painting of bark Elissa by Axel Nelson
©2001 Axel Nelson

Elissa sailing under the Finnish flag 1929 - 1959

by Pehr Molander (1) & Staffan Storteir (@)


When the National Historic Landmark tall ship, the three-masted iron-hulled barque ELISSA, now also designated as one of “America’s Treasures”, was trading the Baltic and North Seas as m/aux GUSTAF of Sideby in command of Captain Harald Westerholm



Voyages and ports 1950-1955: London HullBragernesMäntyluotoDundeeKalmar

Interactive map of North Europe



United Kingdom 1877-1897 [ History of ELISSA , Texas Seaport Museum]

Norway (1897-1912), A/S Fjeld (Bugge & Olsen),Larvik. Renamed FJELD. Still rigged as a barque. In South American trades. In command of Captain H. Andersen.

Sweden (1912-1929), [ Sailing Ships:"Elissa" (1877) ] Renamed GUSTAF and for a short time ELISSA ELIASSON. In winter 1913-14 re-rigged to a barkentine. An oil-engine is installed in 1918.(2)

Åland Islands, Finland (1929-1942)

  • 1929 October 31 Gustaf is sold to Erik Nylund, Mariehamn, Åland, for SEK 23.000. Part-owner of the company Rederi Gustaf Ab is also the wellknown shipowner Gustaf Erikson from Mariehamn. During this period she gets a schooner rig and is converted to a motorship with a new engine installed in 1936. A new "Baltic" deckhouse and a bridge are built on the quarterdeck and the bow is snubbed

Finland (1942-1959)

  • 1942 January 13 m/aux Gustaf is sold to Oy P. Molander Ab, Björneborg Finland. She receives the number 439 in the ship register of Björneborg. Between 1942 and 1944 trading the Norwegian coast.
  • 1950 May 15 transferred to Oy Thelmita AB, Sideby. m/aux Gustaf of Sideby is trading the Baltic and North Seas with cargoes of mainly timber and pulpwood on export. E.g. in 1950 she makes 10 voyages of which 4 to ports abroad.
  • Voyages 1950 - 1955: London HullBragernesDundeeKalmar In command of Captain Harald Westerholm from Kaskö, Southern Ostrobothnia, Finland.
  • 1955 Sold to Birger Asén, Helsingfors.
  • 1956 Transferred to Rederi AB Gustaf (Hugo Boström), Helsingfors.

Greece 1959-1970 [ History of ELISSA , Texas Seaport Museum ] Renamed CHRISTOPHOROS in 1959, ACHAEOS in 1967, PIONEER in 1969

USA 1970- [ History of ELISSA , Texas Seaport Museum ]


Up 1877


Built in Aberdeen, Scotland


The iron-hulled barque Elissa was built by Alexander Hall & Co., Aberdeen, Scotland in 1877 as Yard No: 294 for Henry F. Watt, Liverpool. Her dimensions in ft-in.were 149'6" x 28'0" x 14'5" and tonnage 430 GRT. She was launched from the shipyard in october 1877.

Builders' plate of Elissa

The brass builders' plate

Elissa under the Finnish flag

Up 1929-1949


1929 September 25 sold to AB John Millars Eftr. (Ernst Ludvig Ramberg), Göteborg, for SEK 5.500.

1929 October 31 sold to Erik Nylund, Mariehamn, Åland, for SEK 23.000.

Bill of sale of Gustaf

Bill of sale



Gustaf is mentioned in a telegram from AB P. Molander Oy dated April 16, 1941. On January 13, 1942 sold to AB P. Molander Oy, Björneborg, Finland for FIM 2 600 000. The bill of sale is signed by Erik Nylund and Gustaf Erikson from the shipping company Gustaf at Åland and by E. Molander of P. Molander Oy.-Ab.(1)




fleet of Gustaf Erikson

Gustaf Erikson and his ships

Up Vasa, Finland July 1944

m/aux Gustaf at the Wärtsilä shipyard in Vasa in July 1944.

