The Clipper-Ship Stag-Hound, of Boston.

The construction of this ship may be said to mark the introduction of the late clipper era at Boston. The building of fast vessels for foreign trade had for several years been adopted in New-York, having been first undertaken by Wm. H. Aspinwall, for whom Smith & Dimon constructed the clipper-ship Rainbow, in 1843, which was followed by the Howqua and Samuel_Russell, by Brown & Bell; and the famous Sea Witch, also built by Smith & Dimon. It will be entirely proper to add, that the model of the Sea-Witch had more influence upon the subsequent configuration of fast vessels, than any other ship ever built in the United States. Her tables will be found in Griffth's Marine and Naval Architecture, published in 1850. In 1848 and 1849, New-York entered upon the era of steamship building, and by her late experience in modeling sailing vessels for high speed, found herself competent to contend successfully with the marine architects of Great Britain, and set afloat steamer after steamer, which found no match under any foreign flag upon the ocean.

Such was the condition of enterprise in New-York, for several years, before Boston awoke to distinguish herself in clipper building, and give to the world many of the fastest fleets, and largest ships in commercial service. the bold mind of Donald McKay grew restless under the idea, that a sister city was monopolizing the construction of fast vessels, and for many years he urged Boston merchants to enter the lists with Messrs. Aspinwall, Capt. N.B. Palmer, and others, and dispute for the palm of speed.

For a long time it was held by mercantile opinion that fast vessels were not so profitable as duller sailers, carrying larger cargoes; but the rise of freights, consequent upon the discovery of gold, and the emigration to California, determined the argument in the favor of all ambitious ship-builders and merchants, and clippers became the watchword of commercial men all over New-England, and in New-York. It only remained for the enterprise and genius of Boston to find exponents of her will among merchants and mechanics, to lay the foundation of an era in ship-building and navigation which should astonish the world. The leading minds at length stood forth.

Messrs. Geo. B. Upton, and Sampson, and Tappan, ordered the construction of the Stag-Hound, at the hands of Donald McKay, to exceed the tonnage, and excel the speed, of any ship of her class afloat. She was designed longer and sharper than any other vessel in the merchant service in the world. Her model was not undertaken without a through exploration of all discovered mysteries in modeling for speed, and the most celebrated models were sought out, and examined with care. The result was the production of the Stag-Hound, a vessel designed with special reference to her builder's beau ideal of perfection in every sea quality. His intelligent owners gave him the entire responsibility of design, model, construction, rig, and finish, while they stood by, having no other duties to perform than the financial task of footing the bills. To the wise and generous course of the owners, Mr. McKay was indebted for his opportunities for success. Nothing more clearly indicates the taste of a mercantile community than its ships; and nothing bears stronger testimony to the greatness and liberality of the mercantile mind, than the spirit manifested in carrying forward its enterprises. The noble, the generous, and strong, are ever found wise and successful. The common manner of ordering a new ship, is for the merchant to select, or dictate, dimensions and model, and sketch a few specifications in a contract, which when fulfilled, terminates the builder's responsibility. The success or failure of a ship, under such circumstances, ought to be, but seldom is, attributed to the merchant alone. This system is so common in all seaports, that builders rarely have an opportunity to show their skill as designers. As a general rule, the merchants, not the mechanics, ought to be held responsible for the qualities of their ships. Yet, in almost every instance without exception, where ship-builders have an opportunity of displaying their skill in the finer duties of their vocation, the result, as in the case of the Stag-Hound has been most satisfactory.

