The Elissa was launched in 1877 from Aberdeen, Scotland when sailing ships were in decline but could still earn a profit in the right trades. As a three-masted, iron-hulled barque, she carries square sails on her fore and
main masts, but only fore- and aft- sails, those parallel to the keel, on her mizzen masts. Her nineteen sails have more than a quarter-acre of total surface. Displacing 620 tons, she is 205 feet in overall length, and ninety-nine feet nine inches in height from the keel to the top of her mainmast. According to the descendants of Elissa’s builder, Henry Fowler Watt, she was named for the Queen of Carthage. Elissa has also sailed under Swedish and
Norwegian flags. In Sweden, she was known as Gustav of Gothenburg, and in Norway, her name was the Fjeld of Tønsberg. She was later sold to Finland in 1930, and converted into a schooner. In 1959, she was sold to
Greece, and sailed under the names Christophoros (1967), Achaeos (1969), and Pioneer (1970).
She had a ninety-year commercial history carrying a variety of cargo to ports around the world. Found in Greece during the 1960s at a salvage yard, she was later purchased by the Galveston Historical Foundation in 1974, where she was completely restored and is now a fully-functional vessel continuing to sail annually during sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico. Elissa made her first sailing voyage as a restored vessel in 1985, traveling to Corpus Christi, TX. The next year, she sailed to New York City to participate in the Statue of Liberty’s centennial celebrations.
By: Charlie Cozewith, Docent
Excerpt from The Anchor Newsletter, March, 2014.