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Flying Cloud: The True Story of America's Most Famous Clipper Ship and the Woman Who Guided Her Paperback – July 3, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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 hoursAa 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 emergenciesAsuch as broken masts, storms and disgruntled sailorsAhis 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 sourcesAthe ship's log, letters, a passenger's diary and archival documents, none of which include much personal detailAthe 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)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (July 3, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060934786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060934781
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Since the story is a substantial piece of history, it must have been difficult for Shaw to make the narrative move so well. I was thoroughly engaged by Captain and Mrs. Creesy's exploits, and by the time the book ended I wished for more stories about other journeys of the Flying Cloud and the clipper ship era. After about the 1/3 point of the book, I was so engaged that I stayed awake reading late in to the next two nights in order to finish the book properly. The charts and maps and graphic explanations of the sailing maneuvers were extremely helpful especially since I know nothing about sailing. I should disclose that I have only been on a sailcraft once in my life so I was not reading for authenticity, but for the story telling, which I found excellent. I have read other works by Shaw (Daring the Sea) and feel that he is just starting to kick his creative powers in to high gear. IF you want a fast paced story and are interested in the dramatic side of history read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a must read that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Any one who has a love of sailing will be immediately swept away by this tale of the great clipper ship Flying Cloud and her maiden voyage from NYC to San Francisco. At the time of her first voyage, the Panama Canal had not been built yet and ships had to sail all the way around South America and the feared Cape Horn. Flying Cloud set a new-world record of just under 90 days on her first trip. She would later better her own record. The author does a wonderful job of describing the conditions of sail and the perils and problems faced by the captain, and the crew.
The armchair sailor, without much experience but a desire to dream of distant places will also enjoy this book as it takes you on a remarkable trip on the high seas. The writing is clear and descriptive and makes it easy to close your eyes and imagine yourself standing on the pitching deck or climbing the slippery ratlines to reef the sails. The author has included descriptions within the narrative (and a glossary) that make it easy for a landlubber to understand the nautical references describing the actions taking place. In fact, I learned that "dead reckoning" is actually short for "deduced reckoning" - see the book to learn more!
For the history buff, this book is a wonderful depiction of the clipper ships that played such a big part in Americas past. Not only that, but the Cloud's navigator was the captain's wife - which was truly remarkable considering that the Victorian era was a man's world that allowed women very few freedoms or liberties.
This book is a work of history that actually reads like a best-selling work of fiction. The author has captured the danger, excitement and adventure in compelling detail. Once begun it was impossible to put down. I recommend it highly.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The good aspects of this book are that is quite informative and easy
to read. Nautical terms are clearly defined and easy to
understand. Several charts explain the Profile, Deck, Spar Plan,
Sailing Plan, Points of Sail, and Wind and Water Currents. Diagrams
also explain how a full-rigged ship is tacked (turned) and follow the
course of the ship during its maiden voyage, which was most
interesting around Cape Horn. Several photographs reproduce a painting
and engraving of the "Flying Cloud", its builder Donald
McKay, and Captain Creesy. Unfortunately no photo of Mrs. Creesy is
reproduced. Still the charts, diagrams and photographs are very
Another good aspect of the book is that Shaw provides quite
a lot of information regarding the "Flying Cloud", which is
why I bought the book.... Information is also given on how much water
was carried, that it was for drinking and not bathing, and what type
of provisioning was loaded. Shaw writes about the nature of the cargo
and that the value of the shipping costs equalled "Flying
Cloud's" building costs. We are informed about the contents of
the Medicine Cabinet, about the livestock taken aboard, about
Celestial Navigation, the fact that fresh foods iced lasted for over a
month, and much more. Here the book is very strong.
The book is
really about Captain Creesy's wife, Eleanor, who was the navigator on
the journey described, and who worked as a partner with her
husband. Shaw tries very hard to show what an intelligent and unusual
person she was for her time, or really any time at all, and what an
excellent navigator she was.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This book is about the Clipper Ship FLYING CLOUD and her record breaking voyage between New York and San Francisco in 1851, a record that would stand for over 100 years. The navigator was Ellen Creesy, the wife of the captain, Perkins Creesy. Ellen was interested in science and the natural world, rare for a woman of her day, and still rare even today. She must have been a jewel, in addition to being an excellent navigator.
The book covers life aboard a Clipper Ship very well, from the viewpoints of the sailors, officers, captain, passengers, and also of Ellen. Clipper Ships were primarly used to transport cargo at a speed unattainable with sailing ships of previous designs. The passage around the treacherous Cape Horn is also covered well. This book is very well written, a joy to read and at times hard to put down.
The Clipper Ship era was one of the romantic times of sailing. I understand that no surviving examples of the Clipper Ships remain to this day. I would love to see one, and if I am wrong someone please do a review of this book and inform us.
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