More than two centuries have passed away since this name was first applied to a ship. In 1637 that ship was built in Woolwich dockyard; her tonnage corresponded with the year. She was the first ship with "flush decks", and the largest of any vessels which had previously belonged to the English navy. Her keel measured 187 feet and 9 inches, her main breadth of beam was 48 feet 4 inches, and she had three decks, a poop and topgallant forecastle, and "bare five lanthoms, the biggest of which could hold ten persons upright". She was pierced for 126 guns, but probably only mounted 100.
How strangely this uncouth hulk would look alongside of her modern namesake. The difference between one of our clipper schooners and a Chinese junk would not be more marked; yet it is only by referring to the past that we can justly appreciate the improvements of the present.
Behold the modern Sovereign of the Seas, the longest, sharpest, and most beautiful merchant ship in the world, designed to sail at least twenty miles an hour with a whole-sail breeze. See her in the "beauty of her strength", the simplicity and neatness of her rig, flying before the gale and laughing at the rising sea; and then imagine her cumbrous ancestor, wallowing from side to side, tearing up the ocean into whitened foam, and drifting perhaps seven miles an hour; yet she was the first ship of her day. Imagine all this, and even a landsman can comprehend the wonderful progress of naval architecture.
Mr. McKay could not have selected a better name for his ship; its historical association is full of instruction, and no ship was ever more worthy of such a name.
Since the opening of the California trade, Mr. McKay has built five large clippers -- Stag Hound, Flying Cloud, Staffordshire, Flying Fish, and Sovereign of the Seas, but no two of them are alike in model. The Stag Hound has 40 inches dead rise at half floor, and convex lines; the Flying Cloud 30 inches and concave lines; the Staffordshire the same dead rise, and concave lines, but is much fuller in the ends, and has a deck more than any of these others; the Flying Fish 25 inches, and concave lines, but shorter ends, though sharper at the extremes, than her predecessors, and more capacity in proportion to her register; but the last and greatest of all, indeed the largest merchant ship in the world, has only 20 inches dead rise, and concave lines, but has the longest and sharpest ends of any ship or ocean steamer, either afloat or building. Owing to the length of her ends, her lines are less concave than those of the Flying Fish. A chord from the extreme of her cutwater, to the turn of her side at the load displacement line, (20½ feet draft forward) would only show a concavity of 2 inches. The angle of her bow, at the same line, is 14½ degrees, and of her stern 15½.
Her leading dimensions are as follows: -- Length of keel 245 feet, on deck, between perpendiculars 258, over all, from the knight-heads to the taffrail, 265; extreme breadth of beam 44 feet, about 20 feet forward of the center, breadth at the gunwale 42 feet; depth 23½ feet, including 8 foot height of between decks, dead rise 20 inches, swell or rounding of sides 1 foot, sheer nearly 4 feet, and register 2421 tons.
As Mr. McKay built this ship on his own account, he alone is responsible for her success as a sea-boat. He designed that she should be the swiftest sailing vessel in the world, and what is apparent to all, has made her strong enough to carry shot in bulk. Considering the sharpness of her ends, she has large stowage capacity for a clipper great surface and length of floor, and will be very buoyant, and easy under canvass.
Her lines forward, as they ascend above the water, become convex, to correspond with her outline on the rail, and her bow is plain, without even trail boards, and terminates with the figure of a sea god, half man half fish, with a conch shell raised to his mouth, as if in the act of blowing it. The figure accords with the sheer of the bow, is well executed, and forms a beautiful finish.
Her bow rises boldly, and is beautiful beyond description. The same terms will apply to her model throughout. She is planked flush to the covering-board; her stern is curvlinear, and is formed from the moulding of the planksheer, is very neat and graceful. Her run is long and clean, but still there is not a straight place in her whole model. She is sheatehed with yellow metal up to 20½ feet forward, and 21½ feet aft. The rest of her hull is painted black, and her figure head is bronzed sea color.
Her bulwarks are five two inches high, surmounted by a monkey rail of 16 inches, and the space between the main and rackrails is filled in with a heavy clamp, bolted both ways. All her accommodations are on deck. She has a full topgallant forecastle, a large house amidships, and a spacious trunk cabin, in two divisions, built into a half poop deck, with steerage room abaft. Her accommodations forward and aft, are plain, but neat, and are well adapted for all hands.
Her construction, for solidity and strength, is of the highest order. Her frame is entirely of seasoned white oak, and all her planking and ceiling, as well as her deck-frames, and the lower deck, are of the best hard pine, and she is strongly copper fastened and square bolted, and treenailed throughout. In the hold, all her knees are of oak, and all her hooks throughout. The knees in the between decks are of hacmatack, but the hooks and stanchions are of oak. She is 11 feet 8 inches through the back bone, including the moulding of the floor timbers, which is 19 inches, and all her keel and keelson fastening is of 1½ inch copper and iron, driven in the strongest style, and riveted. Her keel is sided 16 inches, and beside the midship keelsons, she has double sister keelsons, one over the other, on each side, which, combined, side 15 inches, and mould 30. Her floor ceiling is 5 inches thick, and commencing below the floorheads, the ceiling is 14 inches, which diminishes to 10 inches, without a projection; and under the ends of the lower hanging knees is a stringer of 14 inches thickness. All this ceiling is scarphed, square fastened, caulked and paved. Her hold stanchions are kneed above and below, and her ends are literally filled with massive hooks and pointers, and are further strengthened with hold beams, which are also strongly kneed. She has three of these beams forward and two aft.