Gustaf in Vasa, Finland July 1944. Photo owned by Pehr Molander

Up 1950-1955

Oy Thelmita AB, Sideby (1)

1950 Transferred to Oy Thelmita AB, Sideby. The company is registered in the parish of Sideby and the vessel belongs to the ship register of Kristinestad as number 66.

The company Thelmita which was established on July 15 1948 in Björneborg (Pori) was since May 15 1950 registered in the parish of Sideby. M/aux Gustaf was at the same date transferred to Oy Thelmita AB from its sister company AB P. Molander Oy, Björneborg, Finland for FIM 3.917.185. Five of the thirteen vessels owned by the M-Rederier (M-Varustamot) from 1932 to 1960 were during 1950-1960 registered by Thelmita in Sideby: m/aux Gustaf 1950-1955, m/aux Svenborg 1951-1955, s/s Thelma 1950-1960, s/s Motto 1951-1954, s/s Olympia 1952-1960. The vessels belong to the ship register of Kristinestad.

Oy Thelmita Ab B

The list of owners contains three brothers Molander: Petter Molander, sea captain, Elis Molander, sea captain and Bernhard Verner Molander, teacher. The Molander family originates from the coastal parish of Bergö in South Ostrobothnia, Finland and their members have been seamen, sea pilots, lighthouse-masters (Bernhard Verner Molander at the lighthouse of Yttergrund in Sideby and his father Erik Wilhelm as a lighthouse-keeper at the lighthouse of Säbbskär among others), sea captains and shipowners. Elis Molander for instance in 1926-1927 sailed on the 4-m barque Fennia ex. Champigny which on May 3 1927 was damaged off Cape Horn. The first vessel of the M-Rederier, m/aux Thelma ex. Sonja bought in 1932, had in 1945 to be delivered as war indemnity to the former Soviet Union.

m/aux Svenborg


s/s Thelma


s/s Motto


s/s Olympia


Up Voyages 1950-1955

London, October 1951

Veteran Auxiliary in London (3)

"Did take a trip to the Surrey Commercial Docks, London, to visit one of the oldest vessels now trading the United Kingdom .. which brought a cargo of birch, spruce and fir from Kotka to London." writes Dorothy Laird in The Journal of Commerce and Shipping Telegraph October 18 1951.

She tells that captain Harald Westerholm is very proud of his stout iron ship and her long career. To his great sorrow and chagrin the original ship's bell, marked Elissa, had been lost in Antwerp this spring.

"Her masts be cut down to lower masts only, but she still had sail bent when I did visit her. With the aid of jib, triangular fores' I and mains' I she can - and does - add a knot or two to her speed when the wind be fair. On her way to London on this occasion she did have three days sailing on a fair wind in the Baltic. I did notice new palms among the ship´s stores delivered on board, for a new jib were shortly to be cut and sewn on board. In how many trading vessels nowadays does a sailmaker ply his trade-on sails?"

Letter from Dorothy Laird on 26th October 1951 to Captain Harald Westerholm

  "A new and ugly steamer bow replaces the former jib-boom, but the lines of the counter be unchanged although a Baltic deckhouse be built over the poop and - to give a clearer view forward - a false poop built in which the old sailing wheel, by which Gustaf is still steered, hath been half sunk. The companionway below be still steep and twisting, each step edged handsomely in brass. And the master's saloon - as large and handsome as the master´s quarters of a much bigger modern vessel - is much as it was originally.

  Here be an overhead skylight with small brass pans at each corner to catch drips, brightly polished oil lamps in gimbals, panelled walls with a dog-teeth design above in plaster, rich crimson plush settees - even the "telltale compass" by which the master, when below, could follow minutely the ship´s course and check her steering. Through the saloons runs the ventilator from the engine-room, which do give an illusion of a mast; this be increased by the brass builders´plate, which Captain Harald Westerholm, the present master, has caused to be displayed there as it were half-hidden in its former position."


Gustaf at Surrey Commercial Docks, London

Gustaf at Surrey Commercial Docks, London
Gustaf at Surrey Commercial Docks, London 1951.

Up Victoria Dock, Hull, England

s/s Arcturus

The Victoria Dock, which was opened in 1850, was known to Finnish emigrants as a transit harbor on their voyage to North America.

