figureheadAmong the foremost icons of the 19th century were the clipper ships. They were built to carry high value cargo over great distances with speed. The most famous designer of these ships was Donald McKay, a Canadian-born American. Mc Kay designed and built clipper ships begining in the 1850s. The Glory of the Seas was to be his finest effort. He bet all his personal assets to build the ship on speculation. The Glory of the Seas was launched in 1869; on her maiden voyage she made a record run of 94 days from New York to San Francisco. Her arrival there was a great event. She was admired for the sumptuousness of her craftsmanship. Unfortunately, word of the instability of McKay's financial condition preceded the vessel, and McKay was compelled to sell the ship in San Francisco. McKay never financially recovered. She made ocean voyages until the last years of the 19th century. She was then put into the coast-wise lumber and coal trade. In the early part of the 20th century she was laid up and subsequently used as a floating cannery and finally as a storage hulk. She was burned for her metal south of Brace Point in Seattle in 1923.

I'm Pat Ford; I've done boat restoration for about 30 years. I also do video production; I've wanted to find the last daysremains of the ship and videotape it. The late esteemed Seattle boatwright, Frank Prothero, was at the burning of the Glory of the Seas as a boy in the 20s. I had a nodding acquaintance with Frank as did most of the younger generation of boatwrights around Lake Union. To expiate his sin of destroying the famous vessel, one supposes, he named his final boat the schooner Glory of the Seas.

Several years ago I read an article in the local newspaper that discussed the remains of the ship. At each year's extreme low tides, these vestiges are barely visible. I took a trip to find that site in 2004, but only found the general location. This year, with the aid of Michael Jay Mjelde, author of the book Glory of the Seas, I was able to find the remains.The hull was visible for the last time about forty years ago. Now the bottom of the hull lies buried beneath a few feet of sand. A clump of rusting iron fittings are visible; sometimes additional iron fittings boil up from beneath the sand. I did a brief video of the ship's site; you can view it below.


last days

I am not interested in the ship because I am a "tallship" enthusiast. Frankly, these people make me a bit twitchy. Being a boat restorer makes me understand that however great our skills and no matter how much effort and money are put into a boat, all that money and effort can be erased easily by the hand of time. Lew Barrett, an owner of a notable Seattle classic boat recently wrote, "Wooden boats are about moments in time, and are a tremendous teacher of the salient facts that in this world, there is no perfection, and equally, that everything is in a constant state of flux."

And perhaps ultimately this is a meditation on the human condition.

The site of the remains of Glory of the Seas. Summer 2006.

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My thanks to Michael Jay Mjelde, author of the book Glory of the Seas and to the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society for their assistance.
Any errors are not theirs but mine; I would appreciate any corrections.

From Mystic Seaport Store review of Glory of the Seas:
" When Glory of the Seas was first published in 1970 it became the first title in the Mystic Seaport's American Martime Library series. Out of print for some years, this important book is now back in a second edition published by the Glencannon Press. Donald Mckay's last great clipper ship Glory was launched in 1869 and spent the next 40 years making record runs from New York to San Francisco and from California to Australia, among other voyages and adventures. In her final decade she hauled coal on the Pacific Coast and served for a time as a floating fish cannery before being burned for her metal. Michael Jay Mjelde tells her story with grace and detail, and gives special emphasis to her people, from fo'c'sle hands to hard-driving Masters.
7 ½" x 10 ½", 303 pages, 54 illustrations, appendices, index, bibliography, cloth binding"

There are substantial resources online on the ship and Donald McKay.
Contact me.