Four years after she loaded onto a barge in Maryland for Maine for reconstruction and restoration, the former U.S. Presidential yacht Sequoia is back in the state. Still shrink wrapped, she remains in the same condition as she did when she departed in 2019.
The 104-foot (31.7-meter) yacht Sequoia, which served eight Presidents over her 98 years, initially went to Maine for French & Webb to manage her restoration. Rather than go directly to the shipyard, however, she unloaded in a city-owned parking lot in Belfast, Maine, near the well-known harbor walk. At the time, Todd French of French & Webb (seen below) explained that multiple pre-restoration tasks needed completion first, including sourcing materials for the all-wood yacht. Covid-related shutdowns and delays impacted the project in the ensuing years. Then, this past summer, Michael Cantor, managing partner of Equator Capital Group, the private-equity firm that owns the yacht Sequoia, said that the owners would be seeking a safer winter home. He indicated that a nor’easter blew off the shrink wrap off and the parking lot had flooded. They still wished to have the work done in Belfast, he added.
But, Belfast does not appear to be in consideration anymore, given the yacht departed on October 25. We contacted him for an update, including what company would perform the work, but did not hear from him by press time. Notably, an unnamed employee of French & Webb tells the Bangor Daily News that the shipyard will continue to lead the restoration. Although the employee doesn’t name the location, the person does say that Cantor wanted the work done closer to his home.
Despite that employee’s assertion, is is unclear whether French & Webb remains attached to the project. The yacht arrived yesterday in Cambridge, Maryland in anticipation of joining the revival of the Richardson Maritime Center and its mission to promote local maritime craftsmanship. “We see this as a huge benefit to Richardson’s mission, and a kick start to the maritime trades in the area,” Martin Hardy, board chairman of the Richardson Maritime Center, tells Bay to Bay News. The center also has a museum, which Hardy says may gain a building to house the yacht, too. Regardless, he says the restoration will take five years with the work of up to 20 shipwrights and cost $15 million.
The yacht Sequoia has National Historic Landmark status due to her significance. Specifically, she served every U.S. President from Herbert Hoover to Gerald Ford. This service is further why she earned the nickname “the floating White House.” For instance, 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 during economic strife in 1977 under President Jimmy Carter. He sold her, believing that it was unbecoming for the President to have such a luxury during tough financial times.
Equator Capital Group acquired the yacht Sequoia six years ago after a lengthy court battle. She sat in a Virginia boatyard until the lawsuit settlement in 2016. Due to her age and condition, she was challenging to move, and therefore required careful evaluation of potential restoration partners.
Cantor has long said that the yacht will serve as an educational platform for the public once restored. He’s further indicated that the public will be able to see and follow the restoration process.
More About the 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