Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s


Josiah Perkins Creesy

Flying Cloud

An extreme clipper launched April 15, 1851, at the shipyard of Donald McKay, East Boston, for Enoch Train, Boston.

April 25, 1851, The Boston Daily Atlas, Boston, Massachusetts

Flying Cloud
Currier & Ives, 1852

If great length, sharpness of ends, with proportionate breadth 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 21 , including 7 feet 8 inches height of between-decks, dead-rise at half floor 20 inches, rounding of sides 6 inches, and sheer about 3 feet.

She left New York on June 2, 1851, arriving in San Francisco in 89 days and 21 hours under the command of Captain Josiah Perkins Creesy. In 1853, she raced the Hornet to San Francisco, arriving in 105 days, just forty-five minutes after that clipper.

Captain Creesy.Flyng Cloud.Flying Cloud:
The True Story of America's Most Famous Clipper Ship and the Woman who Guided Her
Flying Cloud.

Through a study of a record-breaking 89-day voyage from New York to San Francisco, the author recreates life aboard a 19th-century clipper ship. He tells of the role of the ship's navigator, Eleanor Creesy--who was married to the captain and who helped chart a safe voyage through dangerous seas and adverse weather conditions. Much of this book is based on primary source material: diaries, letters, and ship's logs.

September 1, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Ship Flying Cloud, Capt. J. P. Creesy

Arrived San Francisco August 31, 1851, 89 days from New York.

The Flying Cloud--This skimmer of the seas, the largest American merchantman ever launched, commanded by Capt. Creesy, arrived in our port yesterday forenoon, after a passage of eighty-nine days from New York - the shortest time ever made; surpassing the hitherto famed trip of the Surprise by seven days. The Flying Cloud is not so remarkable by the richness of her interior decorations as for the perfection of her model and strength of her hull. The N.B. Palmer exceeds her in the former quality, but in the latter we believe her equal has never visited our port.

The Flying Cloud was built in Boston, and will stand, as long as she lasts, a monument of Yankee talent in the way of ship building. Her arrival in port yesterday morning created a considerable degree of excitement, and crowds rushed over to the North Beach to obtain a view of her.

When the Surprise arrived, it was thought by some that the acme of Cape Horn navigation had been reached, and that no ship would ever be built to beat her passage. Indeed, some gentlemen have even backed their opinion on this subject to some considerable amount, who will now find themselves slightly minus, but at the same time possessing the consolation of knowing that they belong to the greatest ship building nation in the world. Of our merchants on the Atlantic coast may complain that they have been injured by sending out to California the useless trash that would sell nowhere else, they may well be proud that the discovery of our golden sands has done more in four years toward improvement in the style of ship building, than would have occurred from other general causes in half a century. The antiquated hulks which, like huge washing-tubs, has been floating about the seas, sailing about as fast sideways as in any other direction, has been forced, by the rapid spirit of the trade with California, to give place to entirely new models of ships, graceful in their motions as swan on a summer lake, and fleet as the cloud which is blown by the gale.

The registered tonnage of the Flying Cloud is 1784 48-95, and will carry from 2000 to 2500 tons of freight. Her length on the keel is 208 feet; on deck, 225; and over all, from the knight-bends to taffrail, 235. Her extreme breadth of beam is 41 feet, depth of hold 21 . Her keel is 27 inches clear of the garboards; her dead rise, at half floor, 30 inches. Her bow, below the planksheer, is slightly concave. At 18 feet from the apron, inside, on the level with the between-decks, she is only 11 feet wide. She has three depths of midship keelsons, which combined, are molded 45 inches, and are sided from 17 to 15, making her, with her keel, which is in three depths, nearly 9 feet through the backbone. She has also two depths of sister keelsons - the first 16 by 10, and the second 14 by 10 - cross bolted diagonally and at right angles through the naval timbers. She is a full-rigged ship, and all her masts rake alike, 11/4 inch to the foot. The bowsprit is 28 inches in diameter , and 20 feet out-board, jibboom, 16 inches in diameter, and is divided at 16 feet for the inner, and 13 for the jib, with 5 feet reel; spanker-boom, 55 feet; gaff, 40; main spencer-gaff, 24 feet.

