While researching the clippers of the mid-eighteenth century, I came upon the story of Flying Cloud, a super clipper built in East Boston in 1851. In 1854, she set the world record for fastest sailing ship, making the journey from Boston to San Francisco, around the horn of South America, in eighty nine days. This record is all the more remarkable when you consider that the passage, a distance of over fifteen thousand miles, usually took a full six months to complete and that she held this record for over a hundred years, until 1989 when it was broken by Thursday’s Child. The most astounding fact though, was that the ship’s navigator was a woman,
Eleanor Creesy, called Ellen, was the wife of Captain Josiah Creesy. That a captain’s wife would go to sea with her husband was not that unusual at the time. It was highly unusual that Ellen served as navigator for her husband, a skill she’d learned from her father, who had been captain of a coastal trading schooner.
The trip aboard the Flying Cloud was, as you might imagine, much smoother than the one I'm making up for the Sweet Auralie. It’s my job as a novelist to add an extra level of tension or two to the narrative. This though, doesn’t make the Flying Cloud, her record, or her female navigator any less extraordinary.