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Sale Price for JF Kennedy's Yacht

by E.B. Furgurson III, Annapolis/Sail-World on 11 Oct 2008
JFK sailing and Manitou arriving in Annapolis - photo credit J.Henson .. .
It's not only you and me who are feeling the pinch in the current economic climate - JF Kennedy's yacht is now advertised for sale at the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, discounted a whopping $700,000 from its original price in June this year (See Sail-World story with more pictures of Manitou sailing)

It doesn't make her any less interesting. This wooden 62-foot Sparkman and Stephens-designed yawl was built by M.M. Davis and Sons in Solomons Island in 1937 for a wealthy fellow who sailed it in the Great Lakes. The boat is nearly fully restored.

Manitou was President John F. Kennedy's sailing White House. There is the famous photograph of him at the helm taken in August 1962 on Narragansett Bay, months after he selected Manitou from the sailing craft kept by the Coast Guard. Another photo has a young Sen. John Kerry, who was dating a Kennedy in-law, aboard for a ride.

The president used it to relax, to get away on weekends rather than the 92-foot presidential power yacht he had dubbed the Honey Fitz after his grandfather.

Made of mahogany over oak frames and decked in teak, she was called a 'sweet sailor' by the Coast Guard skipper who oversaw her when she was introduced to the president off the coast of Maine.

Retired Capt. Lawrence White, now living in Connecticut after moving there from Annapolis several years ago, said he had skippered the craft while at the Coast Guard Academy.

'We sailed her in a number of races at the academy,' Capt. White said. 'She was delightful yacht to sail. We liked her appointments, but we never did use the fireplace.'

That's right, fireplace. The boat is also graced with a beautiful interior made of butternut, icebox, propane stove, even a bathtub, though tiny. Her original equipment includes the brass Herreshoff steering pedestal and compass. It sleeps three forward, four in main cabin and the main stateroom aft sleeps two.

When President Kennedy was sworn in, Capt. White was stationed in Washington at Coast Guard headquarters. Soon he was tasked to prepare a notebook on the sailing yachts the Coast Guard owned.

'It disappeared up the chain,' he said. 'A little while later I was advised the president had selected Manitou,' he said.

Then he was ordered to the White House to make arrangements. And then detached to headquarters to make the boat ready for the president's use. The presidential yachting was hush-hush, coordinated by the Secret Service, Navy and Coast Guard.

'We got it fitted out and were ordered to waters off Maine by John's Island, where we anchored and waited for the president to arrive,' Capt. White said.

With a typical skipper's detachment he called the president's passage 'uneventful.'

'We were able to manage the conditions and dropped the president off,' he said.

A few days later he was replaced by a more junior grade officer, who was a good sailor.

Five years after the president's death the boat was sold as surplus to the Harry Lundberg Merchant Marine Academy in St. Mary's County for $35,000.

Aristotle Onasis, who by then was courting the president's widow, tried to buy the boat twice.

It was used as a training vessel there and after a number of years began deteriorating.

In 1999, the granddaughter of the original owner, James Lowe, bought the boat and soon set about the restoration.

She had Manitou was taken to wooden boat haven Deltaville, Va., where it was hauled, dismantled and painstakenly restored from the ribs up. Work continues still and is nearly complete.

Manitou was brought to the Calvert Marine Museum last spring and put on display as some of the final work was done.

If you have a spare $1.3 million, she is yours.

Then you would have to finish the work, which includes rigging electronics and some wood finishing.

For more information about how she was brought to Annapolis, go to the Home town Annapolis website
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