History of the Sachem
1901 - 2017
Click on images to display in greater size.
The Sachem started its journey in 1901, in Wilmington, Delaware. Intended a luxury steam yacht, it was built by the Pusey & Jones Company, a major shipbuilder at the time. Opened in 1848, the Pusey & Jones shipyard closed in 1959. During these years they have made more than 500 vessels : racing sailboats, sloops, cargo ships, warships and luxury yachts, including the Volunteer, winner of the 1887 America's Cup, the Cangarda, now fully restored, and the SS Adabelle Lykes, one of the first Liberty ships and member of the Liberty Fleet Day, among many others.
The steam yacht was ordered in 1901 under the name of Celt by the famous businessman John Rogers Maxwell from Manhattan. He was one of the wealthy figures of the late XIXth century, and had a stunning mansion and gardens on the coast of Long Island. Maxwell was the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and president of the Atlas Portland Cement Company for many years. The Atlas Portland Cement company is known for having supplied the materials for the construction of the Panama Canal and the Empire State Building.
Below : Rare portrait of John Rogers Maxwell Sr., born 1846.
The construction of the Celt, that would later become the Sachem, started by the laying of the keel at the end of 1901, at Pusey & Jones yard in Wilmington. The steel-hulled ship had the hull number 306. One hundred frames were added on the keel in January 1902, followed by exterior plates, engine, planked decks, fittings and furnitures in that order.
Below : the Celt under construction at Pusey & Jones yard in Wilmington, Delaware, early 1902. The upper deck and roof is not finished. Note the two men who are painting flowery details on the prow. These yacht-building techniques were typic of the time.
The yacht was as large as 186 feet long overall and 170 feet at waterline, 24 feet wide, 12.5 feet deep and about 25 feet high without the masts and smokestack. It was made with robust steel by Pencoyd Iron Works, later absorbed by Carnegie Steel then US Steel, a name that was the best guarantee of quality at the time. The yacht was equipped with a 4-cylinder triple expansion steam engine by John W. Sullivan, fed by two Almy water tube coal boilers. This gave the engine the capability of delivering 1200 HP and a speed of more than 15 knots. The boilers had a reserve of 42 tons of bunkered coal on the two sides of the lower deck.
Designed by Henry C. Wintringham, a famed yacht designer at the time, the magnificent vessel originally contained two deck houses, made of carved mahogany wood and two masts made out of Oregon pine. There were 9 furnished and accessorized staterooms, which were also finished in richly carved mahogany, and had adjoining bathrooms with green tilling and mosaic floor. One was for the steward, another for the cooks, two for the crew, one for the owner, three for the guests, and the captain's room on the upper deck. The yacht was equipped with modern plumbing and electric power throughout, had ample light and air, electric fans fitted to the portholes, plus in every state room an icebox, a large berth, a chest of drawers, a dressing table and a wardrobe.
The whole construction took only five months after which the vessel was christened and launched as the Celt, on April 12th 1902. The christening ceremony was sponsored by Miss Elizabeth Hunter Pusey.
Down : the Celt cruising around Long Island, soon after its completion.
As an experienced yachtsman and owner of famous racing yachts, — He owned at least 27 boats from 1865 to 1910 — John Rogers Maxwell, also a long time member of the Atlantic Yacht Club, used the Celt around New York Bay and Long Island Sound as pleasure craft, a tender for his sailing yachts, and it was also a perfect summer home. The Celt was intended to be the flagship of his racing fleet. Furthermore, this vessel was the toast of the whole New York coastline for nearly a decade.
Above : The Celt following a schooner race in 1903.
Maxwell's racing team won the King's Cup in 1907 in a sailing yacht ironically named Queen. Like on the photograph above, the Celt was often present at these races.
Above : the Celt in Upper Bay in 1910, probably a few months before Maxwell's death. Note the important traffic in the background.
Like the yacht's previous owner, Manton B. Metcalf Sr. also had a mansion on the New Jersey coast. He worked for the leader company in the New England (Rhode Island) textile industry, which was producing and selling woolen products since the Civil War. Manton Bradley had a rather prodigious family past : the Metcalf family is indeed one of America's oldest family, and Manton's oldest known ancestor was a British immigrant named Michael Metcalf, born in 1586, who came in America in 1637 to avoid religious persecutions. His descendants, although not numerous, have figured prominently in the history of Rhode Island and south-eastern Massachussetts for two and a half century.
