Daught/Beam/Daught: – 235′ x 40.8′ x 21.3′ (71.6m x 12.4m x 6.5m)
Tonnage: – 1.782 tons
Hull: – wood
Built By: – Donald McKay, East Boston, Mass.; 1851
Built for Enoch Train of Boston and sold to Grinnell, Minturn & Company, of New York, Flying Cloud was one of the fastest ( if not the fastest ) clipper ship ever launched. The largest merchant sailing ship afloat until the launch of Challenge shortly before her first voyage, great things were expected of her.
Under the command of the hard-driving Josiah P Cressy, she departed New York on June 2, 1851, and arrived at San Francisco on August 31 after a record run of only 89 days, 21 hours. The average time for all clipper ships was more than 120 days. Three years later Flying Cloud bettered her own time on the same run by 13 hours. Her time of 89 days, 8 hours, anchor to anchor, stood as the record until 1860.
Continuing her fourth voyage, Flying Cloud sailed for Hong Kong, as she had on her first two voyages, to load tea. A few days out from Whampoa on her homeward run, she grounded on a coral reef and began leaking at a rate of 11 inches an hour. With the pumps manned continuously, Flying Cloud arrived at New York on November 24 with her million-dollar cargo intact. On her next voyage, under Captain Reynard, the ship proved badly strained and put into Rio de Janeiro. After five weeks in port, during which her spares were cut down, she resumed her voyage and went on to post her best day’s run ( 402 miles ) and arrived at San Francisco on September 14, 1856, after 113 days at sea from New York. Laid up until the next January, she made her last Cape Horn passage in 1857 and then laid up at New York for nearly 3 years. In December 18859, she sailed for England and loaded for Hong Kong.
After three years in trade between England, Australia and Hong Kong, Flying Cloud was sold to T.M. Mackay & Company, a partner in James Baines?s Black Ball Line. In 1871, Flying Cloud was sold to Harry Smith Edwards of South Shields who put her in trade between Newcastle and St. Johns, New Brunswick, carrying coal and pig iron out and timber back.
In June 1874, she grounded on Beacon Island bar and was forced to return to St. Johns. With her back broken, the following year she was burned for her metal fastenings.
Izak J H Hough
Member of The Nautical Research Guild