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Clipper Ships and Windjammers

Clipperships in San Francisco.

Clipper Ships at San Francisco

Details and Images of Clipper Ships
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Lists are incomplete; information is added as located and as time permits.

West Coast Clippers (Built in San Francisco)

Annals of San Francisco 1852: Clipper ships

The Deep Sea Derby, 1852

The Fleet of 1857

Clipper Ships at San Francisco

San Francisco
Seaman's Bride
Sea Nymph
Sea Serpent
Sea Witch
Snow Squall
Southern Cross
Sovereign of the Seas
Spindrift (tea clipper)
Storm King
Sunny South
Sword Fish

San Francisco

April 4, 1853, New York Herald, New York, New York, U.S.A.

The San Francisco is about 1,400 tons of cargo carrying volume and is being built for T. Ward & Co. She is 195 feet on deck, 199 on the keel, 38 feet wide, and 22 deep. She is now in frame, and will be launched next July She is intended for the California and China business.

February 8, 1854 (from the Annals of San Francisco)

Loss of the clipper ship San Francisco From New York to this Port

This was a fine new ship of large tonnage, whose cargo was valued at $400,000. In beating through the entrance to the bay, she missed stays and struck the rocks on the north side, opposite Fort Point. This was nearly at the spot where the English outward-bound ship Jenny Lind, from the same cause, was wrecked a few months before. The "Golden Gate" is narrow, but the channel is deep and perfectly safe, if only its peculiarities be known and attended to. The loss of the ships named was supposed to be more attributable to the ignorance or neglect of their pilots than to any natural dangers in the place at the time. If it were obligatory on masters of sailing vessels, not small coasters, to employ steam-tugs to bring their ships from outside the Heads into the harbor, such accidents as these could not occur. It appears that twenty-three large vessels have either been wrecked, stranded, or seriously injured in San Francisco Bay since 1850. This number is exclusive of any accidents occurring to vessels at anchor in the roadsteads, or lying at the wharves. The total losses in the harbor, since 1850, are estimated to have exceeded a million and a half dollars.

The wreck of the San Francisco was attended by circumstances very discreditable to some of the people in and around the city. So soon as the occurrence was known, a multitude of plunderers hastened to the wreck, and proceeded to help themselves from the ship's hold. It was in vain that the owners or their agents attempted to drive them away. Some two hundred dare-devil Americans, nearly all armed with the usual weapons, five or six-shooters and bowie knives, were not to be frightened by big words. They stood their ground, and continued to take and rob as they pleased, plundering from each other as well as from the ship. It was said that even some of the soldiers from the Presidio crossed the strait, and became wreckers themselves. Then a storm came, and scattered and capsized the deep-laden boats that were bearing the spoil away. Some were carried out to sea, and were lost; others were swamped close beside the wreck and a few of their passengers were drowned. The number of lives lost could not be exactly ascertained, although it was supposed that, at least, a dozen persons must have perished in the midst of their unhallowed occupation. There were no lives lost of those connected with the San Francisco. She was sold after the wreck, as she lay, her contents included, for $12,000. A short time afterwards, and when some of the lighter parts of the cargo had been removed, the ship went to pieces, as had been the case with the Jenny Lind before her.


April 13, 1855, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Memoranda: Per Saracen: Was off Cape Horn 17 days with strong gales from the westward. Crossed the Equator on the Atlantic in 41 days out; Crossed the Equator on the Pacific lon 109; from thence had fine weather. Except 20 days off the Horn have not furled the royals, have been 7 days with 500 miles of the port with light winds and calms. Jan 22d: Wm. Waige, seaman, was washed from the jibboom and was drowned.

Seaman's Bride

May 21, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
May 20 - Clipper ship Seaman's Bride, Myrrick, 152 days from New York, via Valparaiso 42 days. Mdse to order. 6 passengers, lay off Griffin's wharf. Carried away her foremast and fore and mizzen topgallant mast in a heavy squall on the night of 29th Feb., and put into Valparaiso to repair damages. Consignees: Case, Heiser & Co; O. R. Wade; Turnbull & Walton; Levenstine, Gibson & Co.; Hussey, Bond & Hale . . .

Sea Nymph

July 13, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Built in Fairhaven, Mass. 1253 tons. ARRIVAL OF Clippers -- The Sea Nymph, Argonaut andStaghound are among the numerous arrivals which are reported in our paper this morning. They have all been looked for during the past week, though not supposed to have been over due, as many of the same class of an earlier date from the Atlantic are still out.

These ships have done well, and their passages may be considered good. The season of the year is much against a rapid run from the Atlantic to the Pacific, as is usual, and which may be seen by the reports in another column.

The Staghound had three skysails set for eighty-eight days, and was within one thousand miles of this port on the 14th ult. Ad selling goods from the wreck of the Sea Nymph.The Argonaut and Sea Nymph report similar weather. We shall no doubt have another fleet to report in our next publication, as well as some wild transactions in merchandise.

Speculation is rife in nearly all descriptions of goods by these vessels, the arrival of which only happily relieves the want of many articles, without depressing the market or effecting prices. Indiscreet speculators may possibly suffer.

April 13, 1855, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
Per Sea Nymph: Was 45 days to the Equator on the Atlantic, 68 days to Staten Land; 21 days off the Horn in heavy gales; put into Valparaiso for water. Crossed the Equator in fine weather; from thence had light winds; had royals set up to lat 32N. Have been 10 days within 600 miles of the port.

May 7, 1861, Daily Alta California

Total Wreck of the Clipper Ship Sea Nymph, from New York -- Eighteen of the Crew Saved.

te reached the city this morning of the total loss of the clipper ship Sea Nymph, from New York, which went ashore on the morning of Saturday, 4th inst., three miles north of Point Reyes. The vessel had been enveloped in fog for some time, which made her position somewhat uncertain, and, whilst standing into the land, she struck, and became a total loss.

