Illustration by Jim Ewing
He was a young naval architect back in 1910, joining the Mathis Yacht Building Co. in Camden, New Jersey, and intending to build yachts and tenders for America’s rich and famous. His first effort was a 70-foot “houseboat,” a graceful wooden cruiser with all the amenities of a home. The business plan certainly worked out.
During the next 60 years, Norwegian-born John Trumpy was responsible for some of the finest motoryachts that ever came down the ways. His wooden boats were big, beautiful and commodious, designed for luxurious Gilded Age cruising. The du Ponts bought them, as did the Dodges and the Guggenheims. In fact, the presidential yacht Sequoia, launched in 1925, carried the distinctive Trumpy filigree on the bow. The New York Times called the growing fleet the “Rolls-Royce of American yachts.”
John Trumpy & Sons — the company was renamed in 1943 and moved to Annapolis, Maryland, in 1947 — was a byword among yachtsmen. When Trumpy died in 1963, the firm carried on until the early 1970s. By that time, he and those who followed him had produced more than 400 vessels.
The “houseboat” here is a good example of the Trumpy style. It’s America — 76 feet overall and with a 19-foot beam, launched in 1965 for Miami Herald publisher James Knight. She sleeps six in three staterooms, each with its own head and shower compartment. The saloon has leather chairs and reading lamps; the aft deck is a luxurious balcony overlooking the sea. The boat is air-conditioned, marine artwork graces the bulkheads, and the cabins are individually decorated. The joinery is superb throughout. Beneath the exterior beats a pair of Detroit 1271s capable of pushing the boat at a 12-knot cruise.
America is one of some 90 Trumpy yachts that survive today. The 49-year-old vessel is now owned by Ted Conklin and home-ported at his American Hotel in Sag Harbor, New York. An active charter yacht, she’s a familiar sight on Long Island waters.
September 2014 issue