The yacht MV Olympus, is a frequent visitor to the Victoria Classic Boat Fesival and has served as the event’s flagship. Originally named MV Junaluska was launched from the New York Yacht, Launch and Engine Company yard in Morris Heights, New York on May 14, 1929. At 28.04m (92’) x 5.79m (19’) x 2.84m (9’04”) she was the largest vessel built by the yard. She accommodated eight guests in two double and two twin staterooms and has a crew of four. She has two Detroit 6-71 diesel engines, a cruising speed on nine knots over a range of 1,300 nautical miles.
Originally she was named MV Junaluska in honour of a beautiful lake in North Carolina within vast land holdings where her first owner, George Callendine Heck, spent his childhood summers.
Mr. Heck, was a partner in a Wall Street investment firm. During the glamorous 1920’s. Heck intended to use the yacht to commute from either of his two Long Island estates to Wall Street so specified her low profile design to avoid having bridges opened during his commute. Heck was a member of the New York Yacht Club. The Commodore at the time was Vincent Astor, while J.P. Morgan was officer-in-charge of the club’s Newport, Rhode Island outstation. Heck was also a member of the historic Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club in Oyster Bay, Long Island.
Her Hollywood Years
George Converse and his wife, Mary Stuart, a former silent film star, purchased MV Junaluska. Both were experienced yachters who brought the yacht from the east coast through the Panama Canal to her new home in Southern California on her own hull. Converse had served as Commodore of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club in 1940. Junaluska picked up several movie roles, including use in Shirley Temple’s Captain January and the Claudette Colbert/Rudy Vallee’s The Palm Beach Story. Junaluska travelled back and forth between Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Catalina Island.
World War II
The U.S. Navy conscripted Junaluska to serve as a U.S. Navy Patrol vessel during World War II. Her brightwork was painted Navy Gray, and guns were mounted on her deck. She patrolled the West Coast between Seattle and Alaska, frequently at night, unlighted, looking for Japanese submarines. She also served as luxurious accommodations for high-ranking US Navy officers.
The Governor’s Yacht
Following the War, the U.S. Government declared Junaluska surplus. Washington Governor, Monrad Wallgren learned from his good friend President Harry S. Truman the yacht was going to be auctioned. The State of Washington was the sole bidder and acquired her for $15,000. She was put on the State of Washington books as a “fisheries patrol vessel.”
The yacht was completely refitted after her war service. President Truman and Governor Wallgren had guided legislation that established Washington State’s Olympic National Forest and the yacht was re-named M.V. Olympus after Mount Olympus, the highest peak in Olympic National Forest. President Truman was aboard Olympus many times both formally and informally, fishing from Olympus’ tender, enjoying poker games, and the merriment aboard. The yacht transported the President from Bremerton to Seattle where he began his historic 1948 “Whistle Stop” Train Campaign Tour, signing Junaluska’s log “Harry Truman, Independence, MO, Temporary Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Investigative reporting by the Seattle Post Intelligencer revealed over $104,000 in Department of Fisheries funds had been spent between 1945 and 1948 to acquire and refit the “Governor’s Yacht.” The extravagance became a huge issue in the Governor’s election in 1948 and Wallgren lost to Arthur Langlie, who ordered Olympus sold in a rigged bid… to his largest campaign contributor, creating the first scandal of Laglie’s new administration.
Through the 1950’s to the early 1990’s, the MV Olympus was privately owned and operated. She proudly served as the corporate yacht for the American Tug Company and later Crowley Maritime. Her owners during the period included the Maryatt family, the Jamieson family of Everett, the Schuchart family, and the late Howard S. Wright, contractor for the development of Seattle landmarks including the Space Needle. Olympus briefly joined the yacht Malibu in a venture involving classic yacht charters.
In 1994 John VanDerbeek IV and his wife Diane purchased her. The VanDerbeeks embarked on a comprehensive restoration and refurbishment of the yacht and her systems. This included a new stem, re-planking, re-wiring, re-roofing, and the modernization of her galley. Through a series of lucky events, the yacht’s original tender was located after a 61-year period of separation. A completely restored little Junaluska with her 1930 rebuilt Lycoming marine engine now sits aboard Olympus in her starboard side mid-ship cradle.
A private yacht once again, MV Olympus is frequently used by her owner to support charitable and environmental causes, and is “open for boarding” for all to admire.at the various Pacific Northwest classic boat shows where she is always a guest of honour.
John VanDerbeek died unexpectedly at his home on Mercer Island, Washington on June 1, 2009. MV Olympus carries on her proud history under with Diane at the helm.
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