Conrad Freitag was well known for his paintings of many of the New York Harbor pilot schooners. This fine portrait shows Number 18, J STAFFORD, one of the large “Station” pilots of the second half of the 19th Century off New York, under the New York & New Jersey Pilot’s Association. These nimble craft would spend a week at a time offshore waiting incoming ships requesting a pilot, on a rotating basis.
In this broadside view J. STAFFORD is probably cruising on station off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, the first landfall for incoming vessels. She is running under her full complement of canvas. Her pilot’s gig is stowed on deck as opposed to being towed, so there is no immediate request for a pilot, although she may be heading out to rendezvous with the large ship inbound on the horizon. The sun-laced sky is full of active clouds.
J STAFFORD was built around 1875 and served the pilot’s association for many years. An unusual event occurred in 1889, when a hurricane drove the Pilot Schooner AM LAWRENCE off station, and some pilots were unable to leave the vessels they were assisting and ended up sailing to port all over the world, including J STAFFORD’s Pilot Charles Anderson. Freitag does the working boat justice, with crisp detail and desirable coloration to sea and sky. The overall appeal of the composition is so excellently proportioned that the small canvas translates the vast distance between the ships, providing a sense of the skill these crews possessed to perform their guiding roles.
b>Provenance: Private Maine Collection.
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