Famous people who seriously loved boats & ships

since I don’t want to hijack the thread about the BOUNTY tragedy, I’ll start this one with the Duke himself and the WILD GOOSE

[B][U]American Legend[/U][/B]

By Elizabeth Ginns Britten

The tough-as-nails, big-screen image of John Wayne belied the private family time he enjoyed aboard his beloved yacht Wild Goose.

On May 26, 1907, pharmacist Clyde Morrison and his wife, Mary Brown, welcomed a happy, healthy baby boy into their modest, four-room Winterset, Iowa, home. They named him Marion Michael Morrison. What they didn’t know was that their baby would grow up to become one of the most well-loved and universally recognized big-screen American icons of all time, so much so that at the time of his death on June 11, 1979, the Olympic Torch was lit in his honor and shortly thereafter the Orange County, California, airport was named after him.

We know Marion Michael by his screen name, John Wayne, and by his nickname, Duke; we know him as the man who became a star as Ringo Kid in the 1939 film Stagecoach, who won an Oscar 30 years later for playing the part of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, and who appeared in more than 100 movies in his nearly 50-year-long acting career. His life was glamorous, legendary, and well cataloged. He worked hard, played hard, and palled around with other Tinseltown icons like Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. Back then and still today, women loved him and men wanted to be him.

[quote] Builder: Ballard Marine & Railway in Ballard, Washington
Boat Type: yacht (> 80’)
LOA: 136’0"
Beam: 24’0"
Draft: 9’0"
Fuel Capacity: 10,000 gal.
Water Capacity: 3,000 gal.
Launched: July 6, 1942 as a navy minesweeper
Engines: 2/500-hp G.M.C. Cleveland 8-268-A eight-cylinder diesels
Cruise Speed: 11 knots
Top Speed: 15 knots
Range: 3,500 miles
Accommodations: five staterooms (for 12 guests), plus crew quarters for six
Tenders: 16-foot Boston Whaler with a 115-hp outboard and a 17-foot British Dory with a 135-hp outboard
Noteworthy Feature: a walk-in freezer jam-packed with Duke’s favorite cuisine, N.Y. strip steak.

But beneath the high-profile Wild West image, Wayne was a devoted family man who longed for privacy and a life at sea. That desire was fulfilled during the last 16 years of his life, when he spent the bulk of his leisure time with his third wife, Pilar, and their three children, Aissa, Ethan, and Marissa, aboard one of his most cherished possessions: the 136-foot Wild Goose. I spoke with Marissa and Wild Goose’s former captain Bert Minshall, who cataloged his experiences cruising with Wayne in On Board With the Duke, to dig up the hard-to-find information about the vessel and what life onboard with the Duke was really like.

Duke’s love affair with the sea began early on, long before his film career ever took off. After graduating high school in 1925, hoping to start a career on the water, he applied to the U.S. Navy. He was rejected. He later described the incident as one of the “greatest disappointments of his life,” according to Minshall. With the Navy a no-go, Duke instead attended the University of Southern California on a football scholarship (the Morrison family relocated to California for its warm climate in 1912, after Clyde was diagnosed with a lung condition). But when a body-surfing injury to his shoulder left him unable to play, Wayne lost his scholarship and was forced to drop out due to financial reasons. Down on his luck and desperate for cash, he took a job in the prop department of Fox studios for the then-generous sum of $35 a week. That’s where he met director John Ford, who took a liking to him and cast him as an extra in one of his movies. It was an auspicious start to an extraordinary film career that, among other things, would eventually allow him to pursue his dream of a life at sea; in fact, 15 of his films were set on the water.

Fast forward to the early 1960’s when Wayne, now a big-time actor, bought a 9,000-square-foot Newport Beach home with a dock, the perfect location for the other big purchase he made during this time period: a 136-foot former U.S. Navy minesweeper, which he bought from his friend, Seattle lumber tycoon Max Wyman, for $110,000. Minshall says she was the perfect vessel for the 6’4" Duke: big, rugged, and manly. Shortly after he took possession, the refit began. A master stateroom, which wrapped around the ship’s funnel, was added just aft of the wheelhouse; interior bulkheads were removed to give the yacht a more spacious feel, and overheads were raised to accommodate Duke’s height. A wood-burning fireplace, poker table, and built-in wet bar were added to the saloon to make the boat a comfortable, family-friendly cruiser. But even so, Wayne was intent on maintaining the boat’s naval heritage and left many of her original military elements intact, like the old-fashioned swivel wall fans, the bell, and the brass wheel in the wheelhouse, the rim of which the captain was forbidden from touching, as it smudged easily; instead, Minshall and Wild Goose’s other captains were required to steer the vessel holding the wheel’s inner spokes.

