April 1851: With a cold spring wind blowing across East Boston, the Flying Cloud slid from its shipyard and into the water for the first time. The vessel was a massive beauty, all long lines and angles, with a 1,782-ton cargo capacity, decks that spanned 225 feet, and a sharp prow built to knife through the water. The keel was made of rock maple, and three sails carried a total of 10,000 yards of canvas. Beneath the bow, a carved white-and-gold angel trumpeted the way forward.
At a time when sailing merchant vessels ruled the mid-19th century seas, the Flying Cloud became the fastest “clipper” ship of the day, and was built in Boston by a pioneering shipbuilder, Donald McKay.More →