the Schooners of New York Harbor

Posted in NYHarbor, schooners, watercolor, drawing, boat, sketch, waterfront by bowsprite on 2009/04/19

Overheard on VHF, on two different occasions:

  • Princess to the sailing boat, Adirondack coming out of Chelsea Piers.”
    Adirondack to the Princess, we’re at North Cove, going south. You want the Imagine.”
  • Adirondack, by the Statue, this is the tug and barge coming up on your stern…”
    No response. It is not the Adirondack, but the Pioneer at the old buoy 31 (now 35), with no other schooner in sight…

What ship is that?

Well, should the old girl not readily show you her derrière bearing her escutcheon (plate with the boat’s name), below are some of the schooners (et al) of NYHarbor, drawn more or less to proportional scale, with some identifying marks, so you can call her by name:


Schooner Pioneer:
Built: 1885, in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania
Docked at: Pier 16
Material: Steel Hull, Iron Frames
Length: 102 ft.
Breadth: 22 ft.
Draft: 4.5 ft. (w/centerboard up) 12 ft. (w/centerboard down)
Mast Height: 76.6 ft.
Sail Area: 2,737 sq. ft.
Passenger Capacity: 35

It’s very easy to spot the Pioneer: look for the orange jimbuoy at the stern. She has a beautiful bow, one of the classiest in the harbor—a clipper bow— with a proper martingale permanently cocked to starboard from a docking mishap. Black hull and masts, white booms and gaffs, wooden bowsprit.

Her topsail is the grimy-est sail you would ever be called upon to hoist, redolent of grey-brown subway rats’ pelt. It’s only brought out in very light winds and training sails. Pioneer also has a fisherman’s sail, stretched from foremast to mainmast— also a vanity sail— taken out only when the crew clamor to learn how to set it.


Schooner Lettie G. Howard:
Built: 1893 in EssexMassachusetts
Docked at: Pier 16 (update: now at Mystic Seaport, CT)
Material: Wood hull, masts, spars
Length: 125.4 ft. / 38.22 m
Breadth: 21.1 ft. / 6.43
Draft: 10.6 ft. / 3.23
Sail Area: 5,072 sq. ft.
Crew: 7-9

Lettie, named after this seamstress, is lovely: a forest green with topsides, booms, and blocks all a buttery yellow. Look for the notch midships. I know this notch well: on the first day of my first Lettie trip, racing towards the Georges Bank, I would prop my head in this notch (only while offwatch, of course) and vomit. Wooden masts, white bowsprit.

Lettie is so shipshape I believe even her baggywrinkle is drycleaned periodically.


Schooner Adirondack:
Built: 1994, Scarano Boat, Albany, NY
Docked at: Chelsea Piers
Material: Douglas Fir , cedar, teak, and mahogany.
Length: 80 ft
Draft : 8.6 ft.
Sail Area – 2,000 sq. ft.
Passenger Capacity: 49 passengers

Adirondack’s signature telltale marks: the plumb stem and the canoe stern. White hull, bowsprit, booms, gaffs & masts.


American pilot schooner Imagine: (now renamed Adirondack III)

Docked at: Chelsea Piers
Built: 1997, Scarano Boat
Length: 78 feet
Passenger Capacity: 49 passenger

White hull, trim, bowsprit, booms, gaffs & masts of Port Orford Cedar.


Sloop Clearwater:cleartiller
Docked at: 79th st Boat Basin
Length: 106 ft
Mast Height: 108 ft.
Sail Area: 4,305 sq. ft.

Clearwater is green-hulled with thick black trim, black masts, and has a huge white boom, white bowsprit. Very rare is her large tiller, carved in the shape of a fist. One person might be able to steer her dead ahead, but it takes several crewmembers to turn the boat.


Schooner Shearwater:
Built: 1929, Rice Brothers Shipyard, East Boothbay, Maine
Docked at: North Cove
Materials: Wood; Teak, Mahogany, Native White Oak Georgia Pine
Length: 82.5 ft
Beam: 16.5 ft
Draft: 10 ft
Mast Height: 85 ft

She’s still a schooner: Marconi rigged, not gaff like the others.

