There are two notable yachts I’ll mention here. The first is a Trumpy 80-footer (1947). Her prior owners were Greta Van Susteren (from TV newscasting) and her husband, John Coate, also an attorney. This Trumpy was named the S.S. Sophie (also Greta’s dog’s name). She has a layout that sleeps six in the owner’s party, all below with an expansive main salon incorporating a day head. At the bow, the card room (forward viewing salon) offers climate-controlled vistas both underway and at anchor, while her pilothouse provides a separate private helm station where her crew operates the yacht. S.S. Sophie has a large, enclosed salon, in addition to a second lounging area above and aft on the boat deck. The yacht was berthed and on display in a slip in Washington, DC. It has since been sold to another private owner. 

Ex presidential yacht Sequoia passes under the Bay Bridge on the final leg of her journey to the Richardson Maritime Center in Cambridge, MD, this past fall. Photo by Martin Hardy. (Read more about this in PropTalk's January Boatshop Reports.)

The U.S.S. Sequoia is 104 feet long with an 18-foot beam. She was built in 1925 for banker Richard Cadwalader, later owned by Texan businessman William Dunning. Ultimately the Sequoia was acquired by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce in 1931 and then turned over to the U.S Navy. Nine presidents used it—from Herbert Hoover to Jimmy Carter—as the presidential yacht from 1933 to 1977. Carter saw to it that she was sold as a budget-saving item.

Here are a few of many notable events that prompted people to call the Sequoia “The Floating White House:”

  • President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower planned the D-Day invasion onboard.
  • John F. Kennedy, who was quite a yachtsman and was also known for his leadership aboard PT 109, celebrated his last birthday on her.
  • Richard Nixon told his wife Pat and their two daughters that he would resign from the Presidency on her.

In the beginning, John Trumpy worked as a yacht designer for the Mathis Yacht Building Company in Camden, NJ, starting in 1910. 

His early training began in Bergen, Norway, where his father, Casper Trumpy, owned a shipyard. John grew up working in the family business and earned a naval architecture degree in Berlin, Germany. When Casper Trumpy passed away, John sold the business and moved to America. Trumpy as the designer then partnered with John H. Mathis, leasing space within a shipyard exclusively for the design and production of private yachts.

Fast forward to the 1940s. When World War II intensified, John Trumpy needed to take over the entire John H. Mathis Company facility to build boats for the government. That’s when they changed the name to John Trumpy & Sons.

Little was known about John Mathis after that time. It seems that John Trumpy (by then “Sr.”) had sole control of the company. Even into the late 1950s, John Trumpy recalls that the “…letterhead said formally Mathis Yacht Company. Trumpy and Mathis were the same company, but we called them Trumpy Yachts, and they called them Mathis Yachts.”

In 1947, John Trumpy Sr. bought the Annapolis Yacht Yard property in Maryland and moved his yacht building company there.

Enormous success followed. There are photos of the Roosevelts, the Eisenhowers, and the Kennedys—in addition to kings, queens, dignitaries, families, and friends—enjoying voyages aboard Sequoia and voyages on Trumpy Yachts along the Potomac River. Churchill’s only comment was that the varnished teak lounge chairs on the aft deck were uncomfortable.

In 1963, John Trumpy died from a heart attack as he was pulling his socks on to go to work. His son closed John Trumpy & Sons in December 1973.

John Trumpy had built his own home in Annapolis in 1948. His descendants sold that home for $4.275 million recently. The woodwork inside the home was exquisite, with the same attention to detail and quality that one would naturally expect on a Trumpy Yacht.

In 1978, the Chart House restaurant opened on the waterfront site where John Trumpy & Sons built yachts. It was an expensive undertaking to transition the bare-bones yacht building facility into an upscale restaurant, starting with the number of additional pilings required to support it. Today you’ll find the Chart House address is the same at 300 Second St. in Annapolis, MD. 

By Chris "Seabuddy" Brown

If you'd like to read more about Trumpy yachts, check out Captain Rick Franke's article: Saving the 1950 Trumpy Yacht Manatee.