Below : Portait of Manton Bradley Metcalf Sr., circa 1921, which would be few years before his death.
Below : The yacht Celt at anchor, photographied probably around 1912, before coming into the ownership of Manton Metcalf.
The strike of World War I induced a turning point for the World, including the United States and including the Sachem. Germany's tactic to defeat Britain was to block supply lines coming from North America. Indeed the supplies for the Allies entered Europe through Britain. Germany would attempt to "besiege" Britain, provoke starvation and economic weakness. The newly-invented war submarine, the U-Boat, was deployed massively in the Atlantic to dissuade allied convoys to reach british harbors. In 1917, on the belief that the US would anyway enter the war, Germany adopted an unrestricted warfare policy, where U-Boats had to target and sunk any ship that could possibly carry supplies to the Allied.
As United States prepared to join the Allied side, they searched for ways to fight again submarines, a new kind of weapon that could strike without warning and that was for the time, extremely hard to detect.
So the Navy began renting private crafts, more versatile in size, speed and maneuverability, enough to outmaneuver and spot the German U-boats, and supplement the Navy fleet. The Sachem was one of these private yachts, requisitioned by the Navy on July, 3rd of 1917, and renamed USS Sachem (SP 192) - The prefix "SP" for Section Patrol is a World War I designation for patrol crafts.
The Gas Engine & Power Co. and Charles L. Seabury & Co., Consolidated, established in Morris Heights, New York, quickly converted the ship to Navy service. They equipped the USS Sachem with modern maritime navigation, removed the masts, sealed the ornate brass, fringed the portholes, and raised the sides to make it ocean-worthy. SP-192 was outfitted it with depth charges racks and and unimpressive armament : one 6-pounder 57mm deck gun, a pair of 3-pounder 37mm guns, and two light machine-guns. The USS Sachem (SP 192) was placed in service on August, 19th 1917, under the Third Maritime District and its mission was to patrol around harbors and spot submarines around the Carribean, sometimes up to the Keys and coasts of Florida.
Above : USS Sachem (SP 192) during World War I.
Below : the USS Sachem (SP 192) dry docked at the Key West Navy Yard in Florida, circa 1917.
But the Sachem had another mission during the war...
As Navy needed new and creative ways to defend against the German, they turned to Thomas Edison. The famous inventor is one of the world's greatest mind and inventor, and an unmatched genius considered as the father of modern electricity. He was the first to conceive a machine that could record sound : the phonograph ; to record motion : the Kinetograph (the world's first motion picture camera), the first electric incandescent lightbulb, the first electric car (with electric windshield wipers), various electrical power distribution systems, among an astonishing 1093 patents he registered. In 1908, he even invented prefabricated housing by improving the Portland Cement from the Atlas Portland Cement Company, directed by the Sachem's first owner John Rogers Maxwell.
Thomas Edison, after the outbreak of World War I, had a queer fascination with producing any novel ideas to defend against the German U-Boats, and believed that he could produce defensive and offensive means for the United States.
Above : Thomas Alva Edison in his Orange (NJ) laboratory with his electric incandescent lightbulbs, circa 1883.
During World War I, Edison would help the US Navy, promising to develop submarine & torpedoe detection systems and ship camouflaging systems. Edison needed a floating laboratory : after searching for a suitable boat to charter, the Navy assigned him the USS Sachem (SP-192) in the spring of 1917. Then, they outfitted it for Edison and his employees.
From August to October 1917 Edison conducted experiments onboard the SP-192 along the East Coats in New York and Florida waters, and the Carribean. Edison, enabled to work at real conditions, dedicated all of his time to naval research. While his relations with the US Navy were tumultuous, he developed approximately 48 projects, including the "collision mats", the "kite rudder" … which had much potential but none were ever put into production.
Below : In this rare photo by Edison's professional photographer Lewis Lueder, Edison is unshaven and relaxing on the Sachem. He reportedly enjoyed his time aboard.
Above : Thomas Edison (down, center) and the crew of the ship, during the time of Edison's experiments.
Not long later, World War I ended. USS Sachem (SP-192) never saw active combat. Edison's funding ended too, he returned to his business, while the Navy returned the USS Sachem to its owner they have been renting it from on 10th of February, 1919.
