As the Depression
took hold of the country, J. P. Morgan decided to avoid the usual ostentation
that went with big-ship launchings when his 52,500,000 Corsair was ready to be
sent down the ways. The Bath-built Corsair was to be "privately"
launched. Though the public was excluded from the shipyard, Morgan arranged to
charter an oceangoing tug for the benefit of reporters and cameramen. As the
press tug steamed up and down the Kennebec River and thousands of fascinated
citizens watched from vantage points along the river front, a daughter of the
financier broke the traditional bottle of champagne on the bow of the ship and
the Corsair slipped gracefully into the water. Shipmasters later declared they
had never seen a prettier launching.
Morgan didn't care
for the straight lines and elephantine bulkiness that characterized so many of
the newer big yachts. He much preferred the rakish, clipper lines and extreme
grace of his father's Corsairs. Thus the new vessel was made as much like the
older Corsairs as possible. He also preferred steam, liking its smooth, silent
power. In the age of diesel, his craft was steam-driven, though oil-fired.
clipper-stemmed Corsair was 10 feet longer than Julius Forstmann's German-built
Orion, and far and away the largest private craft ever to have been built in
this country. A slim beam and an extreme overhang held down her tonnage,
however, and she wasn't even close to the Orion in that respect.
Like all Morgan
yachts, her hull and funnel were black, her superstructure, which covered 200
feet, leaving an unusual amount of open deck space, white. All exposed woodwork
was of East Indian teak. All paneling, beam work and decking were of the same
yellowish-brown wood, with the exception of the crew's quarters, which were
finished in less-expensive mahogany.
There were two
sets of living quarters for the owner: one on the main deck aft, and the other,
permitting complete withdrawal, on the boat deck forward. The main-deck owner's
quarters, opulent but not luxurious, included a stateroom, writing room, bath
and large cedar-lined closet. There were five similar suites for members of
Morgan's family and guests.
On the rocks
During her speed
trials on the Navy's measured course off Rockland, Maine, Morgan posted himself
on the commodore's bridge. Well over 6 feet tall and of proportionate breadth
of shoulder and depth of chest, he made an impressive figure. Racing against
the Chester, the Navy's newest cruiser, the Corsair proceeded at 18.5 knots,
the Morgan private signal, a red flag with the white star and crescent of the
old Barbary corsairs, snapping at her main truck. Though the Corsair could
hardly match the Chester's speed, Morgan, proud, smiling and wind-whipped, was
not the least dismayed.
Sailing from the
Morgan estate at Glen Cove, Long Island on her maiden crossing, the Corsair
made Southampton, England in eight days, a record many passenger liners were
hard-pressed to equal. After depositing the Morgan party at Southhampton, the
Corsair returned to the States.
Less than six
weeks after her maiden ocean voyage, the Corsair went on the rocks off the
coast of Maine. Junius Morgan, the financier's son, and his wife were cruising
in Maine waters when the big yacht ran aground on a rock ledge in Penobscot
Bay. She ran almost half her length onto the ledge at high tide. A radio appeal
for help quickly brought out a swarm of small craft and an oceangoing tug from
nearby Rockland. Try as she would, the tug failed to budge her. As the 11-foot
tide ran out, the Corsair started to list to port and it was feared that the
big yacht would break up. It was not until the next full tide, 24 hours after
running aground, that two tugs and a Coast Guard cutter succeeded in working
her free. The damage sustained was slight.
were beginning to discover that yachting was twice as much fun, and much more
defensible, if conducted in the interests of science. The gear of scientists
and sportsmen displaced the wardrobe trunks of idle, fashionable guests on
voyages to the Gal�pagos and South Sea Islands, to Guatemala and Cambodia. The
treasure trove obtained was duly deposited in private and municipal zoos,
museums and aquariums.