franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

  • History Classics
  • Your Profile
  • Find History on Facebook (Opens in a new window)
  • Find History on Twitter (Opens in a new window)
  • Find History on YouTube (Opens in a new window)
  • Find History on Instagram (Opens in a new window)
  • Find History on TikTok (Opens in a new window)
  • This Day In History
  • History Podcasts
  • History Vault

The Floating White House: A Brief History of the Presidential Yacht

By: Evan Andrews

Updated: October 31, 2023 | Original: August 18, 2017

USS Potomac in Oakland, California

Before there was Air Force One, there was the presidential yacht. Dating back to the 19th century, America’s chief executives utilized navy ships and other vessels for recreation and entertaining foreign dignitaries. Nearly a dozen different ships acted as the “Floating White House” between 1880 and 1977, when the last vessel was sold at auction. During that time, they were the scene of international diplomatic summits, congressional schmoozing and the occasional Potomac River pleasure cruise.

The executive yacht “served an important purpose in enabling Presidents to escape the claustrophobic tension of the White House,” former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has written. It “provided a quiet sanctuary; it was handier than Camp David, easier for casual, informal discussions.”

Abraham Lincoln made use of a steamboat called the River Queen during the Civil War , but the first official presidential yachts date to the Gilded Age. Starting in 1880, America’s commanders in chief sailed aboard a series of Navy vessels including  USS Despatch , USS Dolphin and USS Sylph . In 1886, Despatc h famously ferried Grover Cleveland across New York Harbor for the dedication of the Statue of Liberty .

Sherman, Grant, Lincoln, and Porter aboard the River Queen, 1865.

Presidential boating entered a new era in the early 1900s, when  USS Mayflower took over as the chief executive’s official yacht. Unlike earlier vessels, which were relatively austere in their design, Mayflower was a luxury craft previously owned by real estate millionaire Ogden Goelet. Measuring some 275 feet from stem to stern, it boasted a crew of over 150 and had a sumptuous interior that included a 30-person dining table and bathtubs made from Italian marble.

USS Mayflower is most famously associated with Theodore Roosevelt , who often used it and  USS Sylph for family vacation cruises along Long Island. A more official use came in August 1905, when Roosevelt hosted Japanese and Russian envoys aboard  Mayflower as part of his attempts to mediate peace talks in the Russo-Japanese War . He would later win the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the conflict.

Mayflower served as a presidential plaything for over two decades. Woodrow Wilson is said to have wooed his second wife Edith Bolling Galt during romantic jaunts aboard the ship, and Calvin Coolidge reportedly loved the yacht so much he stationed a Navy chaplain aboard so that he could take Sunday morning cruises without being accused of skipping church. Nevertheless, the ship’s opulence proved to be a sticking point with critics of presidential excess. In 1929, with economic concerns on the rise, Herbert Hoover  finally had  Mayflower decommissioned.

Photograph showing President Theodore Roosevelt, seated center, Secretary of the Navy William H. Moody, left, Mrs. Roosevelt, right; standing Sir Thomas Lipton, Admiral George Dewey, C. Oliver Iselin, and General Adna R. Chaffee on the deck of the Mayflower off Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, 1903.

Mayflower was the largest and stateliest of the presidential yachts, but it wasn’t the last. Hoover—a devoted fisherman—soon began making day trips on a wooden-hulled vessel called USS Sequoia , and he eventually grew so attached to it that he had it featured on his 1932 Christmas card. Franklin D. Roosevelt began his tenure with Sequoia , but later switched to USS Potomac, a 165-foot former Coast Guard cutter that included a special elevator to help the wheelchair-bound president move between decks.

FDR occasionally utilized the ship for official business—it carried him to a 1941 meeting with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill —but it was more frequently used for presidential leisure. In his book Sailor in the White House: The Seafaring Life of FDR , author Robert Cross writes that Potomac provided Roosevelt with “an instant means of extricating himself from the confines of Washington. Roosevelt could escape to the open water, where he could do some politicking and thinking, or relax and entertain on deck with friends and advisors, or simply throw a fishing line overboard and patiently wait for a bite.”

Recreation was also the main role of the presidential yachts during the administration of Harry Truman , who hosted floating poker games aboard Sequoia and the 243-foot USS Williamsburg. Dwight D. Eisenhower was more of a landlubber than his predecessors, but sea excursions became popular again in the 1960s, when Sequoia resumed its former role as the main presidential yacht. John F. Kennedy —who also utilized a yacht called Honey Fitz and a sailboat called Manitou —celebrated his final birthday with a party aboard Sequoia. Lyndon B. Johnson installed a liquor bar and enjoyed having movies projected on the main deck.

