Hutton's Sea Cloud

Like Bill Gates’ mansion and Donald Trump’s Tower, millionaire financier, Edward F. Hutton’s yacht had to scream “success.” To that end, in 1930, Hutton ordered the construction of an extravagant pleasure vessel as a wedding gift for his equally well-heeled wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post (of Post Grape Nuts fame).

The 316-foot, four-masted barque initially slipped down the ways at the famous Krupp Germania Werft shipyard at Keil, Germany, on April 25, 1931, bearing the name Hussar. Krupp was instructed to install every cutting-edge convenience 1930’s technology could offer. This included four auxiliary 800-hp diesel engines feeding power through an electric transmission, for those times when the powerful guests on board could not generate enough political wind to fill the barque’s almost 34,000 square feet of sail. Electric generators and the latest radio equipment insured VIPs did not suffer the privations that regular sea life entailed. Trim stabilizers protected the delicate lubber constitutions of the rich and dainty. Marjorie even brought aboard a priceless collection of china, gluing it into display cabinets so it could be on show, even in a blow. By 1935 Marjorie had changed the name of the vessel to Sea Cloud, thinking Hussar a bit too lusty for the elegant barque.

A steady parade of kings, heads of state (including Franklin D. Roosevelt), crown princes, dictators, and other assorted 1930s luminaries attended Marjorie’s formal floating dinner parties. After dining, guests might choose to saunter on deck in dinner jackets and gowns and, with glasses of champagne, toast each other on successfully roughing it at sea. When the sea’s siren song finally failed to hold their interest, the weary sailors could retire to staterooms and the comfort of marble fireplaces and leather arm chairs, and imagine they were cruising in a Fifth Avenue apartment, as they swirled brandies and read the day’s telegrams from home.During World War II, Marjorie (by then Mrs. Joseph Davies) chartered Sea Cloud to the United States government for $1.00 per year. The vessel was initially employed as a weather ship on North Atlantic station, a duty Sea Cloud carried out sans masts. As the war continued, the ship was redeployed as a U.S. Navy U-boat hunter, and was actually credited with assisting the destruction of three German submarines (most likely built at the same Krupp shipyard).

Following the end of the war, Sea Cloud’s masts were reinstalled and the vessel was returned to her prewar splendor. But by 1955, Marjorie had tired of her toy and sold the vessel to Rafael Trujillo, gay blade and dictator of the Dominican Republic. Following his death in 1961, Sea Cloud went into untended decline. She was finally purchased by a German consortium in 1978 and returned to her original magnificence at the Krupp shipyard. Today the restored Sea Cloud sails as a cruise ship, and you too can experience the pampered lifestyle of Marjorie’s guests.

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By Ocean Navigator