If the German steelworkers who laid the keel of Haida G way back in 1927 were here today, surely they’d be proud. The 71.1-meter (233-foot) yacht that tasted water for the first time in 1929 is celebrating her 80th birthday. If her walls could talk, surely they’d regale visitors with some terrific tales.
Originally known as Haida, the yacht was commissioned by Max C. Fleischmann, an American who revolutionized baking with yeast. Krupp Germania, located in Kiel, Germany, built her – the same yard that built Talitha and, history buffs will note, a number of U boats. Designed by Cox & Stevens, she was intended for long scientific and leisure cruises off California. How long? Her 150 tons of fuel could permit a trip from San Francisco to Singapore – nonstop.
While she never undertook that journey, Haida did travel on her own bottom from Germany to New York, then through the Panama Canal, to her home port at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club in California. For more than a decade, Fleischmann enjoyed cruising aboard. As many yacht owners did during World War II, he gave Haida over to the war effort in 1940. The U.S. Navy converted her into a gun ship, christening her U.S.S. Argus, painting her wood grey, and removing her bowsprit, among other things.
Following the war, the vessel returned to private ownership under the name Sarina and once again graced the waters with a bowsprit. She passed through a few notable hands over the next two decades. These include Loel Guinness, a member of Parliament who also financed the purchase of Calypso for Jacques Cousteau. But people from all walks of life may remember Robert Stigwood, the famed film producer (Saturday Night Fever) and manager of music groups like the Bee Gees. Stigwood cruised frequently onboard with celebrity friends, on both sides of the Atlantic. He also commissioned the construction of a second, non-functioning funnel, which was removed years later by a subsequent owner.
A subsequent name change occurred, too, in the 1980s: Rosenkavalier, under Greek ownership. The name remained under the next two owners, a Japanese family, then another Greek, that being the late Andreas Liveras, well-known in charter circles.
The last year of the last century marked a significant milestone for the yacht: acquisition by a gentleman who had admired her in his travels many times. He ordered a top-to-bottom restoration, starting with the twin Krupp engines that were installed during her original construction. (They’re still onboard and still powering away, pushing the yacht to a 14-knot top speed.) Next, the interior was stripped down to bare metal. Whatever was in good shape was put back, and whatever wasn’t was replicated. One hundred and twenty tons of steel plating was also replaced in her hull. Even though the yacht looked every bit the classic cruiser, she was outfitted with many modern systems and conveniences. This was for both the owner’s and charter guests’ convenience.
Today she meets MCA’s regulations and the ISM code (the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention), under the management of Ocean Independence. As to her current name, Haida G, it’s in honor of her christening under Fleischmann’s ownership and what Fleischmann wanted to honor. Haida is the same name as a tribe native to a string of islands off British Columbia, referred to as Haida Gwaii.
Happy birthday, Haida G. May you cruise to see many more.