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JFK's Classic Yawl is up for Sale

by Des Ryan on 13 Jun 2008
Manitou sailing SW
If you have a couple of million (US Dollars that is) to spare, one of the most prestigious classic yachts of all time could be yours. Aristotle Onassis tried to buy her twice, failing each time, and the original owner bought her back just a few years ago.

For a time she was the USA's 'Floating White House', and the world's most vital secrets of the day were whispered in her salon. She's Manitou, John F Kennedy's Presidential yacht.

As one of his first official acts, incoming president Kennedy selected Manitou, the 62-foot Sparkman & Stephens yawl designed in 1936 to replace the 92-foot powerboat that was then the Presidential yacht.

She had been donated in 1955 to the Coast Guard Academy. She was brought to the Chesapeake Bay and equipped with communication equipment so the President would never be out of touch with his office (or the Kremlin) while on board.

Kennedy sailed Manitou often on the Bay and in New England. Kennedy was so fond of the boat that he deemed her the 'floating Whitehouse.' She was named after Manitou Passage in Lake Michigan. 'Manitou' means 'Spirit of the Water.'

Five years after his assassination in 1963, she was sold by government (Defense Surplus Sales Office) on May 23, 1968 to the Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at Piney Point, Maryland for $35,000, and then used for training for the Merchant Marine.

In the same year, Aristotle Onassis, the Greek multi-millionaire made two attempts to buy the boat back when he was courting Mrs. John F. Kennedy. He married her a few months later (October 1968).

In 1999, Manitou was purchased by the granddaughter of the original owner, James Lowe. Since then, the boat has undergone a major refit. The current owner has seen some changes, too -- citing the birth of triplets in 2001. She has put Manitou up for sale.

Her shapely lines were originally built at the M.M. Davis & Son yard at Solomans, Maryland but has just completed an almost entire rebuild in the course of the past five years.

Designed after Mr. Olin Stephens experience with the famed Dorade? and Stormy Weather she followed the Cruising Club rule, and she is a boat of solid construction intended to be able to handle herself smartly in almost any sort of sea. She was always an excellent design for extended cruising or ocean racing and she now has many features, some original and some from the refit that make her desirable.

She is built with teak planking on deck and Philippine mahogany over oak frames for the hull - all of which is now new.

And here's what you get for the 1.9mil:

Length: 62 feet overall (44 feet on water line). Beam: 13 feet. Draft: 9 feet.

Power: gasoline engine (7-8 knots)

Equipment: radio direction finder, fathometer, radio telephone

Accommodations: icebox, propane stove, usable fireplace, head forward, and head admidships. Sleeps 3 crew forward, 4 in main cabin and the main stateroom aft sleeps 2.

Rig: Marconi rigged yawl. Requires at least 3 experienced hands to sail her and another 2 or 3 to handle the sails and gear. In addition to regular working sails, has a complete set of racing sails.

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For more information about the yacht as she stands for sale, go to the Sparkman & Stephens Association
..........................

Letter from reader:
Sender: Timothy Davis

Message: M.M. Davis was my great grand father. He died long before 'Manitou' was designed, let alone built. My great uncle, Clarence, who was the guy responsible for the building all of the 'Yachts', including 'Manitou', at M.M. Davis and Son (he being the son), died shortly after the keel was laid, but before the vessel was completed. It could be said that it skipped a generation, as my father had a PHD in chemistry, and worked for US Steel, but I am a marine surveyor, based in the Virgin Islands, and my twin brother (Jon), still builds boats on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. If you can feel it or understand it, there has always been, through out the history of mankind, something special about 'boats'. I am proud of what M.M.and his son created, and would hope that they would be proud of what their ancestors have done to date
Tim Davis
Davis Marine Surveying and Adjusting

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