September 17, 1851: Married on Wednesday evening, the 17th inst., on board by the Rev. T.D. Hunt, Mr. Reuben P. Boise of Portland, O.T., to Miss Ellen F. Lyon, daughter of Lemuel Lyon, of Roxbury, Mass, who arrived on the Flying Cloud's maiden voyage to San Francisco on September 1, 1851.

September 1, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
Ship Flying Cloud, Capt. J. P. Creesy
Arrived San Francisco August 31, 1851, 89 days from New York.

The Flying Cloud--This skimmer of the seas, the largest American merchantman ever launched, commanded by Capt. Creesy, arrived in our port yesterday forenoon, after a passage of eighty-nine days from New York - the shortest time ever made; surpassing the hitherto famed trip of the Surprise by seven days. The Flying Cloud is not so remarkable by the richness of her interior decorations as for the perfection of her model and strength of her hull. The N.B. Palmer exceeds her in the former quality, but in the latter we believe her equal has never visited our port.

The Flying Cloud was built in Boston, and will stand, as long as she lasts, a monument of Yankee talent in the way of ship building. Her arrival in port yesterday morning created a considerable degree of excitement, and crowds rushed over to the North Beach to obtain a view of her.

When the Surprise arrived, it was thought by some that the acme of Cape Horn navigation had been reached, and that no ship would ever be built to beat her passage. Indeed, some gentlemen have even backed their opinion on this subject to some considerable amount, who will now find themselves slightly minus, but at the same time possessing the consolation of knowing that they belong to the greatest ship building nation in the world. Of our merchants on the Atlantic coast may complain that they have been injured by sending out to California the useless trash that would sell nowhere else, they may well be proud that the discovery of our golden sands has done more in four years toward improvement in the style of ship building, than would have occurred from other general causes in half a century. The antiquated hulks which, like huge washing-tubs, has been floating about the seas, sailing about as fast sideways as in any other direction, has been forced, by the rapid spirit of the trade with California, to give place to entirely new models of ships, graceful in their motions as swan on a summer lake, and fleet as the cloud which is blown by the gale.

The registered tonnage of the Flying Cloud is 1784 48-95, and will carry from 2000 to 2500 tons of freight. Her length on the keel is 208 feet; on deck, 225; and over all, from the knight-bends to taffrail, 235. Her extreme breadth of beam is 41 feet, depth of hold 21 . Her keel is 27 inches clear of the garboards; her dead rise, at half floor, 30 inches. Her bow, below the planksheer, is slightly concave. At 18 feet from the apron, inside, on the level with the between-decks, she is only 11 feet wide. She has three depths of midship keelsons, which combined, are molded 45 inches, and are sided from 17 to 15, making her, with her keel, which is in three depths, nearly 9 feet through the backbone. She has also two depths of sister keelsons - the first 16 by 10, and the second 14 by 10 - cross bolted diagonally and at right angles through the naval timbers. She is a full-rigged ship, and all her masts rake alike, 11/4 inch to the foot. The bowsprit is 28 inches in diameter , and 20 feet out-board, jibboom, 16 inches in diameter, and is divided at 16 feet for the inner, and 13 for the jib, with 5 feet reel; spanker-boom, 55 feet; gaff, 40; main spencer-gaff, 24 feet.

