UPDATE, OCTOBER 31, 2023: The Presidential yacht Sequoia is no longer in Maine. She arrived by barge in Cambridge, Maryland yesterday. Read on for our original article.
The restoration of the former Presidential yacht Sequoia has hit another delay, this time due to Mother Nature. The owners are seeking a better-protected location in Maine due to unexpected consequences from a harsh winter storm last year.
The 98-year-old wooden yacht, which served eight American Presidents, is in need of a painstaking rebuild. Sequoia arrived in Maine in 2019, in anticipation of reconstruction at French & Webb. French & Webb is still associated with the project, but doesn’t have her in a shed. Instead, the 104-footer (31.7-meter) remains in a parking lot owned by the city of Belfast. She’s been there since arrival, due to numerous restoration prep tasks needing completion first. Simultaneously, the Covid-19 pandemic caused delays in completing those tasks and sourcing materials. By last summer, however, French & Webb had completed a full-scale, 3D model of the yacht Sequoia, via laser scanning. It had also begun sourcing and securing the right woods to replace framing and planking.
In fact, old-growth, long-leaf yellow pine will serve as planking. Michael Cantor, managing partner of Equator Capital Group, a private-equity firm that owns Sequoia, tells the Bangor Daily News that the wood is directly from trees felled during hurricanes Irma and Michael. The framing, meanwhile, is white oak from trees associated with the eight Presidents who used the yacht during their time in the White House. (The yacht even earned the nickname “the floating White House” due to her four decades of service.)
Still, though, a new home is important. Cantor tells the newspaper that a nor’easter last November “blew all the shrink wrap off, and [the waves] came up kind of close.” The city of Belfast agreed to allow the restoration on its property, providing only temporary structures surrounded her. Given potential future storms, Cantor explains, the owners prefer something more secure.
The new home isn’t yet determined, though Cantor says the desire is to keep Sequoia relatively local. Specifically, the owners want to ensure the relocation process is short enough to transport her via land. “We’ve been looking at alternative sites where we can build, buy, or lease an appropriate structure to house the restoration,” he says. “Hopefully, the new site will be in the Belfast area.” Regardless, Cantor adds that the owners want the public to be able to see the restoration and learn about the yacht Sequoia as well as her history.
It’s quite a history, too. President John F. Kennedy celebrated his 46th (and last) birthday onboard. President Lyndon Johnson urged Congress to pass civil-rights legislation and made key decisions regarding the Vietnam War on the yacht. President Richard Nixon, meanwhile, made his decision to resign while onboard. Sequoia ceased her official duties in 1977 under President Jimmy Carter. He sold her, believing that it was unbecoming for the President to have such a luxury during tough economic times. But, due to her significance, Sequoia received National Historic Landmark status in 1987.
Once the yacht is in the new location, the restoration should take about 70,000 hours, Cantor believes. Upon completion, she’ll return to Washington, D.C., continuing to educate the public.
More About the Presidential Yacht Sequoia
LOA: 104’0” (31.7 meters)
Beam: 18’2” (5.5 meters)
Draft: 4’5” (1.4 meters)
Guests: 8 in 5 staterooms (1925 arrangement)
Engines: 2/Winton diesels (1925 arrangement; subsequent repower unknown)
Builder: Mathis Shipyard
Stylist: John Trumpy
Naval Architect: John Trumpy
Interior Designer: Richard and Emily Cadwalader (original owners), U.S. government