Cover image for Flying Cloud : the true story of America's most famous clipper ship and the woman who guided her
Flying Cloud : the true story of America's most famous clipper ship and the woman who guided her
Shaw, David W., 1961-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W. Morrow, [2000]

Physical Description:
xxviii, 290 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
G478 .S53 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Flying Cloud is the riveting and thoroughly researched tale of a truly unforgettable sea voyage during the days of the California gold rush. In 1851, navigator Eleanor Creesy set sail 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 daring frontier spirit. Illustrated with original maps and charts as well as historical photographs, Shaw's compelling narrative captures the drama of this thrilling adventure.

In a position almost unheard of for a woman in the mid-nineteenth century, Eleanor Creesy served as the ship's navigator. With only the sun, planets, and stars to guide her, she brought Flying Cloud safely around Cape Horn at the height of a winter blizzard, faced storms, dodged shoals, and found her way through calms to make the swift passage possible. Along with her husband, Josiah, the ship's captain, she sailed the mighty three-masted clipper through sixteen thousand miles of the fiercest, most unpredictable oceans in the world.

Shaw vividly re-creates nineteenth-century seafaring conditions and customs, for both the crew and the passengers who entrusted their fate to an untested ship. Including excerpts from letters and diaries of passengers, Shaw recounts Flying Cloud's victory in the face of adversity-including sabotage, insubordination, and severe damage to the clipper's mainmast that might have sunk her with all hands lost. But the ship triumphed and would ultimately sail the world. Flying Cloud brings to life, for the first time, the glory of one of America's most important seafaring tales and one woman's incredible achievements.

Author Notes

David W. Shaw is the author of Daring the Sea and Inland Passage. An expert sailor in his own right, Shaw also writes for Offsbore, Sail, Cruising World, Lakeland Boating, and Maritime Life and Traditions. He lives in New Jersey and sails in Maine

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

On her maiden voyage in 1851, the clipper ship Flying Cloud, carrying valuable cargo and 11 passengers, sailed from New York to San Francisco by the only route possible before the construction of the Panama Canal, around the tip of South America. The ship made the 16,000-mile trip in 89 days, 21 hoursÄa record time. As astonishing as the speed, however, was the fact that the ship's navigator was the captain's wife, Eleanor Creesy, an experienced pilot who charted the course using the revolutionary new theories about wind directions and ocean currents propounded by Matthew Maury, superintendent of the navy's National Observatory. The subtitle of the book is misleading, however. This is really the story of the collaboration between an extraordinary woman and her husband, Captain Josiah Perkins Creesy. While the captain sailed the ship and dealt with emergenciesÄsuch as broken masts, storms and disgruntled sailorsÄhis wife calmly plotted the course, managed day-to-day life on board and coped with the sometimes rash decisions made by her husband, for whom the safety of his crew and passengers was less important than his desire to set a record and claim the financial reward the ship's owners would pay for speedy delivery of the cargo. Because the author doesn't embellish his sourcesÄthe ship's log, letters, a passenger's diary and archival documents, none of which include much personal detailÄthe characters of Eleanor and her husband remain shadowy. Still, Shaw (Daring the Sea) presents a vivid picture of life on the high seas with enough drama to interest even those who know nothing about sailing. A glossary of nautical terms helps with the technical details. Photos not seen by PW. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This thorough account details the record-breaking 1851 New York-to-San Francisco voyages of the clipper ship Flying Cloud, focusing on its navigator, Eleanor Creesy. To be a female navigator in 1851 was extraordinary. Creesy acquired technical skills and opportunity to apply them thanks to two merchant captains: her father, lacking a son, encouraged Creesy's passion for navigation, while her husband, Josiah Perkins Creesy Jr., trusted her with his commands. Luck, talent, and Creesy's interest in cutting-edge manuals from the Naval Observatory's Lieutenant Maury kept Flying Cloud's 1851 and 1854 records unbroken for 155 years. (The ship made its maiden voyage to San Francisco in only 89 days.) Sailing writer Shaw uses logs, letters, navigation manuals, journals, and other relevant sources to bring 1850s shipping alive. The use of dialog is restrained, overcoming this reviewer's reservations about its appearance in nonfiction. Shaw (Daring the Sea) skillfully knits complex information into page-turning narrative without undue license. To be read with interest and pleasure by a wide audience; highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Nigel Tappin, Lake of Bays P.L., Canada (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-In 1851, the California Gold Rush was in full swing and huge profits awaited companies transporting goods to San Francisco. The swiftest route from the East Coast was by sea-16,000 miles, around the Horn-and shipbuilders fiercely competed to design bigger and faster clipper ships. The most celebrated one was Flying Cloud, whose maiden voyage began at the wrong time of year, survived two partial dismastings, sabotage, and terrible storms-and still set a record time of 89 days. The builder, Donald McKay, was said to have "bred magic into his ships," and Flying Cloud seemed to prove it. The captain, Josiah Creesy, was the company's best. Yet to set such a speed record requires one more element: an exceptional navigator. Flying Cloud's was the master not only of traditional navigational skills, but also of the newest scientific theories of oceanography-and had the courage to apply them. She was Eleanor Creesy, Josiah's wife, who also served as the ship's medic. Shaw became intrigued with this exceptional woman and her highly unusual marriage partnership, and through primary sources such as the ship's log, journals, and letters, discovered the details of the ship's first voyage and Eleanor's part in it. Adding his own knowledge of the sea and drawing from other contemporary accounts, he writes a book that takes readers along on the exhilarating journey. Clear diagrams and maps demystify sailing arcana for general readers, while experienced sailors and fans of sea adventures should enjoy this book, too.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Donald McKay
List of Illustrationsp. xiii
Author's Notep. xv
Acknowledgmentsp. xxi
Introductionp. xxv
Afterwordp. 253
Appendix A Master Shipbuilderp. 265
Appendix B Master Navigator Matthew Fontaine Mauryp. 269
Glossary of Nautical Termsp. 273
Bibliographyp. 281
Indexp. 285