S.Y. Sea Cloud
Today’s SEA CLOUD was built in 1931 at the Krupp family shipyard in Kiel according to plans of the renowned American contractors Gibbs & Cox. After her launch in the last week of April, the largest private sailing yacht of that day was christened the HUSSAR.
As the largest sailing yacht ever built, the four-masted barque was commissioned by one of Wall Street’s wealthiest businessmen, E. F. Hutton. His wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to a huge fortune and herself a successful businesswoman, designed the luxury yacht, with its then black hull, completely according to her liking.
She dedicated at least two years almost exclusively to this task. She rented a large warehouse in Brooklyn, drafted a full-scale diagram of the ship’s interior and arranged carefully-chosen antiques as they should later be displayed in her own and the six other luxury cabins. It is no wonder that the décor was later exactly as she had imagined – and fascinates guests even today with its personalized style. The HUSSAR was built for one purpose: to take the Huttons in their customary luxury to all those places they felt their presence was desirable, whether for representative or business reasons or simply the pleasure of travel and adventure. The HUSSAR spent at least nine months of the year at sea – and the Huttons set course for such exotic destinations as the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii and the Mediterranean.
However, the sweet life beneath white sails was soon overshadowed: Lady Marjorie and Ed Hutton’s marriage fell into crisis – and in August 1935, the pair divorced.
One day after the divorce, Ed Hutton signed over the HUSSAR to his ex-wife, who loved the ship more than anything. As a kind of final stroke under her two failed marriages, Marjorie had the yacht registered under a new name: The HUSSAR became the SEA CLOUD. After the painful separation from her husband Lady Marjorie quickly found comfort in her old friend Joseph E. Davies. He was a successful attorney and served as the economic advisor to President Wilson during the peace negotiations in Versailles after World War I.
Her wedding to Mr. Davies on 15 December 1935 gave Marjorie’s life a new direction: From now on, she was engaged not only in the circles of business tycoons, but also in the world of politics and diplomacy. In early 1937 Davies took over the office of the American ambassador in Moscow. The SEA CLOUD was now called to Leningrad as a floating (and nearly surveillance-free) diplomatic palace – and the social duties the SEA CLOUD had to serve increased once again.
Marjorie knew perfectly well how to socialize in diplomatic circles. Prominent Soviets gladly accepted her invitations to learn more about the western luxury lifestyle. Even several crowned heads were guests aboard the SEA CLOUD, including Queen Elisabeth of Belgium.
In time, however, the trips from Leningrad became more dangerous as the number of warships in eastern waters rapidly grew. One planned trip to the Black Sea was cancelled because enemy submarines had taken up station there. In June 1938, the SEA CLOUD bid farewell to the USSR and sailed to Istanbul.
Most guests on board the SEA CLOUD pay no attention to the small, white plaque with five brass stripes, mounted on the front of the wheelhouse under the bridge. Only a few know: each stripe stands for a half year of active military service for the USA.
The patriotic act of Lady Marjorie and her third husband, Joe Davies, is widely referred to as a heroic sacrifice: The SEA CLOUD, in place of a son, would go to war. Actually, the couple had tried to sell their ship just before the USA entered the war. By this time, however, the market for this kind of luxury goods had collapsed.
The United States was pulled into the war by the attack of the Japanese on Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941. Shortly thereafter, the Navy started acquiring private yachts to strengthen the fleet and began to outfit them to patrol, search for submarines, and monitor weather.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was a close friend of diplomat Davies, at first rejected “military service” for the SEA CLOUD on the grounds that the yacht was too beautiful for such a deployment. But by 1942 the USA could no longer afford this kind of nicety. Symbolically chartered for one dollar, the Coast Guard took over the SEA CLOUD, removed the masts and bowsprit and had the boat painted grey.
Not much was left of the impressive luxury yacht. Outfitted with guns and anti-submarine weapons, she cruised the waters around the Azores and south Greenland under the name IX-99. As a floating weather station, the ship sent current data to Arlington, Virginia every four hours.
While all other yacht owners lost their ships in the war or sold them to the Navy, the SEA CLOUD was the only private luxury ship of its size still underway at the end of the war. On 4 July 1946 Joe and Marjorie along with seven friends set course for the Florida coast. The yacht had to make do without its masts, but it was painted brilliant white and the golden eagle once again adorned the bow.
