Big Old Houses: Something Completely Different

Big Old Houses: Something Completely Different
by John Foreman


In the dark Depression year of 1933, a Chicago meatpacking millionaire named Joseph M. Cudahy ordered a "houseboat" from the famous Mathis Yacht Building Company of Camden, New Jersey. In its glory days before the Crash, Mathis' chief designer, Norwegian immigrant John Trumpy (1879-1963), designed almost fifty yachts for the cream of America's plutocracy — men with names like Dodge, Guggenheim, DuPont, Chrysler and a certain Richard Cadwalader of Philadelphia, PA, whose yacht Sequoia became America's Presidential Yacht under FDR.

The Cudahy yacht, like the Cudahy manse in Lake Forest, IL., was originally called Innisfail. Cudahy's order saved Mathis from bankruptcy. Innisfail was completed in 1935 and used for four years by Cudahy and his salt heiress wife Joan ('When It Rains, It Pours') Morton. In 1939 the Cudahys commissioned Trumpy to design a second Innisfail, all of eight feet longer than the first. The original Innisfail then embarked on a career marked by many owners and many names, ending up today as Enticer.
My concept of a houseboat was a sight more plebeian than the elegant Enticer, elegant being the operative word for the hallmark plumb bow (think Titanic) of a Trumpy yacht. These were ultra-high quality wooden boats with hulls constructed of double-planked mahogany on oak frames, and held together with bronze screws that set back modern restorers a cool $5 apiece. Trumpy's genius was realizing the typical American mogul of the '20s wasn't interested in spending four months on an ocean going yacht. Instead, he wanted something fast and snappy to commute between his office on Wall Street and his estate on Long Island, or to spend long weekends off the Georgia coast or on the Great Lakes.
My pal Pete Regna's suggestion that an old houseboat could be as interesting as an old house, has on this pleasant evening brought me to Slip 2 in the North Cove Marina, where this gorgeous Faberge egg of a yacht is bobbing at dockside. Guests are coming, so I'd better get to work.
Enticer is owned by a syndicate, another brilliant idea, this time of McMillen Yachts, Inc. Since 1995 Earl McMillen III has been buying classic wooden boats from the '20s and '30s, restoring them, and setting each up as a limited liability corporation. He then sells fractional ownerships (minimum equity position, 5%), administers maintenance and crew, and synchronizes owners' schedules. "It's the NetJets of classic yachts," he jokes.

Six glamorous yachts, three of them Trumpy designs, currently operate in this fashion. Besides explaining his business model, Earl gave me a crash course in correct nautical terminology, which I shall now bandy about as if I'd been yachting since I was a nipper. We've now climbed the gangplank — or accommodation ladder, as I prefer to call it — arrived on the afterdeck, and are admiring one of several onboard settees. Enticer flies an American flag from her ensign staff.
Nice place for lunch, I'd say.
Before we explore this side deck, let's take a peek in the saloon.
Enticer's furniture has a sort of Reagan Republican look to it — comfortable without being either ostentatious or correct to the period. At 85' in length, this boat was dwarfed by the behemoth in the adjacent slip. Notwithstanding, she manages to comfortably sleep 6 guests and 4 crew, and provide a surprising degree of privacy for all.
This companionway leads forward from the saloon into a serving pantry on the starboard side of the boat. At its end is a stair leading to the galley, crew's quarters and engine room below deck.
Opening the engine room door was like opening the back of a computer. Best to just shut it again.
The galley, crew mess, captain's cabin, crew head and additional crew cabin share an incredibly small footprint. This section of Enticer was completely redesigned during McMillen Yacht's 2002 refitting.
The original captain's cabin was behind the wheel house. Now it's below deck, behind the bow and forward of the mess. Light and ventilation are provided by portholes and a scuttle on the ceiling. The box above the bed encases the bottom of a windlass mounted on the deck above. The twin tubes beneath it contain anchor chains.
Here's a peek at the crew's head.
Let's take the ladder to the pantry and go out onto the side deck.
This view looks toward the afterdeck on the starboard side of the boat.
And now we're looking in the opposite direction, towards the bow. The ladder leads to the boat deck, so called because the tenders — they being small boats attendant to larger ones — are stowed up there. We'll return in a moment. First let's have a look at the wheel house and the foredeck.
Here's the wheel house, Captain Bret Todd at the wheel, and the compass inside the binnacle.
That yellow contraption in front of the scuttle is a windlass that hauls the anchor up and down.
Let's move down Enticer's portside deck, past the wheel house, and take a peek into the original captain's cabin and head.
These stairs lead down from the saloon to more glamorous quarters for owner and guests.
Here's the owner's stateroom. Doesn't that bed make you just yearn to leap into it, preferably with someone enormously attractive? This stateroom has its own elegant tiled bath. Enticer has 3 additional heads, plus a day head (nautical for 'powder room') off the saloon.
The stateroom beyond the door at the end of this companionway is for VIP guests.
A third stateroom (presumably for a lesser VIP) is shoe-horned between the other two, with a head across the hall.
Let's go back up to the saloon. In fact, before the guests arrive, let's go all the way up to the boat deck.
Here I am, immediately pre-party, in the saloon with my hosts. Peter Regna is the big guy in the middle; Bill McLaughlin (in the blue sport coat) is a McMillen syndicate member who, for today anyway, is the owner of this yacht; blonde and brunette glamor is provided by Peter's wife, Barbara, and Bill's friend, Meg Goodrich.
The bar is set up; the cute waiter is stationed at the top of the gangplank; soon we're underway.
Rich guys, pretty girls, nice yacht, even a photographer from Patrick McMullan — I am truly amongst the blessed.
There's something about being on a yacht — I'm not talking Day Line here — that makes everything look a little nicer.
Another Trumpy yacht, Freedom, originally owned by F.W. Woolworth's daughter, Mrs. James P. Donohue, just happened to be on the water at the same time we were. To the untrained eye, she looks identical to Enticer. Actually she is almost 20 feet longer and has a different stern. Freedom has also had a much spottier past. Enticer was always well maintained; Freedom fell to such a low point that McMillen was able to buy her in 2004 for $100.
Here's Freedom, before and after a 5-year $7.5 million restoration — two photos worth 20,000 words at least.
And here's Enticer, from an angle I wasn't able to manage. McMillen Yachts is as much a preservation organization as it is a good club. It operates the finest collection of classic yachts in America. The firm does some charter work, but the business is primarily fractional ownership. Trumpy survived the Depression and eventually took over the Mathis yard in Camden himself. He built military boats there during the war, until hideous pollution in the local waters forced him to relocate in 1947 to Annapolis. The Trumpy yard there burned to the ground in 1962. Trumpy, by then 83 years old, vowed to rebuild but died the following year. The firm survived under his son for a dozen more years, folding in 1974 in the wake of a labor dispute.
It would be nice to think of myself as sailing into the proverbial "sunset," however, if I stayed on this course I'd hit Staten Island first. If you are inclined to help preserve a magnificent vintage yacht — and look pretty swell in the process — the link is www.woodenyachts.com.

The photos above are all mine, with three exceptions. The two stern angle exteriors of Enticer and Freedom are courtesy Alison Langley Photography (alisonlangley.com). The view of Freedom on her uppers is from McMillen Yachts.
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