Manton Bradley Metcalf then sold the Sachem to Roland Leslie Taylor. Born in Philadelphia 1868, Roland was a banker, who organized an industrial company, the Tubize Artificial Silk Co. of America. Despite being a great philantropist, he used the yacht as a rum runner mother-ship during the Prohibition.
Above : The Sachem in 1919. Note the new masts, bowsprit and pilothouse due to the yacht's reconversion after the war.
In 1932, many years after, at the height of the Great Depression, the boat was purchased for a fraction of its value by Captain Jacob "Jake" Martin of Brooklyn, a charter fisherman who plays a key role in the Sachem's history. During the hard financial times, many of these luxurious yachts were sold at ridiculous prices. Fishing was still a recreation for some folks, but an absolute necessity for others. Jacob Martin converted the Sachem to a party fishing boat and sailed it in the Sheepshead Bay of New York and along the New Jersey coast. He was an experienced captain and the Sachem was not his first vessel. Like many captains, he opened the boat each summer to anyone willling to pay $2.00 to board in. People came to party, or to catch fish to feed their families, even sometimes for the whole neighbourhood. The fishes caught during these fishing tours were sea bass, porgies, tuna, blackfish and sharks.
Below : Captain Jacob "Jake" Martin preparing to shoot a shark, circa 1925.. In this picture the boat is the Giralda, the boat owned by Jacob Martin's brother, David. He was also captain.
Above : An advertising postcard from 1932 depicting the young captain and his new boat during their initial fishing season.
Below : Another advertising card, circa 1933
The Sachem had much of a luxury yacht. People were impressed it had mahogany millwork and brass light fixtures and however was used for fishing. Like the document above says, the ship was the fastest, the finest, the largest, the best of the entire Sheepshead Bay fishing fleet.; it could handle up to 250 guests each tour. Over the years, the fishing trips became very popular, and Martin's business flourished.
Above : The ship in 1932, cruising at full steam.
Below : Signs like this one, dated 1934, were a very popular form of advertising for the party fishing boats and were posted in local shops and businesses. Few of these pieces of memorabilia have survived.
During the winter of 1935-1936 captain Jacob Martin replaced his boat's steam engine and coal boilers with a diesel engine, wich was more modern and practical to use : a seven cylinder Fairbanks-Morse 37D14 diesel engine, that is still present in the boat nowadays. This engine is the last one of its kind remaining in the world. Despite a massive 20 ton engine generating 805 hp at shaft, the speed of the boat dropped a little, as the steam engine provided 1200 shp. An interesting fact is that the Sachem was the first steamer brought in Sheepshead Bay and the last to be converted to diesel.
Above : One of the pictures of this kind available, this one is dated 1937. Note the first line changed from "Steam yacht" to "Diesel yacht"
Below: Compared to the typical concurrents, the Sachem was quiet impressive. Here it is docked next to the Tambo III in 1936, probably in Pier 9 in Sheepshead Bay.
Below : Another postcard-sized advert from 1938. Under the picture, the accomodations onboard such as the resaurant are indicated.
Above : This rare colourized postcard from 1941 is the last known before the end of this part of the ship's history.
Even with the new conflict that appeared in 1939, the Sachem continued its life as a fishing vessel with Captain Jacob Martin until 1941. It was not until United States entered World War II that the boat served the nation another time.
On december 7th, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor (Hawaii). The attack was intended to prevent America from interfering with Japanese military actions planned in Southeast Asia ; and it was aimed at the American fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor. Killing close to 2,500 and damaging or destroying 19 battleships, the attack led to the US entrance into World War II. US declared war on Japan the following day.
Facing greater threats, the Navy faced a need of patrol boats And used a second time their right to requisition private yachts. On february 17th, only ten weeks after Pearl Harbor attack, the Navy requisitioned the Sachem another time… Actually, they reacquired it for the tidy sum of 65,000$, still willing to return it to Captain Martin.
At Robert Jacobs Inc., City Island (New York), the vessel was heavily modified for naval service : painted with an haze gray paint scheme, upgraded in speed, visibility, armor plating and equipments, and armed with one Naval 3" 23 caliber naval rifle on the aft. deck, four .50 caliber M2 watercooled Browning machine guns for Anti-Aerial defense, one small Thomson machine gun on the bridge, and two Mark VI depth charge racks on the sides. The Navy also rechristened the ship as the USS Phenakite, the name of a rare gemstone. Many other requisitionned ships assigned with the same duty were renamed after gemstones.
