Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Commemorative Look at Schooners- the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race

America 2.0 at the beginning of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, 2011.
Photo by Joe Elder aboard the Schooner Spirit of Independence.
     Olde Towne Portsmouth once again hosted the finale of the 23rd Annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race  from Baltimore Mayland with 37 participating schooners. Here is a photographic study of these exceptional sailing vessels docked along Olde Towne's waterside. Enjoy!

An 18th century cannon stands sentinal  in front of the schooner "Mystic Whaler"
docked along side the High Street basin. Photo by Joe Elder.


Schooner "Adventurer" figurehead.
Photo by Joe Elder.
Schooner racing on the Chesapeake Bay is rooted in the trade rivalry between Baltimore, Maryland, at the northern end of the Bay, and Portsmouth/Norfolk, Virginia, at the southern end. The fastest sailing vessels delivered goods and people to their destinations and often garnered the best price for their cargo by beating slower schooners into port. Over the years, commercial schooner designs evolved for the bay's routes — taking into consideration shallow waters, local crops and regional needs, with speed being a primary concern to beat competitively loaded vessels into port. These schooners also played a critical role in our nation's early wars. While there are no cargo-hauling schooners now working the Bay, there are a considerable number of schooners still in use as cruising vessels and privately owned boats.

Wheel  from the schooner
"Liberty Clipper".
Photo by Joe Elder
In 1988, when the City of Baltimore launched her flagship modeled on those earlier vessels, Captain Lane Briggs of the TugantineNorfolk Rebel — the world's only sail-powered schooner-rigged tugboat — challenged the Pride of Baltimore II to a race from Baltimore to Norfolk, reviving an historic rivalry between schooners, captains and cities on the Bay. With the challenge accepted, the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race (GCBSR) was born.

In 1990, a weekend in October was set aside for what had become an annual event, and yacht clubs at the northern and southern ends of the race volunteered to support the schooners and crews in their efforts.

Schooners  at the High Street basin, Olde Towne Portsmouth. Photo by Joe Elder.
Bowsprit of the "Liberty Clipper".
Photo by Joe Elder.
Over the 21 years of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, there have been some incredible races with schooners going to the wire to win. Harsh weather conditions in some of the races have tested the mettle of the vessels, crews and captains. As many as 56 schooners have signed up for a single race, and more than 150 — with vessels from as far away as California - have enjoyed the fall race on the Bay. The 2007 race was the fastest race in this long series. With strong following winds, several schooners set new records for both elapsed and corrected time. The schooner Virginia set a new time to beat of 11 hours, 18 minutes and 53 seconds, beating the previous record of 12 hours, 57 minutes and 51 seconds set by Imagine...! in the 2005 GCBSR.

Skylight binnacle and wheel  from the schooner "Adventurer".  Photo by Joe Elder.

Belaying pins. Photo by Joe Elder.
With the growth of the event and the resulting focus on these vintage sailing craft, the organizers and sponsors elected soon after the start of the event to maximize the value of the race in very special ways. The race brings focus to the maritime traditions of schooners on the Chesapeake and brings attention to the environmental issues facing the Chesapeake. All net proceeds of the race are donated to support youth education efforts aimed at saving the bay. This is why the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race is proud to say that we are "Racing to Save the Bay!"  History taken from the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race website.

Carved and gilded figurehead  of the schooner "Lady Maryland". Photo by Joe Elder.

Port light. Photo by Joe Elder.

Line wrapped around a belaying pin. Photo by Joe Elder.

Hawse pipe and  line. Photo by Joe Elder.

Schooner "Virginia" flies the  American flag from her stern. Photo by Joe Elder..

Deck view of the "Pride of Baltimore II". Photo by Joe Elder.

Ships bell of the schooner "Lady Maryland". Photo by Joe Elder.

Wheel of the tugantine "Norfolk Rebel".  Photo by Joe Elder.

Bow of the "Pride of Baltimore II". Photo by Joe Elder.

Skipjack Nautical Wares storefront is fronted by the bowsprit of the "Mystic Whaler."
Photo by Joe Elder.

Thank you to all of the participants and volunteers that make this such a memorable event. We hope to see you all again next year and until then, calm seas and following winds. From the staff at Skipjack Nautical Wares and all of us from Olde Towne  Portsmouth. Cheers!


  1. They really are beautiful. As an old seadog myself, I appreciate the older beauties.

  2. wow! this is a beautiful blog! Fantastic photos and materials. Greetings from Argentina. Pol (

  3. My Father would really appreciate this, he's commercial Lobster fisherman and loves these sort of things, when he gets back off the trip he's currently on I'll have to show him.

  4. What a great post and such a fun blog! I have never really been out on a proper boat before. Though I do adore nautical style. Beautiful photos.


  5. Oooh, this is great! It's already on my bookmarks! :) Thanks for these photos.

  6. wow its good info, i was so have fun for your blog, thans

  7. Very cool and awesome photos you got here!
    Thanks for sharing mate!

  8. This is a beautiful blog with interesting posts.

  9. wow.. thank for the pict..
    I'm new fan.. Loved this blog


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