‘Sequoia’ returns to Cambridge

Submitted to Dorchester Banner/Andrew Bradshaw
The former presidential yacht “Sequoia” is at Ruark Boatworks in Cambridge.

CAMBRIDGE — The former presidential yacht “Sequoia” has returned to Cambridge.

The last time the Sequoia visited the city was in 1935, when then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt sailed the Sequoia down the Chesapeake Bay to attend the dedication of the Emerson C. Harrington bridge, a two-lane span that joined Dorchester County with Talbot and set the stage for generations of traffic jams fueled by visitors hopeful of weekend fun at Ocean City.

At the time, the Harrington Bridge was the longest span in Maryland. President Roosevelt called it, “A splendid bridge” at the dedication.

The bridge is now known as the Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park, adjacent to the Frederick C. Malkus Jr. bridge.

While it has been quite some time since the yacht was here, she left more than memories. Part of the ship’s smokestack has been on display at Long Wharf for decades to commemorate the visit.

“It was quite a sight to see this vessel being barged from Deltaville, Va. up Cambridge Creek this morning,” a statement from Dorchester Tourism said on Friday. “It will be ‘on the hard’ — on land — at the Richardson Maritime Museum’s Ruark Boatworks for several weeks. Then the plan is to transfer it to an ocean-going barge and bring it to Maine for restoration.”

Once called “the floating White House,” the USS Sequoia was built in 1925 and served eight presidents before Jimmy Carter put it up for auction in 1977.

John F. Kennedy added a king-size bed to the yacht and celebrated his 46th birthday on the boat.

It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and commanded rental fees of $10,000 a day at one point. After deteriorating in a Virginia boatyard some years, it was acquired by Washington, D.C.-based company FE Partners, LLC for $0.

According to a caretaker on board the vessel, the Sequoia is to be taken overland to Delaware Bay, where it would be loaded on a barge and floated to Belfast, Maine, possibly to the boatyard of French & Webb, Inc. There it will be extensively re-fitted — the entire upper deck will be cut away and lifted, and fitted to a brand-new hull, which in the boat’s current condition is broken in four places and considered scrap.

Ownership of the Sequoia is now claimed by Equator Capital investments. Once restored, the Sequoia will be used as venue to promote ocean conservation causes.

The yacht’s arrival in Cambridge attracted interest and assistance from locals. A heavy tow truck from Roy Bradshaw’s Body Shop was at the Creek, using its muscle to haul the craft ashore.

“Rusty Hurley, Andrew Bradshaw, and Kellen Hurley are thrilled to be helping on this very awesome project,” Andrew Bradshaw said. “By far one of the coolest projects with which we’ve assisted.”

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

Paul Clipper is the editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at pclipper@newszap.com.

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