USS Surf (SP-518)

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Surf (Steam Yacht, 1898) 1217051801.jpg
Surf, circa 1903
United States
Name: USS Surf (proposed)
Namesake: Previous name retained (proposed)
Builder: Ramage & Ferguson, Leith, Scotland, United Kingdom
Completed: 1898
Acquired: Made available to U.S. Navy 1917
Commissioned: Never
Fate: Returned to owner 29 September 1917
Notes: Operated as civilian yacht Surf
General characteristics
Type: Patrol vessel (proposed)
Tonnage: 398 gross register tons
Length: 198 ft (60 m)
Beam: 24 ft 6 in (7.47 m)
Draft: 11 ft 9 in (3.58 m)
Propulsion: Steam engine
Speed: 11.5 knots
Crew: 18

USS Surf (SP-518) was a steam yacht that was offered to the United States Navy in 1917 but was never accepted.


Surf was built as a civilian steam yacht in 1898 by Ramage & Ferguson at Leith, Scotland, for E. D. Lambert of Berkshire, England.

Her later American owner, John H. Hanan, a millionaire shoe manufacturer, who had bought and used her for cruising in 1916, sold her to John Alton Harriss a New York businessman and former Physician of Manhattan, New York City in 1917.[1] Harriss offered her to the U.S. Navy for use as a patrol vessel during World War I.[2]

Dr. Harriss loaned the Surf to the Navy and the American Red Cross for use as an Ambulance ship in May 1917, he assumed all the costs for painting her in Red Cross livery, her maintenance and the salaries of the doctors and nurses detailed to her, as well as offering his own services.[3][4] The loan was made on the basis that he be allowed to serve as the Medical Director on the yacht. She could accommodate 25 patients.[2]

The Navy assigned her the section patrol number SP-518 but never commissioned her, and returned her to Harris on 29 September 1917. The threat of submarines had put paid to the idea.[5]

Irish American tenor singer John McCormack (1884-1945) singing on the "Surf", Harriss sitting with folded arms by the piano

From 30 July 1918 she started taking 120 Army patients a time from the United States General Hospital No. 1 on day trips, three times a week, along the Hudson as a recreation boat, musical entertainment being provided.[5]

USS Surf, Society's floating palace now an ambulance ship


  1. ^ "Dr. John Harriss rites tomorrow (obit)". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York). 13 October 1938. p. 15. Retrieved 5 September 2018. Dr. John Harriss died age 63, former Deputy Police Commissioner
  2. ^ a b "Yacht given to U.S. as Ambulance Boat". The Sun (New York, New York). 28 May 1917. p. 6. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  3. ^ "New York Physician gives yacht to U.S. for Hospital Ship". Muncie Evening Press (Muncie, Indiana) 01 Jun 1917. 1 June 1917. p. 8. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Surf (SP 518)". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  5. ^ a b "120 Convalescent Soldiers taken up Hudson on yacht". New-York Tribune (New York, New York). 31 July 1918. p. 4.