Friday, September 30, 2011

Grover Cleveland's "secret operation" yacht found?

I received an interesting e-mail recently from Robert DeSimone, who read an article about the secret operation on Grover Cleveland that I wrote for BoatUS (a great magazine, incidentally). In the article (and in my book about the operation), I mentioned that the ultimate fate of the Oneida, the yacht on which the operation took place is unknown:

Around 1914, Elias Benedict [the owner] sold the yacht, which was rechristened the Adelante and converted into a towboat. During World War I the Adelante was commandeered by the U.S. Navy and put into service setting up a network of maritime radio stations along the Maine coast. After the war, it went back into service as a towboat, operating out of New York under the names John Gulley and Salvager. By 1941, the boat, once one of the grandest yachts in the world and the site of a unique episode in American history, had been abandoned. Presumably it was sold for scrap. 

Well, Robert e-mailed me a photo of a yacht that looks a lot like the Oneida. Here’s what he wrote:

I was flipping through the magazine and saw the first page of your article. As I looked at the picture I immediately remembered a picture I took while vacationing in Nantucket. When I took the picture of that glorious old ship my imagination started to whirl. I really did think there was something “presidential” about this boat, some great history behind it. I snapped the picture and moved on. I'm no expert on yachts either, but the details are strikingly similar with the exception of the center mast and rear deck structure. Over its lifespan the Oneida would have had many retrofits and upgrades. Who knows, maybe she sat dormant for years and was eventually restored to her original beauty. The setting for your article seems to match the region where I saw the boat. I would guess it's a privately owned yacht. This picture was taken on August 19, 2011 in the Nantucket Harbor. I wish I had snapped a picture of the name on her stern. Maybe it's a bit of history lost and now found? 

OK, below is the picture that Robert sent me. Below that are two pictures of the Oneida, one taken around the time of the operation in 1893, another taken in 1914, when the yacht was the towboat known as the Adelante (click on an image to enlarge it):


UPDATE: A friend just emailed this old picture of the Oneida that he found online. It's facing the same direction as the yacht in the photo that Robert sent me, which make comparing the boats a bit easier:

I agree: The boats sure do look similar. Could it be that Grover’s “secret operation” yacht is still out there plying the waters off the East Coast? What do you think? Any suggestions on how I can identify the boat in the photo that Robert sent me? Please let me know.