Pres­i­den­tial Yachts

Soundings - - Just Yesterday - —Steve Knauth

The pres­i­dency used to come with a yacht. This is one of the early ones, Mayflower, pic­tured at the Hud­son-Ful­ton Cel­e­bra­tion in New York har­bor. The 1909 event com­mem­o­rated Henry Hud­son’s first voy­age (in 1609) up the the river that would bear his name and the 100th an­niver­sary of Robert Ful­ton’s first steam­boat.

Travel in early Amer­ica was of­ten eas­i­est by wa­ter, and the first chief ex­ec­u­tives used naval ves­sels when the need arose. Abra­ham Lin­coln held con­fer­ences aboard a steamer named River Queen. Later, the U.S. Navy sup­plied a trio of more of­fi­cial ves­sels. Grover Cleve­land viewed the 1886 ded­i­ca­tion of the Statue of Lib­erty from the USS Despatch.

By the turn of the 20th cen­tury , the pres­i­dency had ac­quired a real yacht. Mayflower was a 273-foot steamer for­merly owned by real es­tate ty­coon Og­den Goelet.

Theodore Roo­sevelt took her out on fam­ily cruises on Long Is­land Sound. (He later used the 165foot Po­tomac, a for­mer U.S. Coast Guard cut­ter.) Other pres­i­dents con­tin­ued the tra­di­tion. Calvin Coolidge had church “rigged” dur­ing his Sun­day morn­ing rides on Po­tomac.

Decom­mis­sioned in 1929, Po­tomac was re­placed by the 104-foot Se­quoia, which Her­bert Hoover used for fish­ing. Se­quoia en­joyed a long ca­reer; Franklin Roo­sevelt casted a line over the side, and John Kennedy cel­e­brated a birth­day on board.

Some­times yachts were used as tools of diplo-macy. Teddy Roo­sevelt’s peace talks aboard Mayflower in 1905 ended the Russo-Ja­panese War (and earned him a No­bel Peace Prize). Franklin Roo­sevelt met with Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Win­ston Churchill dur­ing World War II on board Po­tomac. Harry Tru­man arms talks with the Sovi­ets on Se­quoia, where, later, Richard Nixon con­ferred with Rus­sia's Leonid Brezh­nev.

It all ended in 1977. Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter cit­ing the an­nual bill for up­keep (up to $300,000) or­dered the Se­quoia sold. The ves­sel was later used as a pri­vate yacht and float­ing museum and is cur­rently await­ing a much-needed over­haul af­ter a le­gal dis­pute kept her out of based in the wa­ter. Po­tomac is ac­tive to­day, based in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, and of­fer­ing tours of San Fran­cisco Bay.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.