In 1851, Elanor Creesy, in a position almost unheard of for a woman in the mid-nineteenth century, served as the navigator on the maiden voyage of the clipper ship Flying Cloud -- traveling from New York to San Francisco in only eighty-nine days. This swift passage set a world record that went unbroken for more than a century. Upon arrival in San Francisco, Flying Cloud became an enduring symbol of a young nation's frontier spirit. Illustrated with original maps and charts as well as historical photographs, David Shaw's compelling narrative captures the drama of this maritime adventure.
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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. In 1851, however, a clipper called the Flying Cloud made the same journey in only 89 days, a headline-grabbing world record that the Cloud itself beat three years later (and that would not then be broken until 1989).
The Flying Cloud's achievement was remarkable under any terms. But, writes David W. Shaw, it was all the more unusual because its navigator was a woman, Eleanor Creesy, who had been studying oceanic currents, weather phenomena, and astronomy since her girlhood in Marblehead, Massachusetts. With her husband, ship captain Josiah Perkins Creesy, 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, Flying Cloud burned to the waterline in 1874, and Eleanor lived far from the sea until her death in 1900.
Though spotty in its documentation and full of invented dialog, Flying Cloud is a spirited and capable reconstruction of the clipper's voyage, and an interesting glimpse into the days of the tall ships. --Gregory McNameeAbout the Author:
David W. Shaw is the author of Daring the Sea and Inland Passage. An expert sailor in his own right, Shaw also writes for Offshore magazine, Sail, Cruising World, and Lakeland Boating. He lives in New Jersey and sails in Maine.
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