- Texas’ “Official” Tall Ship
(Now berthed just off the Strand on Galveston Island – at Pier
Photographer's Note: "Although the temperature was 65 degrees,
the heat wave distortion gave this photo a watercolor effect."
in 1877 in Aberdeen Scotland, the Elissa is an iron-hulled, square-rigged
bargue. I62 feet long with a deck length of 152 feet, the Elissa
is the Official “Tall Ship” of Texas and is owned by the Galveston
Her 19 sails comprise 12,000 square feet of “synthetic canvas.”
Elissa began hauling coal and spent most of her life as a her career
as a tramp freighter - picking up whatever cargo was available for
delivery to whatever port was receiving.
Her American ports of call included New York, Boston, Savannah,
and Pensacola. She made at least two visits to Galveston
(1883 and 1886), unaware that it would eventually become her permanent
home over one hundred years later.
She and her sister sailing freighters were threatened with extinction
by the steam freighters that could “sail” without needing wind.
Damaged in a storm, the ship was sold in the late 1890s to a Norwegian
company where she carried freight for 14 years as the Fjeld.
In 1912 she was bought by a Swede and again renamed. Now named Gustaf
and registered as a Swedish ship, an engine was installed in 1918
and her rigging partially removed, making her technically a barkentine.
Her Scandinavian tour continued in 1930 when she was registered
as a Finnish vessel and underwent a refitting that transformed her
into a schooner. She remained in frigid waters hauling lumber for
the next three decades, until she was bought by a Greek firm in
Under the new name of Christophoros, she had nearly all rigging
removed and became little more than a motorized barge. In 1967 she
changed hands again and although she remained Greek, her name became
Her fall from grace was complete when she became a smuggleroperating
in the Adriatic
Her hull was recognized by a curator of the National Maritime Historical
Society and in 1970 she was purchased for restoration. The curator,
Peter Throckmorton even went to the drastic extreme of mortgaging
his home to purchase the ship from her law-breaking owners.
of negotiation, the ship was briefly renamed Pioneer, but
after purchase she once again became Elissa.
In 1974 the Elissa was purchased by the Galveston Historical Foundation,
as a complement to the restoration of the Strand.
She was the oldest listed square-rigged ship in Lloyd's of London
Registry of Shipping. In 1978 the Elissa became the first
foreign item to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
July 20, 1979 she arrived in Galveston
to undergo a three-year restoration.
In December 1978 the ship began the first leg of her long voyage
to Galveston; she
was towed to Gibraltar, where she passed the winter. On June 25,
1979, she was towed out of Gibraltar and set sail for Texas; she
arrived off Galveston
on A dockside celebration with flags and bunting and bands was held
in Galveston on
August 4 to honor the arrival.
On the 4th of July 1982, she officially became a Galveston
tourist attraction. She maintains her sea-worthiness year-round
and makes occasional voyages – notably the 1986 trip to NYC to celebrate
the Centennial of the Statue of Liberty.
The Elissa is now berthed just off the Strand on Galveston Island
– at Pier 21.
© John Troesser
harbor under engine power.
Elissa leaving Corpus
Christi after Harvest Moon Regatta
At 25 miles from where it was moored in Corpus
Christi the Elissa is under engine power. First image is just
at the Corpus
Christi side of the ferry crossing to Port
Aransas from the pier at the end of Station Street. After the
lighthouse shot we moved to the end of East Cotter street and the
channel to the Gulf. The final shot, with most sails finally unfurled,
was distorted by heat waves. - Ken
Rudine, November 06, 2007
|A view of the
Elissa without the multitude of small boats that were accompaning
her that day.
the Lydia Ann Lighthouse (two miles distant)
and the lateest flag she's sailed under.
boat, and two tankers keeping a respectful distance
|1877 meets 2007:
Elissa and tanker
Above photos courtesy Ken
Rudine, November 2007
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