up for sale.  I thought to myself what a crime!  A state ship, built to represent Virginia, help it’s youth learn and better themselves, and the money can’t be found to keep her on the water?

One of my paintings of the Schooner Virginia, entitled Leading the Way, features the Virginia (black schooner) racing on the Chesapeake Bay, being challenged by another state replica ship the Spirit of South Carolina (white schooner).  

Leading the Way by William R. Beebe, 20 x 24, oil on board, $11,000

Leading the Way by William R. Beebe, 20 x 24, oil on board, $11,000

The Spirit of South Carolina was built in 2007 at a cost of 4 million dollars in Charleston and was modeled after a 19th century Charleston-built schooner.  Its mission was to represent the maritime heritage of the historic port of Charleston, represent the state of South Carolina, and like the Schooner Virginia, train the youth of today sailing techniques and life skills.  

After reading about the Schooner Virginia’s dire circumstances, I thought I’d research the Spirit of South Carolina’s situation.  Are they thriving, hurting, sailing or in dry-dock, I wondered???

The first article I saw was that the SOSC was being auctioned off due to being so in debt, back in 2014!  Sure enough, the bad economy had taken its toll on another state tall ship. Two Charleston businessmen fortunately purchased it for the bargain price of $400,000! That is some significant depreciation over only 7 years.  Again, how sad for the state and for Charleston. 

I was glad to learn from what I read the ship will remain in Charleston.  I’m going to research it further to see whether it will be participating in future races and festivals.  

Maryland has its Pride of Baltimore II, Connecticut has the Amistad, New York has the Lettie G. Howard and there are a number of others.  I’m hoping to capture on canvas many of these wonderful tall ships over the coming years.  

The Lettie G. Howard by William R. Beebe, 24 x 24, oil on board, $7500

The Lettie G. Howard by William R. Beebe, 24 x 24, oil on board, $7500

They are a treasure for all to see and are a significant link to our country’s maritime heritage.  Thousands from all around the world attend the Tall Ship festivals.  There is an obvious interest by many, many people in these ships. Let’s hope we don’t have more casualties due to the economy.  We can’t afford to lose our heritage.  

Thank you for following my art, my photography, and my journal.  I would love to hear from you!


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What's next? Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe