BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Edited by Ryck Lydecker
Published: December 2011

Icons of the Water

Two sentinels of the sea and one iconic vessel from boating's Hollywood history all gained added distinction recently when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar awarded them federal recognition, two as Historic Landmarks, and one as a National Historic Place. In June, Salazar announced the designation of Lightship Overfalls (LV118), now a maritime museum in Lewes, Delaware, a National Historic Landmark. The steel vessel, launched in 1938, is the last lightship constructed for and commissioned by the U.S. Lighthouse Service, which merged with the U.S. Coast Guard the following year.

Joining Overfalls on that register is Split Rock Light Station on Lake Superior's north shore near Beaver Bay, Minnesota. The lighthouse and adjacent structures, operated by the Minnesota Historical Society and now part of a state park, appear virtually unchanged since its construction in 1910. Every year on November 10, the navigational beacon, decommissioned in 1969, is lit in memory of the 29 men lost when the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior in 1975.

Photo of a fish-eyed view of Split Rock Lighthouse
Photo: Joe Michl
A fish-eyed view of Split Rock Lighthouse, Two harbors, Minnesota.

Over 200 properties related to U.S. maritime history are currently on the Historic Landmarks registry, including vessels, light stations, lifesaving stations, World War II sites, canals, homes of famous individuals, marine hospitals, dry docks, canneries, and entire historic port towns.

In August John Wayne's beloved World War II minesweeper cum personal yacht, Wild Goose, tied up on a different but equally distinctive list, the National Register of Historic Places. Wayne bought the converted 136-foot, ex-Navy vessel in 1962 and owned it until shortly before his death in 1979. It's one of four wooden minesweepers left out of 481 built for the war effort. A tour boat company in Newport Beach, California, now owns Wild Goose. Wayne lived there when he owned the boat and it reportedly held an important place in the famous cowboy-actor's life. Wild Goose had roles in two movies, "The President's Analyst" in 1967 and "Skidoo" released in 1968, but Wayne appeared in neither. The boat also had a bit part in TV's "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." It joins some 200 vessels listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Explore The John Smith Trail

Boaters in the Chesapeake Bay can follow in the wake of explorer John Smith, with a new work from author John Page Williams. A Boater's Guide to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is a joint effort by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Photo of A Boater's Guide to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail where Williams works as head naturalist, the National Park Service, and the Chesapeake Conservancy. Williams says the book is the product of years of exploration on the bay and mixes historical detail with practical information on how to cruise Smith's route.

Williams grew up in Virginia, fishing around the James and Chickahominy Rivers, gunkholing on the Rappahannock, and spending summers in lower Potomac. His first job was as a guide running school field trips all over the Bay. Williams has worked for the foundation for 38 years. John Smith, English explorer and a leader of Jamestown Settlement, covered almost as much of the Chesapeake in 1608 as Williams has in his travels — some 3,000 miles stretching from the Susquehanna River to the mouth of the Bay. Congress designated the "Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail" in 2006 and the following year Williams wrote a guide to it for National Geographic. This time, he says, he wanted to produce a more practical guide for boaters. (See John Page William's article Good Catch, Better Release".)


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