May / June 2021

Aboard: ARCTURUS

A 1930 Alden schooner
ARCTURUS

The 1930 John G. Alden–designed schooner ARCTURUS sails as a charter yacht in New Zealand.

The naval architect John Alden was a successful and highly influential yacht designer by the time ARCTURUS, a 51' 11" LOD schooner built to his design No. 390, was launched in 1930.

ARCTURUS was built by Harvey F. Gamage in South Bristol, Maine, for Phillip G. Woodward, a New York yachtsman. In 1935, a U.S. Army officer and future renowned World War II general, George S. Patton, and his wife, Beatrice, purchased the yacht. Their extensive sailing in her in the 1930s included a voyage to Hawaii, where Patton was stationed, and back to San Diego in 1939 when he felt that war in Europe seemed imminent. On the return voyage, the yacht was badly damaged in a storm that left Patton seriously injured. While he was recovering in hospital, his wife hoped to cheer him up by commissioning Alden to design a new and larger schooner, 63' LOA. Patton was delighted, promising a circumnavigation “when and if” he was able to return from the war. Those words became the name of the new schooner, WHEN AND IF, which is still sailing today as a charter yacht in Florida. However, Patton’s hopes for extensive sailing in the second yacht were never realized; he was killed in a jeep accident in Germany in December 1945.

After Patton sold ARCTURUS, she remained for several years on the West Coast, where she became something of a Hollywood party boat. For a time, the actor and dancer Gene Kelly owned her. She eventually returned to Hawaii, where she languished for many years, forgotten and neglected. In the late 1980s she was rescued by an American sailor, Lance Foreman, who nursed her along on a solo voyage to Auckland, New Zealand, where her state of disrepair became evident. There, she ultimately came into the ownership of Don Armitage and his two brothers, one of whom, Geoff, was a boatbuilder.

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