Sadly, by the time Wild Goose was out of the yard and in her berth in Newport Harbor (at the time she was the largest vessel there and was described as a floating Taj Mahal thanks to her shiny white hull sides and varnished teak trim), Duke’s focus was on something else: his failing health. His dream of spending time with his family aboard almost ended before it even began when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in late 1964. Wayne underwent surgery, and a golf-ball size tumor was successfully removed, as was part of his lung. “I beat the big C,” he boasted, rejoicing in his new lease on life and adding that, although recently he’d thought often about dying, “now, all I can feel is life.”

From then on, he spent as much time as possible aboard Wild Goose, cruising between Newport Beach, nearby Santa Catalina Island, and Mexico in the winter and Alaska and Vancouver in the summer. (When he was filming, Wayne made arrangements to fly in to meet up with the yacht on weekends.) He described this time as the happiest period of his life. Minshall says that onboard, Wayne was a refined man who sipped brandy (although tequila was his favorite drink, and he’d often polish off a bottle of it in a single day), played chess, and enjoyed curling up on the aft deck with a good book.

John Wayne was also an avid fisherman who would “spend $3,000 in three weeks on fishing guides, fish all day long, fill his freezer up with fish, and then give it away to friends,” according to Minshall. He played games (Marissa recalls the onboard Easter egg hunts Wayne arranged for her and her siblings) and waterskied with his kids, and enjoyed meeting locals at Wild Goose’s ports of call. In fact, he handed autographed cards with “good luck” written on them to the crowds of fans he encountered at each port. “It was just such a great, wholesome, family way to grow up,” says Marissa, conceding that it was also a time when the press would “leave us alone and let us enjoy that family time in peace.”

But by the mid-1970’s, Duke was spending less time aboard Wild Goose. His growing children were pursuing other interests, which he reportedly found hard to accept. His marriage to Pilar was showing signs of strain; two weeks after celebrating their 19th wedding anniversary in 1973, they separated. And by 1977 the Duke’s health was again failing. He was hospitalized in April of the following year for a faulty heart valve and then again ten months later when his cancer-laden stomach was removed. Although he was again cancer-free, Duke knew his days were limited; this is perhaps best illustrated by the photo above, depicting a frail, elderly Wayne on Wild Goose’s tender, clasping a protein shake which he said “tasted like hell” but helped him maintain his strength.

Wayne’s last trip aboard Wild Goose came on Easter weekend 1979. It was a cruise to Catalina Island. Minshall describes Duke’s appearance that weekend as “noticeably weak and thin. He had no appetite and couldn’t drink any alcohol.” As Minshall motored Wild Goose back into her slip in Newport Harbor, Wayne confided that he didn’t have much time left. Two weeks later Wayne was admitted to UCLA Medical Center—the Big C had returned with a vengeance, and this time it would beat him. On June 11 at 5:23 p.m., John Wayne died from complications due to stomach cancer.

Just prior to his death, a Los Angeles-area attorney bought Wild Goose for $750,000, then sold it to the Wild Goose Yacht Corporation for an undisclosed sum. An enclosed top deck was added , and today the yacht still resides in Newport Beach and is used for corporate charter and events through Hornblower Cruises. Marissa, who still dreams about the good times she and her Dad had onboard the Wild Goose, hopes that someone will buy the yacht and restore her to her original grandeur. “They really ruined the beauty of it,” she laments.

As for Wayne, he is buried in a hill in Newport Beach, overlooking the ocean, and some say his spirit haunts Wild Goose. In any case, the legendary actor, who spent so much of his life in the public eye, is finally where he longed to be: near the ocean that filled his life with so much joy and solitude.

In his later days, while fighting cancer for the second time in his life, Duke drank protein shakes like the one here to maintain strength.

