Flying Cloud was built by Donald McKay in East Boston, Massachusetts in 1851, the Flying Cloud could be considered the fastest clipper ship of its time. Intended for the company Enoch Train of Boston, who paid $50,000 for her construction, the ship was sold prior to her actual completion to Grinnel, Minturn & Co. of New York for a sum of $90,000. Six weeks after her initial launch the Flying Cloud made headlines around the world with her record setting sail from New York to San Francisco, around South America’s Cape Horn, in 89 days, 21 hours. Commanded by Captain Josiah Perkins Creesy the brilliant clipper travelled almost 125 miles a day for three days straight. Two years later the Flying Cloud broke her own record for the journey by 13 hours. In addition to her breathtaking speed on these journeys, the Flying Cloud was significant in that her navigator was Eleanor Creesy, wife of Captain Creesy. While this may not seem a fact of note today, in the mid-1850s having a female navigator aboard ship was quite out of the ordinary.
The Flying Cloud and Her Contemporaries:
In comparison with other notable clipper ships of the day, the Flying Cloud more than held her own. In the 1800s, during the California Gold Rush, ships took between six and eight months to travel the 16,000 miles between New York and San Francisco. While there were a few other ships that were capable of such blazing speeds, only two stand out as to be considered in the same league as the Flying Cloud. While some publications of the time credit the clipper Andrew Jackson with having a faster time, the Flying Cloud maintains the record; though this may be due to a technicality. Andrew Jackson made the New York to San Francisco journey in 89 days and 4 hours, though after waiting all night to be brought to dock the record was not considered. The Flying Cloud, not having to wait to be towed to port completed the entire journey, anchor-to-anchor as they say, in 89 days 8 hours. The second clipper that came close to matching the Flying Cloud was the Hornet, which lost a race to the legendary ship in 1853. In the infamous race the Hornet departed harbor in New York a full two days ahead of the Flying Cloud, though after 106 days at sea the Hornet arrived a mere 45 minutes earlier than her nemesis.
Her Final Years at Sea:
Following her legendary voyages and blaring newspaper headlines , the Flying Cloud ended her career to much less fanfare. Sold to the British Black Ball Line in 1862, she traveled across the globe before being put to use in the log trade between England and Canada. On June 19, 1874 the Flying Cloud was grounded on shore on Beacon Island bar, St. John’s, Newfoundland, later sold, stripped for whatever valuable metal could be found, and burned. While her latter years were not fitting for such a glorious ship, the Flying Cloud lived on as a legend at sea, and has even had a balled written about her.