A boatman was dispatched overland by the Captain to the consignees of the vessel, Messrs. W. T. Coleman & Co. The boatman says the vessel is in the breakers, broken in two, all her masts gone, and a heavy surf running. He, with the aid of several companions, plunged into the surf with ropes attached to them, and brought several of the crew ashore.

They had attempted to land in the life boat, but a heavy roller turned the boat end over end, throwing the all crew into the boiling surf, where several would have perished, but for the timely aid of the fishermen. From the following letter of the Captain, it will be seen that he had little hopes of those who still remained in the ship.

Point Reyes, May 5th.

W. T. COLEMAN & CO: I write to inform you of the wreck of the ship Sea Nymph, three miles north of Point Reyes, totally lost. Eighteen of the crew are ashore -- seven still on board. No chance to land, and small prospect they ever will.

Edward Harding, Master

The consignees of the vessel, immediately on learning of the loss of the ship, dispatched the steamer John T. Wright to her assistance. The Wright went to sea at 11 o'clock this morning Our Marine Reporter furnishes the following account:

Ship Sea NymphCapt. Harding, from New York for this port, ran ashore about three miles north of Point Reyes, during a dense fog, on Saturday, 4th inst., and will prove a total loss. The ship has broken in two and the sea making a clean breach over her; her masts are gone.

When she struck Capt. Harding succeeded in flying a kite ashore, with a line attached, and by that means got a hawser ashore, by which the greater part of the crew succeeded in getting saved. The steward was drowned while attempting to reach the land. When our informant left, the first and second officers, with five of the crew, were still on board. She lies inside of a sand bar with heavy breakers outside.

May 9, 1861, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Shipping Intelligence

San Francisco, May 8, 1861: Arrived: Schooner Flying Dart, Lemmen, 3 hours from Point Reyes with the officers and crew of the wrecked ship Sea Nymph.

May 15, 1861, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

Two schooners arrived to day with full freights of goods saved from the wreck of the Sea Nymph. The purchaser of the wreck expects to save $15,000 worth of goods.

May 21, 1861, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

Another schooner load of goods from the Sea Nymph wreck arrived tonight . . . it is raining in torrents again.

Sea Serpent

Cleared from New York to California between January-December, 1851: Sea Serpent, 1402 tons.

July 13, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco


This magnificent ship has made this best passage of the season, 112 days from New York, beating the fleet of clippers now due, whose average passage already amounts to about 124 days. She was built at Portsmouth, N.H., by Geo. Raynes, Esq., the famous building of the Witch of the Wave, that has excited the admiration of the Londoners, both by her unrivalled passage of 90 days from China, and her symmetrical proportions. Mr. Raynes is also the builder and architect of the Typhoon, which it will be recollected, made a voyage to Europe in 12 days. He has orders now for four clippers, the same model with the Witch of the Wave, and has forwarded her model by request to the Board of Admiralty in England.

October 1, 1864, Daily Alta California: Messrs. Grinnell, Minturn & Co.'s beautiful clipper Sea Serpent is also up for the same destination (San Francisco). She has made her passages in 120, 116, 115, 112 and 107 days.

Sea Witch

The American Tea Clipper Sea Witch was launched December 1846 from Smith & Dimon's yard at the foot of Fourth Street, New York. At 890 tons, her length was 179 feet, breadth was 34 feet, and depth was 19 feet. She proved to be no disappointment to her owners, Howland & Aspinwall.Sea Witch can be considered the first of the very sharp-ended full midsection clipper ships. She had little sheer, a straight keel with no drag, and markedly hollow bows. When loaded, the Sea Witchlay low on the water.

Speed was written into almost every line of the Sea Witch, and Waterman, who at thirty-eight was in the prime of his life with a proven ability to make swift passages. He had no sooner taken command than the new vessel began to establish records that have never since been broken by ships of the sail, and which it took over a quarter of a century of steam development to better. A strong northwest gale carried the Sea Witch out of New York on December 23, 1846,

At the time of her launching she was the most beautiful ship afloat: painted black with a bright stripe, her figurehead was an aggressive-looking, beautifully carved gilded Chinese dragon whose long coiling tail gave emphasis to her hollow bows. She was described as being rakish and heavily sparred, her mainmast being 83 2 long. She had the reputation at that time of being the handsomest ship sailing out of New York, and her officers and crew were hand-picked men, several of whom had sailed with Captain Robert "Bully" Waterman on his voyages in the Natchez. Captain Waterman sailed her from China to New York in a record-breaking run of seventy-five days from China, having performed a voyage around the world in 194 sailing days. (Editor's Note: Apparently, as of 2004, no one has broken Captain Waterman's record).

New York papers reported that Sea Witch made the shortest direct passages on record, viz.: 69 days from New York to Valparaiso; 50 days from Callao to China; 75 days from China to New York. Distance run by observation from New York to Valparaiso, 10,568 miles; average 6 2/5 miles per hour. Distance from Callao to China, 10,417 miles; average, 8 5/8 knots per hour. Distance from China to New York, 14,225 miles; average, 7 7/8 knots per hour. Best ten (consecutive) days' run, 2,634 miles; 11 1/10 knots per hour.

Waterman basked in his latest limelight at the Astor Bar and soon left for Connecticut to reunite with his wife. Griffiths basked in the limelight as well and was never at a loss for words when praising the ship that was his masterpiece. He wrote:

The model of the Sea Witch had more influence upon the subsequent configuration of fast vessels than any other ship ever built in the United States.

