The yacht MV Junaluska
was launched from the New York Yacht, Launch and Engine Company yard in Morris Heights, New York on May 14, 1929. She was the largest ever built by the yard and named 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 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 whose Commodore was Vincent Astor, while J.P. Morgan was officer-in-charge of the club’s Newport, Rhode Island out station. Heck was also a member of the historic Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club in Oyster Bay, Long Island.
The Hollywood Years
Junaluska was purchased by George Converse and his wife, Mary Stuart, a former silent film star. 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 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 bright work 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, Junaluska was declared “surplus property” by the U.S. Government. Washington Governor, Monrad Wallgren finds out from his good friend, President Harry Truman, the yacht is going to be auctioned. The State of Washington is the sole bidder for the boat and acquired her for $15,000. She was put on the State of Washington books of the as a “fisheries patrol vessel.”
The yacht was completely refitted after her war service and renamed M.V. Olympus after Mount Olympus, the highest peak in Washington’s Olympic National Forest. President Truman and Governor Wallgren had guided legislation to establish the Olympic National Forest and the of the yacht was re-named in the legislation’s honour. 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 starts his Whistle Stop Train Campaign Tour, signing the 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. Governor Wallgren loses to Arthur Langlie, who orders Olympus sold in a rigged bid, to his largest campaign contributor, thus creating the first scandal of Laglie’s new administration.
through the 1950’s to the early 1990’s, the yacht 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. The Olympus briefly joined the yacht Malibu in a venture involving classic yacht charters, until 1994 when she was purchased by her current owner.
The VanDerbeeks embarked on the 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, M.V. 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.