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A Virtual Exhibit with Audio Recordings

The men in these portraits, painted by Frederick Wight, son of Alice Stallknecht, are descendants of a long line of men from Chatham and Cape Cod who personified the best of New England’s men of any generation.

The Cape was considered “the greatest nursery of seamen in North America. Ship-owners and merchants sought Chatham sea captains for their superior seamanship, integrity, resourcefulness and dependability.” They were told, “I have not chartered your vessel but you.”

The Chatham sea captains, and those who preceded them,  “excelled as deep sea captains who fished the Grand Banks of Nova Scotia; as coastal or packet skippers who carried goods to Atlantic ports and as far as the West Indies; and as masters of the Seven Seas who went far afield – to Europe, Africa, South America, Asia and “Down Under.”

For the most part, the vessels these men traveled on were powered by sail. One of man’s earliest inventions, the sail, supplied the most important source of motion for navigation throughout maritime history and has found an enduring role in recreation.

The men in this gallery were at home on the sea. They knew the “sting of wind-driven rain and icy gales and hurricanes”. Their navigational tools were minimal – no GPS, no radar, but often starting out to sea by age 10 they learned how to become “Masters of the Seas”.

Adapted from “Chatham’s Sea Captains in the Age of Sail” by Joseph A. Nickerson, Jr. and Geraldine Nickerson