Sea Cloud: A Ship with a Story, a Secret, and a Song

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Sea Cloud has been called “a ship with a soul.” More than that, she is a ship with a story, a secret, and a song.

SeaCloud_SailingCrew_23Her story has many chapters. The first begins in 1931, when Sea Cloud was built (as the Hussar V) for Edward F. Hutton, a stockbroker and expert yachtsman, and his wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post. At a cost of over a million dollars—more than $15 million in today’s money—this four-masted windjammer was bigger and more spectacular than similar yachts owned by Morgans and Vanderbilts. Measuring 316 feet from bow to stern and with 55,000 feet of sail, Sea Cloud was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest private sailing yacht in the world.

Befitting a ship designed for an experienced sailor, Sea Cloud was exceptionally seaworthy. Her steel hull was so strong and moved so steadily that the yacht later served as a battleship during World War II.

SeaCloud_CatA_Cab2_01While E.F. was responsible for designing Sea Cloud’s exterior, Marjorie took care of the ship’s interior. “Luxurious” does not do it justice. Marjorie’s stateroom, decorated à la Louis XVI, was so opulent that when Queen Maud of Norway glimpsed it, she gasped, “You live like a queen, don’t you?”

Indeed, the queen of this “queen of the seas” has her own fascinating story. Marjorie, the only child of C.W. Post, founder of the Postum Cereal Company, had been groomed by her father as a business leader since the age of 10, when she began attending company board meetings. When C.W. passed away in 1914, Marjorie, then 27, took over. Through a series of canny mergers, she transformed Postum into General Foods, the company behind Jell-O, Maxwell House, Birdseye, and other household names.

Sea Cloud 15.-25.August 2010Celebrated for her glamour and style, Marjorie was also renowned for her philanthropy; she gave generous, often anonymous gifts to the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, and other favorite charities. Still, the Huttons worried that their wealth could attract the wrong attention. Thus Marjorie, E.F., and their only child Dina (who later became the movie star Dina Merrill) spent much of the Depression safe in relative isolation aboard Sea Cloud, sailing the world. In 1935 E.F. and Marjorie divorced, and 20 years later, Sea Cloud was sold to Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic, who renamed it the Angelita after his daughter.

Therein lies Sea Cloud’s secret: In 1961, Trujillo was assassinated, and his son Ramfis tried to spirit his father’s body away to Europe by hiding it in the ship’s smoking room, along with a rumored $5 million in cash. En route, the ship was intercepted by a Dominican gunboat and forced to turn back. (The smoking room where the body was hidden no longer exists; it was removed to make way for the newer staterooms when Sea Cloud was remodeled.)

And Sea Cloud’s song? If you have ever been lucky enough to sail with the talented Tom Hook aboard as cruise director, you’ve probably heard him perform the classic rock song, “Ripple.” What could be a more fitting soundtrack for a moonlit night aboard this elegant lady?

“Ripple in still water / When there is no pebble tossed / Nor wind to blow…”

To find out more about upcoming cruises aboard Sea Cloud, visit Arrangements Abroad’s website or call us at 212-514-8921

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