For Year 2001 Information on Sea Witch, Please See

=== Below is Melbourne Smith's 1997 Presentation ===

Project Sea Witch

Melbourne Smith, President, IHWS

Interested parties should contact::
P 0 Box 54, Annapolis, MD 21404
410 544-2591
Fax 410 544-2698

Click here to see Sea Witch


The American Clipper Trust intends to recreate the American clipper ship Sea Witch, the first of nearly 500 sailing vessels of distinctly American design that eclipsed the great age of sail in the mid-1800s. Samuel Eliot Morison wrote, "Never in these United States has the brain of man conceived, or the hand of man fashioned, so perfect a thing as the clipper ship. In her, the long-suppressed artistic impulse of a practical, hard-working race burst into flower." Not one of these remarkable sailing vessels has survived or for that matter even been looked upon by anyone living today. Project Sea Witch will bring back to life that great maritime heritage that until now has been confined to the printed page and the painted canvas.

The mission of Project Sea Witch
is to research, recreate, and demonstrate
an authentic American clipper ship
for education, exhibition, good will, and commerce,
that will be self-sustaining as a permanent testament
to American maritime history.

The principal parties supporting the project are the American Clipper Trust (ACT), National Maritime Historical Society (NMHS), International Historical Watercraft Society (IHWS), and Sea Witch Trading Company.

The California Gold Discovery to Statehood Sesquicentennial Commission has formally endorsed Project Sea Witch as an approved activity for their three-year state celebrations. The City of Key West, Florida has offered their support for the two-year construction period.

American Clipper Trust, a not-for-profit corporation, is the primary sponsor of Project Sea Witch. ACT will fund the construction with the assistance of Sea Witch Trading Company, contract for ship building, and management services of IHWS, and cooperate on a continuing basis for maritime supporting activities with NMHS. It is proposed that Sea Witch be built in Key West, Florida at the Truman Annex facilities provided by the City of Key West. Upon completion Sea Witch will be commissioned in New York, the city where she and other clippers were first conceived. This will begin a spectacular voyage that will take her around Cape Horn to participate in California's sesquicentennial celebrations, a Pacific Rim tour, and a circumnavigation voyage to other countries.

Sea Witch is to be constructed in an historically accurate manner true to the original ship. She will be an acknowledged replication of the artifact in full compliance with National Historic Trust guidelines. Consistent with her heritage and to generate maximum public interest, Sea Witch will be a true wooden sailing vessel and without mechanical propulsion. The project will limit her sailing career to five years to realize the greatest potential impact and earnings with the least financial risk. When the sailing phase is completed, ACT will arrange a permanent exhibit out of the water in a glass enclosed environment encasing the fully rigged ship. The purpose is to create a long lived and stable display of an true American clipper ship for the public to experience and that scholars, historians, and archaeologists can appreciate for generations to come.

The cost of building and management of Sea Witch for the initial two year construction period, the five years of sailing operations, and the time to place the vessel on permanent display, is projected at $30 million. The potential for gross revenues during the same period are estimated to be $60 million. In addition, there are tax credits available as well as tax benefits to certain individual and corporate participants. As an investment and cost effective public/private venture, the project is a very attractive investment for discerning investment groups and/or public development groups.

Interested parties should contact::
P 0 Box 54, Annapolis, MD 21404
410 544-2591
Fax 410 544-2698


With the extraordinary opportunity to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the discovery of gold in California 1998, the gold rush in 1999, and California's statehood following in the year 2000, we are pleased to introduce a program for the nation to have one of the finest of sailing vessels from a class conceived and built only in America and never matched in their swiftness and perfection.

1 September 1996

American Clipper Trust
National Maritime Historical Society
International Historical Watercraft Society
Sea Witch Trading Company


SEA WITCH by Richard Linton
2 THE VISION Part 1 The Building
Part 2 Ship Operations
Part 3 The Ship Enshrined


The days of the celebrated clipper ships, China tea races, and the great California Gold Rush, represent the most exciting period in the 500-year history of sail. During this era, young America was without equal on the high seas. For a brief period beginning in 1846, America led the world in sailing ship design and seamanship. The first ships of this distinctly American refinement appeared in the shipyards on the East River of New York and quickly became known for their swiftness and beauty. Immediately they began breaking every existing sailing record. This was a truly significant time in America's maritime history.