Above : USS Phenakite on patrol. Aerial photography of 1942, shot from an US Navy blimp.
Phenakite was commissioned on July 1st, 1942 at Tompkinsville (New York) as the USS Phenakite (PYc-25) - "PYc" is the duty section for coastal patrol crafts. USS Phenakite was commanded by Lieutenant John D. Lannon, USN.
The ship was later decommissioned and placed in service on november 17th 1944 under the commandment of commander Harold Homefield, USN. The USS Phenakite (PYc-25), acted as a patrol, escort and a training vessel and was part of the Fleet Sonar School Squadron, and the Key West squadron comprising another 3 ships. During the day, the ship would take on sailors from the Sonar School on training to use equipments such as the sonar which was very common since Edison's work onboard.
The vessels in the Key West Squadron used to transfer supplies and munitions from New York and would go on patrol on a rotating basis during the night. In 1944, the USS Phenakite (PYc-25) patrolled around Key West Harbor, then patrolled in zone between Long Island Sound down until the Florida Keys, the Carolinas and Cuba, until the end of the war. On patrol, the ship would reach a speed of 15- 20 knots and had a remarkable turning range, which turned out to be very useful in the wartimes. The Phenakite did deep sea convoy escort duty when needed. The squadron would gather as a wolfpack of up to 12 vessels and US submarines to practice and escort Allied ships, thus preventing them from being attacked by German U-Boats massively hidden in the Atlantic.
Like 25 years before, the ship was tracking down German submarines but when the war came to an end, it didn't found active combat, like 25 years before.
Below : Inside the wheelhouse of the Phenakite during wartime service, on patrol. Captain Homefield is at helm.
The following year, the vessel was decommissioned and placed out of service at Tompkinsville on october 2nd 1945. The Phenakite was transferred to Maritime Commission for disposal 3 days later. Strangely, naval registers lists its transfer to the War Shipping Administration in january 1946. Like the other requisitionned crafts, the ex-Phenakite was offered for scrap, however in december 1945, Jacob Martin bought it back for $5,353. Captain Martin renamed the ship Sachem, its previous name, on december 29th 1945. Sadly, it was in poor shape. As many of the private crafts the Navy rented, the Sachem was neglected and left without the adequate attention in a remote harbor. Jake faced budget problems and couldn't convert it to a fishing vessel anymore. He had to relinquish his loved Sachem and offered it for sale.
Eventually, in 1946, it was bought by the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises of New York.
Just after the war, Francis "Frank" Barry, Joe Moran and other partners merged four sightseeing boats to form the Circle Line, operating out of Battery Park. As they wanted to own more boats to become the leading sightseeing company, they were seeking for a distinctive ship that would become the company's signature on advertisements and brochures for the next quarter century. The company was able to acquire the Sachem and its turn-of-the-century distinctive lines as their flagship; and they subsequently renamed it Sightseer.
Above : The Sightseer in 1949. Moored at the popular Pier 83, it was always the favorite and the most disctinctive ship. One reason for that is the charm and the oddness of the welded over deck gun mounts remaining from World War II.
Although it was the fastest ship of the Circle Line fleet, the ship's superstructure was severely changed in order to accomodate 492 passengers on 2 decks. The ship was modernized, repainted, and so on ; its captain became Sir Harold Log, a Norvegian master and the company's senior officer. The crewmens of the Circle Line were aware and proud of the World War II past of their vessels, and the story, told to the tourists may have also been a key to the Sightseer's popularity.
Below : Coulour photograph circa 1948. In background we can see the New York Central Ferry Catskill.
Above : A postcard dated 1951 showing the vessel during a tour around Manhattan. Circle Line indeed offered public circumnavigation of the island of Manhattan, trips would last up to 3 hours and were reputedly the best way to visit New York.
Below : Eventually the company renamed the boat Circle Line Sightseer, in the early 1950's as they reorganized their fleet's names. There we see the Circle Line Sightseer again moored at pier 83 in the head position, circa 1955.
