Sailing the Elissa 4K
Dave and Patrica get rescheduled to sail on the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa. They were able to get two of the limited number of ELISSA day sail spots on board as a sail training student. As a sail training student, participants will experience what life was like as a 19th-century sailor. The program includes both hands-on and lecture learning, focusing on setting sails and maneuvering the 144-year-old ship through the Gulf of Mexico. Come with us on this journey through the past and experience a piece of history.
Galveston Historical Foundation brought ELISSA, an 1877 square-rigged iron barque, from a scrap yard in Piraeus Harbor, Greece to Galveston to begin restoration work in 1978. By 1982, GHF staff and volunteers completed restoration and transformed this rare, historic vessel into a floating museum that would actively sail. Today, ELISSA is one of only three ships of her kind in the world to still actively sail and welcomes over 40,000 visitors annually. She also serves as the Official Tall Ship of Texas, a National Historic Landmark and a symbol of the Gulf Coast’s historic beginnings as a sea port and active waterfront.
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, 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.
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. 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.
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.