Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Eleanor Creesy was the navigator of Flying Cloud, a clipper ship that set the world’s sailing record for the fastest passage between New York and San Francisco in 1851. She and her husband – Josiah Perkins Creesy, skipper – beat their own record two years later, and it was not broken until 1989.
Eleanor Prentiss was born on September 21, 1814, in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Her father was a master mariner, and he taught Eleanor the mathematics of navigation when she was a girl. Neighbors thought it was peculiar that her father educated Eleanor at a time when women rarely learned a trade, especially one dominated by men. Her dream was to marry a sea captain and sail with him around the world, and she rejected many suitors until she found the right man. In 1841 Eleanor married her sailor, Captain Josiah Creesy.
A clipper was a very fast yacht-like vessel used in the middle third of the 19th century that had a large sail area – three masts and a square rig. These ships also carried supplies on the New York-to-San Francisco route during the California Gold Rush (1848–1855), a journey of more than 16,000 miles that often took more than one hundred days. Fortunes were made or lost in clipper ships during the Gold Rush.