When John F. Kennedy was elected President, the Presidential yacht was a 92′ motoryacht. Although he changed her name to “Honey Fitz” in honor of his grandfather, the President was a sailor at heart and sent naval aide, John Tazwell, in search of a suitable sailboat for Presidential use.
With her good looks and pedigree, Manitou was quickly selected. She was brought to the Chesapeake Bay and fitted with all the proper radio and communication equipment so the President would never be out of touch with his office, or even the Kremlin while on board. Jack Kennedy used her often there and in New England.
Although he never raced her, in Newport during the summer of 1962, he attempted to engage his friend Emil “Bus” Mosbacher on his 12 Meter Weatherly in a friendly sparring match. The Secret Service, following along in a patrol boat had other plans and quickly intercepted the future successful America’s Cup Defender before she got close enough, much to the chagrin of the President.
In 1968 Manitou was sold at auction to the Harry Lundeburg School of Seamanship which is run by the Seafarer’s International Union and its then strong leader, Paul Hall. Aristotle Onassis, who was about to marry Jackie Kennedy in October 1968, sought to buy Manitou at any price. Long a proponent of the common man, Mr. Hall refused all offers, saying he wanted to keep her to teach less privileged young people about boats.
In 1999, Manitou was purchased and transfered to Chesapeake Marine Railway in Deltaville, Virginia not far from where she was built, and has undergone a major refit that will prolong her sailing career for many years to come.
Designed by the firm of Sparkman & Stephens in New York and built by M.M. Davis in Solomons Island, MD, Manitou will be on display at The Yacht Show at National Harbor, June 5-8.