In the summer of 1947 the rigging was re-assembled. In 1949 the SEA CLOUD received a new set of sails, which, even for millionaires, was difficult to get at the end of the war. The reconstruction of the SEA CLOUD took almost four years in total. From the top floor of a Palm Beach hotel, Joe and Marjorie waited anxiously for the return of their rebuilt ship. As it finally appeared in its entirety on the horizon, Joe said to Marjorie, “Well, Dear – there goes your Baby.”
And Marjorie got right back to the task of maneuvering her “baby”, and therefore herself, back into society’s circles. The biggest and most beautiful yacht in America appeared mostly on the east coast of the USA. Joe Davies, who suffered from seasickness, was glad to no longer have to explore unknown waters. Now he could concentrate on his friendships, such as with the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. The dictator had been on board more often than any other visitor and had already cast a very wishful eye on the yacht.
In the meantime, Marjorie came to the conclusion that she could no longer keep up the luxury yacht – the cost of the 72-person crew had grown immensely. The third marriage of the now 78 year-old was also in crisis. And so in the early 1950s, she decided to sell her ship.
For months Lady Marjorie searched for a buyer for the SEA CLOUD. This signaled the man who had been invited on board more often than any other guest: Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Montinas, the brutal head of the Dominican Republic. In 1955 Trujillo took over the ship – and gave it a new name: ANGELITA.
The presidential yacht was used primarily as a houseboat. She made headlines again after Trujillo was assassinated on 30 May 1961. While the country was being shaken by a revolution, the ANGELITA sailed toward Cannes with his body, a number of Trujillo family members and an enormous amount of cash. Just before the Canary Islands the ANGELITA received a radio message. The new government forced the crew to turn back.
The expensive heirloom was re-named PATRIA and again put up for sale. Five years later the PATRIA finally returned to American hands. The buyer was Operation Sea Cruises Inc. based in Panama. Its president John Blue sent the ANTARNA – the ship’s new name – to Naples to have her completely restored. Upon her return to America, however, there was a dispute with the American authorities – and the ship was temporarily docked.
Then 26 year-young Stephanie Gallagher entered the picture. Along with her husband Charles, she was obsessed with the idea of “Oceanic Schools”, where students would supplement their academic studies with an at-sea program on board large sailing ships. “Oceanics” paid its outstanding accounts and fees, but John Blue kept the ship’s papers. However, this didn’t stop Stephanie Gallagher from setting sail. From now on, the “pirate-ess” was pursued. Wherever the ANTARNA stopped, John Blue was already there to take back “his” ship. The end finally came for “Oceanics” in Panama.
For eight years the ANTARNA suffered the destructive sun and high humidity of the tropics in the harbor at Colón – even for such a sturdy yacht as the ANTARNA, this was an unreasonably long time. But despite no longer being “in business”, she was not forgotten by enthusiasts of great sailing ships.
One of them was the German Hartmut Paschburg, a ship’s captain and economist, who had breathed new life into old sailing ships before. He recognized that the ANTARNA, despite her poor condition, could be freed from her agony. Together with a group of Hamburg-based businessmen, he acquired the luxury yacht – and at once gave her back her old name: SEA CLOUD.
But Captain Paschburg’s most difficult task lay ahead: He had to get his new acquisition across the Atlantic. Mid-July 1978, Paschburg and 38 other adventurous men and two women flew to Colón. Together with Panamanian helpers, they worked the next months to make the rotting yacht halfway seaworthy. Mid-October came the call, “Cast-off!” – and the SEA CLOUD set course for Europe. And on 15 November 1978, the time finally came: The SEA CLOUD sailed into the Hamburg harbor, where she was greeted by thousands.
The new owners were emotionally torn when they saw their yacht. It soon became clear that much more money would need to be invested than they had planned. In February 1979 the SEA CLOUD was taken to Kiel, and at the Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG, the successor to the Germania-Werft shipyard, the extensive repair and reconstruction work began. Eight months later the SEA CLOUD took her first cruise under a new flag. And the magnificent diva has been at home on the world’s oceans ever since.
Between November 2010 and April 2011, the windjammer legend SEA CLOUD was brought into line with new SOLAS regulations (SOLAS = Safety of life at sea) at the Motorenwerke Bremerhaven (MWB) shipyard. For the first time in 33 years the four-masted bark was on display again in all its glory at the Überseebrücke in Hamburg from 2 to 13 May 2011 and took part in the Port Birthday Hamburg arrival and departure parades.
Her latest refurbishment has given her aura an even brighter sheen. Everyone who encounters her feels her majestic pride and is enchanted by her captivating beauty. For many, the SEA CLOUD is the true highlight of every journey, and an incomparable one at that.