At Victoria Dock, Hull in 1951

"The Finnish auxiliary schooner Gustaf which is lying in Victoria Dock is a veteran of 74 years seagoing service, and few ships at present in European waters can show longer use than this 399-ton veteran."

Up Bragernes, Norway January 10 1952

Gustaf at Bragernes Kai

At Bragernes kai (4)

In the port of Bragernes, Norway on January 10, 1952 with a cargo of 170 fathoms pulp wood from Kaskö, Finland for Vestfossen Cellulose. Gustaf had 162 driving hours on her way from Kaskö to Bragernes.

Up Mäntyluoto, Finland

The first Molander-owned vessel, M/aux Thelma ex Sonja, had Mäntyluoto in Pori (official Finnish name form for Björneborg) as her home port between 1932 to 1945

At the port of Mäntyluoto, Björneborg Finland in 1953

Gustaf at Mäntyluoto, Pori
Photo © Pehr Molander 1953


Up Dundee 1953, January 12

Gustaf in Dundee

"The 332-ton auxiliary sailing vessel Gustaf at Camperdown Dock, Dundee, with timber from Helsinki. She was built at Aberdeen in 1877. She has had Norwegian, Swedish and now Finnish owners."

Veteran of The Sea Visits Dundee (5)

"A cargo vessel from Finland, which still relies on a brisk following wind to fill her mainsail and aid her 100 h.p. Diesel engine, docked at Dundee yesterday. She is Gustaf, one of the oldest ships afloat.The Gustaf was built at Aberdeen in 1877. In her long history she had Norwegian, Swedish and now Finnish owners. She has been under Finnish ownership since 1929.The passage from Helsinki to Dundee took her nine days and her mainsail was hosted most of the way.The crew of ten, under Captain H. Westerholm, are proud of the iron veteran. Chief mate Oiva Joutsenniemi thinks there´s plenty of service in her yet.She is unloading 170 standards of timber at Camperdown Dock."


Up Kalmar 1953 December 10


Gustaf in Kalmar, Sweden

Gustaf docked at Kalmar on December 10, 1953 for repair. She has a leak after grounding at the Tärnör reef last week.


Elissa had at earlier occasions experienced some known misadventures:

  • In 1923 she grounded at Saltholm in Öresund
  • In 1927 she had to be grounded at Munkedal, Sweden after colliding with some unknown underwater object and springing a leak when returning from Fowley .
  • On Oct 18, 1931 Gustaf collided with the steamer GERANIA of Gävle off the lighthouse of Gisslan, Sweden (8).Gustaf was apparently not considered responsible for the accident.

Arriving in Kalmar after springing a leak at the Tärnör reef (6)

Elissa had Kalmar as her home port between 1912-1915. She was sold to a company in Kalmar with the merchant Carl Johansson as the main owner in 1912. He paid SEK 19 000 for Fjeld and renamed her Gustaf. During the winter 1913-14 she was re-rigged to a barkentine. It is not clear, however, if she ever was a pure barkentine. There are statements that she had a gaff-sail in addition to the square-sails on the foremast. Captains were Valle Nilsson and C. V. Eliasson. According to sources of the Maritime Museum of Kalmar the second captain C. V. Eliasson owned her for a very short period and renamed her Elissa Eliasson. When sold to Stockholm in 1915 she however regained the name Gustaf.

Elissa - as a three masted barque when she was bought to Kalmar in 1912 - according to the drawer John Sjöstrand from Kalmar. In Kalmar Elissa was reduced to a barkentine rig.

Up 1955-1959 (1)


1955 Sold to Birger Asén, Helsingfors, Finland.

1956 Sold to Rederi AB Gustaf (Hugo Boström), Helsingfors.





Up 1959-1970 (7)






Gustaf sold to Greece in 1959

1959 December, Sold to A. Kavadas & D. Vassilatos, Piraievs, Greece and renamed Christophoros.

1968 Sold to M. Christidou, P. Konidaris et al., Piraieus, and renamed Achaios.

1961 Peter Throckmorton, a nautical archaeologist, recognizes her in Piraeus, Greece, as an old square-rigger.

1964 Karl Kortum, of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, is made aware of her plight and begins efforts to save her.

