Elissa (ship)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

United States
OperatorGalveston Historical Foundation
Launched27 October 1877
StatusTraining ship
General characteristics
Tonnage431 GRT 409 NRT
Length141 ft (43 m)
Beam28 ft (8.5 m)
Draft10 ft 6 in (3.20 m) .
Sail plan
  • three-masted barque,
  • 19 sails
Capacity430 tons cargo
Elissa is located in Texas
Elissa is located in the United States
LocationGalveston Historic Seaport,
Galveston, Texas
Coordinates29°18′34″N 94°47′37″W / 29.30944°N 94.79361°W / 29.30944; -94.79361Coordinates: 29°18′34″N 94°47′37″W / 29.30944°N 94.79361°W / 29.30944; -94.79361
Built1877 (1877)
ArchitectAlexander Hall & Sons
Architectural styleThree-masted Barque
Website1877 Tall Ship Elissa
NRHP reference No.78002930[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPMarch 21, 1978
Designated NHLDecember 14, 1990[2]

The tall ship Elissa is a three-masted barque. She is based in Galveston, Texas, and is one of the oldest ships sailing today. Launched in 1877, she is now a museum ship at the Texas Seaport Museum. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990.


The foremast of the Elissa

Elissa was built in Aberdeen, Scotland as a merchant vessel in a time when steamships were overtaking sailing ships. She was launched on October 27, 1877. The vessel was named for the niece of Henry Fowler Watt, Elissa's first owner,[3] though according to his descendants the ship was named for the Queen of Carthage, Elissa (more commonly called Dido), Aeneas' tragic lover in the epic poem The Aeneid.[citation needed]

Elissa also sailed under Norwegian and Swedish flags. In Norway she was known as the Fjeld of Tønsberg and her master was Captain Herman Andersen. In Sweden her name was Gustav of Gothenburg. In 1918, she was converted into a two-masted brigantine and an engine was installed. She was sold to Finland in 1930 (owned by Gustaf Erikson to 1942) and reconverted into a schooner. In 1959, she was sold to Greece, and successively sailed under the names Christophoros, in 1967 as Achaeos, and in 1969 as Pioneer. In 1970, she was rescued from destruction in Piraeus after being purchased for the San Francisco Maritime Museum. However, she languished in a salvage yard in Piraeus until she was purchased for $40,000, in 1975, by the Galveston Historical Foundation, her current owners.[4] In 1979, after a year in Greece having repairs done to her hull, Elissa was first towed to Gibraltar. There, she was prepared for an ocean tow by Captain Jim Currie of the New Orleans surveyors J.K. Tynan International. The restoration process continued until she was ready for tow on June 7, 1979.[citation needed]

Elissa has an iron hull, and the pin rail and bright work is made of teak. Her masts are Douglas fir from Oregon, and her 19 sails were made in Maine. She has survived numerous modifications including installation of an engine, and the incremental removal of all her rigging and masts.[citation needed]

Elissa made her first voyage as a restored sailing ship in 1985, traveling to Corpus Christi, Texas. In Freeport the crew was joined by seventh grader Jerry Diegel and Betty Rusk, his history and English teacher, after Diegel won an essay contest on the history of the Elissa.[5] A year later, she sailed to New York City to take part in the Statue of Liberty's centennial celebrations. When she's not sailing, Elissa is moored at the Texas Seaport Museum in Galveston.[6] Public tours are available year-round-provided she is not out sailing. The ship is sailed and maintained by qualified volunteers from around the nation.[citation needed]

The tall ship Elissa

In July 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard declared Elissa to be "not seaworthy."[7] The Coast Guard inspection in 2011 revealed a corroded hull. The tall ship is inspected twice every five years, said John Schaumburg, museum assistant director. The 2011 inspection uncovered the worst corrosion since the tall ship was rebuilt in 1982, he said.[citation needed] Texas Seaport Museum raised the $3 million that paid for hull replacement and other long-overdue maintenance projects, finishing in January 2013. The museum also replaced the 22,000 board feet of Douglas fir decking and building new quarterdeck furniture out of high quality teak. Elissa returned to sailing once again in March 2014. She ran a series of daily sails for a period of two weeks out of her home port of Galveston.

Elissa remains one of the world's oldest sailing hulls still in operation.[8] The oldest is the coasting schooner Lewis R. French, launched in 1871 in Christmas Cove, Maine. She still sails as part of the windjammer fleet out of Camden, Maine.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Elissa (Bark)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 13 November 2009. Retrieved 3 July 2009.
  3. ^ Delgado, James P (8 January 1990). "Elissa" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places. Washington DC: National Park Service. p. 8 of 16. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Galveston Historical Foundation". Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  5. ^ Wolff, Henry (31 March 1989). "A Trip On Elissa". Victoria Advocate. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  6. ^ "Elissa (1980)". Texas Archive of the Moving Image. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  7. ^ Rice, Harvey (11 July 2011). "Galveston's tall ship Elissa no longer seaworthy". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  8. ^ "Galveston Historical Foundation | #galvestonhistory".
  9. ^ "State symbols". Texas State Library. Retrieved 10 June 2010.

External links[edit]