Lest one thinks this is a Christmas or holiday rug, it is not necessarily so! The phrase has its origins from the long-ago days of whaling. After he was harpooned, often in great pain, the whale would drag the longboat along on a fearful ride. The speed of the "sleighride" would depend on the size of the whale, often up to 25 mph. The ride was over when either the whale died, or the longboat capsized and sank dumping its occupants into the the deep.
Claire's artistic impression of this event is depicted in a small 2 x 3 hand-hooked rug with a sailor in mid air, oars flying.