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Notable New Books

Jan 1, 2003

Flying Cloud

The True Story of America's Most Famous Clipper Ship and the Woman who Guided Her

by David Shaw

The clipper ship Flying Cloud was an astounding work of craftsmanship that broke incredible speed records during the few years that clippers ruled the seas. The ship's navigator, a woman named Eleanor Creesy, was the captain's wife, and she brought to the ship an uncanny knack of sniffing the fastest ocean routes for her husband to follow between New York and San Francisco. Flying Cloud established a record for this 16,000-mile run on her maiden voyage in 1851. Three years later the team beat their own record that stood until 1989.

Shaw recounts the maiden voyage and effectively describes how the vessel was worked by her crew and guided by the Creesy couple. Since she effectively used a brand-new guide to the world's currents and weather patterns, this was a speed record that could only have been set, and kept for so long, at this time. The 1850s was the heyday of sailing speed (steam crushed the sail trade by the 1860s) and the vessel had a full-time navigator (not a common position then). It is perhaps because she was a woman, enjoying the privilege of having the captain's confidence and having tenaciously positioned herself for success, that these impressive records were established at all.

William Morrow/Harper Collins; New York; 800-242-7737; $25.

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