Historic Ventura – Built by Nathanael Herreshoff, America's greatest yacht designer, Ventura is a Federally-documented, national landmark sailing vessel. A true wooden ship, her hull is solid mahogany, decks are Indian teak, and her hollow wooden mast is made of American spruce. Ventura is 62.5 feet long, weighs 28 tons and carries 35 guests. She was commissioned in 1919, launched in 1921, and was originally owned by philanthropist George Baker (founder of today's Citibank) as Mr. Bakers' private duck hunting yacht!
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George Baker, the original owner of Ventura, circa 1915. Mr. Baker was a renowned yachting and outdoor enthusiast at the turn of century. Publicity shy, he was also a philanthropist who kept his exceptionally generous donations private, and was the founder/chairman of the National City Bank , now today's Citibank
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“Capt. Nat.” is pictured here in a formal portrait circa 1898. Nathanael Greene Herreshoff, is considered the greatest yacht builder and designer of all time. Captain Herreshoff's record for designing and building consecutive, victorious America's Cup yachts, remains unbroken and is the longest winning streak in professional sports -- a span covering over a quarter century! Ventura is his 4th last boat and the largest remaining original vessels from the famed Herreshoff Manufacturing Company.
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|Tennessee Williams, playwright|| Herman Wouk, author|| Nicole Kidman, actor || Will Smith, actor || The Fabulous Smaxsters || Patrick Demarchelier, fashion photographer |
VENTURA STORIES, AN ON-GOING SAGA OF DRAMA, FUN, ART
Ventura’s history is incomplete without the experiences of people who have sailed aboard. Some are famous with their accomplishments ashore putting them on a world stage. Some “just plain folks.” .
Some of my favorite stories have come from a previous owner, Ted Baker (no relation to the original owner) back when Ventura was sailing the Caribbean about a half-century ago… Ted and I rendezvous’d in the Caribbean some years back and spent an afternoon “yarning” boat stories. He told me of one guest, the actress Maureen O’Hara, and a gal pal mixing martinis on a balcony overlooking Ventura’s dock in St. Thomas, USVI. The sunset, the famous stunning red head and friend perched above the harbor with one playing “Taps” – the positioning of the trumpet being critical and herein saved for another story at another time…. But let me say this: it stopped all activity in this once-sleepy Caribbean town and passed into legend best told over a bottle of rum. Or Ted telling about Ventura’s centerboard box being problematic with marine growth. His innovative solution: sail to the Old Mr Boston distillery nearby, fill the box from a large barrel of rot gut gin, and shake, via the motion of the ocean. The process took a while, according to Ted, with the crew dutifully involved with the mixology… More recently, some private sails with celebrities yielded some happy moments…. Wil Smith in particular, while filming the movie “Hitch” (Ventura featured in the scene at the marina and Captain Pat as lifeguard and safety diver tender), takes a lunch break and goes for a jog. A great athlete, Wil returned to the marina far ahead of his sweating, panting security people. Naturally the area is roped off for filming, but Wil stopped alongside a crowd of curious people, rubbed little kids’ hair, slapped them five, smiled and waved. A nice man.
Some of the best stories are the stories of the regular folk on charters here in New York Harbor. Memories of the “Smaxsters” glorious summer afternoon wedding on Ventura’s foredeck, with the Statue of Liberty in the background… The skinny guy proposing by the mast just after sunset -- He chartered the boat for the two of them, just to pop the question. In a moment never to be forgotten, he is still on his knees, she has said yes, their arms are around each other, tears of joy and radiant smiles – and then a tremendous explosion over head -- the surprise start of an international fireworks competition!
The internet is a wonderful thing… occasionally I get email “over the transom” as the nautical expression goes, relating a Ventura experience, both recent and from long ago. Send us your stories… the history of the boat is the history of the people who have enjoyed her grace. Try
for your tales, or direct to Captain Pat at
Pictured below are some famous faces associated with Ventura over the years…..
Pictured above is Ventura owner and captain Patrick Harris receiving the “Transportation 9-11 Medal” from US Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta and Rear Admiral Vivien Crea, Commander of the US Coast Guard first district, and Captain Craig T. Bone, Commander of US Coast Guard activities, New York. The Transportation Medal, is a Federal honor created in 2002. The decoration recognizes those civilians and members of the military who performed heroic deeds and valorous accomplishments in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. According to Federal guidelines, the Transportation 9-11 Medal is not a simple service decoration, but rather recognizes individual acts of bravery that resulted in the saving of life or great assistance to the rescue efforts from the September 11th attacks. Google 9-11 Transportation medal for more information.
MARKING A PASSAGE IN HUMAN EVENTS: A PARTICIPANT'S VIEW FROM THE WATER
Where were you on the morning of September 11 ? Could this be the 21st century’s benchmark for people around the world? Earlier generations recall where they were when John F. Kennedy was shot… or Pearl Harbor was bombed. Tellingly, and sad, such significant waypoints in our lives are all too often linked with the violent death of innocent people.
