The Floating White House: A Brief History of the Presidential Yacht

The Floating White House: A Brief History of the Presidential Yacht


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Before there was Air Force One, there was the presidential yacht. Dating back to the 19th century, America’s chief executives utilized navy ships and other vessels for recreation and entertaining foreign dignitaries. Nearly a dozen different ships acted as the “Floating White House” between 1880 and 1977, when the last vessel was sold at auction. During that time, they were the scene of international diplomatic summits, congressional schmoozing and the occasional Potomac River pleasure cruise.

The executive yacht “served an important purpose in enabling Presidents to escape the claustrophobic tension of the White House,” former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has written. It “provided a quiet sanctuary; it was handier than Camp David, easier for casual, informal discussions.”

Abraham Lincoln made use of a steamboat called the River Queen during the Civil War, but the first official presidential yachts date to the Gilded Age. Starting in 1880, America’s commanders in chief sailed aboard a series of Navy vessels including USS Despatch, USS Dolphin and USS Sylph. In 1886, Despatch famously ferried Grover Cleveland across New York Harbor for the dedication of the Statue of Liberty.

Presidential boating entered a new era in the early 1900s, when USS Mayflower took over as the chief executive’s official yacht. Unlike earlier vessels, which were relatively austere in their design, Mayflower was a luxury craft previously owned by real estate millionaire Ogden Goelet. Measuring some 275 feet from stem to stern, it boasted a crew of over 150 and had a sumptuous interior that included a 30-person dining table and bathtubs made from Italian marble.

USS Mayflower is most famously associated with Theodore Roosevelt, who often used it and USS Sylph for family vacation cruises along Long Island. A more official use came in August 1905, when Roosevelt hosted Japanese and Russian envoys aboard Mayflower as part of his attempts to mediate peace talks in the Russo-Japanese War. He would later win the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the conflict.

Mayflower served as a presidential plaything for over two decades. Woodrow Wilson is said to have wooed his second wife Edith Bolling Galt during romantic jaunts aboard the ship, and Calvin Coolidge reportedly loved the yacht so much he stationed a Navy chaplain aboard so that he could take Sunday morning cruises without being accused of skipping church. Nevertheless, the ship’s opulence proved to be a sticking point with critics of presidential excess. In 1929, with economic concerns on the rise, Herbert Hoover finally had Mayflower decommissioned.

Mayflower was the largest and stateliest of the presidential yachts, but it wasn’t the last. Hoover—a devoted fisherman—soon began making day trips on a wooden-hulled vessel called USS Sequoia, and he eventually grew so attached to it that he had it featured on his 1932 Christmas card. Franklin D. Roosevelt began his tenure with Sequoia, but later switched to USS Potomac, a 165-foot former Coast Guard cutter that included a special elevator to help the wheelchair-bound president move between decks.

FDR occasionally utilized the ship for official business—it carried him to a 1941 meeting with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill—but it was more frequently used for presidential leisure. In his book Sailor in the White House: The Seafaring Life of FDR, author Robert Cross writes that Potomac provided Roosevelt with “an instant means of extricating himself from the confines of Washington. Roosevelt could escape to the open water, where he could do some politicking and thinking, or relax and entertain on deck with friends and advisors, or simply throw a fishing line overboard and patiently wait for a bite.”

Recreation was also the main role of the presidential yachts during the administration of Harry Truman, who hosted floating poker games aboard Sequoia and the 243-foot USSWilliamsburg. Dwight D. Eisenhower was more of a landlubber than his predecessors, but sea excursions became popular again in the 1960s, when Sequoia resumed its former role as the main presidential yacht. John F. Kennedy—who also utilized a yacht called Honey Fitz and a sailboat called Manitou—celebrated his final birthday with a party aboard Sequoia. Lyndon B. Johnson installed a liquor bar and enjoyed having movies projected on the main deck.

As the longest serving of the executive yachts, Sequoia played host to several chapters in presidential history. The 104-foot vessel was a more humble affair than many of the other yachts, but the seclusion of its elegant, mahogany-paneled saloon made it an ideal location for sensitive political discussions. Harry Truman talked nuclear arms policy aboard the ship with the prime ministers of Britain and Canada. In the mid-1960s, Lyndon Johnson used yacht trips to hash out Vietnam strategy and lobby legislators to support his Great Society domestic reforms. “The Sequoia was a rostrum from which he was trying to persuade congressmen and senators,” former Johnson aide Jack Valenti said.