The clipper ship Sea Witch was launched from lower Manhattan in 1846, destined to amaze the world with her accomplishments. On her first voyage to China in 1847, she sailed home laden with tea and arrived in New York harbor after only 77 days at sea. Two years later she covered the same course in under 75 days! Both passages set records that have never been equaled by any other sailing vessel even to this day.

Click here to see Track of the Tea Clippers.

Sea Witch was one of the very first of nearly 500 vessels built to the ingenious American design. While no two were ever alike, their graceful lines and fleetness have never been matched. When gold was discovered in California in 1848, it was the clippers that raced the miners and their supplies to the West Coast. "The number of vessels entering the harbor is really a matter of wonder." wrote the Pacific Daily News. "Within forty-eight hours . . . nearly sixty sail ships entered the Golden Gate. The history of the world presents no comparison." At that time, America's maritime commerce was unsurpassed.

1850 saw California become the 31st state. That same year, Sea Witch, carrying supplies from New York, rounded Cape Horn to arrive in San Francisco, the first to do so in under 100 days. In establishing this new record, she completed the passage in half the average time then taken to sail from the Fast Coast to California in conventional vessels.

Samuel Eliot Morison wrote, "Never in these United States has the brain of man conceived, or the hand of man fashioned, so perfect a thing as the clipper ship. In her, the long-suppressed artistic impulse of a practical, hard-working race burst into flower." Not one of these remarkable sailing vessels has survived or for that matter even been looked upon by anyone living today. Project Sea Witch will bring back to life that great maritime heritage that until now has been confined to the printed page and the painted canvas.

1996 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of this glorious age of ingenuity and craftsmanship. This time in American history stands as a reminder of our rich maritime past. It is appropriate that the sesquicentennial of this series of extraordinary events be recognized and celebrated in a way that will live for generations to come.

And where from the ashes of history should this phoenix rise up but in the country of her birth to be the only truly American full-rigged sailing ship in existence. Sea Witch redivival.


Imagine the commissioning of a real American clipper ship on the Hudson River, the West Side of Manhattan. Hundreds of small craft crowd the shore line. Tall ships are anchored just beyond the end of the piers and plumes of water fill the air from the harbor fireboats. An excited crowd of thousands, many of them school children bused to the waterfront for the historic educational event, hear the Archbishop's blessing and wait for the First Lady to christen the ship with a decorated magnum of the best California champagne. When the bottle bursts on the bow, the Kings Point Merchant Marine Band strikes up "God Bless America."

The official ceremonies completed, the commissioning pennant and the national ensign are hoisted to the deafening sounds of cheers, ships horns, church bells, cannon, and sirens. The dramatic service for a full-rigged American ship, the only one to be built in this century, marks the end of almost two years of a public exhibition of historic wooden ship construction just completed in Key West, Florida.

The building program began with a simple ceremony with California s governor officiating in the laying of a massive timber for the keel. From that beginning, the curved frame timbers rose up one by one as scores of spectators visited the site each day to be informed by the trained guides on the techniques and progress of the construction. The public observed the many skills in practice as the shipwrights, carpenters, caulkers, and apprentices slowly constructed the graceful hull. The crowd enjoyed watching the shipsmiths forge the myriad of iron fastenings and the riggers fashioning the miles of hempen rope. Pride was seen in the eyes of the young apprentices, many of whom were chosen from the inner city's youth. The gem of America's maritime past grew each day from the spent wood chips on the grounds of the former naval base. The ship under lights at night was clearly visible to the throngs of visitors to the Florida Keys.

Click here to see a ship under construction.