Sea Witch, like other clippers, was built for speed. They could sprint at 20 knots and cruise at 16.Sea Witch was an opium clipper, which meant she was not only swift, but was also well-armed, mounting from 6 to 10 eighteen pounders. These armaments were necessary to see off the numerous Chinese pirates, who, in their fast lorchas, were attracted by the rich cargoes of silver and opium. The opium clippers sped up and down the coasts delivering opium to, and collecting silver from, the 'receiving ships'. These hulks, heavily armed and fully manned by Manila men, were anchored in the open ports as depots.

Snow Squall

Built at Butler Yard in South Portland, Maine in 1851, Snow Squall was a full-rig, three-mast clipper ship, designed and built for speed not capacity. She made voyages all over the world, carrying valuable and time dependent cargoes. In 1864, she was heavily damaged trying to round Cape Horn and was abandoned in the Falkland Islands. (Through conservation efforts in the 1980s, parts of the Snow Squall were recovered and are now housed at Maine Maritime Museum; these are the only remains of an American clipper ship in existence.)

Snow Squall: The Last American Clipper Ship
Clipper ships.Nicholas Dean's book begins (and ends) with a series of unusual volunteer archaeological expeditions in the aftermath of the Falkland War. Snow Squall's story is pieced together with information gleaned from shipping lists, newspaper accounts, disaster books, and diaries. Her world turns out to be a fascinating one, from the laying of her keel to her captain's heroic efforts to repair his badly damaged ship after going aground near Cape Horn in 1864.

Southern Cross

The New Clipper Ship Southern Cross of Boston. This beautiful vessel is a fair medium between the extreme sharpness of the clippers recently built here, and the New York packets, and may be classed with such ships as theOriental, Sea Witch, and Samuel Russell. Her dead rise at half floor is 20 inches, with 29 inches depth of keel clear of the garboards. These afford her a good holding-on angle on the bottom, when by the wind, while her moderate dead rise gives her increased capacity, length of floor and buoyancy. Being, therefore, of a medium model a model that had been often tested there is nothing experimental about her. Possessing rounded lines, finely formed ends, good rise and length of floor, no doubt need be entertained of her success as a swift sailer, and what is more, of being a trustworthy vessel in a heavy sea. Her bearings are such that she will endure driving, when, perhaps, a vessel of lesser ends, might be compelled to shorten sail.

Clipper Ship Southern Cross. Artist, Fitz Hugh Lane.

Her length of keel is 174 feet, between perpendiculars of deck 170, and over all 175. As her stern-post is at right-angles to the keel, the difference between her length of keel and length on deck, 6 feet, is the rake of her stem. Her extreme breadth of beam is 35 feet,

She has 6 inches rounding of sides, and 21 inches sheer, but to truly graduated it the sheer, that she appears almost straight on the line of the planksheer: but her bow is carried up boldly, which imparts to her outline, end on, the easy and buoyant grace of the clipper. A gilded eagle on the wing forms the termination of the head, and descending from it on the trail boards, is gilded carved work, which also encircles the hawse holes.

The stern is light, and swells beautifully both from the line of the transom to the rail, and from the quarter timbers across. On the transom she is 25 feet wide, and on the rail 34. Her run is clean, and owing to her light transom has an easy clearance up to 31 feet draught of water. She is sheathed with yellow metal up to 16-1/2 feet forward, and to 17-1/2 feet aft. Her name is gilded letters ornaments the head and quarter boards, and her stern it also ornamented with gilded carved work. Outside she is painted black, and inside buff color, with blue waterways, etc. So far as appearances are concerned, she is a noble looking vessel and given promise of being a swift sailer.

Her frame books, stanchions, and the hanging and lodging knees in the lower hold are all of oak; the growth of Worcester county in this State, and is considered equal to most of the live oak of Florida. Her keel is of rock maple, moulded 32-1/2 inches, and sided 15; the floor timbers on the keel average from 16 to 17 moulded, and from 10 to 12 sided: she has two depths of keelsons moulded 32, and sided 16 inches, and these are bolted together with 1-1/2 inch copper, driven through every floor timber and the keel, and riveted, and by iron of the tame size driven through every navel timber blunt into the keel. The ceiling on the floor is 4 inches thick, and in the bilge she has two keelsons, each 12 by 8 inches, which extend the whole length of the vessel, and are scarphed and square fastened. The ceiling above is 6 inches thick, also square fastened. The beams are 14 by 15 inches in the hold, and 9 by 15 in the between decks, and the hanging knees in the hold are sided from 10 to 13 inches, and moulded from 18 to 22 inches in the angles have 5 feet bodies and 9-1/2 feet arms, and have from 10 to 19 bolts and 4 spikes in each. The lodging knees meet and scarph in every berth, and are closely bolted. She has three hooks forward and two aft, (exclusive of deck hooks)i and they all extend diagonally along the skin, and connect with the hanging knees under the beams. The hold stanchions are kneed in the wake of the hatchways, and along the intermediate spaces they are clasped with iron.

The between decks waterways are 15 inches square, the strake over them 9 by 12, and that inside of them 8 by 12, all cross-bolted. The deck plank it of Southern pine, 3-1/2 inches thick, and the ceiling below 5 inches, all square fastened. The hanging and lodging knees are of hacmatac, and the lower ends of the former rest upon the standing strake over the waterways. These knees are finely finished and strongly bolted. The breast hook in this deck spans the bow completely, and is securely bolted from the outside. Her main transom is 18 inches square amidships, and the transom knees extend well along the sides and almost meet across the stern.

The upper deck waterways are 12 inches square, and the strake inside of them 5 inches thick, let into the beams below, and cross bolted. The upper deck is of clear white pine, 3-1/2 inches thick. Her garboards are 7 inches thick, and the strakes outside of them are graduated to 4 inches, the substance of the planking on the bottom. She has 19 wales of 5 by 7 inches, and a beautiful narrow waist of three strakes, defined between the mouldings of the upper wale and the planksheer.