Richard Nixon was undoubtedly the most the enthusiastic user of Sequoia. The 37th president reportedly made as many as 100 trips aboard the yacht, including one in which he met with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to negotiate the SALT I nuclear arms agreement. Near the end of his second term, Nixon also used Sequoia as a hideout from the controversies of the Watergate scandal. During one final cruise in August 1974, the embattled president reportedly informed his family of his decision to resign before retiring to the ship’s saloon, quaffing a glass of scotch and playing God Bless America on the piano.

The age of the presidential yacht came to a close in 1977. That year, newly inaugurated Jimmy Carter ordered that Sequoia be offloaded in a public sale. Carter later noted that he was disturbed by the yacht’s $250,000 annual upkeep, but he was also following through on a campaign promise to dispense with the extravagance of the presidency. “Despite its distinguished career, I feel that the Presidential yacht Sequoia is no longer needed,” he wrote in a memo to his Secretary of Defense.

Today, Sequoia and Potomac are the only two former presidential yachts still in existence. Potomac went through several different owners after its presidential service—including Elvis Presley—and is now moored in Oakland, California. Sequoia, though currently inactive and in a state of disrepair, was once used as a floating museum and private charter boat, and still retains much of its presidential memorabilia. Both vessels are now registered as National Historic Landmarks.


LBJ presidential library President Johnson has dinner with a guest aboard the USS Sequoia as Secret Service Agent Rufus Youngblood stands in the background, on July 15, 1965. Robert Knudsen/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum JFK opening birthday presents on the Sequoia on May 29, 1963.

A Brief History of White House Czars

T here was a joke floating around Republican circles earlier this year that was decently funny, by Washington standards, and had the added virtue of being true: Barack Obama has more czars than the Romanovs ever did. The quip, tweeted by Senator John McCain, was a thinly veiled gripe about the President’s appointment of a slew of policy coordinators tasked with everything from reforming health care to restoring the Great Lakes. The White House advisers drew wide attention earlier this month when green-jobs czar Van Jones was forced to resign after revelations of impolitic comments about Republicans and his support for a petition suggesting a government plot behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

So when does a high-level White House adviser become a czar? No one knows for sure, since the term itself has no formal definition. Essentially it’s a media creation &mdash the White House rarely even acknowledges the title &mdash used as a snappy shorthand to identify and describe the array of policy officials swarming the West Wing. And it’s hard to blame reporters unwieldy official titles are often begging for a rebranding (Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, for example, doesn’t stand a chance against drug czar). Counts of Obama’s czars range from the high teens to about 28, depending on whether such figures as State Department envoy George Mitchell and economics adviser Paul Volcker are included.

But while Obama’s cadre of newly crowned czars has earned condemnation from the right, when it comes to recruiting presidential advisers he’s in good company. During World War I, Woodrow Wilson appointed financier Bernard Baruch to head the War Industries Board &mdash a position dubbed industry czar (this just one year after the final Russian czar, Nicholas II, was overthrown in the Russian Revolution). Franklin Roosevelt had his own bevy of czars during World War II, overseeing such aspects of the war effort as shipping and synthetic-rubber production. The term was then essentially retired until the presidency of Richard Nixon, who appointed the first drug czar and a well-regarded energy czar, William E. Simon, who helped the country navigate the 1970s oil crisis. The modern drug czarship &mdash perhaps the best-known of the bunch &mdash was created by George H.W. Bush and first filled by William Bennett, now a conservative radio host. By some counts, George W. Bush had the same number czars as Obama &mdash or even more &mdash though not so early in his presidency.

The czar post has always had opponents, and criticism has swelled along with attention to Obama’s appointments. Foremost among them are members of Congress who believe the advisers circumvent the legislative branch’s proper supervision of the executive (unlike Cabinet secretaries, czars are not subject to confirmation votes). Earlier this month, six Republican lawmakers wrote a letter to Obama complaining that 18 White House positions “may be undermining the constitutional oversight responsibilities of Congress.” Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, a well-known defender of Senate prerogatives, complained about the positions in a letter earlier this year. A spokesman replied that Obama is simply continuing a presidential practice in place for decades.

The more interesting criticism, however, is the charge that czarism simply doesn’t work. Czars generally don’t have budget control or other real authority, and are often caught up in turf battles among Cabinet secretaries and fellow West Wingers. “There’ve been so many czars over the last 50 years, and they’ve all been failures,” New York University public-service professor Paul Light told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s a symbolic gesture of the priority assigned to an issue.” Sometimes, however, symbolism matters. John Koskinen, the Clinton Administration adviser responsible for overseeing Y2K preparation, was cited by the National Journal for his successful use of the role. Though he had no formal authority, Koskinen could convene White House meetings and Cabinet secretaries knew he had the President’s ear on the issue. At one meeting, agency heads who had been dragging their feet on preparing their computer systems were called to the carpet by Vice President Gore and asked to get with the program. “That was effective,” Koskinen later said.