Camera crews visited the construction site each day. Dignitaries, politicians, and maritime scholars officiated at each building step. A week before launching San Franciso' s mayor was called upon to unveil the large carved and gilded Chinese dragon figurehead. The building was documented from beginning to end by video cameras and shown in homes and classrooms across the country. Writers and photographers chronicled the traditional building methods for picture books and scholarly texts.

An official US Post Office on the building site attracted many visitors. The Sea Witch is under contract with the US Postal Service and letters mailed on the site are being carried aboard the ship. Sea mail letters of philatelic value will be delivered only after they have completed a circumnavigation or the passage from New York to San Francisco by way of Cape Horn to commemorate the 1849 California Gold Rush. Envelopes will be validated at various ports en route and stamped as official sea mail aboard the Sea Witch. Children have the unique opportunity to purchase individual pre-stamped "Letters of Friend Ship" that will be delivered to other children in designated ports of call. Mail for the ship to carry arrives daily from other state and foreign countries as well. A special commemorative clipper ship stamp is requested of the US Postal Service to mark the historic occasion.

It could happen only in America. The identical clipper ship replicated exactly 150 years later. And handsomely carved and beautifully gilded on her graceful transom gleam four simple words:


for all America to cherish and the world to admire.


The sea career for the replicated clipper ship Sea Witch begins just a few month after her launching. She is brought to one on the restored piers on the Hudson River waterfront park where a concert and a formal ball is held on board for her sponsors. Then, amid great fanfare, she is opened to the public by the Governor of New York. Certainly no one in attendance has seen such a splendid specimen of uniquely American naval architecture with the symmetry of masts and spars. For the last great clipper had departed New York before the Civil War.

The magnificent Victorian cabin furnishings awe and please her many guests and thousands of curious visitors each day. The skylights are brass bound with etched glass panels as was the custom in her day. The grand saloon, aptly named the "China Cabin," is a Victorian marvel as only could be found in America. Gilded pilasters, palatial mahogany paneling, richly carved marble-top sideboards, plush sofas, polished brass lamps, a grand staircase, china and crystal etched with the ship's insignia, oriental rugs, leather inlaid table, and even a beautifully restored pianoforte, grace the saloon. Each of the eight staterooms is suitably furnished with two single berths, a porcelain chamber pot, and a period dressing table. A separate water closet boasts a copper bathtub. Everything is exactly as it would have been found on American ships offering first-class accommodations in the mid-1800s.

The large midship cargo hold is transformed into an exhibition hall. A display from the Smithsonian Institution Postal Museum in Washington, DC depicts the maritime history of the US Postal Service. It was created for the Sea Witch in conjunction with her "Official United States Mail Ship" status. After a month at the pier, the vessel departs New York bound for other East Coast ports. The tall ship with her postal exhibit draws thousands of visitors, both young and old alike in the many cities on her scheduled East Coast tour.

Sea Witch is a working ship and her itinerary is planned so that she will support herself during her career. Under contract with the Postal Service, the deckhouse becomes an unusual post office when the ship is open to the public. The commemorative mail, special issue stamps, and first-day covers, are rare collectors' items. The unique "Letters of FriendShip" appeal to school children because the great clipper ship's deck on which they are standing will actually deliver their personal letters to students in other countries. This special postal service will continue on board in all domestic and foreign ports of call.

Click here to see her underway.

The principal ocean passages include retracing the original Cape Horn gold rush route to California and a tour of West Coast cities. The Sea Witch will visit San Francisco for the century year 2000 and sesquicentennial celebration of California's statehood.

There is also an invitation to join the Op-Sail fleet on a tour of Europe. One English port call is certain. Sea Witch will venture up the Thames River to Greenwich to visit the static displayed Cutty Sark. The British clipper is the last in existence and was built nearly a generation after the first American clipper, and never able to better the sailing records already established by the swifter American fleet.

