Slavery, piracy and a hanging: the unforgettable tale of The Flying Cloud

This mighty and horrifying ballad is packed with journeys: first, the butcher’s boy runs away to sea and sails to Bermuda; second the young lad joins a brutal get rich quick slaving voyage to Africa and Cuba; third he becomes a merciless pirate and sails for the Spanish Main; and fourth he is captured and taken to London to be tried and hung on the gallows.

And I suppose the fifth is a mental and spiritual journey in which this adventurer becomes contrite, and bitterly wishes he’d never done any of it.

I guess all of this may well have happened in some genuine cases, but I suspect this ballad was written in a later era, and packed with adventure in order to sell printed ballad sheetsy. The earliest date it was collected as a song was in 1906.

Restored Cuban fishing boat was used by refugees fleeing to Florida

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Fishing boat used by Cuban refugees restored

Fishing boat used by Cuban refugees restored Restored fishing boat used by Cuban refugees Restored Cuban fishing boat used by refugees

Esperanza, the day she was relaunched and at earlier stages in her restoration

It’s been a great few days for people sending me photographs, and here are some more. If any of you happen to have any stories to tell and photographs to share, please send them in!

Robin Marshall, a supporter of the Florida Gulf Coast Maritime Museum sent us these photos of a little flat-bottomed fishing boat that someone had used to sail from Cuba to the USA.

I’ve tried imagining what it must have been like so far from land in such a small boat – a flatiron skiff so small and limited in terms of seaworthiness that most of us wouldn’t sail more than a mile or two out in it, let alone the 90-plus these this brave crew must have covered.

It was all years ago, so I hope the weather was good and that what they thought they wanted really was what they wanted after all!

Here’s what Robin has to say:

‘Hi Gavin.

‘I thought you might be interested in an unusual restoration.

‘Our local maritime museum the Florida Gulf Coast Maritime Museum in Cortez took on this project – the remains of a Cuban refugee fishing boat.

‘It had been left to rot in someones yard down in southern Florida and was almost rotted away.

‘Under the guidance of Bob Pitt, who is in charge of the workshop, the museum restored her using as much as possible of her original timbers. She was re-launched this weekend at our annual wooden boat festival.

‘Robin Marshall a member of the museum’

Many thanks Robin!

For more on boat restoration in the area, check this lot: Great Florida Gulf Coast Traditional Small Craft Assn

For more on flatiron skiffs and a whole range of other North American boat types, I recommend the classic work by Howard Irving Chappelle, Small American Sailing Craft. For material on building them try The Sharpie Book.