USS Sequoia (presidential yacht)
Sequoia in Washington Marina in 2008
|Owner:||Richard Cadwalader (1925–1928)
William Dunning (1928–1931)
|Builder:||Mathis Yacht Building Co., Camden, New Jersey|
|Owner:||United States Department of Commerce|
|Acquired:||by purchase, 24 March 1931|
|Out of service:||1933|
|Name:||USS Sequoia (AG-23)|
|Owner:||United States Navy|
|Commissioned:||25 March 1933|
|Owner:||Secretary of the Navy|
|Out of service:||1977|
|Struck:||1 October 1968|
|Fate:||Sold at auction 18 May 1977|
|Displacement:||90 long tons (91 t)|
|Length:||104 ft (32 m)|
|Beam:||18 ft 2 in (5.54 m)|
|Draft:||4 ft 5 in (1.35 m)|
|Speed:||12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)|
USS Sequoia (yacht)
|Architect||Trumpy, John; Mathis Yacht Building Co.|
|NRHP Reference #||87002594|
|Added to NRHP||23 December 1987|
|Designated NHL||23 December 1987|
USS Sequoia is a former United States presidential yacht used from Herbert Hoover to Jimmy Carter, who had it sold in 1977. The ship was decommissioned under Roosevelt and lost its "USS" status at that time, but by popular convention is still often used. NorshipCo, a Norfolk-based shipbuilder and dry-docking company, repossessed the yacht after its owners, Presidential Yacht Sequoia Foundation, failed to pay the $3 million it cost to renovate the vessel. In June 2000, she was sold via auction on Bid4Assets. In November 2004 she was sought for repurchase by the US government but today remains privately owned by Gary Silversmith, who has owned her since September 2000.
The yacht is 104 feet (32 m) long, with a wooden hull, and was designed by John Trumpy Sr., a well-known shipbuilder. It includes a presidential stateroom, guest bedrooms, a galley and dining room, and was at one time retrofitted with an elevator for Franklin D. Roosevelt (Lyndon Johnson had it removed and replaced with a liquor bar).
Sequoia started out as Sequoia II, a private yacht built for $200,000 in 1925/1926 at a Camden, New Jersey shipyard. She was built for Richard Cadwalader of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who sold her to William Dunning, the president of the Sequoia Oil Company in Texas.
U.S. government service
Sequoia was purchased in 1931 by the United States Department of Commerce, for Prohibition patrol and decoy duties. Bootleggers would see what they thought was a rich-man's yacht and boat over to offer to sell illegal liquor, and then undercover police would arrest them. Herbert Hoover, an avid fisherman, had decommissioned the presidential yacht Mayflower in 1929 as an economy measure, and borrowed Sequoia from the Commerce Department as an unofficial yacht during the last two years of his presidency. Hoover was not personally a supporter of prohibition and drank while on the yacht.
In 1933, Sequoia was transferred to the United States Navy, where she was commissioned and given her USS status, serving officially as the presidential yacht for three years, until replaced by the Potomac.
She was decommissioned as an official Navy vessel under Roosevelt during WWII, supposedly because Churchill would not drink liquor on a Navy boat, and she remained decommissioned since. A more likely reason is that alcoholic beverages are prohibited on commissioned U.S. Navy ships and by being "in service", rather than commissioned, the users of the Sequoia could technically not violate the prohibition.
From 1936 through 1969 Sequoia then became the yacht of the Secretary of the Navy. During this period Sequoia was used by presidents and other high-ranking government officials. From 1969 through 1977 the yacht was dual-use for the Navy and executive branch officials including the president.
At Jimmy Carter's direction, the US government sold Sequoia at auction in Manalapan, Florida on 18 May 1977, for $286,000, as a symbolic cutback in Federal Government spending (annual cost to the US Navy was $800,000) and to help eliminate signs of an "imperial presidency".
Notable events aboard Sequoia include:
- Herbert Hoover sailed her to Florida
- Dwight Eisenhower lent her to Queen Elizabeth II during her state visit to the US
- John F. Kennedy held strategy meetings during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and had his last birthday party on the yacht
- Richard M. Nixon negotiated the SALT I arms treaty with Leonid Brezhnev and Anatoly Dobrynin, and later made the decision to resign the presidency
- Gerald Ford conducted Cabinet meetings
- Ronald Reagan met all 50 state governors at the gangplank
- George H. W. Bush met with Chinese premier Li Peng
And some seem to be legends:
- Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower planned European war strategy.
- Harry S. Truman decided to bomb Hiroshima (the decision was made during the Potsdam Conference)
She had a number of owners over the next 25 years, due in part to the expenses associated with the maintenance of a wooden-hulled vessel. Some owners sought to offer Sequoia for charter, others were non-profit groups seeking to maintain her for historical or other reasons.
The Presidential Yacht Trust, a non-profit organization, acquired her in 1980 and sponsored an eight-month, 6,000-mile "comeback" tour, but this group went bankrupt three years later. The vessel lay derelict for nearly a decade. Around 2000, Japanese buyers had a contract to purchase the vessel, due to some connections the ship has with Japanese history, but a private American buyer, Gary Silversmith, stepped in and made a counter-offer before the Japanese contract was signed. Sequoia was purchased for $2 million in September 2000, after a shipyard had her renovated at a cost of over $3 million. Sequoia underwent additional restoration, and was available for private charters for $2500 per hour in 2003. In November 2004, Congress voted to appropriate $2 million to repurchase Sequoia, but she remains under private ownership. As of 2010 she was docked at the Gangplank Marina in southwest Washington, D.C.
- American Defense Service Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- World War II Victory Medal
- National Defense Service Medal with star
- List of official vehicles of the President of the United States, which includes the other presidential yachts
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- This article includes information collected from the Naval Vessel Register, which, as a U.S. government publication, is in the public domain. The entry can be found here.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- "Sequoia (Yacht)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-09-08.
- "Tour of the U.S.S. Sequoia Presidential Yacht, video tour by owner". 21 November 2010. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
- "Bankrupt firms auction off assets on line". The Washington Times. 17 July 2000. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
- Delgado, James P. (30 June 1987). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: USS Sequoia (AG-23) / Presidential Yacht Sequoia" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-09-13. and
"Accompanying three photos, undated" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
- "Congressional Record - House - 108th Congress" 150. Government Printing Office. 20 November 2004. p. 25146. ISBN 978-0-16-084508-6. Retrieved 2010-06-09.
- "Sequoia documentary". History Channel. 2005. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
- Green, Jack (19 April 2003). "Presidential Yacht Sailors Reunite with Historic Ship" (Press release). Naval Historical Center Public Affairs.
- Kelly, Giles M. Sequoia: Presidential Yacht. Centreville, MD: Tidewater Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0-87033-561-8
- "The Presidential Yacht U.S.S. Sequoia: Restoring a Time-Honored American Tradition" (January 1983 cover story of Architectural Digest)
- Media related to USS Sequoia (ship, 1926) at Wikimedia Commons
- Official website
- Photos and descriptions of U.S. Presidential Yachts