Imagine Sea Witch anchored in the Pearl River of China during the Canton World Trade Fair. The opportunities are boundless in many world ports for American business interests. An invitation to board the full-rigged clipper ship or dine in her beautiful saloon could not be ignored by important state officials or businessmen. Sea Witch will be a roving ambassador extraordinaire of good will, by improving foreign relations and promoting new trade for America.


The sea career of Sea Witch will end after visiting many of the world's major ports. After five years, she has become one of the best known sailing ships of all time. Her distinct American design and historical accuracy will win her the claim as the most beautiful ship to sail into the 21st century. More importantly however, Americans have demonstrated that this supreme class of clippers was without parallel in the history of sail. The Sea Witch anew will be an accomplishment not to be denied, convincingly validated for all time.

Click here to see the ship enshrined.

Sea Witch will be retired to her well earned place in history in a manner afforded no other vessel. Her builder proposes that she be placed ashore on the outward facade of a building, one yet to be built or adapted for this purpose. Rigged and set on her keel, the truck of the royal mast will rise seventeen floors on a length of 270 feet by 50 foot breadth. The vessel shown with her sails set within a metal framework fitted with glass panels, will be protected indefinitely for future generations to study and the world to admire.

Imagine now, the rigged clipper ship, the crowning jewel of a 500 year history of sail, boldly displayed on the waterfront of San Francisco Bay. The view from within the building would look out from each floor towards the water through the ship's spars and rigging. Elevators give the same view to passengers as they move between floors.

In the building, the mezzanine floor would have a direct access much like a boarding gangplank to the deck of the clipper where refreshments and perhaps lunch could be served. The ship in this glass enclosure becomes the foyer for the building. The cost for this may be underwritten from art set-aside funds as required in public buildings.

Now envision the vessel lit up at night on the metropolitan waterfront. The sight from passing ships or from across San Francisco Bay would be spectacular indeed. A grand monument to American ingenuity and maritime pride, born and bred in New York, once the swiftest link with China and ending in a blaze of glory through the Golden Gate.

Click here to see the ship on display.


FIRST: The scientific and historic worth of the project shall be foremost. When an artifact no longer exists, an experiential approach to maritime archaeology is the only alternative. This scholarly procedure is in three phases. The beginning stage in this case where a sailing ship no longer survives, is a comprehensive study to establish all the factual characteristics of the American clipper ship. The next step is the reconstruction of the actual ship in its original form. The final and most important part is that of function whereupon the vessel is deployed and studied in its original environment.

SECOND: Education is next in importance to disseminate what has been learned. The work is intended to satisfy the most demanding maritime history scholars. Special efforts will be directed to involve youth in the many related skills of design, construction, operation, and maintenance of an authentically re-created American clipper ship.

THIRD: The exhibition of the ship will involve the greatest number of people possible in both the United States and foreign ports. Beyond research, construction, and function, is a hands-on participation of the public to visit and explore an incomparable American enterprise.

FOURTH: The emergence of the clipper ship paralleled the United States Post Office expansion in world communications through a congressional act in 1845 to assure the young nation's destiny on the high seas. The one service common to every world port was the delivery of letters and dispatch of documents. To interest and attract the greatest number of people to the vessel, Sea Witch will carry children's Letters of Friend-Ship, commemorative mail, and special cachets. In a companion role to the postal function the ship will publicly display a world-class on board exhibition of the history of American sea mail, ship stamps, and related postal paraphernalia.

FIFTH: The American clipper ship is the apex in the history of sail and Project Sea Witch has been envisioned to become a tangible reminder of America's outstanding seafaring successes. And just as her illustrious predecessors, Sea Witch will be privately organized and funded.

SIXTH: The ship will be made available for the promotion of American commerce, good will, trade for American business leaders and for participating representatives of the state and federal governments.

SEVENTH: Upon the completion of her stated mission, the vessel will be permanently enshrined as a monument to that great age of sail when we knew no equal on the oceans of the world. Alexander Laing pointed out in his book The Sea Witch, "When calling her the finest of clippers, I am guided likewise by the fact that several larger ships were built specifically to beat her, none of which was able to do so..." Among her many achievements are two unmatched sailing ship records home with tea from China followed by another astounding record-breaking passage from New York to San Francisco Bay just seven weeks before California became the thirty-first state td join the Union in 1850.

silouette of the ship.

