Modern boats boast fiberglass hulls, prefabricated components and fast engines. But some boaters would rather turn back the clock a few decades to the classic wooden boats built for relaxed, refined yachting.
From 1909-1974, renowned naval architect John Trumpy designed innovative wooden boats starting with ferries, naval patrol boats and trawlers. Later, he designed runabouts and tenders, working up to his distinctive sailing and motor yachts. His yachts stimulate the senses with crisp lines, distinctive hull and bow shapes, “tumblehome” aft sections, wide varnished accent stripes on a white hull, quiet Detroit Diesel engines and a smooth ride. Owners included the titans of industry and eight U.S. presidents.
As per John Trumpy’s grandson, Johan Trumpy, John grew up in the family shipyard in Norway, obtained a degree in naval architecture in Germany, worked in Norway until the yard was sold, emigrated to America and worked as an architect for New York Ship in Camden NJ before co-founding Mathis Yacht Building Co.,which became John Trumpy & Sons, Inc.
According to the Trumpy Yacht Association (www.trumpyyachts.org), more 400 yachts were built. Today, less than 70 Trumpys remain, including one motorsailer and only two sailboats. Not all of the 70 survivors are pristine, since they require daily upkeep. Most Trumpy motor yacht owners try to use original replacement parts and adhere to period appropriate interiors. The maintenance of a wooden boat includes multiple layers of paint and varnish, and repairing or replacing any wood damaged by worms, rough bottoms, water and salt.
Owning one requires love, devotion and a thick wallet. Not everyone can afford this kind of yacht, but the opportunity to temporarily experience the Trumpy lifestyle is attainable. Many owners make their yachts available for a few hours, a day, evening, weekend or weekly charter. Destinations and itineraries are personal, with a custom price.
Charter base fees include the yacht, crew numbers and insurance. Additional fees include meals, fuel, dock fees, the function requirements (like a band or cocktail party) while docked or en route, dietary restrictions and special requests. Advanced reservations are needed to plan corporate events, parties, dinners, weddings, short charters and longer cruises during different seasons and locations.
These yachts are expertly crewed, some by their owners, like Capt. Bill Iler and First Mate/Chef Connie Iler aboard Windrush, a 55-foot, 1966 Trumpy cruiser the Annapolis-based couple purchased in 2005.
“She reflects the less-formal style of that decade compared to the first half of the 20th century,” says Capt. Iler. “We try to be true to the best parts of the 60s and Trumpy style while ignoring others, like some of the greens and other less-spectacular aspects of style from that era. Good style doesn’t go out of style, so we’ve kept the beautiful varnished woodwork and most of the original Trumpy fixtures and furnishings – or near look-alikes.”
The classic furnishings are complemented by modern accessories. The Windrush experience is like being welcomed to the Ilers’ historic home, with all the comforts and individual attention a guest expects. Connie Iler oversees the five-star service onboard, accommodating six guests for day cruises, or four overnight guests.
“It is a three bedroom/three bath home on the water,” says Capt. Iler. “Unlike a cruise ship, you determine your own itinerary, and we serve meals and refreshments tailored to your specific preferences. Chartering one of these vessels is probably one of the best ways to experience what it is like to own one.”
Their most popular cruise packages are a 3 day/2 night excursion costing from $2,500- $3,500, for 2-4 people, or the “Vacation Week” for 8 days/7 nights ranging from $7,000-$11,000, for 2-4 people. Cruises run in the Florida Keys, through the Intracoastal Waterway, to the Chesapeake Bay, depending on the season. Visit www.americanclassicyachting.com for details.
If you would prefer to experience the glamorous, “old money,” Trumpy lifestyle, then a cruise on the Washingtonian is an option. Built in 1939 for financier AG Drexel Paul, she is one of 20 pre-WWII Trumpys still in service.
Capt. James Twaddle, with over 30 years of experience in managing and operating these yachts, has the helm. Mr. Berger also has his Captain’s license and 100 ton Master and helps out when he’s not working as an architect.
Onboard, expect 20th century elegance with 21st century amenities. Sticking true to the original design of the yacht, the exposed curved beams in the saloon and pilothouse and trims are highlighted. Much of the crew quarters, all the lighting and the engines are original. The formal saloon has two navy linen sofas, a 1939-drop leaf Trumpy Captain’s desk and an original Trumpy coffee table that converts to a dining table for six people.
Appropriately, there is a portrait of George Washington below deck. “This was on the boat and we thought it was fun, so we left it,” says Tracy Berger.
The Bergers are the eighth owners of the Washingtonian. The vessel has passed USCG inspections to accommodate up to 29 passengers and two crew for dinners, parties, weddings, business meetings, or a sunset cruise. On weekend cruises, she can accommodate six overnight passengers.
The Washingtonian caters events through partner hotels in destinations along the East Coast. An average sunset cruise for 25 people runs about $4,000, including crew, catering, food/beverage servers and of course, the sunset, says Paul Berger.
May-October, the Washingtonian will be in St. Michaels, Maryland. October-November, she’s in Charleston, S.C., area, and mid-November-April, she docks at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla. Visit www.thewashingtonianyacht.com for more information.
A Trumpy Captain’s Life
Strolling along the marinas in places like Annapolis, Md., Beaufort, N.C. or Palm Beach, Fla., one expects to see impressive sailboats, yachts and mega yachts. But if you’re fortunate to see a Trumpy yacht docked in the marina, you will probably whistle, look a little starry-eyed and say, “Wow!”
“When we’re in port, with all the new, huge yachts nearby, people want to look at the Trumpys, not the other ones,” says Capt. Ted Schmidt of the Trumpy motor yacht America.
Capt. Schmidt, 70, has been on boats for five decades and became a captain 20 years ago. In college he studied philosophy and math, which has given him the right perspectives on life. He has a romantic vibe with eyes that twinkle while he speaks of being at sea.
“I have a familiarity and love of boats, wooden boats and sailing boats,” says Schmidt. “I know how a wooden boat should be treated; I watch the repairs and know when things are done right.”
The Michigan native and avid scuba diver now resides in Florida, close to the marina where he can attend to the America each day. “I’m away from home and it’s hard on relationships,” he says. While on a charter, 18-hour days are the norm.
On the positive side, he adds there is “no institutional stress, and usually I know more than the boss, who knows little about the workings of the boat. They know how much is spent.”
Generally America is in Florida December to May and then up to Long Island for the summer. “The boat is part of my life and my home; it’s a nice environment in nice marinas with other nice boats to be around,” he says.