Sardine carrier Jacob Pike finds a new home

Jacob PIKE sardine carrier

Sardine carrier Jacob Pike

Penobscot Marine Museum of Maine, USA, has put up a very nice short series of films about the Maine sardine industry in general and the elegant sardine carrier Jacob Pike in particular.

The museum has been forced to abandon the attempt to convert the Pike into a floating classroom because safety regulations would have required such great changes to the vessel that it would have lost much of its historical value – but she has been bought by a local lobster fisherman, Jamie Steeves, who is determined to preserve the vessel.

Jamie recently rebuilt a historic wooden-hulled tanker, the Rockland Gulf, which is of about the same size as the Pike, and the museum is confident the sardine carrier will receive good care.

Following repairs, the Pike will be used as a bait carrier and will be berthed at Rockland, where she will be a visible reminder of the city’s waterfront heritage.

Keelman and war hero Jack Crawford nails his colours to the mast

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Jack Crawford climbs the rigging

Searching a few weeks ago for information about a quite different Jack Crawford, I learned about the one pictured above.

He was a keelman from Sunderland until he was press-ganged into the Royal Navy in his early 20s, and found himself on board HMS Venerable under Admiral Duncan, the Royal Navy Commander-in-Chief of the North Seas. The story of this Jack Crawford’s fame, though, begins at the battle of Camperdown, in 1797, when the British and Dutch navies met in battle off the coast of Norway, near Camperdown, close to Bergen.

Instead of forming a line of ships, Admiral Duncan split the British fleet into two groups, which broke through the Dutch ships, firing broadsides. Although a daring move, it was successful because the Dutch ships were not yet ready for battle, and it prevented the Dutch fleet from joining the French navy in order to invade Ireland.

HMS Venerable’s main mast was broken in the fighting, but while under heavy fire the young Jack climbed it and nailed the Union Jack to it. This was the command flag of Admiral of the Fleet, and was both an  important identifier and a symbol of British power.

The loss of the flag could be a great blow to morale and could affect a battle, and the phrases to ‘nail your colours to the mast’ and ‘show your true colours’ are believed to refer to the importance of these flags.

In recognition Jack was later formally presented to King George III and granted a pension.

For much more on this story, the monuments to this local hero and information on material in Sunderland’s museum, click here.

American maritime artist John P Benson celebrated in a new book

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Paintings by John P Benson – click on each for a larger photo.
The images that were here earlier are now linked to thumbnails below

John Prentis Benson – American Marine Artist, which comes out early in the New Year, will be the first sizeable book about an important artist who has only recently become recognised or even collectable.

The lack of interest in John P Benson is perhaps surprising, as he was the brother of the renowned American Impressionist, Frank Benson.

Overshadowed in his youth by his highly talented brother, John P Benson practised as an architect for many years before finally becoming a full-time working artist in his 50s.

Once established in his studio at Kittery, Maine, however, he was prolific and painted over 750 works between 1925 and his death in 1947.

Of these, only about 300 are known, which leaves 450 or so either in private hands and yet to be located, or destroyed. Many of Benson’s paintings are still to be found, and possible owners should know that they sell for up to $50,000 when they appear at auction.

Experts say that despite the family connection, Benson’s style was only moderately Impressionistic, and that his work also incorporated elements of Realism and Romanticism.

Benson was born in 1865 in Salem, Massachusetts and grew up a few streets away from the town’s seaport, which is said to have fascinated the young artist. Later in life he painted mainly contemporary and historical ships and boats, and seascapes, and his boats and ships are noted for their detail and accuracy, and his work is said to have influenced  current marine artists such as Geoff Hunt, who illustrated the covers of Patrick O’Brian’s well known novels.

I’d like to thank Bob Holtzman for sending me this story – many readers will know him as the editor of the weblog Indigenous Boats, but he’s also a freelance PR consultant, writer and editor. He’s clearly a diligent operator who understands his media, for he has clearly recognised that is very fond of a good painting!

For more on the artist and book, visit