Above : Resplandant in old-fashioned "steamboat white", Circle Line Sightseer is seen here in the Harlem River in 1955 . The photo was taken from the bridge that once carried the Third Avenue E1 from Manhattan into the Bronx.
And lastly, after the years, its name changed to Circle Line V at an unknown date in the late 1950's. It's also during the 1950's that Circle Line, after a few years settling their business, divested themselves from their older vessels ; however they made an exception to the rule and kept the Circle Line V as it was the crowd favorite. Also survived to this day Circle Line X, Circle Line XII, which are boats from WW2.
Above : The iconic Circle Line ad featuring the ship, passing the Manhattan Bridge, circa 1960. In background we can see the Woolworth Building, the Municipal Building and the gold-topped Federal Court House.
Below : Here seen cruising off Battery Park, Circle Line V had the typical Circle Line eye-catching color scheme.
Below : Here is an Ektachrome slide view of the Hudson river at the foot of the West 42nd Street, between Pier 81 and Pier 83 where the Circle Line V is moored on the right. The steamship on the left is the Day Line's Alexander Hamilton. Courtesy of Theodore W. Scull.
Above : The ship photographied in 1969 in New York's East River.
Below : Here, the boat shows a recent refurbishing. Although the date the photo was taken is unknown, it's probably from the early 1970's. Note the original wheelhouse has been replaced with a more modern, angular one that had become the company's standard.
The Circle Line Company indeed used the ship as their flagship, on their advertisements and "Cruise Guides".
Sightseer/Circle Line Sightseer/Circle Line V carried an estimated 2,9 million tourists around New York under the Circle Line company. In 1977, after 31 years being in service, they removed it from their fleet. In these 31 years, Circle Line acquired faster, bigger, and more modern boats : Circle Line V ended up being completely obsolete.
After being cut off from the Circle Line's lines, the boat was sold off for scrap; then stripped from all its useful equipment, electrics, furnishings and timber in an abandoned pier in West New York (New Jersey). The pilothouse was removed for use as a ticket sales kiosk, what left was donated to the Sea Scouts and the ship ended up sitting derelict in the pier.
Up : Ex-Circle Line V awaiting its fate in a West New York (New Jersey) cove, July 29th 1984.
The ex-Circle Line V was left along the dock. In the late 1970's the Hudson River Maritime Academy rescued the ship and some volunteers of this organization continued to oversee the preservation of the vessel. The organization, which operated another 2 historic ships for the Sea Scouts, restored the teak main deck of the ex-Circle Line V and its engine room. A few years later, the organization went bust and gave up on the ship. Eventually the owner of the pier put for sale his property, including the ex-Circle Line V. Everybody was afraid about having to do something with this ship, because of its size and because it was bogged. There were multiple unsuccessful tries to move the boat using bulldozers pulling from the shore, it was troublesome for the pier owner and he needed to get rid of it.
In 1984, maritime historians assumed the vessel was scrapped, without any proof, but without any trace of the ex-Circle Line V. However, despite the vessel left no trace, the pier owner had found a buyer for the desolated ship.
Robert 'Butch' Miller, a businessman who lived in Finneytown near Cincinnati, always had a passion for boats and had already bought smaller boats. Miller was looking for an old steam yacht for more than eight years when he ran across an advertisement in the Boats and Harbors magazine. He called the owner of the pier and went looking for himself. The ship was not in running condition and in very poor shape : parts leaking, rust, dirt all over the deck, rainwater flooding the lower decks...
However, there was no other old steam yacht anywhere. Robert Miller wished to restore it to use it as a yacht, whatever it would take. So he offered 7,500$ and promised to move the ship in a week.
It took Robert Miller ten days to complete seaworthiness repairs, after which the Sachem, as Miller wished it to be named, was operable. Butch did hard work on his ship with the help of friends :
Above : The Sachem on its way on the Ohio river at the level of Aurora, a few miles from the final destination.
Following 1986, the water level of the Ohio river went down, leaving the Sachem aground in the muddy bed of the tributary. Robert Miller couldn't have the ship moved without spending more money than the ship was worth, way more that he could spend...So the restoration never occured and the Sachem was forced to remain at the same place since 1986.
Since then the condition of the Sachem has deteriorated. Ships of this size and age subsequently require a minimum of attention and maintenance.
Butch has since closed his business and moved to Mexico with his wife. In 2015,