As Ventura nears 100 years old, she has witnessed many such passages, some tragic dramas, some more subtle. But all linked with the experience of individuals being swept away by the actions of others, and by their own choices.
As the Captain of Ventura on the morning of September 11, sitting on deck a few hundred yards from the Twin Towers, I have several images of that day burned into my visual memories. A movie of sorts from being on the site that very morning, and participating in the rescue efforts in the immediate aftermath. Among them are some exceptionally positive and proud memories.
Briefly, here are two of these exceptional stories… they are part of Ventura’s lore.
I was having a cup of coffee on the back deck, facing the World Trade Towers about 1000 feet away when the first jet slammed into the north tower. Time disappeared over the next hour and it seemed as if I was still watching, disbelieving, that initial crash when in reality Ventura was now approaching a dock slip on the New Jersey side of the Hudson. Aboard were refugees from the Battery Park City complex, an entire family less one -- brothers, sisters, even their dog -- escaping the fire and explosions, carried to safety aboard the boat. The missing person was their mother, who had left earlier that morning for Newark airport.
As we entered the Morris Canal, in Jersey City, the family was all on Ventura’s deck, looking at the towers burning. Suddenly, on the other side of the canal, was the mother. She had abandoned her airport ride in New Jersey and made her way several miles to the water’s edge. I will never forget the instant human-to-human emotional contact, over some 100 yards of open water, when she spotted her children, all together, alive and unhurt on Ventura’s deck. She literally fell to her knees, overwhelmed, and as clearly as a touch or spoken word, I felt her surging relief, joy and bittersweet pain. We launched a dingy and ferry’d her over to the boat. “Thanks for being there,” she said, sobbing. She was addressing me, but it never would have happened if it wasn’t for the boat.
Ventura went out on other missions that morning, primarily gathering/communicating information to authorities. By noon she was tied up close to a fuel depot because her home base, North Cove, was smothered with the dust, flying burning papers, broken glass and steel fragments from the twin towers’ collapse. For the following week, she became a refuge for rescue personnel. A nearby Price Club donated industrial-sized cans of chicken soup, bread, Snapple, peanut butter and jelly. As the US Coast Guard personnel came in to refuel, or the NYPD, fire department and other tired, wet, emotionally drained rescue workers finished refueling, they were waved over to Ventura. The old girl morphed into a floating soup kitchen. Boats tied alongside and people handed comfort food over her rails. I remember one diabetic amputee, climbing aboard under the lifelines like a pirate, needing starch; an exhausted firefighter between gulps of water saying his colleagues refused to leave the site but were hungry and sleeping on hard, granite benches. He passed on a rest aboard, but he returned to “the pit” with the diabetic’s dingy, loaded with Ventura’s bunk cushions, towels and a knapsack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When I got a moment to reflect, I saw that all these people were going into harm’s way, way past their duty, or as volunteers. I experienced a warm, powerful surge in my chest, recognizing that these are my fellow countrymen, this is our culture, this is how so many of us spontaneously react to those in need. I felt great pride in whom we are, as American people, our culture. Politics be damned. We are a nation of compassionate people.
I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks to the hundreds – literally hundreds -- of friends, guests who had sailed aboard Ventura, and from "old shipmates" around the world who called and e-mailed their concern in the days and weeks after the attacks. – Patrick Harris, Captain, aboard Ventura.
One last note. While Ventura was standing down in the afternoon I switched boats to the Royal Princess, a large-capacity dinner boat. We could now move some numbers, boarding about 200 people at a time from the west side of Manhattan and bringing them to Weehawken, New Jersey. As people were disembarking, I watched their faces. Without exception, and we carried over 1,100 people that day, all their faces were set, grim, determined, focused. No panic. But more than that, I’d say half touched my arm as we helped them over a makeshift gangplank, and said “thank you.” That contact, taking the time at a moment when they had no idea what was facing them, their world turned upside down, to say thanks and touch a stranger, grim faced,dusty, sincere, made me realize that yes, we were hurt, hurt badly, but far from out. I was seeing the paradox in humanity: the best of our kind at one of our darkest moments.
The following transcript was awarded to the crew of Ventura by the Chamber of Shipping of America.
SHIP SAFETY ACHIEVEMENT
The United States Maritime Community joins with the
Chamber of Shipping of America
in presenting this
Certificate of Award
To The Crew Of
In recognition of your heroism in responding, with total disregard
for personal safety and under conditions unprecedented in the
history of America, to the humanitarian needs of the citizens of
New York City in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001. You faced unknown dangers in providing a
lifeline for those stranded on the shores of lower Manhattan — an
extraordinarily courageous endeavor and an awesome
testament to the undaunted spirit of Americans.
This citation testifies to your actions in keeping with the
highest tradition of the sea — aid to those in peril.
Joseph J. Cox
Chamber of Shipping, Washington, D.C