Masts
Diameter
Inches
Length
Feet
Masthead
Feet
Fore 35 82 13
Top 17 46 9
TopGallant 11 25 0
Royal 10 17 0
Sky-Sail 8.5 13 5
Main 36 88 14
Top 28 51 9.5
TopGallant 12 28 0
Sky-Sail 9.5 14.5 5.5
Mizen 26 78 12
Top 12.5 40 8
TopGallant 9 22 0
Royal 8 14 0
SkySail 7 10 4
Yards
Diameter
Inches
Length
Feet
Masthead
Feet
Fore 20 70 4.5
Top 15 70 5
TopGallant 10 55 3
Royal 7 12 3
Sky-Sail 6.5 22 1.5
Main 22 82 4.5
Top 17 64 5
TopGallant 15 50 3
Royal 10.5 37 2.5
SkySail 7 24 1.5
CrossJack 16 56 4
Mizen TopSail 11.5 45 4.5
Top Gallant 10 33 2.5
Royal 7 25 1.5
SkySail 6 20 1

The Flying Cloud is intended for China trade. Capt. Creesy, her commander, has been engaged in the India trade for the past twelve years, during which he has made some of the shortest trips on record. Indeed, captain and ship, in this instance, appear to be well matched.

RACE BETWEEN THE SUN AND
THE CLIPPER FLYING CLOUD.

The National Intelligencer says that the clipper Flying Cloud, Capt. Creesy, who is operating with Lieut. Maury in his system of observations for the wind and current charts, on her last voyage from San Francisco for the Sandwich Islands, which she accomplished in 8 days, carried skysails all the way, and averaged 256 miles a day. She was steering west in chase of the setting sun, and actually gained 20 minutes upon old Sol daily, for, in consequence of her great speed, each one of those 8 days was about 20 minutes longer than it was to any one at Washington, who remained at home stationery.

A Squall Off Cape Horn.

APRIL 20th, 1854. "The clipper ship Flying Cloud arrived at San Francisco from New York, having accomplished the voyage in 89 days, 8 hours. This is the quickest passage recorded as having been made by a sailing vessel between the ports named.

On a former occasion, the Flying Cloud made the same voyage in 89 days, 21 hours." Among her cargo were 100 sacks of coffee from Rio offered for sale in the Markets section at 13c.; 50 tons Lackawanna Coal at $40; 60 cases of Havana Cigars for sale by B. C. and T. L. Born, corner Clay and Batter streets, San Francisco.

April 22, 1854, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

Memoranda. Clipper, ship Flying Cloud got underway at New York, at 12 o'clock noon, Feb. 21st. and discharged pilot at 6 p. m. same day, off the Light Ship. Crossed the Equator on the Atlantic, February 7th, 17 days out. Was 48 days from New York to Cape Horn. Crossed the Equator on the Pacific April 5th, lon. 109 50, and have had light NNE winds most of the time since. The best day's run was 360 miles in 24 hours. March 13th, lat. 55 8, lon. 78 30 W, saw a ship to leeward, with foremast head and mizzen top-gallant mast gone. Kept off and ran down and spoke her; found her to be the ship Eucles, from Liverpool for this port, in want of nothing, as the captain answered to our inquiry- The Flying Cloud has anchored off Goat Island.

April 24, 1854, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

Remarkable Passage Arrival of the Clipper Ship Flying Cloud.

The clipper ship Flying Cloud, Capt. J. P. Cressy, arrived on yesterday from New York, having made the passage from anchorage to anchorage in the extraordinary short time of eighty-nine days and eight hours! This is the shortest time ever made between the two ports.

On her first voyage, in 1851, the Flying Cloud made the passage in eighty-nine days and twenty-one hours, which time has never been equaled until the present voyage, which, it will be seen, is shorter by thirteen hours. This is the fourth voyage of the Flying Cloud from New York to this port.