1969 ACHAEOS is renamed PIONEER; in March, Karl Kortum authorizes Peter Throckmorton to act as the San Francisco Maritime Museum´s agent in Greece to help acquire ELISSA.

1970 Seized by Greek authorities.

Up 1970- (7)

1991 ELISSA is named a National Historic Landmark

2000 ELISSA is designated as one of “America’s Treasures”

photo of bark Elissa by Texas Sea Port Museum

Photo © Texas Seaport Museum at Galveston, Texas. Used with permission of the museum.


Elissa arrives in Galveston on July 20 1979

1970 The ship is purchased in November by the San Francisco Maritime Museum for $14,000 U.S.

1972 Acquired by Canadian interests headed by David Groos in Victoria, British Columbia.

1975 GALVESTON HISTORICAL FOUNDATION purchases her for the sum of $40,000 U.S.

1977 With the name ELISSA restored, she is to become a sailing ship once again. A restoration team travels to Piraeus, Greece, to make her seaworthy.

1978 With twenty-five percent of her original iron hull renewed [shell and frames] and clipper bow restored, ELISSA is towed to Gibraltar to spend the winter of 1978-79 at the Royal Navy Yard.

1978 ELISSA is placed on the National Register of Historic Places; she is the first object granted this status while outside the territorial limits of the United States.

1979 ELISSA finds her new home in Galveston on July 20. The official welcoming ceremony is held on August 4. Intensive efforts begin to restore her to her full glory.

1980 On October 25, an orientation session is held to recruit volunteers to serve as an adjunct to the ELISSA restoration. This was the beginning of the volunteer corps which, since 1982, has crewed the vessel and performed the lion´s share of her maintenance.

1982 Restored in painstaking detail, ELISSA greets the public on July 4 as a living tall ship; she sails in the Gulf of Mexico and across one hundred years.

1982 In late August-early September, ELISSA embarks on her first daysails in Galveston harbor.

1982 GALVESTON HISTORICAL FOUNDATION receives the Texas Award for Historical Preservation from the Texas Historical Commission, for “distinguished service in the field of historic preservation through restoration of the barque ELISSA as a Tall Ship for Texas.”


Up References

  • 1 Molander, Pehr 1999 (priv. distr.) M-rederierna -varustamot. 457 pages
    • Pehr Molander is the son of Elis Molander and sailed himself on the vessels belonging to the M-Rederier in the 1950s. He is doing genealogy research about the Molander family.
  • 2 Sailing Ships:"Elissa" (1877)
    • compiled by Lars Bruzelius
  • 3 The Journal of Commerce and Shipping Telegraph October 18 1951. Veteran Auxiliary in London
    • written by Dorothy Laird. The article to appear in SEA BREEZES as announced in the letter to Harald Westerholm has not been found.
  • 4 Drammens Tidene 11 januari 1952. Tremastet seilskip ved Bragernes kai.
  • 5 Evening Telegraph January 13 1953. Veteran of the Sea Visits Dundee.
  • 6 Kalmar läns Tidning 10 december 1953. En gammal kalmarskutas öden.
    • written by Carl Axel Jakobsson
  • 7 History of ELISSA , Texas Seaport Museum at Galveston, Texas
  • 8 letter from Erik Hag

Rev 3/10 2002 SS



Voyages and ports 1950-1955: London HullBragernesMäntyluotoDundeeKalmar



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GULF of FINLAND GULF of BOTHNIA BALTIC SEA Aberdeen, Scotland NORTH SEA Gothenburg Stockholm - home of Elissa 1918 Larvik, Norway - home of Elissa 1897-1912 Bragernes, Norway Kalmar, Sweden -home of Elissa 1912-1915 London - Surrey Commercial Docks Liverpool England Hull England Dundee, Scotland Helsinki - Helsingfors Port of Kotka, Gulf of Finland Aland Isles Pori - port on the westcoast of  Finland Sideby - home of Elissa 1950-1955 Kaskinen Finland