Award-winning author William Gilkerson is a sailor, painter, journalist, historian, and adventurer. He is the author of the novel Ultimate Voyage, as well as ten nonfiction books on nautical topics, and his paintings are internationally acknowledged to be among the finest contemporary maritime art. He lives with his family on the shores of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, where he sails his ancient cutter, Elly.
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William Gilkerson attended the Bixby School of Fine Arts at Washington University, before going to Norway and buying a 44’ antique sailing sloop. He learned seamanship while navigating it around much of Northern Europe, making and selling on-the-spot sketches, an activity that sparked his lifelong career as a marine artist, but with periodic interruptions into writing. After his return to the United States (first as managing editor of St. Louis Magazine, then as an editor and later special features writer for the San Francisco Chronicle), he lived aboard his next boat, a 38’ ketch, in Sausalito, until 1970, when he abandoned his newspaper career and joined The Golden Toad, a group of street musicians, as bagpiper and “mouth, begging quarters for the hat.”
Gilkerson’s work as a marine artist and noted scrimshander eventually took him to Massachusetts. From then until now, he has interspersed his writing and painting, producing ten major institutional exhibitions (including the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, and the Peabody Essex Museum of Salem’s first one-man show for a living artist), until his final relocation to Nova Scotia in 1987. There he dwells today, off Mahone Bay, sailing with his wife, Kerstin, and family aboard their ancient cutter Elly.
In his career to date, Gilkerson’s art has been commissioned and collected by some fifty public institutions and museums, and his writings have been anthologized and reproduced in many books and magazines.