". . . they were monuments carved from snow. For a brief moment of time, they flashed their splendor around the world, then disappeared with the sudden completeness of a wild pigeon. One by one they sailed out. . . to return no more. A tragic or mysterious end was the privilege of many ships favored by the gods. Others, with lofty rig cut down to cautious dimensions and topsides scarred and neglected, limped upon the seas under foreign flags, like faded beauties forced upon the streets.

"The master builders reluctant to raise barnyard fowl where once they had reared eagles, dropped off one by one."

Samuel Eliot Morison


Project Sea Witch is organized to be self-supporting and to repay the original investment in cash or in service. To accomplish this, twelve different marketing programs are identified as dependable income producing sources that will heighten both public and private interest and give life and purpose to the project.


Letters of friend ship written by American school children and posted in pre-stamped envelopes will be delivered to foreign children in one of the designated calling ports around the world. Each letter will carry the sender's name and address with an invitation for reply. These envelopes may be offered for sale in post offices, on the building site, and on board in all American ports of call.

Click here to see sample letters.


Commemorative philatelic envelopes with a special issue stamp hand stamped aboard the ship will be carried on the circumnavigation or on the California Gold Rush passage . Envelopes will be stamped with a distinctive mark designating the principal ports and times of arrival in rounding Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope. The letters may be delivered en-route or returned to the US Postal Service for delivery. Special cachets may be offered for sale at post offices, at the construction site, and on board the vessel in American and all foreign ports of call.


Guided tours will be offered at the construction site and on board the ship. Admission to the building site and on board will be free to children upon the purchase of a Friend Ship Letter. Admission to children in foreign ports will be free and each will receive a Friend Ship Letter from America. Adults visiting the site or on board in ports of call will be charged an admission fee. All visitors may visit the philatelic maritime exhibition and the ship's post office. Tour groups and private parties will be coordinated by reservation.


Membership in the <Sea Witch Officers Club> of the National Maritime Historical Society will be offered at the ship construction site and during the American and foreign port tours. Members will be granted certain privileges including Sea History magazine and a catalog of the various trade and postal items being offered for sale.


Film, television, and publishing rights will be negotiated for each media form. Particular attention will be given to educational use. Accommodations in the staterooms and shipboard facilities will be available on the same basis as research charters.


A post office and gift shop will be opened at the construction site and on board the ship for the sale of stamps, postcards, T-shirts, and a limited variety of quality souvenirs and mementos.


Use of the official <Sea Witch logo will be offered for a limited number of prestigious items.


The grand saloon will be available for government, corporate, or private use for business entertainment in American and foreign ports. Affairs will be limited to trade negotiations and public relations.


The ship s accommodations include eight furnished double staterooms and they will be available for overnight accommodation and breakfast in any of the American and world ports of call by reservation.


The vessel is allowed to carry up to twelve passengers between ports. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a passage on a clipper ship will have all the amenities and ambiance of the mid-l9th century.


Personnel having business with the ship or the cargo will be carried in addition to passengers at sea. This would include those engaged in research, documentation, photographing, filming, trade goods, and business representatives with promotional goods on board.


Cargoes in token amounts may be carried on board for introductory or publicity purpose. Such items will be those items under license and may include commemorative china, fashion apparel, crystal decanters, canisters of tea or spices, and products identified with the ship.


It is important for a venture of this kind to have a clearly defined conclusion to insure there is no further liability or continuing cost to all those associated with the project. This is necessary for the success of the project. For Sea Witch it is accordingly proposed that upon completion of her five-year service, the vessel will be retired and transferred to an independent entity so that she might be exhibited on a permanent basis, preferably in the San Francisco area. The ultimate evaluation of the vessel as a public attraction after completion of the world tour is open to speculation. It is expected that with national and international acclaim of the project and recognition of the name <Sea Witch, the worth of the ship will be greatly enhanced by the year 2002.


