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Mystic passing on presidential yacht option

But the Connecticut maritime museum is not ruling out the idea of acquiring Sequoia in the future

But the Connecticut maritime museum is not ruling out the idea of acquiring Sequoia in the future

Mystic Seaport, one of the nation’s leading maritime museums, announced in October that it would not renew an exclusive option to acquire the USS Sequoia, the presidential yacht that’s been called the “White House of the Waterways.”

In May the museum, located in Mystic, Conn., entered into a 90-day agreement with the Sequoia Presidential Yacht Group of Washington, D.C., to purchase and restore the 104-foot wooden yacht. Following a review of the museum’s priorities by its board of trustees, it was decided that the museum would not renew the agreement (which expired in July) for an additional 90 days. The board chose instead to concentrate on raising money for its current collection and programs.

That decision, however, does not mean the museum has given up on acquiring the yacht altogether. “Should timing, funding and opportunity come together for Sequoia at some point in the future, Mystic Seaport would welcome the chance to participate in the preservation and interpretation of this important piece of Americana,” museum president Douglas Teeson says in a statement. “The museum will also champion the continuing efforts by Gary Silversmith, Sequoia’s owner, to secure the future of this priceless piece of history.”

According to the agreement, both sides would have had a total of six months, if the option were renewed, to decide on a purchase price. During that time, no other parties could have bought the boat.

Designed by John Trumpy and constructed in 1925, Sequoia served eight presidents from Herbert Hoover to Gerald Ford, and has been the setting for a number of historic events. Franklin D. Roosevelt planned European war strategy with Winston Churchill aboard the yacht during World War II. In the wake of the Watergate scandal Richard Nixon decided to resign from office while aboard the yacht. John F. Kennedy celebrated his final birthday — his 46th — on board Sequoia.

Jimmy Carter sold Sequoia in 1977 in an effort to reduce government spending. After having a number of owners, Sequoia was purchased by Gary Silversmith, a Washington attorney and history buff, in 2000. Owned and maintained by Silversmith and the Sequoia Presidential Yacht Group, Sequoia, which can carry 49 passengers, is rented to groups for special events on the Potomac River. The price tag for an event up to four hours long: $10,000.

One person who would like to see Sequoia go to the Mystic Seaport is Capt. Giles Kelly, the yacht’s skipper from 1983 until 1988 and author of “Sequoia: Presidential Yacht” (Cornell Maritime Press, 2004). “At present, I can’t think of a better place for Sequoia,” Kelly said in a June phone interview. “[Mystic Seaport] has the wherewith-all to take care of her.

“She’s 80 years old,” Kelly adds about the boat. “She’s in relatively good shape now but needs some TLC. She should be taken out of commercial use and properly preserved.”

Museum representatives have said that if it ever acquires Sequoia the museum would fully restore and tour her along the Atlantic coastline, making stops between Mystic, Conn., and Washington, D.C. Sequoia would also spend a “significant amount of time” in her home waters of the Potomac River, they say.