Yacht hunted subs, brought down Washington governor

MV Olympus, based out of Seattle, is taking part in the Victoria Classic Boat Festival which opened Friday and continues today at the Inner Harbour.

The vessel is powered by two diesel engines and conducts charters in the Pacific Northwest, its latest function in a history that has connections to New York, Hollywood and the Second World War.

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The yacht was launched on May 14, 1929 in New York by George Callendine Heck with the intent of using it to commute from his two estates on Long Island to Wall Street, where he was a partner in an investment firm.

George Converse and his wife, former silent film star, Mary Stuart, purchased the yacht where it became part of the Southern California “social scene” in the late 1930s and early 1940s. She was also used in several movies including Captain January and The Palm Beach Story.

The U.S. Navy conscripted the yacht to serve as a patrol vessel during the Second World War, complete with guns mounted on her deck. She patrolled the West Coast between Seattle and Alaska looking for Japanese submarines.

Following the war, the yacht was declared “surplus property” by the U.S. Government, and was bought by Washington state for only $15,000. It was put on the books of the State of Washington as a “fisheries patrol vessel.”

Its passengers during that time included U.S. President Harry S. Truman and Washington Governor Monrad Wallgren.

It was later revealed that over $104,000 in Department of Fisheries funds was spent between 1945 and 1948 acquiring and refitting the “Governor's Yacht.” The extravagant yacht became a huge issue in the Governor's election in 1948.

Governor Wallgren lost the election to Arthur Langlie, who ordered the yacht sold, unfortunately in a rigged bid to his highest campaign contributor, creating the first scandal of his new administration.

From the 1950's to the early 1990's, the yacht was privately owned and operated and was purchased in 1994 by current owner Diane Lander.

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