By Julia Brouillette
Despite mechanical complications, the former presidential yacht Honey Fitz will dock briefly in Alexandria during the week of June 24.
The boat was originally slated for an extended stopover in Alexandria from Saturday through Monday. But mechanical problems and scheduling mix-ups delayed and shortened its visit.
Though organizers jettisoned previously planned free public tours, the yacht will still host an evening fundraiser for the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, a nonprofit focused on using boatbuilding to assist at-risk and disadvantaged youth. Proceeds will support the organization’s educational and apprentice programs, which instill job skills that eventually lead to well-paying, career-path jobs.
“The educational programs specifically are going to be utilizing [science, technology, engineering and math skills] with youth, particularly middle school students, as that’s really where STEM has such a focus,” said executive director Mari Lou Livingood. “We use boats and boatbuilding in order to really connect the dots with math and science.
“In developing what we’re calling STEM on the Potomac, we are using our boats and the natural resources of the Potomac River to connect youth to STEM education as well as our apprentice program, and to find our apprentices jobs and career pathways to the industry.”
Guests will enjoy five-star elegance and luxury aboard the meticulously restored 82-year-old yacht, which was originally built by Defoe Shipyard in Bay City, Mich. In its lifetime, the vessel has served several U.S. presidents, including Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.
The yacht gained most of its publicity during the Kennedy administration. Honey Fitz, as Kennedy renamed the boat in honor of his maternal grandfather, was often used for family vacations and was redecorated by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
Honey Fitz also has cruised up and down the Potomac River to Mount Vernon, ferrying passengers to exclusive state dinners. A boating enthusiast, John F. Kennedy would frequently slip away from the White House to spend a few quiet hours on the 93-foot wooden yacht.
Organizers are using the event to promote the foundation’s plans to expand its educational and apprentice programs to include nearby Fairfax and Arlington counties, said Livingood.
“We really look forward to working not only in Alexandria, but also reaching Fairfax and Arlington youth as well,” she said.