S/Y Manitou

Manitou is a 62-foot-long (18.9 m) performance cruising yacht designed and built for racing on the Great Lakes [2] [6] and specifically to win the Chicago-Mackinac Race. [7] It notably served as a presidential yacht for United States president John F. Kennedy [8] [9] and was known as the "Floating White House." [10] Manitou was built in 1937 at the M. M. Davis & Son shipyard in Solomons Island, Maryland. It was Design No. 99 of naval architects Sparkman & Stephens, [7] who built many America's Cup racing yachts.

  • James Lowe (1937–c.1940) [2] (1955–1968) (1968–1999)
  • Laura Kilbourne (1999-2010)
  • Phil Jordan, Pat Tierney, Claes Goran Nilsson, and Melinda Kilkenny (2010-)

Manitou was originally commissioned and privately owned by race car driver James Lowe. She was launched in 1937 and promptly won the 1938 Chicago-Mackinac Race in the cruising division (on corrected time), beating all previous records. She came a close second the next year. In 1940 and 1941, Manitou won the Port Huron to Mackinac Boat Race. [11] After these successes, Lowe sold her, and in 1955 she was donated to the US Coast Guard to be used as a training vessel at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. [12]

President Kennedy used Manitou while he was in office. Manitou was returned to private ownership in 1968 when she became a training vessel for the Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship in Maryland. The boat took on the nickname: "Floating White House". [13]

In 1999 Manitou was sold to Laura Kilbourne, granddaughter of James R. Lowe, the original owner. Manitou was then given a comprehensive refit at Deagle's Marine Railway in Deltaville, Virginia.

In late 2010 she was sold to four joint owners and underwent an extensive refit in early 2011. She was then shipped to the Mediterranean where she was raced extensively [4] and made available for charter out of ports on the French Riviera.

  1. ^ abc"Coast Guard Vessel Documentation". NOAA Fisheries, Office of Science and Technology . Retrieved 27 November 2013 .
  2. ^ ab
  3. "History". Manitou Yacht. Archived from the original on 4 April 2016 . Retrieved 16 March 2017 .
  4. ^
  5. "Race to Mackinac Trophy Winners (Through 2014) - Chicago Yacht Club" (PDF) . Chicago Yacht Club . Retrieved 16 March 2017 .
  6. ^ abcde
  7. Venables, Guy (20 February 2013). "The Complete Story of John F Kennedy's Yacht Manitou". Classic Boat Magazine . Retrieved 15 December 2013 .
  8. ^
  9. "Kennedy Boat "Manitou " ". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum . Retrieved 16 March 2017 .
  10. ^ ab
  11. "Jfk's Yacht Being Restored In Deltaville". The Virginian-Pilot. 3 April 2003 . Retrieved 16 March 2017 .
  12. ^ ab
  13. "For Sale: S&S Design No. 99 MANITOU". Sparkman & Stephens. 28 July 2010 . Retrieved 16 March 2017 .
  14. ^
  15. Fanta, J. Julius (1968). Sailing with President Kennedy: The White House Yachtsman. Sea Lore Pub. Co. p. 98.
  16. ^
  17. Meath, Jason Killian (August 2009). Hollywood on the Potomac. Arcadia Publishing. p. 2. ISBN9780738567556 . Retrieved 5 June 2013 .
  18. ^
  19. Ryan, Des (13 June 2008). "JFK's Classic Yawl is up for Sale". Sail-World . Retrieved 16 March 2017 .
  20. ^
  21. "Mackinac Race History in the Early 1940s" (PDF) . Bayview Mackinac Race . Retrieved 16 March 2017 .
  22. ^
  23. Collette, Matt (12 October 2008). "Kennedy 'floating White House,' carefully restored, is up for sale". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 15 April 2009 . Retrieved 16 March 2017 .
  24. ^
  25. Fanta, J. Julius (1968). Sailing with President Kennedy: The White House Yachtsman. Sea Lore Pub. Co. p. 16.

This article about a specific civilian ship or boat is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.


The USS WILLIAMSBURG… President Harry Truman’s presidential yacht scrapped…

President Harry Truman’s presidential yacht, the vessel once known as the U.S.S. Williamsburg went up for sale in the spring of 2011 for $12 million-plus at a shipyard on the Italian coast.