Register 170'3" x 33'll" x 19'O"
Construction Wood 
Rig Ship
Length on Deck l78.lft 
Waterline  165.0 ft
Beam Molded 33.0 ft
Depth Molded 21.5 ft
Draft Loaded 16.5 ft
Displacement 1110.9 tons 
Sail Area 19007.0 sq ft

It is the proven track-record of a consistent on-budget and ahead-of-schedule reputation of the project director in building historic sailing vessels that makes this project possible. The builder has been aptly recognized in a feature article in WoodenBoat magazine"as, . . . indeed, the captain of the industry . . . is Melbourne Smith." Captain Smith is President of the International Historical Watercraft Society Inc. With this expertise, the time schedule and the projected building costs for the clipper Sea Witch are held to be reliable.

The time required for construction, launching, and outfitting is 21 months on the Key West site with two months advance time to prepare the yard. For reasons of publicity it would be advantageous for this event to coincide with the ship's 150th anniversary year 1996.

Total cost for the ship fully found and ready for sea is quoted at a fixed price of $15 million in 1996 dollars. This bid is favorably justified as being approximately $13,500 per displacement ton.


In 1988, New York's governor and the mayor of New York City established the West Side Waterfront Panel with the purpose of developing a plan for the design and financing of a waterfront esplanade on Manhattan's West Side. Their report was completed and presented in November 1990.

The Hudson River Park Conservancy was founded to carry out the mandate for the park to become a reality. Support for the creation of the park has been remarkable. After years of debate, there is now a consensus on the West Side of Manhattan. The objectives are to encourage uses along the river that will complement the park by bringing life, energy, and security to the water's edge.

The Hudson River Waterfront Park will be the largest and most important new open space created in New York City in the last half century. The park will stretch like a band of green along the water's edge between 59th Street and Battery Park City reaching out on 13 public recreation piers for a medley of uses and experiences. Including the river areas between the piers, it encompasses 550 acres. Active places along the waterfront will include a 4.5 mile bicycle and pedestrian path, historic exhibits, a community sailing facility, an ecological research station, ferry terminals, tour boats, marinas, restaurants, and limited commercial uses, all intended to add variety and life in making this one of the world's most vibrant, accessible urban park shorelines.

The commissioning of a great American clipper ship on one of the park piers is supported by the Hudson River Park Conservancy. The rebirth of this exemplar sailing vessel will become a bold and enduring symbol for the New York city and the nation. Furthermore, it has been proposed that the home port of New York remain with the vessel throughout her life at sea and when enshrined in San Francisco to salute the port that gave birth to the American clipper ship phenomena.


California will commemorate its 150th anniversary of gold discovery in 1848-1998, the great Gold Rush in 1849-1999, and statehood in 1850-2000. Nicknamed "The Golden State" because of the remarkable prosperity coming with the gold discovery, the promise of wealth brought the adventurous of all nations, first by the hundreds and then by the tens of thousands as word of the discovery spread. Sailing ship were soon fighting their way around Cape Horn laden with prospectors and supplies. Just two years later on the 9th of September 1850, California became the 31st state to be admitted to the Union.

Project Sea Witch will focus on the Gold Rush in 1999 to celebrate the convergence of California's ethnic heritage and cultural diversity. Re-enactments of the rush of goods and humanity to the state will include wagon trains rolling over the Sierra Nevada and tall ships from Europe, South America, and Asia. And to further highlight the greatest sea migration of all time, the replica of the clipper ship Sea Witch will retrace the original route of her record-breaking passage from New York. Sea Witch will enter the waters of San Francisco Bay through the Golden Gate just as her predecessor did a century and a half earlier,

By executive order W-74-94, the Governor has enjoined a California Gold Discovery to Statehood Sesquicentennial (CGDSS) Commission to develop and coordinate the three-year celebration. Cal-l50 has been organized as the catalyst and clearing house supporting the commission in planning and implementing the Executive Order. CAL-150 will provide the leadership for the statewide commemoration program.