She was built in East Boston, by Donald McKay, and launched the 10th of April, 1851. Since that time she has made two voysges round the world, one voyage to San Francisco and back to New York, and she is now back at this port. Her performances clearly establish the fact that she is one of the swiftest clippers afloat. Her four voyages to this port from New York are as follows:

  • 1st voyage 89 days 21 hours from city to city
  • 2d voyage 113 days from city to city
  • 3rd voyage 105 days from city to city
  • 4th voyage 89 days 8 hours from city to city

The present voyage is described as having been remarkably pleasant, and she comes into port as neat and trim as the day she left New York; with the exception of the loss of her jibboom, off the Rio Grande, she has met with no accident. Her greatest day's sailing was 360 miles, when she had to contend with a heavy sea. The Flying Cloud has been under the command of Capt. Cressy from the day she was launched to tbe present time. She is one of the most beautiful specimens of naval architecture we have ever beheld. The following are her proportions: Length, 235 feet; breadth of beam, 41 feet; depth of hold, 21 feet 6 inches; register, 1782 tons. Her cabin is most elegantly finished, and everything about the ship impresses one with the perfectness of her build, the high discipline of her crew, and the skill and energy of her commander.

Eve News

The story of Flying Cloud is exciting in itself, but equally intriguing is the fact that the navigator was a woman -- the Captain's wife, Eleanor Creesy. Remarkable for being a functioning female member of the clipper's crew, she was also an inspired navigator. Her skills are considered to be a major factor in the ship's safe and swift passages. A native of Marblehead, Mass., Mrs. Creesy learned navigation from her father, a successful captain in the coastal schooner trade. When she married Josiah Perkins Creesy in 1841, he was master of the Oneida, plying the China trade and wishing for a faster vessel. She sailed with him throughout his long career.

Josiah and Eleanor Creesy went on to sail in other ships. They continued to work as a team until they left the sea in 1864. They retired to their home in Massachusetts.

Captain Josiah Creesy died in June of 1871. His wife lived until the beginning of the new century. She died at the age of eighty-five, in August of 1900.


The Authority to Sail.The Authority to Sail: The History of U.S. Maritime Licenses and Seamen's PapersThe Authority to Sail.
Robert Stanley Bates, George Marsh (Editor), John F. Whiteley (Forward) (Batek Marine Publishing, 2011; Nominated in 2012 for a Pulitzer Prize)
This book depicts important aspects of our maritime history as a result of original research done by the author, Commodore Bates, the holder of an unlimited master's license who has enjoyed a distinguished fifty-year career in both the Coast Guard and the American Merchant Marine.

The U.S. Coast Guard issues all Captain Licenses for U.S. Ports.
Note: Other countries have different regulations, i.e. the RYA (Royal Yachting Association), conducts certification for Britain and Ireland. As of 2011, they did not recognize the USCG certification; certification through their courses was required.

Master Unlimited is a licensed mariner in ultimate command of a vessel any gross tons. The captain is responsible for its safe and efficient operation, including cargo operations, navigation, crew management and ensuring that the vessel complies with local and international laws. All persons on board, including officers and crew, other shipboard staff members, passengers, guests and pilots, are under the captain's authority and are his or her ultimate responsibility. The STCW defines the Master as Person having command of the ship.

Merchant Marine License.

The Sea Chart
The Illustrated History of Nautical Maps and Navigational ChartsThe Sea Chart.
The Sea Chart.The Sea Chart.
John Blake
The sea chart was one of the key tools by which ships of trade, transport and conquest navigated their course across the oceans. Herein is a history and development of the chart and the related nautical map, in both scientific and aesthetic terms, as a means of safe and accurate seaborne navigation. 150 color illustrations including the earliest charts of the Mediterranean made by 13th-century Italian merchant adventurers, as well as 18th-century charts that became strategic naval and commercial requirements and led to Cook's voyages in the Pacific, the search for the Northwest Passage, and races to the Arctic and Antarctic.

Get Your Captain's License. Fifth Edition Get Your Captain's License. Fifth Edition. Charlie  Wing.
Charlie Wing
Considered the quickest, easiest, and least expensive way to prepare for the U.S. Coast Guard captain's ratings exams required for anyone who takes paying passengers on a boat, and useful for serious boaters who want to save money on insurance. 350 pages of seamanship and navigation tutorials. More than 1,500 questions and answers from the Coast Guard exams. Includes an interactive CD-ROM with all 14,000 questions and answers in the USCG database, so you can take an unlimited number of practice exams

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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