The between decks waterways are 16 inches square, the strake inside of them 10 by 12, and that over them 11 by 16; the ceiling above is 6 inches thick, and the clamp 7 inches. The hold beams are 15 inches square, the upper deck beams 16 by 10 inches, and the hanging knees under them have 20 bolts and 4 spikes in each.
The upper deck waterways are 14 inches square, with thick strakes inside of them, and the planking of both decks is 3½ inches thick.
Her garboards are 8 inches thick, the next strake 6, graduated to 5, the substance of her bottom planking, and she has 25 strakes of wales, each 6 by 7 inches. The covering board and main rail are each 7 inches thick, and the bulwarks 2½ inches, neatly tongued and grooved. Inside she is painted buff-color, and looks well about the decks.
Her windlass, pumps, capstans, ground tackle, &c., are all of the first quality, and are made more for wear than show.
The beauty and strength of her hull are only equalled by her completeness aloft. She has not only the stoutest and most beautifully proportioned set of spars that ever towered above a ship's deck, but the rigging is the very best that could be procured, and the style in which it is fitted reflects high credit on her rigger, Mr. Wm. Dorrian, of New York.
All her lower masts are made from the heads to the steps, each mast in five pieces, bolted and hooped together. Her bowsprit is also a made spar, and all the outside pieces are of hard pine. Her masts rake, commencing with the fore, 6-8ths, 7-8ths, and 1 1/8 inch to the foot. The following are the dimensions of her masts and yards.
Masts Diameter, Length, Mast-heads, Inches Feet Feet Fore . . . . . . . . . . 41 89 3/4 16 Top . . . . . . . . . . 19 50 10 Topgallant . . . . . . . 14 27 1/2 0 Royal . . . . . . . . . 11 1/2 18 pole 10 Main . . . . . . . . . . 42 92 3/4 17 Top . . . . . . . . . . 19 1/2 54 11 Topgallant . . . . . . . 14 3/4 30 0 Royal . . . . . . . . . 12 20 0 Skysail . . . . . . . . 10 14 pole 8 Mizzen . . . . . . . . . 34 82 3/4 14 Top . . . . . . . . . . 16 43 9 Topgallant . . . . . . . 11 24 0 Royal . . . . . . . . . 9 1/2 17 pole 8 Yards Fore . . . . . . . . . . 22 80 yard-arms 5 Top . . . . . . . . . . 17 1/2 63 5 1/2 Topgallant . . . . . . . 14 47 3 1/2 Royal . . . . . . . . . 8 37 2 1/2 Main . . . . . . . . . . 24 90 5 Top . . . . . . . . . . 19 1/2 70 5 1/2 Topgallant . . . . . . . 15 53 1/2 4 Royal . . . . . . . . . 11 42 3 Skysail . . . . . . . . 9 35 2 Crossjack . . . . . . . 20 70 4 Mizzentopsail . . . . . 15 56 4 1/2 Topgallant . . . . . . . 11 43 3 Royal . . . . . . . . . 7 32 2
The bowsprit is made of hard pine, is 20 feet outboard, 34 inches in diameter, and has 4 inches steve to the foot. Jibboom and flying jibboom in one spar, divided at 15 and 12 feet for the two jibs, with 7 feet end; spanker boom 61 feet long, 2 feet end; gaff 45 feet, with 5 feet end; main spanker gaff feet, with 2 feet end; the other spars in proportion. Her lower masts are only two inches smaller at the truss-bands than what they are at the deck; and instead of holes in the topmast heads, she has double gins for the topsail ties, with gins on the yards and double hilliards. The main topgallantmast has also a gin at the mast head, and a double tie to the yard, the standing part fast aloft.
Her fore and main rigging is of 12 inch wormed, served over the ends and eyes; her topmast backstays of the same size. She has double topgallant backstays on each side, and all the chain and iron work about her bowsprit, masts and yards, now in general use. Her mastheads are crowned with gilded balls; her yards black, booms bright, and lower masts white, and altogether aloft, she is the best fitted ship that was built in this port. She will spread between 11 and 12,000 yards of canvas. her yards are all of single spars, not scarphed and together with the masts, are strong enough to stand till every stitch of canvas blows away.
Her ornamental work was made by Messrs. Gleason & Sons; Mr. T.J. Shelton made her pumps and blocks, and Mr. Mendum was her blacksmith. She was built at East Boston by Mr. Donald McKay, and is the embodiment of his idea of clipper perfection. So perfectly true are her proportions, that, notwithstanding her vast size, there are many freighting ships of half her register, that loom larger to the eye.
At four hundred yards' distance, she does not appear to be larger than 700 or 800 tons. She has been inspected by nautical men from all parts of the country, and we believe, has been the object of unqualified admiration. There are doubtless many ships more tastefully ornamented with carving, gilding and other excrescences; but for beauty of model, strength of construction and completeness of equipment aloft, she has no superior. It is but reasonable to presume that, with a fair chance, she will make the quickest voyage ever performed under canvas. We consider her not only an honor to her enterprising builder, but to the country at large. Americans on distant seas may refer to her with national pride, and challenge a comparison from the commercial navies of the world. She is well named the Sovereign of the Seas of Boston.
The Boston Daily Atlas, June 19th, 1852.
This is not entirely true, at least one earlier ship the Wasa of 1627 has two flush gun-decks.
Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius.
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