Project Sea Witch has been approved by the CGDSS Commission as an approved sesquicentennial activity. As such, the ship will operate under the banner of the Commission and is granted use of the CGDSS logo and will be an official part of the anniversary celebrations.


The building and sailing of the famous American clipper Sea Witch to over thirty American and foreign ports is a program developed under the aegis of the National Maritime Historical Society and the vision of its director, Peter Stanford. The Society was founded in 1963 to educate the American people in their rich and challenging legacy of seafaring. The Society publishes the distinguished quarterly magazine Sea History and the lively monthly digest of maritime heritage news Sea History Gazette to pursue its mission and keep the membership informed of all developments. Their publications include such standard works as the International Register of Historic Ships and the Guide to American and Canadian Maritime Museums.

The society works to save historic ships and support sea experience programs. Under the chairmanship of Society member Walter Cronkite the society sponsors the Maritime Education Initiative, designed to encourage development of effective school programs devoted to maritime heritage throughout the nation.

The Council of American Maritime Museums (1972), the American Society of Marine Artists (1977), the American Ship Trust (1978), the Hudson River Maritime Museum (1979), and the National Maritime Alliance (1987) are important national institutions founded under the Society's auspices and in which it plays a leading role today.

Project Sea Witch is a bold new venture for the Society in their goal of education and celebration of our American maritime culture. With the cooperation of the Hudson River Park Conservancy and the official approval California Sesquicentennial Commission, the building of the clipper Sea Witch in Key West and her commissioning in New York City will give the nation and the world this splendid jewel from the sailing ship days when America was indeed the 'sovereign of the seas' .


American Clipper Trust, a not-for-profit corporation, was founded in 1979 with the single purpose of researching, designing, building, and sailing a faithful replication of an American clipper ship. The Trust will own and operate Sea Witch as a documented American flag vessel.

ACT BOARD OF DIRECTORS during the research and design phase:

Allen C. Rawl, President 1979-90
Ronald E. Council, Secretary
Melbourne Smith. President 1991-
Anthony Sandberg, Treasurer

ACT ADVISORY BOARD that began the work in 1979:

Frank 0. Braynard, - American Merchant Marine Museum
George F. Campbell, - Royal Institute of Naval Architects
Frank G.G. Carr, - World Ship Trust
F. Briggs Dalzall, - South Street Seaport Museum
Anthony B. Gliedman, - Commissioner, New York City
Robert C. Hemery, - Canton World Trade Fair
Donald L. Herbert, - American Clipper Trust
Irving M. Johnson, - Sailing Master
Karl Kortum, - National Maritime Museum, San Francisco
Lance R. Lee, - Maine Maritime Museum Apprenticeshop
D. Kenneth Patton, - Real Estate Board of New York City
Richard L. Rath, - New York Pioneer Marine School
William M. Robinson, - Yachting Editor and Author
Peter Stanford, - National Maritime Historical Society
Eric J. Steinlein, - Historic American Merchant Marine Survey
Barclay Warburton III, - American Sail Training Association

The names of the new Directors of American Clipper Trust, including an Honorary National Chairman and Board of Advisors are now being summoned as the project enters the construction phase. This distinguished roster will be made available as soon as the list is complete.


The International Historical Watercraft Society was incorporated in 1975 to research, design, and build historic wooden sail vessels. They are a team of naval architects, shipwrights, shipsmiths, riggers, and caulkers, gathered from across America whenever called upon to further those skills from a bygone era. They have set up their yard wherever needed, on the waterfront in Baltimore, on the beach in San Diego, in the Old Towne of Sacramento, and on the shore of Lake Erie, eager to demonstrate the art of wooden shipbuilding.