Her covering board and main rail are each 6 by 15 inches, and the latter in midships is 4 feet high, surrounded by a monkey rail. As already stated, she rises boldly forward, which makes the bulwarks higher there. The bulwark stanchions are of oak, and the bulwarks are of narrow boards, neatly tongued and grooved.

We have already stated that her frame is entirely of white oak; we may now add that she is very strongly fastened, and that more than usual care has been bestowed in driving her bilge and butt bolts and trenails. Her frame is seasoned with fine salt, and the is ventilated along the line of her planksheer, and through the bitts, and what is of more consequence, has Emerson's patent ventilators. These last are deservedly popular with all who have adopted them, and are now considered indispensable in almost every class of vessels. We have conversed with several intelligent shipmasters about them, and the verdict in their favor is unanimous.

Her accommodations are excellent, both fore and aft. The crew have quarters in a large house, between the fore and main masts. This house is 37 feet long by 14 wide, and 6-1/2 feet high, and also contains the galley and other useful apartments.

The cabin it under a half poop deck, 26 feet long, and the entrance to it is protected by a house in front, which overlaps the deck aft, and contains two state rooms, two recesses, lockers, etc. The cabin descends from this house about three feet, and is beautifully wainscotted with plain branch mahogany, set off with enamelled pilasters, edged with gilding. The panels are oblong squares, and are finished in the first style of workmanship. The cabin contains four state-rooms on the star-board side, and three and a water closet on the larboard tide. Two of these state-rooms, one on each side, overlook the main deck, and between them, clear of the staircase, is the pantry. The state-rooms and cabin are splendidly furnished, well lighted and ventilated. She has two transom sofas, one above the other, and on the forward partition a beautiful mirror, which gives a reflected view of the cabin abaft it. Nothing seems wanting to secure the comfort of those who may take passage in her.

She has two handsome capstans, a patent windlass, a patent steering apparatus, an iron tank below, capable of holding 3000 gallons of water good ground tackle and plenty of substantial boats. In a word, her outfits are all that they ought to be to ensure safety and success.

She is a full-rigged ship, and looks splendidly aloft. The following are the dimensions of her masts and yards;

  Diameter, Inches Length, Feet Mastheads, Feet
Fore 27 73 12
Top 14-1/2 41-1/2 7
Topgallant 10 23 0
Royal 8 15 0
Skysail 6-1/2 11 pole: 4
Main 28 78 12
Top 14-1/2 43 7
Topgallant 10 23 0
Royal 8 15 0
Skysail 6-1/2 12 pole: 5
Mizen 21 70 10
Top 11 32 6
Topgallant 8 18 0
Royal 6 10 0
Skysail 7 4 pole: 3
Fore `19 66 yard-arms: 3-1/2
Top 14 53 4
Topgallant 9 38 2-1/2
Royal 6 28 2
Skysail 5 18 1
Main 20 72 3-1/2
Top 16 57-1/2 4
Topgallant 13 41 2-1/2
Royal 9-1/2 30 2
Skysail 7 20 2-1/2
Crossjack 15 54 3
Mizen topsail 10 29 3-1/2
Topgallant 8 28 2
Royal 5 18 1-1/2
Skysail 4 10 1

Her bowsprit is 27 inches in diameter, and 27 feet outboard; jib-boom, 14-/12 inches in diameter, and 28 feet outboard, including three feet, end, and flying jib-boom 15 feet outside of the wythe, with 3-1/2 feet end, and the other apart in proportion. She is beautifully sparred and well rigged Her standing rigging is of four-stranded patent rope, served over the ends, and snugly fitted aloft. It is enough to say that the was rigged by Capt. Brewster, of East Boston, to convince any one conversant with nautical affairs in this vicinity, that she is well rigged. In the style or her rig she it the same at the other clippers we have described, but we are free to confess that, so far as the eye it concerned, the appears a little neater aloft than any ship we have seen for some time.

She named after the most beautiful constellation of the Southern hemisphere.

As a whole we consider her a ship of beautiful proportions, well built of good materials, handsomely finished, and liberally found. Messrs. E. & H. O. Briggs of South Boston, built her, and to well satisfied were her owners of the faithful manner in which the builders had performed their contract, that they presented each of tie builders with a handsome token of their approbation. She it owned by Messrs. Baker & Morrill, of this city, and will be commanded by Capt. Levi Stevens, an experienced and skilful sailor. She is now loading at Central Wharf for San Francisco, and will be ready for sea in a few days. Success to her.

Sovereign of the Seas

November 18, 1852, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

San Francisco Items

The magnificent clipper ship Sovereign of the Seas, Capt. McKay, arrived last night, in one hundred and three days from New York, being, with the exception of that made by the Staffordship, the shortest passage of the season. Her best days sailing was 368 miles. The greatest speed in one hour, 17 miles, though it is confidently believed that she is capable of making 20. She brings an immense cargo of assorted merchandize, the largest ever brought to this port. She is truly what her name denotes, the "Sovereign of the Seas," and as a specimen of naval architecture is far in advance of any vessel Journal

June 18, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

The Sovereign of the Seas
Letter from Lieut. Maury.

National Observatory, Washington
May 9, 1853

SIR:-- I had the pleasure this morning to receive the abstract log of the Sovereign of the Seas, from San Francisco via the Sandwich Islands, to New York. Be pleased to accept my thanks for this, as well as the outward trip.

