JFK–An Anecdote you Haven’t Heard Before

This week the Jolly Swag got a week off as I traded my job in her driver’s seat for some time at the helm of Watermark, a lovely 53’ Huckins motor yacht celebrating her 48th year of service.  Watermark was acquired by friends about a year ago and this trip—from Maryland to Florida–is my second cruise aboard.

Huckins is an eighty-year-old boat-building company and is still owned by the founding family.  Highly regarded by yachtsmen, they are not well-known outside the industry.  Their name has not become a household word because they have never been a boatbuilding factory that produced multiple copies of boats on a production line, like Chris Craft and Sea Ray, for example.  Huckins is a custom builder.  The boats were built to order for a single client, who had specific ideas of the size boat he wanted as well as the yacht’s accommodations, layout, performance, and equipment, usually down to the tiniest detail.

Except that one client ordered 18 boats.

It seems the US Navy’s Patrol Torpedo (PT) program was floundering in the early stages of WWII.  Several boat builders—not including Huckins—had delivered dozens of operational boats.   But the boats pounded severely and did not hold up to the performance requirements of a high-speed ocean-going boat.  In fact, the Navy suspended construction by all builders until they could conduct extensive sea trials on the existing boats–an event that became known as the Plywood Derby and included a 195-mile highspeed offshore run.

Earlier Huckins persuaded the Navy to let them build one boat of their own proprietary design, the Navy agreed to the construction on condition that they had no obligation to purchase the vessel. The boat was scheduled for completion about the time of the Plywood Derby.  The Huckins design outperformed the other PTs, and the company was awarded a construction contract for a series of boats. 

At the time, a commander of the PT training squadron made four trips to the Huckins yard to take delivery of newly constructed vessels while waiting for orders to join the PT fleet in the Pacific. 

He later became the hero of PT 109.

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About allevenson

Writer (of stories, journals, email dialogues), Reader (of books written by friends, recommended by friends, and works-in-progress of friends), Hiker (never met a trailhead I didn't like), Biker (more scenery for the buck than hiking) and lately, Blogger (about my Year on the Road at www.allevenson.wordpress.com).
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7 Responses to JFK–An Anecdote you Haven’t Heard Before

  1. Colleen Rae says:

    Really interesting story…and not one I’d ever heard before, thanks. Are you back on the Jolly Swag?

  2. Mark L says:

    Great story well told.
    You remind me how engaging and interesting reading James Michner is, with such interesting small & big picture information.
    Have a great Thanksgiving wherever you are!

  3. John Chreno says:

    Hello Al
    Living in the Dallas area, I enjoyed your story about JFK. Many folks in these parts still bear the burden of that day and the legacy of gun oriented violence which unfortunately seems to continue. All our best to you for safe travels and more adventure this Thanksgiving holiday. It turns out Lincoln got many things right!

    • allevenson says:

      Nice to hear from you, John. How did you wind up in Texas?

      I am back on the road. I should be in the Deep South, i.e. the Deep Warm by now, but I seem to slow down more, stop more, and stay longer everywhere.

      Best holiday wishes,


  4. karen wittgraf says:

    OMG- the only class we ever had in this country was JFK! I so remember the day he was taken from us. Interesting story- and a learning thing, as you often give us. Thanks, Al…and happy Thanksgiving to you, in hopes that you are enjoying a fabulous day, wherever you may be.

  5. Bruce Bethany says:

    Jack Kennedy suffered severe trauma to his back in a PT accident. In later years he had to
    wear a corset-type gizmo so that he could stand and walk erect without pain. Speaking of erect, the reason he liked to take his quickies with the women pinned against a wall was it was less
    strenuous, given his condition.

  6. That was an interesting morsel of yachting history, Al. Thanks! Glad you had a good cruise. I used to work at selling these on occasion; too many folks name brand fixated rather than merits motivated I found tho loved it when I wasn’t just flaunting another cookie cutter in this biz! Unless perhaps it was a Nordhavn or classic Hinckley etc! Sure would have been cool to be a yacht broker in early days of more custom projects. Happy Thanksgiving, Claudette

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