The dimensions of the Stag-Hound are as follows:-- Keel, 207 feet; between perpendiculars on deck, 215 feet; beam, 40 feet extreme; hold, 21 feet; and registered tonnage, 1,600 tons. Her depth of keel is 46 inches; dead rise at half floor, 40 inches. Perhaps the gravest mistake in her model, consisted in the great amount of dead rise, detracting from her stability and capacity, without a commensurate return in diminishing the absolute resistance, as it has been thought to do. Her keel is of rock maple and oak in two depths, sided 16 inches, and bolted with copper. The floors are sided from 10 to 12 inches, and moulded from 14 to 16 inches, bolted with 1¼ inch copper bolts. Her top timbers are of hackmatack, but the rest of her frame, and the stanchions, are of white oak. She has three depths of midship keelsons, which, combined, mould 42 inches, and side 15 inches. The sister keelsons are 14 inches square, bolted diagonally through the naval timbers, or first futtocks, into the keel, and horizontally into the lower piece of keelson, and each other. Her hold stanchions are 10 inches square, kneed to the beams, and to the keelson.

The ceiling on the floor is 4½ in., square bolted; that from the bilge to the deck, in the hold, is 7 in. thick, scarphed and square bolted. A stringer 12 by 15 in. receives the ends of the hanging-knees, which are of hackmatack in both decks. The hanging-knees in the hold are sided from 10 to 11 in., moulded from 2 ft. to 26 in. in the throat, and have 16 bolts and 4 spikes in each. In the between-decks, the knees are sided about 10 in., and moulded in the throats about 20 in., fastened with 18 bolts and 4 spikes. the lower deck beams average about 16 by 17 in.; and those of the upper deck are 10 by 16 in., of hard pine. There is a pair of pointers 30 ft. long in each end; and three breast-hooks, and after-hooks, all of oak, closely bolted. The hold is calked and payed, from the limber boards to the deck. The height between-decks is 7 ft. The water-ways of lower deck are 15 in. square; the strake inside of them, 9 by 12 in.; and the two over them, combined, 10 by 18 inches. The ceiling above is 5 in. thick, square bolted. The between-deck stanchions are of oak, turned, secured with iron rods through their centres, which set up below. The upper deck water-ways are 12 in. square; and the two strakes inside of them, each 4½ by 6 in., let over the beams below. The planking of both decks is 3½ in. thick, of white pine. Her garboards are 7 in. thick, bolted through the keel and each other, and through the floors, and riveted. The strakes outside of them are graduated to 4½ in. on the bottom; and the wales, of 16 strakes, are each 5½ by 6 in.., planked up flush to the plank-sheer. Her stanchions are 8 by 10 in., and the plank-sheer and rail, each, 6 by 16 inches. The bulwarks, including the monkey rail, are 6½ft. high; and between the main and rack rails, there is a stout clamp, bolted through the stanchions, and through both rails. The bulwarks are very narrow, tongued and grooved, and fastened with composition spikes. Great pains were taken in driving her tree-nails and butt-bolts. She was salted, and has ventilators in her desks and plank-sheer, fore and aft. Her bowsprit and windlass-bitt, also the foretopsail sheet-bitts, are of white oak, strongly kneed above and below. Her main topmast stays lead on deck, and set up to bitts before the foretopmast. She has a topgallant forecastle, at the height of main rail, in the after-wings of which, there are water-closets for the use of crew. Abaft the foremast, she has a house 42 ft. long by 24 ft. wide, and 6 ft. high, for the crew, with apartments for galley, store-room, &c. The upper part of house is ornamented with panel work.

Her cabins are under a half poop-deck, the height of the main rail, and have a descent of three feet below the upper deck. Along the sides, and around the stern, the poop is protected by a rail worked on turned stanchions. The poop is 44 ft. long, and in its front is a portico to the entrance of the cabins. The after cabin is 32 ft. long by 13 ft. wide, and 6 ft. 8 in. high. Its after-division is fitted into a spacious state-room, with two berths. Before this there is a water-closet on each side, then a state-room; before that a recess of eight on each side, and then two state-rooms. the sides of the cabins are splendidly finished with mahogany Gothic panels, enameled pilasters and cornices, and gilded mouldings. It has a large skylight amidships, and every state-room has its deck and side-light also. The cabin furniture is first class. The forward-cabin contains the captain's state-room, which overlooks the upper deck on the starboard side; it also contains the pantry and state-rooms for the three mates and the steward. It is 12 by 18 ft., neatly painted and grained, and lighted as abaft. Inside the ship is painted pearl color, relieved with white; and outside, black, from the water-line to the rail. She has patent copper pumps, which work with fly-wheel and winches, -- a patent windlass, with ends which ungear, and two beautiful capstans, made of mahogany and locust, inlaid with brass. She has a cylindrical, iron water tank of 4,500 gallons capacity, the depth of the ship secured below the upper deck, abaft the mainmast, and resting upon a bed of timbers over the keelson.