Shortly before he died of complications from stomach cancer in 1979, John Wayne sold Wild Goose to a Santa Monica, California, lawyer named Lynn Hutchins, and allegations that his ghost haunts the vessel quickly began to swirl. She reported to The National Enquirer, that she’d seen Duke’s ghost twice while onboard and felt his presence on many occasions. Another report says that his ghost was seen in a mirror behind the bar as beer glasses rattled. A psychic who investigated the incidents said that Duke’s spirit was returning because of his “deep emotional attachment” to the vessel.—E.G.B.

Seven different captains took the helm of Wild Goose under John Wayne’s ownership, and each was a real character. But Capt. Peter Stein, who ran the boat from 1963 until Duke’s death in 1979, was arguably the most colorful of all. In his early years, during Prohibition, he smuggled rum aboard a sailboat, and while employed by Wayne he even played the role of a pirate in a segment of the Tarzan TV series that was filmed aboard Wild Goose. Wayne joked that it wasn’t much of a stretch for Stein, as he was simply “playing himself,” adding that if they ever made a movie of Stein’s life, he’d “want to play the lead.”

Stein also had a passion for liquor and regularly spiked his morning coffee with J&B scotch. Although Duke reportedly had no problem with Stein’s drinking (he allegedly “didn’t trust a man who didn’t drink”), it did land Stein in some legal trouble in the spring of 1969 when he ran Wild Goose onto a submerged jetty off San Diego.

The full extent of the damage was revealed the following day. In addition to the grapefruit-size holes in her hull, her keel was mangled, her props were bent beyond repair, one prop shaft was shattered, and the five-inch-thick, brass rudderposts were twisted. All told, the repairs cost $70,000.

Although Duke forgave him, Stein was called to testify at the U.S. Coast Guard board of inquiry about what happened. Ironically, after spending the afternoon answering the board’s questions and then worrying about what the outcome would be, Stein went home, lit a cigarette, poured a drink, and suffered a massive heart attack.

Upon hearing the news, Duke reportedly mused, “Wouldn’t ya know it that ol’ Pete would beat the rap by dying.”—E.G.B.[/QUOTE]

I served on 2 wood minesweepers (MSO) out of Seattle. Both built in mid-50’s. Given the resources I would have loved to make another Wild Goose.

[QUOTE=salt’n steel;87315]I served on 2 wood minesweepers (MSO) out of Seattle. Both built in mid-50’s. Given the resources I would have loved to make another Wild Goose.[/QUOTE]

I love those old MSOs. I understand that the Navy disposed of them all now. I know there are several still in service with foreign navies. One sure would make for a great resurrection of the WILD GOOSE even though totally different class vessels. Nothing but the best tight grained old growth wood for them and only stainless steel, monel and brass fittings/fasteners!

Did you have an engineering officer by the name of John Abbott with you?

He used to visit Sequim WA on it too. The marina there is named after him.

I asked this in the BOUNTY thread but reasking it here

who was it who said?

“the trouble with having dames on board is you can’t pee over the side”

and it wasn’t the Duke

The 427 was USS Constant out of SF. Name rings a bell but can’t say I knew him. I believe Constant, Pledge and Implicit went to Taiwan. I bet they have them In tip top condition considering the craftsmanship they are known for.

Humphrey Bogart?

Calypso was also a WWII minesweeper - British but very similar class as what the Wild Goose was before the Duke bought her. Picture is Calypso in the early days.

[QUOTE=salt’n steel;87392]Humphrey Bogart?[/QUOTE]

Ding, Ding, Ding, DING! We have a winner!

He loved to sail on his Sparkman & Stevens schooner SANTANA

The sea was my father’s sanity. My father once answered a question about his devotion to sailing this way: “An actor needs something to stabilize his personality, something to nail down what he really is, not what he is currently pretending to be.” -Stephen Bogart

and let no man here forget that Bogart was chief mate Joe Rossi in Action in the North Atlantic and Joe Rossi WAS Bogart!

[QUOTE=salt’n steel;87397]Calypso was also a WWII minesweeper - British but very similar class as what the Wild Goose was before the Duke bought her. Picture is Calypso in the early days.[/QUOTE]

Indeed and they were both built at Ballard Marine Railway as well!

Goddammit but Seattle was an awesome twofisted wooden shipbuilding town once upon a time! Tacoma, Gig Harbor & Bellingham too for that matter!