(More that I missed! artwork to come)

Schooner Clipper City
Docked at: Pier 17, NY

Sloop Ventura:
Docked at: North Cove, NY

Schooner Mary E.:
Docked at: City Island, NY

Schooner Liberty:
Docked at: Liberty Marina, Jersey City, NJ

Schooner Richard Robbins:
Docked at: Lincoln Harbor, Weehawken, NJ

These are some of the schooners that live here. Many friends come through: Mystic Whaler is here, at the 79th st Boat Basin, the A.J.Meerwald and the When & If, from NJ, and many others. If you are feeling the desire to own a fine schooner, this one is for sale: the Rosemary Ruth.
Photos here from Tugster. Great photos and writing on Frogma: go there and type in Rosemary Ruth and Schooner Ann!

25 Responses

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  1. tugster said, on 2009/04/20 at 06:24

    you post rewards my patience and more with details like the subway rat color of pioneer’s topsail, your own private vomit notch of lettie, clearwater’s sun icon on the topsail and the fist/tiller… and –surtout–the bowsprite-trademark VHF prose. more . . more . . soon, please. how can i convince you to post such beauty more often?

  2. JED said, on 2009/04/20 at 19:31

    TOO cool! Loved the post and was especially enamored with CLEARWATER’s tiller.


  3. morris Canal said, on 2009/04/20 at 20:27

    These drawings are super and I love all the intimate details about the current Harbor boats.
    Keep up the great work!

  4. phil mello said, on 2009/04/28 at 03:58

    I love this post. We must make a trip down there to see them.


  5. bowsprite said, on 2009/04/28 at 08:32

    Thank you, Old Salt Blog, for writing this great comment:
    “It is wonderful that we have enough schooners sailing around these days that they can be confused for one another.”
    …so true!

    Now, look here for a real delight: creative gardening — 19 clumps of trees marking the exact positions of ships in a famous battle!

    • bowsprite said, on 2009/05/14 at 12:35

      Oops!! thank you Chickity NameCheck GLoucester! I stand corrected! ’tis indeed, Lettie G. Howard! Duh! Yes, calling it Howard G. Lettie now feels so heavy on the tongue, not sure how I had let that go…!

      Readers: look here for GoodMorningGloucester’s photos of Lettie G Lettie & video of the fellow at the helm that took us out to Georges and did not really want to turn back (Hi, Jared!–a vaseline & saltlick man):

  6. Richard Hudson said, on 2009/05/21 at 13:57

    Fantastic info and great drawings of the schooners of NY. Very useful guide for anyone wondering which pretty schooner is which.

    And thanks for mentioning Rosemary Ruth is for sale :).


  7. TheLongIslandGuy said, on 2009/06/05 at 11:57

    Great site you have here, Bowsprite. This guide to the schooners is ingenious. It helped me identify Adirondack in a photo I took during a cruise in 2007. Love your watercolors. -Bill

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  10. Soundbounder said, on 2009/08/04 at 13:50

    I just saw the Liberty schooner in Greenport this month. Took a quick tour.
    Beautiful ship.

  11. […] number of windjammers operate from the West Side of Manhattan and from New Jersey. Here’s an interesting list of some of the boats on which you can either book brief passage or […]

  12. […] in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2009/09/26 I love furling the jib and staysail of the schooner Pioneer while underway! I love being perched out on the headrig, with the waters of the deep water range […]

  13. […] to positively identify the schooner, check this guide.  Want some music . . . where this post came from?  Try then Cash and Carter.  No surreptitious […]

  14. […] of 4000 schooners, including the current resident of the sixth boro known as Lettie G. Howard […]

  15. Zach said, on 2010/03/16 at 21:01

    Hi! Your artwork is beautiful! I love it. I work for the non-profit Sound Experience which operates the schooner Adventuress. Our educational model is based off the Clearwater’s. I notice you have captured her, and I’m wondering if it’s possible to get a print of that?

    Again, great images!


    • bowsprite said, on 2010/03/16 at 22:10

      Hello, Zach! beautiful schooner, the Adventuress! yes, i’ll email you, good luck. Good website you have!

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  17. […] to the tentatively definitive compendium on “schooner identification in the sixth boro,” I can without a doubt call the leftmost vessel Imagine and the rightmost […]

  18. Jim said, on 2011/11/30 at 17:43

    You’re going to have to repaint Pioneer, she’s finally getting new sails!

  19. Rake « tugster: a waterblog said, on 2011/12/28 at 08:28

    […] Some three years back bowsprite took these fotos and gave momentum to my whatzit series.  Here‘s how that “short […]

  20. John Schneider said, on 2019/09/29 at 07:09

    Christine: I’m interested in some of your artwork and would like to talk by phone. How do I contact you? John

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