I am sorry you are so much like your ship, for you appear to be in as great a hurry as ever she was, at least I infer so from the absence of remarks in the abstract. I notice your suggestion about sailing directions from the Sandwich Islands they shall go down. I congratulate you on your glorious run; you have proved what I have been preaching up for the last two or three years, viz : That in the Southern hemisphere, way out to sea, as along the route you came, you will find the westerly wind to blow, with trade wind-like regularity; and there is the race course of the ocean. Say to your owners, that if they will send you next time to Port Philip, Australia, and thence straight home to New York, that you will put a girdle around the earth in one hundred and twenty-five days at sea. and astonish the world with the greatest achievement that has ever been accomplished. I would be almost willing to go with you on such a trip, and help you to pick out the fair windy places. Please say to them that I am getting out your distances run for each day, and attach importance enough to the performance to make it a subject of official report to the government.

Respectfully, etc.,
M.F. Maury
Capt. L. McKay, ship Sovereign of the Seas, N. York.

Sovereign of the Seas, Donald McKay.

Donald McKay's Sovereign of the Seas
The first ship to travel more than 400 miles in 24 hours.
Her dimension: 258.2 x 44.7 x 23.6. 2420 tons

November 29, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Remarkable Triumph of Science
The Sovereign of the Seas

Since the arrival of the magnificent Sovereign of the Seas in this harbor, one of the most interesting circumstances has transpired, connected with her late passage, that has ever been recorded in the annals of voyages to this ocean. The incident is fraught with the deepest importance to the cause of science, and we hasten to lay the particulars before the public.

The Sovereign of the Seas left New York on the 3d day of August and arrived in this port on the 15th day of November, her passage occupying 103 days, two hours. A few weeks previous to her departure, her captain, L. McKay, addressed a letter to Lieut. M. F. Maury, the well-known astronomer at the Washington Observatory, requesting copies of the fourth edition of his "Sailing Directions," for use during the voyage. Captain McKay received, shortly before sailing the following letter in reply.

This letter furnishes one of the most remarkable instances of scientific foresight and knowledge that has ever come in our possession. The astronomer in his studio at Washington predicts from the observance of certain sailing directions, which he himself has resolved and laid down, the passage of a vessel bound on a voyage over 17,000 miles in length, and does not err, in his calculation of the time, occupied, two hours!

Here is the letter.

July 28, 1852

If you have not the charts and old sailing directions that accompany them, please call on my agent, George Manning, No. 142 Pearl street, and he will furnish you with them.

I am driving through the press the 4th edition of Sailing Directions. I hope to have the chapter on the route to California out in time for the Sovereign of the Seas. If so I will send you them in the sheets, and yours will be the first vessel that takes them.

If you get them, stick to them, and have average luck, I predict for you a passage of not over one hundred and three days.

Wishing you all the luck you can desire,
I am, Very Truly, &c.
M. F. Maury
Captain L. McKay, (Care of Messrs. Grinnell, Minturn & Co ) New York.

P. S. For fear the new directions should not be out in time, do this: Follow the old (third edition) as they are for doubling Cape Horn. After you get round, make as much westing, where the degrees are short, as the winds will conveniently allow, aiming to cross the parallel of 40 south, between 100 and 105, the parallel of 30, about 110. Don't fight head winds to do this. Cross the line near 150 deg. west, which you will do, considering you have a clipper under your feet, on or before the 25th October. Ten will hardly get the northeast trades south of 10 deg. north. Make a due north course through the " doldrums,'' and when you get the northeast trades, run along through them with topmast studding sails full, of course going no farther west than the winds drive you, taking care not to cross the parallel of 20 deg. north to the east of 125 deg. west.

When you lose the northeast trades, if you get a smart breeze, make eastward. But if you have "horse latitude" weather, make the best of your way due north until you get a good wind or find yourself in the variables, (westerly winds,) between 35 and 40 deg. Then stick her away for port. .

Captain McKay "crossed the line" fourteen hours behind the time specified above. Lieut. Maury's directions were fully observed and with what success it may be seen. His prediction was fully verified, end a glorious triumph achieved for American science.

Sovereign of the Seas runs included from New York around the Horn to San Francisco, San Francisco to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), New York to Liverpool, Australia, India and China to Great Britain and Germany. In 1858, she was sold to Edward Bates and Theodore Eggers, Liverpool, for a price equivalent to $40,000. She then sailed between Great Britain and German ports to India and China ports. She wrecked in 1859 on Pyramid Shoal in the Straits of Malacca.


March 3, 1851, Daily Alta California

New Clipper Ship Staghound. We take from a New York paper the following interesting description of the new clipper ship Staghound of Boston: She is 207 feet long on the keel, 215 between perpendiculars on deck, and 226 feet from the knight heads to the taffrail. The whole rake of her stem on deck is 6 feet, and of her sternport 2 feet. She has 40 feet extreme breadth of beam, 21 feet depth of hold, and will register 1600 tons. Her depth of keel is 46 inches, dead rise at half floor 40 inches, rounding of sides 4 inches, and sheer 2 feet 6 inches. She is uncommonly sharp forward, yet her bow bears no resemblance to that of a steamer, but it seems to have grown naturally from the fullness of her model to a point.

Three Centuries of Seafaring: The Maritime Art of Paul HeeThe Maritime Art of Paul Hee.
Rick Carroll, Marcie Carroll (Authors/Editors)

Three Centuries of Seafaring. The Maritime Art of Paul Hee.

An idea of the smallness of her stern may be formed from the fact that at eight feet from the midships of the taffrail, over all, she is only twenty four and a half feet wide. The between decks are seven feet high.