The yacht, which once served as Truman’s floating White House, is now a rusted-out hulk of its former self.

President Truman aboard the yacht in her glory days…

Yacht interiors… Lounge, Dining Salon, Presidential and First Lady Staterooms… very late 1940s streamlined modern decor…

A video history of the presidential yacht…

The Williamsburg’s descent from glory began almost as soon as Truman left the White House in 1952. His successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower used the yacht briefly before announcing that it was “too rich for my blood” and ordering the ship decommissioned in the spring of 1953. After that, the Williamsburg languished dockside in Norfolk, Virginia, and then at the Philadelphia Naval yard along with other decommissioned ships in the navy’s Mothball Fleet. In 1962 the Williamsburg rechristened the Anton Bruun, became a research vessel for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Under its new name, the vessel participated in a multi-year international Indian Ocean expedition involving 24 nations and more than 40 vessels.

The Presidential Yacht in Key West, Florida…

President Truman on the yacht’s fantail…

The WILLIAMSBURG as the ANTON BRUNN … U.S. National Research Foundation Research Vessel ANTON BRUUN at anchor off Phuket, Thailand. BCF scientists conducted fisheries surveys from this vessel while participating in the International Indian Ocean Expedition.

When that expedition ended in 1965, the Anton Bruun, set sail for the Pacific Ocean as part of the Southeastern Pacific Biological oceanographic program. After its return and a subsequent dry docking accident in which the ship sank, the yacht was turned over to the Maritime Administration. The Maritime Administration sold the vessel to a New Jersey marina owner in 1969 for conversion into a combination restaurant, cocktail lounge, gift shop, and boatel. That venture lasted two years.

Photograph of participants in a conference aboard President Truman’s yacht, the U.S.S. WILLIAMSBURG: (seated, left to right) British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden British Prime Minister Winston Churchill President Truman Secretary of State Dean Acheson Secretary of the Treasury John Snyder Secretary of Defense Robert Lovett (standing, left to right) Walter Gifford, U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain General Omar Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Oliver Franks, British Ambassador to the U.S. Lord Cherwell, British Paymaster General Lord Ismay, British Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations Mutual Security Administrator W. Averell Harriman.

The Williamsburg next surfaced in Philadelphia where in the late 1970s, the vessel was refurbished with Truman memorabilia in hopes of making her a private club. The venue never opened. The Williamsburg was then sold and resold several more times before a group called the Presidential yacht Trust purchased the ship and returned it to Washington, D.C. The Trust had planned to arrange a sale to a local restaurateur, but when that failed, it abandoned the vessel. Kim Nielsen, a former Coast Guardsman who later worked for the Smithsonian, mounted a one-man effort in the 1980s and early 1990s to save the vessel. It was an uphill effort because by then the Williamsburg was in sad shape.

According to a 1990 Washington Post article, the Williamsburg was “a bedraggled, listing vessel” with “grass, weeds and even small trees” sprouting “from the sodden pulp of her once-gleaming teak decks.” Its owners were sinking as well—into debt. The Presidential yacht Trust went bankrupt in 1991 and offered the yacht to the District of Columbia to dispose of as it wished. Before that happened, the Williamsburg received another reprieve. In 1993, a group of investors calling themselves the USS Williamsburg Corporation purchased the yacht and sent it to Italy for what was billed as a $65 million restoration. (Italy was chosen because the craftsmen there know how to work on a vintage vessel like the Williamsburg.) The corporation planned to use the ship as an “exclusive charter yacht” and tourist venue. Sadly none of these plans ever materialized and the ship was scrapped earlier this year.


Learn the History of the USS Sequoia, America’s Former ‘Floating White House’

[rcl_full_bleed_images left_image=/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Sequoia-8-1208.jpg left_image_caption=”The U.S.S. Sequoia on the Potomac River in 1959. (Al Fenn/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)” ]

Most Americans are familiar with the trappings of the U.S. presidency: the White House, Air Force One, Camp David. But how many of you know that, at one point in history, the presidency came with its own yacht? Back in the day, the president took to the water in style aboard the USS Sequoia, a luxury yacht once known as “the floating White House” that was used by eight U.S. presidents for recreation purposes.

Designed in the 1920s by shipbuilder John Trumpy, the 100-foot-long Sequoia boasted a presidential stateroom, guest bedrooms, and a dining room. It was privately owned until 1931, when the U.S. Department of Commerce bought it as a decoy boat to bust bootleggers during Prohibition. Herbert Hoover then borrowed it from the Commerce Department for the last two years of his presidency.