Masts and Spars.

The masts of the Stag-Hound rake alike, viz.:-- 1¼ in. in the foot. The distance from the stem to the centre of foremast, on deck, is 50 ft.; thence to the main, 67 ft.; thence to the mizzen, 56 ft.; and thence to the stern post, 42 feet. The following are the dimensions of her masts and yards:--
Diameter. Length. Mastheads.
in. ft. ft.
Fore 32½ 82 13
Top 16 46 9
Topgallant 10 25 0
Royal 9 17 0
Skysail 8 13 pole 7
Main 33 88 14
Top 17½ 51
Topgallant 12 28 0
Royal 11 19 0
Skysail 10 15 pole 9
Mizzen 26 78 12
Top 12½ 40 8
Topgallant 9 22 0
Royal 8 16 0
Skysail 7 11 pole 6


Diameter. Length. Mastheads.
in. ft. ft.
Fore 20 72 yard-arms 4½
Top 15 57 5
Topgallant 10 42 3
Royal 7 32 2
Skysail 24½
Main 22 86
Top 17 68 5
Topgallant 15 53
Royal 10½ 42
Skysail 7 32
Crossjack 16 60 4
Mizzen topsail 11½ 48
Topgallant 10 36
Royal 7 27
Skysail 6 22 1
Bowsprit 28½ 24-4½ in. steve
Jibboom 16½ 38 outside of cap, divided at 18 and 15 ft for inner and outer jibs, with 5 ft. end.
Flying jibboom 18 ft. outside of wythe, with pole 4
Spanker-boom 13 60 pole 2½
Gaff 44 5
Fore and main spencer gaffs, each 25 2
Her fore and main are made masts; the former being 29½ in., and the latter 30 in. in diameter at the truss bands. her topmasts and jibboom are of hard pine.

The fore and main rigging is 10 in., four stranded, patent rope, wormed and served over the ends up to the leading trucks; the mizzen rigging is 8 in., the fore and main stays, 9½ in., the fore and main topmast backstays, 9¾ in., the topmast rigging 4¼ in., set up on the ends; the mizzen topmast rigging, 4¾ in., mizzen topmast backstays 7¾ in., fore and main topgallant backstays and jibboom guys, 6½ in.; and the other standing rigging in like proportions. She has chain bobstays and bowsprit shrouds, martingale stays and guys, and topsail sheets and ties, patent trusses, &c. Her fore and main chain plates are 1 7/8 in. iron.

With respect to her model, it will be seen that the floor has a large angle of dead-rise, and is long in a fore and aft direction. When launched she drew 10½ ft. forward, and 11½ ft. aft, including 39 in. keel, clear garboards. In January, 1851, the Stag-Hound sailed from New-York for San Francisco, under the command of Capt. Richardson. She performed the voyage in 115 days, or 107 days sailing time, having lost her topmasts, and touched at Valparaiso.

She has made three other passages from New-York to San-Francisco in 124, 121 and 110 days respectively. The sailing distance, on the last voyage, was 16,408 miles, and the daily average 158 miles.

From Whampoa to New-York, the Stag-Hound has made three passages in 85, 91 and 92 days. All these, and her many other passages, are considerably shorter than the average of clipper voyages in the corresponding months of the year, between the same ports; yet the Stag-Hound has failed for want of opportunity to reach a degree of speed quite equal to the best performances of ships, either of her own, or of less displacement.

The U.S. Nautical Magazine, Vol. II (1855), pp 401-407.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius.

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