She has patent copper pumps, which work with fly wheel and winches a patent windlass, with ends which ungear, and two beautiful capstans, made of mahogany and locust, inlaid with brass. She has a cylindrical iron water tank of 4,500 gallons capacity, the depth of the ship, secured below the upper deck, abaft the mainmast, and resting upon a massive bed constructed over and alongside of the keelson. The ground tackle, boats, and other furniture are of the first quality, and every way worthy of the ship.

Aloft, she looms like a ship of war. Her masts rake alike, viz: 1-1/4 inch in the foot. The distance from the stem to the centre of the foremast is 50 feet; thence to the main, 67; thence to the mizzen, 56; and thence to the sternpost, 42 feet. The following are the dimensions of her masts and yards: Masts length, feet Fore 82, top 46, topgallant 25, 4 royal 17, skysail 13, main 88, top 51, topgallant 28, royal 16, skysail 11. Yards Fore 72, top 57, topgallant 42, royal 32, skysail, 24-1/2, main 86, top 68, topgallant 53, royal 42, skysail 32, crossjack, 60, mizzen-topsail 48, topgallant 36, royal 27, skysail 22. With a jib-topsail, watersail middle, royal and mizzen topmast staysails, gafftopsail and moonsails, she will spread nearly 11,000 yards.

Although she is sharp in comparison with other ships generally, still her floor is carried forward and aft almost to the ends, and presents as true a surface to the water as eyer graced the bottom of any vessel of equal length. She is an original, and her model must be criticized as an original production, and not as a copy from any class of ships or steamers.

Mr. D. McKay, of East Boston, designed, modeled, draughted, and built her; he also draughted her spars, and every other scientific detail about her. She is therefore his own production. She is owned by Messrs. George G. Upton and Sampson & Tappan, of Boston, and is commanded by Captain Richardson. She will load for San Francisco, and thence sail for China. The construction of this ship may be said to mark the introduction of the late clipper era at Boston. The building of fast vessels for foreign trade had for several years been adopted in New-York, having been first undertaken by Wm. H. Aspinwall, for whom Smith & Dimon constructed the clipper-ship Rainbow, in 1843, which was followed by the Howqua and Samuel Russell, by Brown & Bell; and the famous Sea Witch, also built by Smith & Dimon. It will be entirely proper to add, that the model of the Sea Witch had more influence upon the subsequent configuration of fast vessels, than any other ship ever built in the United States.

May 27, 1851, Sacramento Transcript, Sacramento, California

Arrival of the Staghound.

This clipper ship arrived in the harbor yesterday morning, from New York in 113 days. When five days out, she carried away her main topmast, three top-gallant masts, which caused much delay. Her passage to Cape Horn occupied 49 days; thence to Valparaiso 17 days; and 42 days to this port. She is of 2534 tons register, and has on board nearly 2000 tons cargo. Her manifest is about 33 feet in length. The model of this ship is much similar to that of the previous clippers lately arrived, and her cabin fittings and accommodations are very superior.

July 13, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

ARRIVAL OF CLIPPERS. -- The Sea NymphArgonaut and Staghound are among the numerous arrivals which are reported in our paper this morning. They have all been looked for during the past week, though not supposed to have been over due, as many of the same class of an earlier date from the Atlantic are still out. These ships have done well, and their passages may be considered good. The season of the year is much against a rapid run from the Atlantic to the Pacific, as is usual, and which may be seen by the reports in another column.

The Staghound had three skysails set for eighty-eight days, and was within one thousand miles of this port on the 14th ult.

July 2, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Clipper ship Stag Hound, Behm, 126 days from New York, via Juan Fernandez 45 days. Merchandise to Hussey, Bond & Hale.

Memoranda: Crossed the Equator June 5th, long 116, since which time have had moderate weather. The S.H. has had light winds most of the passage, carried skysails 81 days in succession. Put in Juan Fernandez for water, and was detained off the Island 4 days in heavy gales. When the S.H. left New York she had on board a patent condenser which would distill 50 gallons of water per day in the harbor, which proved a perfect failure after getting to sea. The clipper ship has hauled into Central Wharf.

Passengers: Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Adams, Mrs. G. B. Ironsides, Miss L. Cook, Master N. Cook, W. F. Stone, C. A. Therin, R. S. Palmer