[rcl_full_bleed_images left_image=”/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Sequoia-6-1-1208.jpg” left_image_title=”” left_image_caption=”Secretary of the Navy John Connally, Jr., greets President John F. Kennedy aboard the USS Sequoia on July 11, 1961 (Byron Rollins/AP Photo)” right_image=”/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Sequoia-4-1208.jpg” right_image_title=”” right_image_caption=”President Richard Nixon with Ross Perot aboard the USS Sequoia. (Robert Grove/White House/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)” single_image_caption=”” ]

In 1933, the Sequoia was commissioned by the Navy and used as the official presidential yacht, only to be decommissioned during World War II, so that world leaders—specifically, Winston Churchill, according to legend—could drink on it.

From 1936 onward, the Sequoia was used by both the Navy and civilian government officials, including the president. President Hoover sailed it to Florida, Eisenhower famously let Queen Elizabeth II use it during a visit to the U.S., and JFK held strategy meetings and his final birthday party there.

[rcl_full_bleed_images left_image=”/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Sequoia-3-1-1208.jpg” left_image_title=”” left_image_caption=”The main bedroom (Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)” right_image=”/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Sequoia-2-1-1208.jpg” right_image_title=”” right_image_caption=”A view over the deck of the USS Sequoia (Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)” single_image_caption=”” ]

It’s also rumored that LBJ brought a movie projector on board the ship to watch films that may not have been suitable for the White House.

Of all the presidents to use the Sequoia, Richard Nixon spent the most time on board he negotiated the SALT I arms treaty with Russian officials aboard her, and sequestered himself there when he ultimately chose to resign as president in the 1970s. Even after Jimmy Carter sold the Sequoia in 1977, it still saw presidential use Ronald Reagan met all 50 state governors at its gangplank, and George H.W. Bush used it to meet with Chinese premier Li Peng.

Today, the Sequoia is docked at D.C.’s Gangplank Marina. While it’s in desperate need of renovation, CBS News reports that a heated legal battle has erupted over who should pay for it, with one company already declaring it a lost cause.

[rcl_full_bleed_images left_image=”/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Sequoia-7-1208.jpg” left_image_title=”” left_image_caption=”Framed photos of former presidents sit on a table aboard the Sequoia (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)” right_image=”/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Sequoia-5-1-1208.jpg” right_image_title=”” right_image_caption=”President Ford chats with House Speaker Carl Albert, right, and Rep. John Anderson, on the Sequoia (AP Photo)” single_image_caption=”” ]

Though the Sequoia’s future is uncertain, its past is important. She occupied a unique place in American presidential history, and should be preserved for that reason alone.

Watch the videos below for a closer look at the historic vessel.

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USS Potomac: Franklin Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht

Many presidents have used ships for both relaxation and diplomacy. From fishing to meetings with foreign dignitaries, water travel provides variety and a momentary change of scenery from life and work in the White House.

From 1936 to 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enjoyed travel aboard the USS Potomac. The ship, originally named the Electra, was built in 1934 as a Coast Guard Cutter and was commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1936 after refitting and trial runs at Norfolk Navy Yard and in the Chesapeake Bay. 1 Roosevelt desired a historically inspired name for the ship that would not cause confusion between ships already in service. After consulting with Captain Wilson Brown, his naval aide, the president decided on the name Potomac.

This new ship was preferred over the previous presidential yacht, the Sequoia, partly because of security concerns. While the Sequoia was made of wood, the Potomac was made of steel, which made the ship less fire-prone. The larger ship was also able to accommodate more members of the Secret Service protecting the president onboard. 2

The ship was not only used for recreation but also for informal political and diplomatic meetings. To accommodate the president’s need for wheelchair accessibility, a concealed elevator was installed in what had been the rear funnel to carry the president from the main deck to the boat deck.

