Can anyone identify these ships in the harbour at St Johns?

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Mystery ships in St Johns harbour painting

A lady called Anne Francis has asked to put out an appeal to identify the ships in this painting she owns of the harbour at St Johns. It’s dated 1958.

My guess is that these might be fishing craft – perhaps the motor equivalent of the White Ships we’ve discussed before on this weblog.

Can anyone help with something better than as guess please? Contact me at or using the comment link below, and I’ll pass the word along.

4 thoughts on “Can anyone identify these ships in the harbour at St Johns?”

  1. My guess would be "long liners" from the cod industry . Can't see enough deck furniture to make an educated guess.

    Nice painting!

  2. This is a painting of two ships belonging to the Portuguese "White Fleet" They fished the Grand Banks using dories and trawls. They carried a dory for each man. Every morning each dory was lowered over the side and the fisherman would row away from the ship. He would set the baited trawl and wait several hours then haul the trawl and return to his ship with the fish he caught. There is a wonderful book by Priscilla Doel called "Port o' Call" which tells the whole story of the White Fleet, and it contains many beautiful pictures. The mother ship of the White Fleet was " Gil Eannes" a hospital ship and supply vessel.

    Hope this was helpful.

  3. Hello,

    To add my two cents, Mr. Bill Hayward above is right. These are indeed ships of the Portuguese (White Fleet) The two ships in the painting could very well be the Capitão José Vilarinho ( and the Senhora da Boa Viagem ( both had the same hull design with the high bow section and lower mid section for ease of gaffing up the cod from from the dories. Later for hauling in the nets when they were converted from dory to net fishing.

    A good reference source for the history of the Portuguese cod Fishing industry is the Museu Maritimo de Ilhavo (Maritime Museum of Ilhavo) ( The web site has a treasure trove of information on ships has well as a data base on the fishermen that sailed and fished on these vessels.

    Here is the

    Ships data base (

    And the fishermen data base (

    A side note,

    My ancestors have been involved in cod fishing from the 1820s to the mid 1950s. The book, The Quest of the Schooner Argus by Allan Villiers features the last members of my family that sailed From the Azores to the Grand Banks and Greenland to fish for cod on the Argus, my grandfather sailed in several ships including the Gazela Primeiro, Creoula and Argus until his death in 1942. My

    Granduncle, brother-in-law of my Grandfather, was lost at sea in 1938 aboard the Creoula, his son almost lost his life when a whale surfaced under his dory and capsizing it when he was a crew member of the Argus in 1950.


  4. Good to find that this thread is so busy

    Confirm that they are White Fleet units

    Less sure about their names though Sid could well be right

    Another excellent source of White Fleet history is The Rooms at St John's

    Architecturally stunning and combines the arts with a museum and public archives

    The building itself is wonderful, with fabulous views out across St John's


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