Since we are talking about old wooden boats…

One of my friends was the Captain of the old USS Sequoia for several years up in DC. The owner used her as a high end charter yacht and when my friend’s normal mate was unavailable and if I was off I would go up to DC and run as the mate for him. When my friend took over as captain the boat needed some work done but after a year he got her into pristine condition. The boat would winter at Atlantic Yacht Basin in Chesapeake which is one of the few marina/yacht yards I know of that keeps a crew of high end carpenters on the staff. I also worked on her there when I was off of the tug. Sadly the owner turned out to be a rat bastard who didnt pay his employees on time and the nearly slapped a lien on the boat. My friend left there because of the bouncing paychecks and the owners inability to tell the truth. Now the boat looks horrible. I wish some lover of old wooden boats would buy it and fix it up and maintain as a wooden boats needs to be maintained. That boat has a lot of history aboard, oh the storys she could tell.

I have some pictures I can post but ill have to figure out how to do it and post them later.

Interesting that you add a presidential yacht to the discussion because Franklin Roosevelt was my next entry there.

He had the yacht USS POTOMAC converted from the USCG ELECTRA and surrounded his offices with paintings of ships and ship models. He always was keely interested in all matters to do with the Navy but was often trying to get involved in the design of new naval vessels. Also, the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 was legislation he personally had a hand in crafting.

FDR was probably our most nautically minded of presidents and the greatest champion of having a vibrant and strong merchant marine.

There is the MV Uchuck III in Gold River on Vancouv Island. She was built as a wooden hulled minesweeper in Oregon in 1942.

I took a daytrip in the 80’s, as a paying tourist, no work involved, that started at Gold River which is mid island. She sailed out to the Pacific Coast on the Island to near Bligh Island. She put us tourists off at Friendly Cove, of Capt Cook fame, for about an hour while she went around the bend and delivered some lumber and oil drums(gas?) to a nearby native settlement. There was another spot she stopped on the way out to offload a camper/hunter along with a pallet of gear in what felt like the middle of nowhere. I felt lucky to have stumbled across her and to have the chance for a day aboard. It appears they are still at it…


Errol Flynn


( and plenty others)

Ernest Hemingway - Pilar

Jimmy Cagney. ‘Mary Ann’

I vaguely recall the boat. She was a strange design. I do distinctly recall him actually operating the boat himself. But shortly thereafter he got too old/sick to operate it himself. When he died his heirs sold it.

Bogart started his career as an enlisted man in WWI he was a coxswain aboard the troopship USS leviathan.

Bogart also served in the U.S. Coast Guard, temporary reserve during WWII. He volunteered his yacht santana and himself.

[QUOTE=silverbk;87657]Bogart started his career as an enlisted man in WWI he was a coxswain aboard the troopship USS leviathan.[/QUOTE]

Bogie’s time in the Navy is legendary

What to do next? It was spring 1918 when Humphrey arrived home in New York, and the country was at war. Many young men were anxious to join the fighting overseas and show the Huns a thing or two; to Humphrey Bogart, it sounded like a grand adventure. He would probably get to go to Paris, meet some French girls. . . . Soon after returning from school, Humphrey went down to the receiving ship USS Granite State and joined the Navy, officially ending his formal schooling.

He did not have to travel far for his training; he was ordered to the Naval Reserve training Station in Pelham Park, New York. Graduating with a coxswain rating, he was next ordered to the USS Leviathan (SP-1326), the largest American troopship. The brand-new sailor reported on 27 November, more than two weeks after the war had ended.

The Leviathan was an ex-German passenger liner, Germany’s largest, built by Blohm and Voss in Hamburg and originally named Vaterland. She was launched on 13 April 1913. When the United States entered World War I, on 6 April 1917, the U.S. Shipping Board seized her at Hoboken, New Jersey. The ship was turned over to the Navy in June and commissioned in July. Renamed in September, the Leviathan operated between Hoboken, Brest, and Liverpool. Until the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, the ship steamed back and forth across the Atlantic, ten round trips in all, carrying more than 119,000 troops.

It may have been while Bogart was attached to the Leviathan that an incident occurred that was to affect his image on the screen after leaving the service. As anyone who has watched his time-honored performances, Bogart talked as if his upper lip was paralyzed, and there was always a slight lisp. There are many explanations for this mannerism.