Roosevelt delivered one radio address from the Potomac. His remarks gave insight into his enjoyment and relaxation while aboard the ship. During a March 29, 1941 address to participants of annual Jackson Day fundraising dinners, he said, “I am sitting in the little cabin of the little ship Potomac, in the harbor of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after a day of sunshine out in the Gulf Stream . . . I try to get away a couple of times a year on these short trips on salt water. . . Even when I go to Hyde Park or to Warm Springs, the White House office, the callers, and the telephones all follow me. But at sea the radio messages and the occasional pouch of mail reduce official work to not more than two or three hours a day.” 3

During the 1936 presidential campaign, Roosevelt once told his opponent, Kansas Governor Alfred “Alf” Landon, “If you are elected President, I can give you one good piece of advice. Get yourself a boat to go down the Potomac.” 4

While relaxing on board, the president fished, read detective stories, and worked on his stamp collection. On Sundays, a sea plane would often land alongside the ship to deliver newspapers, mail and anything requiring the president's signature. 5 Newspapers occasionally reported on the fishing prowess of the president, with one paper commenting on a 1936 fishing trip that, “when the yacht reached Caicos Island in the Bahamas . . . the Roosevelt luck returned. . . the catch including large kingfish, mackerel, groupers and barracuda.” 6

One of the most well-known prewar uses of the boat occurred during the June 1939 visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain. The ship carried the royal couple and President and Mrs. Roosevelt down the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. to nearby Mount Vernon, the former home of George Washington. Newspapers described the ship with the royal standard of the King of England on the foremast and the U.S. presidential flag on the main mast. 7 A 21-gun salute greeted the royal couple as they entered the Navy Yard prior to boarding. Soon after arriving at the first president’s estate, the Potomac was moored to dock where one news reporter noted, “the stifling, windless day had left the river flat and seemingly motionless as the vessel was tied against the wharf.” After a tour of Mount Vernon and a visit to Washington’s tomb, the royal and presidential entourage returned to Washington, D.C. via automobile. 8

The USS Potomac with President Franklin Roosevelt and the King and Queen of Great Britain onboard as the ship travels from Washington to Mount Vernon and back on June 9, 1939.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum/NARA

The ship was also used in August 1941 as part of a stealth operation while President Roosevelt secretly met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to draft the Atlantic Charter. 9 Afterwards, President Roosevelt hosted a press conference onboard the Potomac in which he explained the secrecy of the meeting, given the potential threat of a German submarine attack: “Things of that kind cause trouble, if you make known the exact location on the high seas of the President and the Prime Minister.” 10

After the death of President Roosevelt, the Potomac was decommissioned. Under President Harry S. Truman, the Williamsburg, a former World War II gunboat, became the new presidential yacht. 11 Before the Williamsburg became the official presidential yacht in September 1945, Truman and his family enjoyed the Potomac briefly, including one early May 1945 Potomac River excursion. 12

For several decades, the Potomac served a variety of roles for a number of owners. Briefly returned to the Coast Guard, the Potomac resided in Maryland for about a decade. The ship then served as a ferry between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The ship was then taken to California with the intention of serving as an attraction at the 1962 Seattle World Fair. This plan failed and it seemed as if the historic ship was destined for the scrap heap.

Music legend Elvis Presley intervened and bought the ship in 1964 with the desire that it be given to the March of Dimes Foundation and preserved as a “national shrine.” Elvis’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker said of Presley’s intentions that “Elvis feels the yacht could be a strong source for donations in memory of the late Presidents Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.” 13 The foundation, concerned over maintenance cost and the overall mission of their organization declined the offer with regret.

President Franklin Roosevelt enjoys time aboard the Potomac while on the Hudson River in 1937.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum/NARA

After several more owners, the ship sank after being towed to Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay when several pilings pierced her hull. Raised two weeks later, the ship was sold by U.S. Customs to the Port of Oakland. Spearheaded by the Port, the Potomac was preserved and restored during a 14 year collaborate effort by President Roosevelt's son, James, multiple organizations, and many dedicated volunteers.

The Potomac, now a National Historic Landmark, is maintained by the Association for the Preservation of the Presidential Yacht Potomac. It resides today in Oakland, California and has been open to the public since 1995. 14

President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with the King and Queen of Great Britain aboard the Potomac in 1939.


USS Potomac, the 'Floating White House,' no stranger to wild stories

1 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt was seized in a $40 million marijuana bust, September 11, 1980 Here is the Potomac, and the Valkeryie John O'Hara/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt was seized in a $40 million marijuana bust, September 11, 1980 Here is the Potomac, and the Valkeryie John O'Hara/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

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3 of 34 Greg Walters, a customs patrol officer, at a pot bust at Pier 36 where two vessels, the Potomac & the Valkyrie, were found with 20 tons of Colombian marijuana in 1980. John O'Hara / San Francisco Chronicle/1980 Ran on: 09-09-2005 Customs officer Greg Walters at Pier 26, where two vessels were found with 20 tons of marijuana. John O'Hara/San Francisco Chronicle/1980 Show More Show Less