Consignees: T. Oakley, Macondray & Co.; G. B. Post & Co; Brittan & Bell; G. N. Shaw & Co; T. C. D. Olmstead; C. A. Hanley & Co; burr, Mattoon & Co. P. Coggins, Geo E. Clark, J. Y. Halicck & Co; thompson & Bros; G. H. & H. Shreeve; J. B. Purdy; C. Lewison; W. E. Stoutenburg; D. Lake; S. Dietz; J. Parrott; J. B. Weir; W. H. Langley; Greene & Heath; J. Flinn; E. J. Rosenfeldt; F. C. Carpenter, F. A. Hodges; S. Dodd, A. W. Harris; A. L. Adams; F. H. Coghill & Co.; Steere & Hathaway; Stowbridge & Blake; Wells, Fargo & Co.; Alsop & Co.: Argenti & Co.; B. Paten, Jr.; C. H.Burton & Co; T. H. & J. S. Bacon; S. G. Morgan; J. Frontin; Mills & Vantine; Morse & Killgore; Reynolds, Farrel & Co; Kennedy & Co; Adams & Co; F. A. Thorn; Taaffs & McCahill; W. F. Stone; J. R. Rollinson & Co.; Cohn & Frank; J. M. Brown & Co; W. C. Pierce; Toland & Hart; C. W. Kirtland; F. A. Bonuard; B. G. Jeffries & Co; C. Minturn; T.Hudson; O. F. Adey; R. Galley; F. Borthell; Hussey, Bond & Hale; Turnbull & Walton; Haworth, Eells & Co; G. Howes; Tausseg, Pollack & Co; D. N. Hawley; Douglass & Co; t. H. Selby & Co., Russet, Auger & c;T. S. Mitchell & Co.; F. Underhill, Dr. Eckels; A.E. Monson; S. Rich & Bro; C. B. Benjamin; Calish & Co; Cooke Bros. & Co.; C. Norcross, Gibbs & Co; Quereau & Johnson; J. Patrick; N. Smith; F. F. Butler; Crosby & Dibblee; Taliant & Wilde; B. Gardner; Saroni, Archer & Co.; Hart & Lauer; Lecount & Strong; C. A. Foote & Co.; E.Fitzgerlad; A. Praalow; J. & M. Paelan; W. F. Sylvester, Blum & Wertheimer; Page, Bacon & Co.; C. Muir Wychoff & Co; J. Madison; Page & Smith, S. R. Throckmorton; J. B. McMenomy, Gildemeeser, DeFremery & Co; M. Christal, Webb & Co., R. L. Thayer; S. M. Cloan, G. Rosenberg, H. Carlton, Jr.; Abernathy, Clark & Co; T. Tnnett; R. C. Cram; G. F. Bragg & Co.; J. Wales, D. R. Provost; Bolton, Barron & Co; G. W. Chadwick; W. H. Cooke; DeLong, McNeil & Co; H. Bush; Stusserd & Co; J. W. Walker; Fresch & Ruggles; Spatz & newhouse; Main & Winchester; O. H. Body; H. B. Chambers; Stout & McKee, W. R. McCall & co; C. A. Fuller, Sontag & Co; W. Wmythe; C. Jackson; W. Rabbe; T. Douglass, Jr.; A. Robinson, Mandebaum & Silverman; P. & J. Goldstein; Kirchoff, DeSola & Co; G. Gilmot; F. T. Kennedy, and order.

Storm King

1,289 tons, built by John Taylor at Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1853. The main yardarm measured 78 feet long on a mainmast that measured 86 feet in height. (By comparison, the 2,421-ton McKay-built clipper Sovereign of the Seas, a ship nearly twice the size of Storm King, had a main yard that measured 90 feet in length and was two feet in diameter on a mainmast that was 93 feet high.)

October 16, 1860, Daily Alta California

An Escaped Slaver Captured on the Coast of Africa.

The arrival of the Storm King at Norfolk has already been announced by telegraph. It appears that the San Jacinto sighted the vessel in a calm, and captured her easily. The Storm King, it will be remembered, fitted out at New York, and sailed on the 3d of May last, getting safely off with hermateriel by corrupting the Federal officers at that port. She is a fine clipper brigantine of about 290 tons, well found in every necessary for her peculiar business, and having at the time of her capture every prospect of getting off in safety and leading her cargo in good order. Her capture was a most unexpected event for her captain and passengers, who were already congratulating themselves on the certain prospects of their ill-gotten gains.

The vessel hoisted no colors, had no name on her stern, and possessed neither register nor log : had she produced both it would have been unavailing, as her suspicious appearance would have fully warranted boarding her, when sufficient internal evidence existed to at once convict her. Her cargo consists, in very great part, of young children of both sexes, together with a very large number of women, all in a complete state of nudity, packed into a space not more than four feet high, and ventilated by only one large and two small hatches, from which an effluvia ascended enough to discompose the strongest stomach. Although a heart-sinking sight, and most revolting to all our feelings of humanity, it was not unalloyed with satisfaction when the welkin rang with their shouts of joy, on comprehending that they were now in the heads of friends and benefactors.

Sunny South

April 1l3, 1855, Daily Alta California

Clipper ship Sunny South, Gregory, 144 days from New York via Rio de Janeiro. To Geo Clifford & Co.
Spoken Per Sunny South: March 26th, lat 18 18N, lon 119 50 W., bq Clara, Cook, from Glasgow for this port. Same day, spoke and boarded bq Sherwood, Haskell fm Bristol, with coal for this port. Memoranda: Was off Cape Horn 16 days with very heavy weather. Crossed the Equator March 17th, lon 112 55. Since then have had light winds and calms; was within 500 miles of this port for the last 16 days.

May 1, 1855, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

A brief description of the Sunny South may not be uninteresting to our readers, the was built at the foot of Eleventh street, New York City, by Geo end James Steers, and launched in September last and is owned by Wm. A. Sale, Esq. of New York. Cost about $70,000. Compared with such ships as the Tornado, Water Witch and Sovereign of the Seas, she is a small ship, registering only 745 tons. Her carrying capacity is about 1000 tons measurement goods. Her extreme length at the load-line is 154 feet. Extreme breadth of beam at the load line 31 feet 3 inches. Breadth on deck 28-1/2 feet. Depth of hold is 15-1/2 feet. Main yard 66-1/2 feet. Main sky-sail yard 24 feet. She draws 16-1/2 feet when loaded one foot more than her depth of hold. She has 28 inches dead rise.

A handsome sheer gives a light and fancy appearance to the long and sharp bow, which is ornaments with a scaly monster as a figure head, with a long and very crooked tail. The lines of the bow an slightly concave, and the greatest breadth of beam is abreast the main hatchway. The run is a fine one but why Mr. Steers put such an ugly stern, upon an otherwise beautiful vessel, we cannot surmise. She is built entirely of white oak, with locust trenails. She is lightly and neatly sparred, and for speed we would pit her against any vessel that ever entered San Francisco harbor. Capt. Gregory gives her all praise as a sea boat good on all tacks.

She was so deeply loaded on her passage out, that no opportunity was offered for testing her sailing qualities. She will sail for Hong Kong soon, and we expect to hear a good report from Capt. Gregory, on his arrival in New York.


