July 17, 2007
Staff, volunteers and supporters of Mystic Seaport mourn the passing of Carleton Mitchell.
The winner of a record three straight Bermuda Races in Finisterre, a cruising sailor and powerboater of great accomplishment, and one of boating's best and most influential writers and photographers, Carleton Mitchell died of heart failure on July 16, 2007, at his home in Key Biscayne, Florida. He was 96. John Rousmaniere, Eight Bells: Carleton Mitchell.
Mitch donated his photograph and manuscript collections to Mystic Seaport prior to his passing. He also supported their preservation and cataloging. All are available for the enjoyment of the public through our Research and Access process.
Carleton Mitchell Collection
Millions of us have sailed with Carleton Mitchell without ever stepping aboard one of his trendsetting boats. From the 1930s through the 1980s, Mitchell documented many of his voyages and races in words and photographs, inviting us to join him in some of the notable sailing adventures of the mid-1900s. We are fortunate that in 1996 he chose to donate his collection of manuscripts, logbooks, and more than 20,000 photographic images to Mystic Seaport.
It was Carleton Mitchell's boyhood dream to become a writer and sailor. It was a dream he fulfilled to perfection. As yachting historian John Rousmaniere has said, Carleton Mitchell "set the highest standards of performance as a writer, as a photographer, and as a sailor."
As a sailor, Carleton Mitchell is best known for his many victories in offshore sailboat racing, especially his three successive wins in the Newport-to-Bermuda Race, 1956, 1958, and 1960. But he was just as happy to be cruising near and far in a good boat. The Cruising Club of America awarded Mitchell its Blue Water Medal for his two transatlantic passages and many miles of ocean sailing. Whether racing or cruising, he knew how to assemble and motivate a good crew, and he knew how to get the most out of a boat.Finisterre, the 38-foot yawl he conceived and commissioned from Sparkman & Stephens in 1954, is considered one of the trendsetting designs of the 1900s. In his later years he switched to powerboats in order to remain on the water.
As a writer, Mitchell took his readers to sea with him, introducing a generation of them to the islands of the Caribbean in Islands to Windward (1949), later updated as Isles of the Caribbees (1966, 1971). In Yachtsman's Camera (1950) he demonstrated his views on maritime photography. In Passage East (1953) he took the reader on a transatlantic sailing passage, and in Summer of the Twelves (1959) he gave a behind-the-scenes view of America's Cup competition. And from the 1940s through the 1980s he was a frequent contributor to The National Geographic, Yachting, Sports Illustrated, and Motor Boating & Sailing.
Carleton Mitchell taught himself photography in the 1930s in order to illustrate his magazine articles. Serving as a naval officer during World War II, he organized and supervised the U.S. Navy Combat Photography Units, finding time for one voyage to the war zone during which he documented life on an aircraft carrier. Many of his best-known and most-compelling images document Caribbean island life in the late 1940s, before tourism impacted the island cultures. Recording his own experiences and creating images for his books and articles, he photographed maritime subjects from the Bahamas and Caribbean Islands to Baltic seaports, from America's Cup racing to gunning in Chesapeake Bay marshes, from small-boat racing to ocean sailing, from cruising the Greek coast to making a passage down the coasts of California and Mexico.
Carleton Mitchell stated his philosophy of photography in the preface to Yachtsman's Camera: "To me, pictures should be natural and easy, literally the unstudied record of a given instant in time; they should be direct and uncluttered, and have something to say; above all, they should convey a sense of participation." This legacy is now preserved for the enjoyment and education of future generations at Mystic Seaport.
email@example.com, your on-line tool for photographic services.
For further information, please contact:
Mystic Seaport Carleton Mitchell Collection
75 Greenmanville Ave.
P. O. Box 6000
Mystic, CT 06355