4 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt was seized in a $40 million marijuana bust, September 11, 1980 John O'Hara/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

5 of 34 The September 12, 1980 Chronicle front page reports on The Potomac being seized in a $40 million post bust. Show More Show Less

6 of 34 Te inaugural cruise of the Potomac after restoration. On board are the skilled workers who made the ship seaworthy again. photo ran 07/o3/1992, p. A19 Brant Ward/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt sunk while docked at Treasure island, shown here, as they attempt to raise it. March, 30, 1981 Peter Breinig/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt sunk while docked at Treasure island, March, 18, 1981 Steve Ringman/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is to be auctioned Photo dated April, 21, 1981 Gary Fong/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 34 POTOMAC 2/C/05SEP97/PZ/HO ------ FDR on the Potomac. HAnd Out Art. Show More Show Less

11 of 34 POTOMAC/B/1941/MN/AP Show More Show Less

12 of 34 A Chronicle editorial dated March 23, 1981 bemoaned that the Potomac the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt sank off Treasure Island Show More Show Less

13 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is to be auctioned Photo dated April, 21, 1981 Gary Fong/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

14 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt sunk while docked at Treasure island, shown here being restored July 27, 1988 Steve Ringman/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

15 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is to be auctioned Photo dated April, 21, 1981 Gary Fong/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

16 of 34 The March 19, 1981 Chronicle reports on The Potomac sinking Show More Show Less

17 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is to be auctioned Photo dated April, 21, 1981 Gary Fong/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

18 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is to be auctioned Photo dated April, 21, 1981 Gary Fong/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

19 of 34 The Potomac the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt awaits restoration, May 11, 1984 Photo ran 05/12/1984, p. 4 Jerry Telfer/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

20 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is to be auctioned Photo dated April, 21, 1981 Gary Fong/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

21 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is to be auctioned Photo dated April, 21, 1981 Gary Fong/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

22 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is to be auctioned Photo dated April, 21, 1981 Gary Fong/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

23 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is granted National Historic Landmark status Dan Holdgate is in charge of the restoration Photo dated June 19, 1991 Eddie Ledesma/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

24 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is avail be for history tours four times a month, with a two hour excursions and live lecturer Photo dated August 23, 1997 Sam Deaner/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

25 of 34 POTOMAC 2/08MAY95/MN/MACOR President Franklin D. Roosevelt's yacht has been restored by the Port of Oakland. The ship at dock at the foot of Clay St. in Oakand. The radio room, Roosevelt with talk to the people of the US from this room. with the Chronicle Photo: Michael Macor Show More Show Less

26 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is avail be for history tours four times a month, with a two hour excursions and live lecturer Photo dated August 23, 1997 Sam Deaner/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

27 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is availabe for history tours four times a month, with a two hour excursions and live lecturer Photo dated August 23, 1997 Sam Deaner/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

28 of 34 Te inaugural cruise of the Potomac after restoration. On board are the skilled workers who made the ship seaworthy again. Brant Ward/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

29 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is granted National Historic Landmark status Dan Holdgate is in charge of the restoration Photo dated June 19, 1991 Eddie Ledesma/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

30 of 34 POTOMAC 1/C/23AUG97/EZ/SD - Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidential yacht, USS Potomac, sails under the Bay Bridge offering passengers a picturesque view of the San Francisco Bay and skyline. USS Potomac offers history tours of the Bay departing Jack London Square in Oakland featuring such sites as Alcatraz and Treasure Island. (Chronicle Photo by Sam Deaner) SAM DEANER/STAFF Show More Show Less

31 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is avail be for history tours four times a month, with a two hour excursions and live lecturer Photo dated August 23, 1997 Sam Deaner/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

32 of 34 POTOMAC 2/C/23AUG97/EZ/SD - USS Potomac Captain Jan Tiura relinquishes her duties and guides Joel Lumpkin, 7, in steering the yacht through the Bay as he peeks over the wheel in attempt to see. It appears Lumpkin is too short to behold a view of his direction. Lumpkin, visiting from New Jersey, waltzed by the pilot house curiously and Tiura gave the youngster an opportunity to be capatain for a moment. (Chronicle Photo by Sam Deaner) SAM DEANER/STAFF Show More Show Less

33 of 34 The Potomac, the former presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt is avail be for history tours four times a month, with a two hour excursions and live lecturer Photo dated August 23, 1997 Sam Deaner/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

34 of 34 POTOMAC 1/08MAY95/MN/MACOR President Franklin D. Roosevelt's yacht , the Potomac has been restored by the Port of Oakland. The ship at dock at the foot of Clay St. in Oakand. Chronicle Photo: Michael Macor MICHAEL MACOR Show More Show Less

A president. A pot raid. A journey to the bottom of the bay. The USS Potomac has never failed to sail into stories during its decades in the Bay Area and beyond.

