Flying Cloud (Clipper)

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File:Buttersworth - flying cloud.jpg
The Clipper Ship "Flying Cloud" off the Needles, Isle of Wight, by James E. Buttersworth, 1859-60.

'Flying Cloud'
Career (United States) 100x35px
Owner: Grinnell, Minturn & Co, New York
Builder: Donald McKay of East Boston, MA
Cost: $90,000
Launched: 1851
Career United Kingdom
Owner: Black Ball Line, Liverpool
Port of registry:  United Kingdom
Acquired: 1862
Out of service: 1875
Fate: Went aground, Beacon Island Bar, St. John's, 1874
Status: Burned for iron and copper fastenings
General characteristics
Class and type: Extreme clipper
Length: 235 ft.
Beam: 41 ft.
Depth of hold: 21.5 ft.
Notes: Held record for passage under sail from New York to San Francisco, 89 days 8 hours, for over 100 years, from 1854-1989.[1]

The Flying Cloud of 1851 was the most famous of the extreme clippers built by Donald McKay.

She was built in East Boston, Massachusetts, and intended for Enoch Train of Boston, who paid $50,000 for her construction.

World record voyage to San Francisco during Gold Rush

The Flying Cloud was purchased at launching by Grinnell, Minturn & Co., of New York, for $90,000, which represented a huge profit for Train & Co. Within six weeks she sailed from New York and made San Francisco 'round Cape Horn in 89 days, 21 hours under the command of Captain Josiah Perkins Cressy. On July 31, during the trip, she made 374 miles in 3 days. In 1853 she beat her own record by 13 hours, a record that stood until 1989 when the breakthrough-designed sailboat Thursday's Child completed the passage in 80 days, 20 hours.[2] The record was once again broken 2008 by the French racing yacht Gitana 13 with a time of 43 days and 38 minutes.

In the early days of the California Gold Rush, it took more than 200 days for a ship to travel from New York to San Francisco, a voyage of more than 16,000 miles. The Flying Cloud's better-than-halving that time (only 89 days) was a headline-grabbing world record that the ship itself beat three years later, setting a record that lasted for 136 years.

Woman navigator

The Flying Cloud's achievement was remarkable under any terms. But, writes David W. Shaw,[3] it was all the more unusual because its navigator was a woman, Eleanor Cressy, who had been studying oceanic currents, weather phenomena, and astronomy since her girlhood in Marblehead, Massachusetts. She was one of the first navigators to exploit the insights of Matthew Fontaine Maury, most notably the course recommended in his Sailing Directions. With her husband, ship captain Josiah Perkins Cressy, she logged many thousands of miles on the ocean, traveling around the world carrying passengers and goods. In the wake of their record-setting transit from New York to California, Eleanor and Josiah became instant celebrities. But their fame was short-lived and their story quickly forgotten. Josiah died in 1871 and Eleanor lived far from the sea until her death in 1900.

British clipper to New Zealand, Quebec timber trade

In 1862, Flying Cloud was sold to go under British colors without change of name, and was soon traveling between the mother country and Australia and New Zealand. Her latter years were spent in the timber trade between Britain and St. Johns, Canada. On June 19, 1874 the Flying Cloud went ashore on the Beacon Island bar, St. John's, Newfoundland, and was condemned and sold. The following June she was burned for the scrap metal value of her copper and metal fastenings. [4]

A reporter for the Boston Daily Atlas of April 25, 1851 wrote, "If great length [235 ft.], sharpness of ends, with proportionate breadth [41 ft.] and depth, conduce to speed, the Flying Cloud must be uncommonly swift, for in all these she is great. Her length on the keel is 208 feet, on deck 225, and over all, from the knight heads to the taffrail, 235 — extreme breadth of beam 41 feet, depth of hold 21½, including 7 feet 8 inches height of between-decks, sea-rise at half floor 20 inches, rounding of sides 6 inches, and sheer about 3 feet."


There is a well-known ballad about the ship. [5]

See also


  1. Lars Bruzelius (Dec. 14, 2003). "Sailing Ships: "Flying Cloud"". Retrieved 2010-02-19. 
  2. Fisher, Lawrence M (Feb. 13, 1989). "Thursday's Child Sails In, Sets Mark". New York Times (New York edition): pp. C2. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  3. Flying Cloud, The True Story of America's Most Famous Clipper Ship and the Woman Who Guided Her. David W. Shaw, 2000 William Morrow publisher, ISBN 0-688-16793-4
  4. "Flying Cloud Clipper Ship". National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  5. Beck, Horace P.. "The Riddle of The Flying Cloud". Retrieved 2009-07-21. 

External links

nl:Flying Cloud