A group of locals got a peek inside the Duke’s “Wild Goose,” the yacht that legendary actor — and one of Newport Beach’s most famous residents — John Wayne sailed out of Newport Harbor.
Attendees of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Marine Committee meeting last week got a private tour of the vessel.
The Aug. 7 event featured speaker was Chandler Bell, Director of Marine Operations for Hornblower Cruise and Events, the company that now owns the historical boat.
“We try really hard to represent the family and what John Wayne was about with this boat,” Bell said.
A lot of work has been put into it, he noted, and it takes quite a bit of annual maintenance. It’s really a labor of love for Hornblower owner, Terry MacRae.
“Whatever it takes to keep her running,” Bell said. “If Hornblower didn’t own this boat, that boat probably would not be floating today.”
The tour was sprinkled with interesting tidbits about Wayne and the yacht.
It retains a lot of its historic charm, even the two original G.M.C. Cleveland 8-268A straight eight-cylinder diesel engines, explained Captain Clay McDermott during the tour.
The wet bar and soda fountain in the “fireplace room,” where Wayne screened movies and played poker with the Rat Pack, are also original. The ship’s wheel, telegraph, and magnetic compass remain from its early days as a Naval minesweeper.
There are a number of posters, paintings, and photos of Wayne and his films throughout the yacht, including a life-size cut-out of the 6-foot, 4-inch actor. There are also a few movie props, including the diving helmet Wayne wore in the film “Reap the Wild Wind” from 1942.
The boat includes “gorgeous woodwork, priceless paintings, intricate carvings and unique amenities.”
Wild Goose has had a storied life.
The 136-foot ship was originally the U.S. Navy Minesweeper YMS 328. Built in Ballard, Wash., it was ready for work on May 26, 1943, coincidentally, Wayne’s 36th birthday.
During World War II, the ship swept for mines at Attu and Kiska, and also patrolled out of Adak.
In 1948, Vancouver Tug & Barge owner Harold Jones, who renamed the vessel Le Beverie. After Jones died in 1956, lumber tycoon Max Wyman bought the yacht, renamed it Wild Goose II, and traveled the world.
When Wayne bought the ship in 1962 he completed a major renovation and dropped the “II” from the name.
Wayne sailed the Wild Goose to Alaska, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas and, closer to home, to Catalina Island.
“He loved Avalon,” McDermott said.
Wayne had a captain, Bert Minshall, but liked to station himself in the pilothouse, McDermott said.
“He liked to come into the harbor, full speed…honking the horn,” he noted.
The famous actor also welcomed celebrity guests Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. on board for poker parties and dinners. Former Presidents, include Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, were also guests on the yacht.
On his final trip on Wild Goose in April 1979, Wayne headed to Catalina. He died from stomach cancer complications in June of that year.
In an effort to avoid any financial burden from the yacht on his family, Wayne sold the ship to Los Angeles attorney Lynn Hutchins two weeks before he died.
The city of Los Angeles and former owner of Tropicana in Las Vegas, Deil Gustafson, also owned the boat before Hornblower became the managing operator in 1993 and the sole owner in 1996.
As a plaque in the hallway proudly explains, the yacht was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on July 19, 2011.
Next to the historic plaque is a blue sign inscribed with the yacht’s name, but it wasn’t originally meant for the boat, McDermott said. Wayne’s relative noticed a restaurant in the Bay Area named The Wild Goose and stole the placard.
Now, not traveling outside Newport Harbor, the Wild Goose is a venue for events.
For more information, visit hornblower.com.
The Marine Committee meets on the first Tuesday of every month at Marina Park. For more information, visit newportbeach.com.