Galveston's the Elissa: The Tall Ship of Texas

Galveston's the Elissa: The Tall Ship of Texas

by Kurt D. Voss
     
 


For nearly three decades, the 1877 sailing ship Elissa has been widely recognized as one of the finest maritime preservation projects in the world. Unlike some tall ships of today, the Elissa is not a replica but a survivor. Over her century-long commercial history, she carried cargoes to ports around the world for a succession of owners. Her working life as a…  See more details below

Overview


For nearly three decades, the 1877 sailing ship Elissa has been widely recognized as one of the finest maritime preservation projects in the world. Unlike some tall ships of today, the Elissa is not a replica but a survivor. Over her century-long commercial history, she carried cargoes to ports around the world for a succession of owners. Her working life as a freighter came to an end in Piraeus, Greece, where she was rescued from the salvage yard by a variety of ship preservationists who refused to let her die. The story of Elissa's discovery and restoration by the Galveston Historical Foundation is nothing short of miraculous.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Title: Author focuses on Elissa, people behind ship

Author: Mark Lardas

Publisher: The Daily News

Date: 11/15/09

One of Galveston's jewels is the barque Elissa, a three-masted tall ship built in the 19th century, the ship has been on display for so long -- 27 years -- it is easy to think she has been there forever.

Yet the ship found its Pier 21 berth in Galveston's harbor only after a series of adventures that nearly ended its existence.

The story of Elissa's discovery, purchase and restoration is worth reading about, as is its prior history.

Kurt Voss, the former director of the Texas Seaport Museum, tells the story in "Galveston's The Elissa: The Tall Ship of Texas."

The book is only 124 pages, but it is as comprehensive a history as can be found.

Voss starts from the Elissa's construction in 1877 and follows it forward to the present -- including adventures during Hurricane Ike.

It is copiously illustrated with 200 black and white photographs.

This includes many rare photographs of the Elissa's early years.

The chapters that discuss Elissa during the period when it was a working sailing ship are punctuated by pictures of the yard in which it was constructed, of the original owners, and of the Elissa itself.

Voss follows the ship's history after the original owner sold her during its years among Scandinavian owners.

He trails the ship through its numerous changes of owners, names and rig.

There is also a section about Elissa's nadir -- when as a motorship, it smuggled cigarettes into Italy.

There, it was discovered by a pair of sailing ship enthusiasts who recognized the tall ship hidden under the motorship.

This eventually led to the ship's preservation and restoration.

Ship enthusiasts will find the sections detailing the restoration of the ship fascinating.

All aspects of this work are covered and illustrated, from the initial repairs to the final rigging out of the ship.

After these are chapters on Elissa's career as a sailing museum ship.

This includes its trip to New York in 1986 as part of Operation Sail, through escorting USS Texas into Galveston for its 2006 commissioning ceremony.

This book should appeal to those with a casual interest in Elissa as well.

Voss focuses on the people behind the Elissa as much as on the ship itself.

Readers get to meet people as diverse as the family of Elissa's builder and first owner to the volunteers who help man the ship today.

"Galveston's The Elissa" is worth attention.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian and model-maker, lives in League City.

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Book Signing

Author Kurt D. Voss, the former director of the Texas Seaport Museum, will sign copies of his book, "Galveston's the Elissa: The Tall Ship of Texas," at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Texas Seaport Museum, 2200 Harborside, in Galveston.

Title: 'Elissa' author to sign books

Author: Staff Writer

Publisher: The Daily News

Date: 11/16/09

Author Kurt D. Voss, former director of the Galveston Historical Foundation's Texas Seaport Museum, will sign copies of his book "Galveston's the Elissa: The Tall Ship of Texas," at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Texas Seaport Museum, 2200 Harborside.

The reception includes a lecture by Voss and unveiling of a new Elissa photo exhibit at the museum.

"This book has been a labor of love," Voss said. "It tells a story about one of the most significant historic preservation efforts in Texas history. It's a story that needs to be passed from generation to generation of Texans."

The book recalls how, with painstaking care, dozens of craftsmen and hundreds of volunteers spent three years restoring Elissa after it was towed from Greece to Galveston in 1979.

For nearly three decades now, Elissa has been recognized as one of the finest maritime preservation projects in the world.

Officially named "The Tall Ship of Texas" by the Texas Legislature, Elissa is not a replica but a survivor.

For several days each year, the graceful ship can be seen under full sail from Galveston's beach front as a professional captain and a highly trained volunteer crew gives the 205-foot, three-masted ship a workout, at the same time affording sightseers a glimpse of what they would have seen along the Texas coast had they lived in the 19th century.

In addition to a description of Elissa's use as a cigarette smuggling ship, highlights of Voss's book include:

• The story of Elissa's original owner, Henry Fowler Watt, who, on his last voyage as owner, accused the ship's first mate of mutiny and shot him.

• Descriptions of Elissa's trips around Cape Horn, at the Southern tip of South America (at least twice), widely considered to be the world's most dangerous sailing journey.

• Explains how the Elissa still is kept in sailing condition, trips it has made to Corpus Christi, New York and other ports, and how the ship makes a series of day sails into the Gulf of Mexico offshore of Galveston each year.

"Galveston's The Elissa: The Tall Ship of Texas," is published by Arcadia Publishing in partnership with Galveston Historical Foundation.

It is available online at galvestonhistory.

The 128-page softcover book, part of Arcadia's Images of America Series, is $21.99.

All author royalties from the sale of the book will be donated to the Galveston Historical Foundation and used for the Elissa's continued preservation.

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At A Glance

WHAT: Kurt D. Voss' book signing of "Galveston's the Elissa: The Tall Ship of Texas"

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Texas Seaport Museum, 2200 Harborside, in Galveston

ON THE WEB: arcadiapublishing.com and galvestonhistory

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780738578552
Publisher:
Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date:
11/04/2009
Series:
Images of America Series
Pages:
128
Sales rank:
1,159,811
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.31(d)

Meet the Author


Kurt Voss has been associated with the Elissa since 1980, first as a volunteer foreman during the ship's restoration and then as director of the Texas Seaport Museum from 1994 to 2007. One of his proudest accomplishments was helping to establish the Elissa volunteer program, considered by many to be one of the best in the country. His history with the vessel provided access to photographs from a number of collections, and many of the images have never been published. His sources include the Galveston Historical Foundation archives, descendants of the ship's former owners and captains, and individuals associated with the ship from her restoration to the present.

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