According to one story, a piece of shrapnel cut his mouth when he was at the wheel of the Leviathan, under fire from a U-boat. This would have been an interesting occurrence more than two weeks after the Armistice. In another version of events, Bogart was ordered to take a U.S. Navy prisoner to Portsmouth Naval Prison, New Hampshire. The two traveled side by side, with the prisoner handcuffed. As they changed trains in Boston, the con asked Bogart for a Lucky Strike, a supply of which Bogie always had and was happy to share. As he dug for matches, suddenly his ungrateful companion smashed him in the mouth with his manacles and humped up to escape. Bogart, his upper lip badly torn and bleeding, reacted quickly, drawing out his .45 automatic and dropping the prisoner. Initial Navy surgery on the lip was badly botched, and subsequent plastic surgery did not help.

However it really happened, the sailor was permanently scarred. But he was also left with a distinctive screen trademark that made him appear especially sinister in his numerous gangster roles.

In February 1919 he was transferred from the Leviathan to another transport, the USS Santa Olivia (SP-3125). For reasons unknown–late-night partying, probably–he missed his ship when she sailed from Hoboken for Europe in April. Bogart promptly surrendered to the port’s naval authorities and was ordered to New York, to report to the receiving ship. He thus avoided being listed as a deserter, and his offense was recorded as a mere AWOL, for which he was awarded three days’ solitary confinement on bread and water.

The spunky enlistee finally got out of the Navy with an honorable discharge on 18 June 1919. He had made it to seaman second class, with performance reports rating above average in proficiency (3.0 on a scale of 1.0 to 4.0) and superior (4.0) in sobriety and obedience.

of course, other Hollywood actors were also hardscrabble Navy sailors when the Navy was run by two fisted men instead of the Kleenex tissue paper sailors of today with all their fancy color lighted buttons to push and screens to watch. Once upon a time Navy sailors handloaded heavy caliber ordinance and plastered the shit out the the enemy while that same enemy was trying to plaster them. A regular floating barroom brawl on the high seas in those old timey daze!

Gotta check and see if Borgnine ever had a boat? I remember there was a TV pilot in the 70’s where he was supposed to be the owner and captain of a rundown old wooden tug in San Pedro Harbor. Too bad that never became a series!

and let no man here forget that Bogart was chief mate Joe Rossi in Action in the North Atlantic and Joe Rossi WAS Bogart!


I sailed with an AB who was on board whatever ship they filmed on during the filming. Wish I could remember his stories. This AB had been going to sea for 60+ years, was almost 80, and turned to for overtime every day. Old Time SUP sailors, they don’t make them like that anymore.

I just ordered the book “On Board with the Duke”. Hopefully will be arriving this week not long after I get home. A bit pricey but I am really looking forward to reading it and adding it to my library

>5.0 out of 5 stars A great read for fans of the Duke and of West Coast yachting! February 11, 2007

Captain Bert Minshall was aboard John Wayne’s classic 1942 136’ minesweeper conversion Wild Goose for the last 16 years of the Duke’s life. He says “The great, aging yacht was the actor’s proudest possession as well as a much cherished floating retreat and playground. She was the sort of ship you’d expect John Wayne to own. . . big, rugged, comfortable, impressive. Few stars would have had the money or grit to take on such a formidable pain in the pocketbook. But to Duke, owning the Wild Goose capped a life that had been lived to the hilt. She was more than status symbol. . . she was an extension of himself.”

Capt. Minshall obviously had enormous respect for Wayne, his family, his career, and his vessel. The book is a well written and fascinating inside look at his adventures cruising the coast from Alaska to Mexico with the Duke.

>5.0 out of 5 stars Can’t get enough of the Duke! December 9, 2011

Very entertaining coffee table book written by Bert Minshall who worked on JW’s yacht. I have recently taken a cruise on board the Wild Goose so this book really takes you back in time if you are not able to go on board in person. Good book and lot’s of nice pictures.

>5.0 out of 5 stars Very Nostalgic July 12, 2011

I was fortunate enough to work on the Wild Goose as a teenager one summer back in the mid sixties.
I remember meeting the Duke on board the first day as he gripped my hand, nearly crushing it and saying "pleased ta meet ya young fella"
I could smell the scotch on his breath and the non-judgemental enthusiasm in his welcome.
Moments I’ll always cherish.
The book captures this nostalgia with plenty of stories, family details, and intimate pics.
The man was indeed a legend in his own time, just as was the Wild Goose.
Capt. Minshall does a great job with the narrative.
Highly recommended read for the true John Wayne fan.

Goddammit, the world needs a John Wayne in it and there aren’t any more being made…