This dramatic scene of a Maine Downeaster coming into the port of Portland, Maine features the ship POCAHONTAS. It's coming onto twilight and the ship's lamp casts a great reflection onto the waves as her crew works to keep the ship on course. There is good light throughout the painting along with great detail of a dangerous but typical day in the life of a merchant sailing ship.
A jack is visible on the foremast, requesting a pilot for assistance. The sea is choppy and confused by the swell refraction off the cliffs where a large flock of seagulls is shown in flight. The ship must take care, as the flotsam in the foreground shows the remains of another ship, lost against the rocks and currents.
POCAHONTAS was built by the Houghton Brothers of Bath, Maine in 1855. At 193.6 feet long and 1196 tons, the ship was engaged in the trade of cotton and other goods between New Orleans and Liverpool. The Houghton Brothers operated one of the largest and most successful fleets of Bath deep-sea full-rigged ships. Houghton designed many deep-sea cargo carriers but POCAHONTAS was one of their few vessels that sacrificed cargo space for speed. Though the ship was still designed as a Down Easter, it was often called a clipper because of its speed.
On the horizon to the left of POCAHONTAS, a fisherman-type gaff rigged schooner is scudding off on a broad reach under her jib and a double reefed main. Coming out from the right is the requested pilot schooner with sail designation #6, beating hard to windward.
Yorke first painted POCAHONTAS early in his career- one of his first paintings was a scene of the ship off Liverpool in 1859. His son, fellow artist William Howard Yorke, would also paint the ship- a broadside portrait which is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History.
This painting also may influenced or been the source of similar themed Currier and Ives print entitled 'Off a Lee Shore'. The ship portrayed was not identified, but it has similarities to both this work and to Yorke's paintings in general.
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