The Elissa is Galveston's very own tall ship. She is a three-masted sailing ship built in Scotland and launched in October of 1877. Still sailing, Elissa is one of only three pre-1900 sailing ships that still goes to sea.
Most of today's tall ships are replicas, but Elissa is of the era. She has sailed as a merchant ship under a number of flags, including England, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Greece. She was rescued from a Greek salvage yard in 1975 by the Galveston Historic Foundation and took her first voyage as a restored ship in 1985.
The Elissa has an annual seamanship and sail training program, sails regularly, and participates in the Tall Ships America challenges.
The parade of ships down the coastline of the city is one of the highlight events of the festival. The Galveston Seawall was packed with folks waiting to see the marvelous vessels. Thursday was a dreary day with an overcast sky and relatively low visibility. Since several of the ships had to sail about one-half mile off shore to be in deep enough water, the combination of the distance and the visibility issues made photos a bit challenging during their parade.
The ships listed below are the ones in the photos. For one reason or another I did not get photos of the Picton Castle and the When and If.
- Elissa – An iron-hulled merchant ship built in 1877.
- Lynx – Built in 2001 based on the schooner Lynx, a privateer which served in the War of 1812.
- Oliver Hazard Perry – Completed in 2016, it is the first full-rigged ocean going ship built in the U.S. in over 100 years.
- Oosterschelde – A three-masted topsail schooner, the ship is the last remaining schooner that sailed under the Dutch flag at the beginning of the 20th century. It is the largest restored Dutch sailing ship.
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I'm damned if I see how the helican!
– Dixon Lanier Merritt, 1910
The pelican is indeed wonderful – especially the Brown Pelican which has come back from the brink of extinction. The brown pelican was placed on the endangered species list in 1970, a victim of DDT which caused its eggs to have thin, delicate shells that could not survive incubation. In the early 1970s there were fewer than 100 of the birds on the Texas coast.
Today they are back! This photo shows only a portion of a large pod – in the air they are called a squadron – settled at the very eastern end of Galveston Island. There must have been several thousand birds here.