July 23, 1859, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Shipping: First Vessel for Australia

The splendid A 1 Clipper Ship Surinam, 650 Tons. A. Andrew. Commander will be dispatched on the 5th August, for Melbourne direct. Having her entire cargo engaged, she will positively sail on the day advertised. For CABIN PASSAGE ONLY, having very superior accommodations, apply to
Cross & Co., Battery Street


Clipper Ship Surprise.

In 1850 thirteen California clippers, of which the Celestial and Mandarin were first, were quickly released from the ways. The Surprise, third to be launched, was Boston's first large clipper. She was designed by Samuel Harte Pook, one of the few naval architects of the time working independently of any yard, was built by Samuel Hall, and owned by A. A. Low & Brother. The Surprise was a 1,262-ton vessel with a length of 183 feet, a depth of 22 feet, 38-foot beam, and dead-rise of 30 inches. Her figurehead was a gilded flying eagle; the arms of New York were carved upon her stern.

At her launching on October 5, Mr. Hall had a surprise on the day the Surprise was launched. He had prepared a ladies' pavilion from which relatives and friends of the workmen might watch the launch, and in the mould-loft on flag-decorated tables he had had a luxurious lunch laid out. The novelty of the day and it was a thrilling one for those who went to every launch and could predict the future of a vessel from the way she took the water was the fact that the Surprise was fully rigged, with all her running gear in place, and skysail yards across. The launching of a vessel was always a tormenting occasion, particularly for the builder, since from the moment the draughtsman first put pencil to paper, to trace out her design, to the day when she received her new suit of snow-white sails, it was necessary that every particular conformed to a carefully calculated formula. One variation between her conception and her creation might have caused her lines to deflect as she hit the water the very position of a mast might have exerted an important influence on the qualities of the ship and determined to a great extent her capacity to sail. The fact that theSurprise entered the water without a hitch was evidence of Mr. Hall's supreme ability as a master of precision. By December 13 the Surprise was leaving for San Francisco under the command of Captain Philip Dumaresq, who had learned fast sailing in the opium trade. On March 19, 1851, Hall's ship was beating into San Francisco, second clipper in of the season, with a new record of 96 days 15 hours.

Clipper ships.

In 1852 Captain Dumaresq resigned to take command of the Bald Eagle then a new clipper built by Donald McKay for George B. Upton, of Boston and the Surprise passed to Captain Charles Ranlett. From then on for twenty-four years she continued to make excellent passages and profits. In 1853 she sailed from Shanghai to New York in 98 days, but in '56 and '57 she made the same run in little more than 82 days apiece. After going into dry dock for copper and repairs after the last run, the Surprise was again ready for a fling at the China trade, in which she stayed until 1876. On February 4 of that year she struck a sunken rock just outside of Yokohama and was completely lost.


May 13, 1859, Daily Alta California

The Clipper Ship Sweepstakes

Strolling down Pacific wharf yesterday, we noticed the famed clipper ship Sweepstakes, which came in a few days since in 106 days from New York, being the second best passage this season. TheSweepstakes is in every respect a "clipper ship," showing fine "points" in every line and curve. She was built several years since, at a cost of $120,000, of the best material, and extra fastened and strengthened, having diagonal braces in the between decks and lower hold. Capt. MacGill on leaving New York, met a heavy gale which threatened to dismast his vessel, but by good management ran it out, with the loss of a light spar and sail. As a specimen of her good qualities Captain MacGill showed us the log and track of the Sweepstakes when rounding Cape Horn, having made the run from Cape St. John to St. Ildefenso at the rate of fourteen miles per hour, and making, in one day, 320 miles. Hugging the land close, with a stiff northerly wind blowing, he got to the westward of the Cape, and showing that locality her heels, the Sweepstakes swept up the south Pacific in gallant style, distancing all the fleet which sailed within from fifteen to thirty days of her departure.

This is the fourth visit of this fine vessel to this port, turning out each time her cargo of 2,500 tons of merchandise in excellent order. On her present trip she was well ventilated, and discharges her good in bright condition and prime order. The Sweepstakes is owned by Mr. R. L. Taylor, of New York, and comes consigned to Messrs. Geo Howes & Co. She sails in a few days for Hongkong, and thence to New York.

Sword Fish

Cleared from New York to California between January-December, 1851: Sword Fish. 1035 tons.


The Syren is of 1060 tons burthen; depth 179 feet; breadth of beam 39 feet 10 inches; depth of hold 22 feet. She has had 84 days to Cape Horn, 20 days heavy weather off the Cape, and 20 days from the Cape to the line. The Syren was built by I. Taylor, at Medford, Mass.

July 26, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California


Clipper ship Syren (new), 100 tons, Capt. Siilabee, from Boston to sail July 10. Rate of freight, 40 to 60c. Provisions, liquors, boots and shoes. Expected time, 109 days. Has 1/2 of the cargo engaged -- flour provisions, liquors, drugs, boots, and shoes, dry goods, and clothing.

November 19, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

CLIPPER SHIPS. Our harbor was yesterday graced with the arrival of three beautiful clipper ships from the Atlantic States: the Syren, Capt. Silsbee. 141 days from Boston; the Eagle, Capt. Farran, 128 days, and the Typhoon, Capt. Salter, 107 days from New York..

The Syren is of 1060 tons burthen; depth 179 feet; breadth of beam 39 feet 10 inches; depth of hold 22 feet. She has had 84 days to Cape Horn, 20 days heavy weather off the Cape, and 20 days from the Cape to the line. The Syren was built by I. Taylor, at Medford, Mass.

One passenger noted: From Boston: G. Chapman.

Memoranda Per Syren: August 30th, Antonio Joseph, seaman, off Western Islands, fell from aloft on deck and died in two days.

Advertisement for the clipper ship, Syren, from New York to San Francisco.

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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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