In 1978, Peter Stanford, director of the National Maritime Historical Society commissioned Melbourne Smith to build an American clipper ship. Smith founded the American Clipper Trust to finance and construct the Sea Witch. This was truly a great challenge, but due to the magnitude of the project not one that could be instantly set in motion. At that time, Capt. Smith had just successfully completed a commission to build an authentic topsail clipper schooner for the city of Baltimore and the celebrations for the Bicentennial of the American Revolution. The vessel sailed for Bermuda with Capt. Smith in command just ten months after the keel was laid. After the launching of the Pride of Baltimore in 1977, the noted naval architect and author Tom Gillmer said, "I continually appreciate Melbourne s ability to understand the complexities of naval design. He's the only one I know who'd undertake a project of this size, and carry it off. He is a true shipbuilder."

Other sailing craft from the past were researched, designed, and built by Melbourne Smith and the International Historical Watercraft Society, such as the Californian, official tall ship for Golden State, and the US Brig Niagara, Commodore Perry s victorious flagship from the War of 1812. Niagara's hull was launched in 99 working days. All his contracts have been completed on-budget and ahead-of-schedule, an uncommon record with high-quality wooden ship construction.


The project begins with the construction of an American clipper ship in full public view in Trumem Annex, Key West, Florida. The ship, a faithful replication of the famed Sea Witch launched 150 years earlier, will set sail to retrace the '49 gold rush route in celebration of the sesquicentennial of California. She will visit over thirty domestic and foreign ports including Canton, Sydney, and London on a voyage of trade and good will. With an innovative five-year marketing plan and designated an official United States Mail Ship with valuable philatelic cargo, the vessel will potentially generate sufficient net earnings to pay her way and endow her future. The project ends in 2002 with the clipper ship permanently enshrined as an American national treasure.

Financial projections indicate full return of the initial investment in both cash and kind after fourteen months of operation and increasing many times over the five year period. The project's quintessential value lies in its unusual combination of beauty, science, and commerce; the very same ingredients that led to the birth of the original ships. It has academic value, historic importance, great public interest, and the ship is destined to enjoy enduring recognition and substantial returns far beyond the original investment on every level. The project has indeed every characteristic to make it an overwhelming success.

There are nine merchant sailing ships on display in
American museums and a single training bark under sail.
As comely as they all might be, serving as tributes to
their European makers, they are but paltry sisters
when likened to the clippers first conceived in America
and celebrated more for perfection and celerity
than all those that came before . . .or since.
Rediviva Sea Witch! Exemplar ship in the history of sail!


The choice of ship may best be summed up by author Alexander Laing when he wrote, "Nearly 400 American clippers were launched in the early '50s; but in 1857, the year following the loss of the Sea Witch, only ten left the ways; and the last one of all was launched in 1859. Thus the story of the Sea Witch is also that of the apex of sailing days."

The designer of Sea Witch was a naval architect who began lecturing in 1843 on his theory for greater speed under sail. New York shipbuilders Smith & Dimon decided in 1845 to let the young architect design a vessel for their account. The Rainbow was his first and she drew considerable criticism while under construction. Once launched however, Griffiths' ideas were so successful that the builders insisted on building another embodying Griffiths' premises a step further. Launched a year later, the Sea Witch proved to be a ship that for her size, broke more records than any before or since; and in company with other American clippers, set the majority of sailing records that stand to this day. Ship historian "Howard Chapelle noted that, "Sea Witch was Griffiths' masterpiece. . .

Every race horse must have a rider and for Sea Witch, her owners chose Robert H. Waterman, a daring Yankee captain with a reputation for speed in the China trade. Together, their first two passages home from China would never be equaled, even by ships of twice the size. Sea Witch is a supreme example of America's maritime accomplishments during the tea races and the gold rush era having all the necessary qualities in design and celebrity to meet the commitments stated in the Order of Priorities.

Fortunately, the design offsets, calculations, hull lines, and sail plan prepared by John Griffiths have survived. In addition, are five volumes written by the designer expounding his design theories and construction methods. This wealth of material allows the vessel to be replicated to a precise degree for an historic sailing ship of this great measure.

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Version 1.03, 7 Sep 2018