Sea Cloud is a ship with a remarkable career and a unique ship within the worlds cruising fleet. She measures some 3077 tons, her lenght is 96 meters, she is 14,99 meters wide and her draft measures 5,8 meters. The ship is one of the oldest ships that is serving as a cruiseship, although she wasn't built as such. Sea Cloud was launched from the Germaniawerft in Kiel, Germany in 1931 as a private yaught for E.F. Hutton & Company, an American stock brokerage founded in 1904. The ship was designed by Majorie Meriweather Post, the wife of mister Edward Francis Hutton and she designed it exactly to her own liking. All seven cabins were designed by her, and also the ship recieved a dark hull because she wanted this. Also the artwork aboard was selected by her. In that time, the ship was the largest private yaught in the world and she was named Hussar.
She was the follow-up to an earlier yaught designed by the couple, that was also named Hussar. This earlier ship was built for them in 1923 and measured 585 tons and had a lenght of 62 meters. That this couple was very good in designing ships can be said, next to our subject (the second Hussar), also this first ship still is in service as a cruiseship. She still reguarly cruises the Grenadines in the Caribbean under the name of Mandalay for Sail Windjammer. Between 1982 and 2008 she was part of the fleet of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, untill that companies demise.
In 1935, the couple divorced and because Hutton knew how much the ship meant to Majorie, just one day after their divorce, he signed over the Hussar to her. Soon afterwards, Post remarried to the United States ambassador to the Sovjet Union mister Joseph E. Davies. He was the economical advisor to the US president Wilson during the peace negociations at Versailles after the first worldwar. They renamed the ship Sea Cloud and used her as a floating palace at Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. With his political influence, Davies invited many high-placed and influential people on board , like Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. The ship was also used as a meeting place for officials from the United States and the Sovjet Union.
In 1941, the Sea Cloud was offered by mister Davies to the Coast Gard, but the offer was turned down by US president Roosevelt himself because he found the ship 'to beautifull to be sacrificed'. Roosevelt was a good friend of mister Davies. But eventually, the ship was chartered by the Navy in 1942, for the sum of 1 dollar per year and she was refitted as a weather observation station vessel at the United States Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Maryland. The Navy used more former private yaughts in supporting roles during the war and only Sea Cloud returned after the war. She was commissioned on april 4th, 1942 and was stationed at Boston. From 1943 onwards, the ship was taken over from the coastguard by the US Navy and renamed USS Sea Cloud (IX-99). For the navy, the ship was still used as a weather observation ship. For the service, she was outfitted with guns and anti-submarine weapons, so different from her peacetime role as a private yaught and palace. Also, her bow was painted grey and the mast had been removed. The ship was decommissioned from this service on november 4th, 1944 and she was returned to mister Davies, together with the sum of 175.000 dollars so she could again be rebuilt to her post-war state.
The ship had just one more historicly unique moment in naval service in late 1944, when Lieutenant Carlton Skinner, who had the command of the ship, had seen a black kitchen assistant save the crew of the Northland, another weather observatory ship. This man was denied promotion, because it was a rule that black men could only serve as stewards onboard US Navy ships at that time. Skinner proposed an 'experiment' and wanted to sail his ship with a racially integrated crew and so it happened during his first weather patrol after the Secretary of the Navy allowed him to try. Skinner did not want this to be publicized, so the ship would not be treated differently from other ships and the experiment proved a great succes. Since USS Sea Cloud, it became possible for black men to serve in the US Navy.
After the war, Sea Cloud was returned to Joe Davies and Majorie Post and she was rebuilt between 1945 and 1949. This time the ship was painted white and a golden eagle was also painted on the bow. It was a hard time to find all materials, especially sails, to rebuilt her, also for a millionaire's couple like themselves. That is why rebuilding Sea Cloud took up four years. When the ship was finished and showed herself to them, it seems that Joe said to Majorie 'well, dear, there goes your baby.' Because of Joe's upcoming seasickness and the fact they were getting older, they kept the biggest yaught in the United States closer to home, and invited guests and friends like the dictator of the Dominican Republic mister Rafael Trujillo aboard. He fell in love with the ship and when Joe and Majorie's marriage also was sliding into crisis, Majorie decided to sell the ship, also because the costs for operating a yaught with 72 crewmembers became a little costly. She sold her to Trujillo in 1955.
He traded the ship for a secondhand Vickers Viscount and renamed her Angelita, after his daughter. Trujillo used the ship as a houseboat as well as a government office untill Trujillo was assassinated at the 20th of may 1961, almost exactly 50 years before I took my pictures of the ship posted here, at the 17th of may 2011. In a last attempt to flee the Dominican Republic, his family tried to smuggle his body and a large amount of cash aboard the Angelita and sailed for Cannes, but they were forced back by the new Dominican government when they were just close to the Canary Islands. In 1966, the ship that was now named Patria, was sold to Operation Sea Cruises and renamed Antarna by the companies president John Blue. The ship was brought to the United States, but a dispute between Blue and several port authoroties, the ship was docked and nothing happened with her. Eventually, the fees to get the ship free were paid by Charles and Stephanie Gallagher, who wanted to turn the ship into a sailing school, where students would learn their normal schoollessons as well as sea-education. But the ship was still in ownership of John Blue and he got the ship back after a confrontation at Panama and the school project did not happen. The ship was laid-up at Colón for eight years and this did not much good to her exteriour.
Finally, she was bought by Hartmut Paschberg and a group of associates from Hamburg, Germany and they brought the ship back to Europe, arriving at Hamburg at november 15, 1978. Paschberg was an economist and also he was a captain and very passionate about older sailing vessels. The ship was renamed Sea Cloud by the group of businessmen and they had the ship rebuilt as a cruiseship at the Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft at Kiel, the same wharf as where she was built in 1931. She was rebuilt to sail with a passenger capacity of 64, serviced by 60 crewmembers. There are not many cruiseships that can offer this same passenger-crew ratio! This rebuilding took eight months but the ship again emerged as a grand yaught.
The ship still is in service as a cruiseship, a true historic and very interesting ship that was recently renovated at the Motorenwerke Bremerhaven yard, so she is now totally up to the newest SOLAS-regulations. This will make sure this ship will still be around for a while as a unique story in the cruise-industry. Her first appearance after her SOLAS update, that had taken six months, was at the Hamburg harbour birthday celebrations between the 6th and 8th of may 2011. After this, she sailed for Sylt, returning back to Hamburg at the 13th of may, before leaving for a cruise to the Mediterranean, where she will be stationed for the summer season. When you are fortunate enough to sail this historic ship, take notice of the small, white plaque with five brass stripes mounted on the front of the wheelhouse under the bridge. Each of the stripes stands for a half year naval service, a reminder of ther war-duties.