Recent images of smiling children aboard the Potomac sparked my interest and led me to The Chronicle&rsquos archive in search of photos, articles and newspaper pages that told the story of President Franklin D. Roosevelt&rsquos &ldquoFloating White House.&rdquo I found so many snippets of history I couldn&rsquot fit them all into one post.

The ship was originally commissioned in 1934 as the Coast Guard Cutter Electra. Roosevelt, who had been secretary of the Navy, enjoyed being on the water, so he had the 165-foot steel vessel retrofitted and recommissioned in 1936 as the USS Potomac. Roosevelt used the yacht for business and pleasure, chartering many fishing trips and hosting important political figures, including Great Britain&rsquos King George VI and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

When Harry Truman became U.S. president, he changed yachts, setting the Potomac on a course to the auction block. The ship spent several years in the Caribbean as a steamer, carrying passengers and cargo.

In 1964, Elvis Presley bought the Potomac at an auction, planning to donate it to the March of Dimes, in honor of Roosevelt. The charity thanked Presley, but declined the gift, citing maintenance costs. The rock legend then tried to give it to the Florida Coast Guard Auxiliary, but that agency refused, as well. St Jude Hospital and its founder, comedian Danny Thomas, finally accepted the ship as a gift, and the King could move on.

The March 19, 1981 Chronicle front page reports on The Potomac sinking

The Potomac sold a few more times as dreams for the yacht came and went, crushed by high renovation costs. It ended up docked for a while in Long Beach as a floating disco.

The story took another strange turn in 1980, when the yacht was being towed from Stockton to San Francisco, with talk of spending a boatload of money to turn it into a tourist attraction. Instead, on Sept. 11, 1980, the Potomac and another ship, the Valkyrie, were seized in a $40 million marijuana bust at Pier 26 in the city.

Sixteen people were arrested, including the Potomac&rsquos owner, Aubrey Phillips. The Valkyrie had transported the pot and the Potomac had been the command center for the illicit operation. Both ships had displayed large Crippled Children Society of America signs as a meager disguise.

It appeared to be all over for the Potomac when on March 18, 1981, it sunk in 35 feet of water while berthed at Treasure Island.


Presidential Yacht Potomac FDR’s Floating White House

The “Floating White House” the Potomac was used by FDR and then later owned by Elvis Presley

SAN FRANCISCO – The presidential yacht, Potomac, that was used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt is once again plying the waters of San Francisco Bay after undergoing a maintenance drydocking at Bay Ship and Yacht in Alameda, Calif.

More than a quarter of a million people have visited and sailed aboard the former President’s beloved “Floating White House,” the USS Potomac, since it opened to the public in the summer of 1995. $5 million was spent over a 12-year period to restore the 165-foot-long vessel as a memorial to the president who authored the New Deal and led the United States during the Great Depression and the World War II years.

“The Potomac is a wonderfully kept piece of machinery by a dedicated group docents that are passionate about preserving history”

Long known as the “Floating White House,” she served as the presidential yacht until his death in 1945. She has a storied past from her start as a Presidential yacht to the King’s yacht (Elvis Presley) and several other lives in-between.

Now under management of the Potomac Association, she is under constant care and refurbishment to combat the elements of time. Her dedicated docents selected Bay Ship and Yacht as her recent repair facility as the company is so familiar with the vessel. Repairs included above and below water painting preservation and repair of the valves checking and maintenance of all mechanical propulsion and steering systems structural steel repairs to tanks and hatches and tank painting.

“The Potomac is a wonderfully kept piece of machinery by a dedicated group docents that are passionate about preserving history,” said Richard Maguire, Business Development Manager, Bay Ship and Yacht. “Her docents often remark about the monumental decisions that were discussed aboard all throughout her tour of duty spanning the Great Depression and World War II. Bay Ship and Yacht is extremely pleased to be part of the preservation of such a fine piece of American history, and delighted to work with such professional and dedicated members of the Potomac Association.”


Watch the video: BIG CHANGE IN WHITE HOUSE SEPTEMBER 18, 2021. REVEALING THE BIGGEST THREAT IN THE WHITE HOUSE!


Comments:

  1. Firas

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  2. Dietz

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  3. Clennan

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