So, a surplus of yachts, eh?" many an old economic royalist may have harrumphed to himself in the quiet of the Union League Club as he read the advertisement reproduced above in The New York Times. "No wonder that man in the White House is asking for a rise in taxes."
There was a grain of truth in these sour thoughts, but the offer of two yachts for sale did not necessarily reflect it. In one way or another, the U.S. Government does own a number of yachts and does lose tax money on them because of an Internal Revenue ruling that says any millionaire donating his worn-out yacht to a "worthy institution" can write the paper value of it off his tax bill.
Thanks to this handy dodge, some of the world's most famed private yachts have passed into more or less public hands, among them the 1962 U.S. cup defender Weatherly, the beautiful schooner Ni�a, formerly owned by the late Paul Hammond and the late DeCoursey Fales; the veteran ocean racer Ondine I (now rechristened Severn Star): the 60-foot fiber-glass prizewinner Maredea; and the most recent acquisition of the U.S. Naval Academy, the almost new 72-foot ketch Jubilee III.
Of all the institutions classified as worthy by the tax laws, the Naval Academy, whose interest today lies more in nuclear propulsion and missile guidance systems than in blue-water sailing under canvas, has benefited the most at the hands of wealthy, tax-conscious yachtsmen. The Coast Guard Academy, whose major concern is often the yachtsman himself, has come off a poor second best.
Yet it is a primary purpose of the trim, colonial-looking academy, which stands on New London's Mohegan Avenue just across from the Connecticut College for Women, to train officers in the technique of search and rescue—a day-to-day duty that has saved thousands of lives and billions of dollars worth of seaborne cargo, much of the latter a contributing factor to the kind of wealth that makes the buying of yachts possible. When the yachtsman himself, wealthy or not, is in trouble his first call is to the Coast Guard, and his succor comes from an officer trained at the academy. Last year alone Search and Rescue answered 42,225 calls for aid; 26,624 of them were from "private vessels." i.e., yachts.
One way the Coast Guard cadet learns to answer such calls effectively is by cruising and racing under sail. "Sailing," says the academy's part-time sailing coach and Olympic hopeful William Parks III, "teaches the cadets like nothing else about wind, currents, tides and how easy it is to get into trouble on the water. It also teaches them instinctive small-boat discipline. When you're out there on a cutter in a gale trying to pick up a small boat in trouble you've got to know what you're doing and you've got to know what he's doing. There's no room for mistakes."
Obviously book-taught seamanship is a standard part of the academy curriculum, but the cadets who know sailing best are those who learn it, and learn to love it, as part of the USCGA's 60-man Sailing Squadron. They not only learn seamanship as such, but everything that should go with it. Each vessel in the academy's too small blue-water fleet has a permanent crew assigned to it. It is this crew's job to see that everything aboard is shipshape at all times. Goaded by his own Captain Bligh—a first classman appointed as "crew chief"—each cadet scrubs, pats, polishes and paints "his" vessel with a zeal many a private yachtsman could envy.
Sometimes the zeal is rewarded by the chance to take part in a famed ocean race, like the Newport- Bermuda. This year two Coast Guard yawls are entered. For the cadets on board, the race will count as part of their regular summer duty. Fun? Obviously. But as Lieut. Commander Martin H. Daniell, a faculty adviser to the Sailing Squadron, points out for the benefit of the bureaucrats, "Anyone who thinks ocean racing is all fun has never been offshore during bad weather in a small boat."
The fact that offshore sailing is not only pleasurable but an important part of the training of future Coast Guard officers is a fact hard to make clear to Congressmen, budget directors or even plain taxpayers. The result is that, despite attractive write-off laws, the Coast Guard needs far more and better boats than it has, and it desperately needs money to sail and maintain them. At present the Academy Sailing Squadron owns three 44-foot fiber-glass yawls, a husky and slightly leaky cruising sloop called Congar, a needle-shaped ketch named Arion, whose vintage is dated by the fact that she is the first fiber-glass sailboat of her size ever built, and the two boats it is trying to sell: the now decrepit Royono and the 31-year-old Manitou, which had a brief fling on the front pages back in 1962 when Sailorman- President John F. Kennedy relaxed at her helm.
The involvement of the Defense Surplus Sales Office in this sale may lead to the impression that there is a surplus of yachts in New London, but such is far from the case. The Coast Guard is selling the two old wooden craft because it doesn't have the money to maintain them, and the Government has no intention of providing any. The Government, as a matter of fact, has never paid a cent toward the maintenance of any of the Sailing Squadron's vessels, all of which are supported by charitable donations from people like roller-bearing maker John Timken. Since fiber glass is cheaper to maintain than wood, the academy is simply hoping to get enough money from Manitou and Royono to enable it to buy a pair of fiber-glass yawls that will cost less to care for. Once before the academy tried to sell the two boats, but the bids fell far short of the $52,000 the Coast Guardsmen thought they were worth.