Tall Ships! South Carolina’s Maritime History

Wynken, Blynken and Nod one night, sailed off in a wooden shoe…..sailed on a river of crystal light…
into a sea of dew…

As a child, one of my favorite books was a beautifully illustrated poem called Wynken Blynken and Nod. It was an odd shaped, tall book, about a child’s night of sailing into dreamland armed “with nets of silver and gold.” It is a warm and imaginative journey of memory, and I am sure the imagery and the beauty of the drawings helped shape my child artist self. My early childhood was also rich with sand and sea and forest and pond, and the power and resonance of the ocean continues to sustain and enrich my world. Like the words of Isak Dinesen:

“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.”

The Spirit of South Carolina

So of course my imagination is captured by Charleston’s beautiful tall ship, the Spirit of South Carolina. Built in 2007, she sails out of Charleston waters now and, “possesses a proud, unique heritage. This ship descends from a line of swift, able schooners that served the coastal and harbor pilots along the southeast coast from the mid 1700’s to the early 1900’s. The Spirit of South Carolina is a pilot Schooner reminiscent of the Frances Elizabeth, a vessel that was originally built by the Samuel J. Pregnall & Bros. Shipyard in Charleston in 1879. Plans for the Frances Elizabeth, from which the new ship was adapted, were found in the Smithsonian Institute.

“In weather both fair and foul, the intrepid mariners who sailed these vessels”…were some of my own early ancestors who navigated these waters and whose memory I am tasked to recall. Dr. Henry Woodward, first English settler in South Carolina and early explorer (and ship’s doctor to the pirates!) hitched a ride with the Carolina and those first settlers to Charleston. Captain John Colcock from Essex, England arrived in Charleston in 1730, but gave up his life at sea when he, soon after arriving, married Deborah Milner and became the Justice of the Peace. Ephraim Mikell lived on Edisto Island and on St Helena, and in May of 1742, according to the fine historian Larry Rowland (History of Beaufort Country, Vol 1) lost “a fine new schooner built in Beaufort, and loaded with one hundred barrels of rice, to a Spanish Privateer.” And the very interesting Scotsman, John Gordon who came first to Frederica, Georgia, and who lived in Charleston and Beaufort, marrying Elizabeth Wright, then Catherine Smith, daughter of the Judge from New York. His story continues to reveal itself and intrigue his descendants, and I am now blessed with new cousins in America, England and Australia, which is one very wonderful result of loving South Carolina’s early history!

South Carolina’s Maritime history was previously uncharted it seems, but is certainly is a large part of our collective cultural Lowcountry history. There is now a South Carolina Maritime Foundation, a non profit whose mission is to offer effective, unique educational opportunities for students. They commissioned the building of this fine ship.

I can hear the spirits of the ancestors cheering on this endeavor. May more stories be told! May more pictures be found and may more of this grand history be remembered. May this voyage be blessed.

I was called to be an artist. And as an old old midwife said to me "If the Lord wants you to do something, you won't have no good luck' til you do." So, here I am, sharing what I love, longing to illuminate the work of art, which is everywhere.

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Posted in architecture, Arts & Culture, beauty, Charleston South Carolina, South Carolina History, travel, Writing
4 comments on “Tall Ships! South Carolina’s Maritime History
  1. Sara Papas says:

    This is such a great post Charlotte. The South Carolina Maritime Foundation strives to bring life-changing experiences to students aboard the “Spirit of South Carolina” and hopefully help shape some more passionate artists like you.

  2. Pinkney says:

    Jenks helped work on this thing. So did some other Edisto residents. They would get together and go over to where ever it was and do whatever was needed. I think there was a time when it didn’t look like the ship would get finished – budgets, you know. I read the other day that a sailing “ship” had three masts. Less than that and it’s something else. Pretty boat, though.

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What’s this?

Welcome to my blog about the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a place proud with beauty, history and art. Sometimes we feel a call, to be, to go, to do. I was called to be an artist, and as an old midwife from Alabama said, “If the good Lord wants you to do something, you won’t have no good luck until you do it.”

So here I am writing about what I know, about the 'under glimmer' as the poet Basho, says, the way I have learned to see, to notice. I am inspired by, and talking about the history and art and culture of this place that has called me to herself. By the ancestors.

My background includes a degree in fine arts from a small private college in Florida, and before that, four years of all girls' boarding school in Asheville. I worked as a professional photographer, helped my children grow up, and now and I love seasoned things, good food, better conversation, beauty, my beloved and beautiful Italian Greyhound, Beau. Moved by the sacred places and stories of this beautiful historic land called the Lowcountry, I am here in spirit and I hope to infect you with my love of this place.

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