SI Vault
Ezra Bowen
May 06, 1957
As powerful as a small steamer and loaded with luxury gear, the 'Rhonda III' was tailored to the tastes of Shipbuilding Executive Robert I. Ingalls Jr.
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May 06, 1957

Floating Fantasy

As powerful as a small steamer and loaded with luxury gear, the 'Rhonda III' was tailored to the tastes of Shipbuilding Executive Robert I. Ingalls Jr.

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The Rugged steel yacht Rhonda III, whose gleaming interior is pictured at right and on the following pages, is the kind of boat you might build if you owned the third largest shipyard in the United States and could, therefore, have your own men make you just about anything you wanted in the way of a luxury vessel. Obviously, this is an opportunity that comes to very few people. But it did come to Robert I. Ingalls Jr., of Birmingham, Ala., who owns 90% of the stock in Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp., and who has been "thinking about a yacht since I was about 15, 16 years old."

"My first idea in this boat," said Ingalls, "was to have all the comforts of a small home afloat. I wanted a dining salon separated from the main lounge. I sometimes have 25 people for cocktails, 30 for a buffet, and I knew I was going to want a lot of room. Then I wanted a completely separated afterdeck; I wanted wall-to-wall carpeting, and air-conditioning all through the boat. And I had to have six feet five inches of headroom all over. I'm 6-foot-4, and I didn't want to be cracking my head all the time. I jotted down all my ideas, and I took them to M. Rosenblatt & Son up in New York."

Rosenblatt & Son are naval architects and marine engineers who have built their reputation primarily in ship and small craft design for the Navy, but have also done some fine work on civilian yachts. The elder Rosenblatt took a quick glance through Ingalls' sketches and said, "Look, you'll have to junk these. You don't want a boat. What you want is a small ocean liner."

Then the Rosenblatts set about tailoring a ship to Ingalls' exacting tastes. "This was a question," said the younger Rosenblatt, "of taking a 6-foot 4-inch man in space and designing a boat around him." The boat that the Rosenblatts designed, after some 14,000 man hours of drawing and erasing, was 95 feet 10 inches long, 20 feet 10 inches in the beam, and 5 feet 10 inches draft. The engines agreed upon were two beefy, 490-hp Superior diesels that could push the tremendous weight—roughly 150 tons—which had to be packed into a 90-foot 6 5/8-inch waterline.

With plans in hand, Ingalls got on the phone to find the materials he wanted. "I talked with the president of the U.S. Steel branch in Birmingham," he said. "They made me a special rolling of 3/16 Cor-Ten steel for the hull. Then the Carrier Corporation worked for several months and produced two special, five-ton air-conditioning units. And I got ahold of some of the electronic people to make a TV-hi-fi unit that will play continuously for 10 hours."

With this kind of help and planning, Rhonda could hardly miss; and when she was completed in January of 1955, she was one of the finest yachts built in the U.S. in the past 15 years. Her insides, as these pictures show, are the ultimate in seagoing luxury. Her sailing characteristics are excellent—good stability from the broad bottom and a bow that throws the water well. Her two big engines give her a cruising speed of 12� knots and a top speed of 14. Five thousand-gallon fuel tanks let her cruise 2,500 miles without refueling. But best of all, she is a pretty boat with no feeling of stubbiness or overcrowding. She is, in short, everything that Bob Ingalls was hoping for when he ordered a yacht.