A historic presidential yacht is in New London after severe weather halted the boat from traveling to Maine for restorations.
The USS Sequoia is a 104-foot classic wooden fantail motor yacht built in 1925. It served eight presidents before Jimmy Carter put it up for auction in 1977. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and commanded rental fees of $10,000 a day at one point.
The boat is on its way to Maine to be completely overhauled and refurbished and is expected to be ready in three years.
Numerous ships have been commissioned to carry the president since 1880. The longest serving and most famous among them is the USS Sequoia, which carried eight presidents as a "floating White House" from 1933 until 1977. Docked at Pier One in the Washington Navy Yard, the presidential yacht provided an easily accessible and secure location for conducting meetings, entertaining dignitaries, and avoiding media scrutiny.
The USS Sequoia was designed by renowned Norwegian naval architect Johan Trumpy in 1925. The mahogany-hulled motor yacht could sleep six and accommodate 40 revelers for cocktails on the spacious aft-deck or 22 guests for a formal dinner in the salon.
John F. Kennedy added a king-size bed to the yacht and celebrated his 46th birthday on the boat. Marilyn Monroe may have also joined him for a cruise or two.
Presidents travel in style. Perks of the office include a custom Boeing 747 for long range journeys, a Sikorsky Sea King helicopter for shorter jaunts, and an apocalypse-proof armored Cadillac limousine, nicknamed "the Beast," for ground transit. As luxurious as this sounds, one form of transportation has been conspicuously absent from the chief executive's lineup for 40 years: the presidential yacht.
Todd French is the Sequoia Project Manager and is working to help refurbish the Sequoia.
“This boat is wrapped up in our history and to be able to restore something like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said French. “It served every type of President, every type of party and it’s a piece of Americana and really this is a historic artifact that’s going to bring us together.”
French says the memories made aboard the ship are compelling and hundreds of memories were made on the ship, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing several bills for his ‘New Deal’ initiative.
“When I step on the boat, I get chills because you feel the soul and the history of the boat,” said French.
Greg and Daneen Roth live in New London and happened to see the historic yacht while on their morning stroll.
“It’s amazing to know the history of the Presidents who were on board and everything so it’s quite a treat to see her up this close,” said Greg Roth.
“She has quite a storied past and when you look at her and see her beautiful lines, you can't help but appreciate everything that went into making her and making her a presidential yacht,” said Daneen Roth.
The USS Sequoia has a special connection to New London. During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, he ventured through the New London City Pier in an effort to travel to see his son and attend the Harvard-Yale Regatta.
New London’s Mayor Michael Passero just found out about the ship making a stop at the city pier last night and was excited to see it return to the city.
“I’m glad to see the Sequoia make its way back and it’s a surprise visit for us and we love to celebrate our history,” he said.
The boat is on a very large barge under the control of a tug boat and is expected to be at New London City Pier from Wednesday until Saturday.