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Schooner Light - Schooner Shenandoah
An original watercolor painting by artist James Williamson recreated as a fine art image and greeting card by Fine Art America.
The Shenandoah was launched in 1964. The climax of the career of Builder Harvey F. Gamage, this magnificent ship was built for passenger charter service. She makes Vinyard Haven, Massachusetts her home port. She is a two-masted topsail schooner with a length of 152 feet, a beam of 23 feet and a draft of 11 feet. Her sail area comes to 6788 square feet and her mainmast rises 94 feet above the waterline. The ship is “the only non auxiliary, square rigged vessel operating under the American Flag”. She was built for a crew of eight and 37 passengers. There are two four-berth cabins, four three-berth cabins, four two-berth cabins and one single. All are “small, but snug”. None has running water, but all have an atmosphere. The main saloon is decorated with “a brass ship’s clock, two long gimbaled mahogany tables, hanging kerosene lamps, two racks of brass hilted Union naval cutlasses, ship portraits, a stove and pump organ”.
The basic two-masted schooner rig may be described as a purely fore and aft rig having a single headsail, gaff foresail (usually with a boom), and a gaff and boom mainsail wide in the foot and generally taller than the foresail. Other sails may be set: a jib or jibs; jib topsail; gaff topsails; a topmast staysail; and square fore topsails; without altering the type name of schooner. More masts may be added, three being common in Europe and between four and five in America, where six or seven masters were also built. Schooners were built for cargo carrying, fishing, pilot services, as minor warships, privateersmen, for surveying, smuggling and slave carrying.
The commonly quoted reference to the origin of the schooner is that it was devised at Glouster, Massachusetts, about 1713 by Andrew Robinson in a vessel at whose launch a spectator cried ‘Oh, how she schoons’ and of course Captain Robinson instantly replied ‘A schooner let her be!’ There is no word ‘schoon’ in English and as the account was written on oral evidence in 1790 it seems quite improbable. It may be true, but extremely doubtful, that Robinson built the first schooner-rigged craft in North America but she was certainly antedated by vast numbers of English and Dutch craft which were not then named schooners but had previously developed the rig, which was probably taken to America by colonists from those countries.
January 5th, 2013
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