Photo of the U.S.S. Sequoia, Presidential Yacht, from 1932

As the longest serving of the executive yachts, Sequoia played host to several chapters in presidential history. The 104-foot vessel was a more humble affair than many of the other yachts, but the seclusion of its elegant, mahogany-paneled saloon made it an ideal location for sensitive political discussions. Harry Truman talked nuclear arms policy aboard the ship with the prime ministers of Britain and Canada. In the mid-1960s, Lyndon Johnson used yacht trips to hash out Vietnam strategy and lobby legislators to support his Great Society domestic reforms. “The Sequoia was a rostrum from which he was trying to persuade congressmen and senators,” former Johnson aide Jack Valenti said.

Richard Nixon was undoubtedly the most the enthusiastic user of  Sequoia. The 37th president reportedly made as many as 100 trips aboard the yacht, including one in which he met with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to negotiate the S ALT I nuclear arms agreement . Near the end of his second term, Nixon also used  Sequoia as a hideout from the controversies of the Watergate scandal . During one final cruise in August 1974, the embattled president reportedly informed his family of his decision to resign before retiring to the ship’s saloon, quaffing a glass of scotch and playing God Bless America on the piano.

The main bedroom in U.S.S. Sequoia, Presidential Yacht

The age of the presidential yacht came to a close in 1977. That year, newly inaugurated Jimmy Carter ordered that  Sequoia be offloaded in a public sale. Carter later noted that he was disturbed by the yacht’s $250,000 annual upkeep, but he was also following through on a campaign promise to dispense with the extravagance of the presidency. “Despite its distinguished career, I feel that the Presidential yacht Sequoia is no longer needed,” he wrote in a memo to his Secretary of Defense.

Today, Sequoia and  Potomac are the only two former presidential yachts still in existence. Potomac went through several different owners after its presidential service—including Elvis Presley —and is now moored in Oakland, California. Sequoia, though currently inactive and in a state of disrepair, was once used as a floating museum and private charter boat, and still retains much of its presidential memorabilia. Both vessels are now registered as National Historic Landmarks.

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

HISTORY Vault: U.S. Presidents

Stream U.S. Presidents documentaries and your favorite HISTORY series, commercial-free

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Sign up for Inside History

Get HISTORY’s most fascinating stories delivered to your inbox three times a week.

By submitting your information, you agree to receive emails from HISTORY and A+E Networks. You can opt out at any time. You must be 16 years or older and a resident of the United States.

More details : Privacy Notice | Terms of Use | Contact Us

  • Skip to global NPS navigation
  • Skip to the main content
  • Skip to the footer section

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Exiting nps.gov

Uss potomac.

Photo by Chris Wood, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3997116

The USS Potomac was built in 1934 as the Coast Guard cutter Electra. The 165-foot vessel, weighing 376 gross tons and cruising at speeds of 10 to 13 knots, was commissioned as a U.S. Navy vessel in 1936. It was renamed the USS Potomac and served as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential yacht until his death in 1945. As former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR had a deep love of the sea and the Navy tradition. During the sultry summer days in Washington, D.C., he preferred to cruise on the USS Potomac rather than stay in the White House. He loved holding informal strategy sessions with close advisors and congressional leaders in the privacy and seclusion of the yacht. On Monday, August 4, 1941, four months before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR boarded the USS Potomac ostensibly for a fishing trip and a visit to Martha's Vineyard. The President, however, was secretly transferred to the heavy cruiser USS Augusta the next morning bound for Newfoundland where he would meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill--their first meeting as Heads of State. During this top-secret rendezvous, the two world leaders forged the principles of the Atlantic Charter, which formed the Allied partnership during World War II and what Roosevelt called the "United Nations," to plan the post-war peace. With the United States' direct involvement in the war at the end of 1941, the president's recreational use of the USS Potomac came to an end. During World War II the vessel was used primarily as a naval sonar research vessel. Special transducers and motor generator units for the sonar equipment were installed. After FDR's death in April 1945, the Potomac began a long and ignominious decline from its former role in world affairs. After many adventures and many owners--including Elvis Presley--she was seized in 1980 in San Francisco by U.S. Customs for her role as a front for drug smugglers. Towed to Treasure Island, the proud vessel's hull was pierced one night and she sank. Refloated by the Navy two weeks later, she was sold to the Port of Oakland for just $15,000. The Port of Oakland spearheaded a cooperative effort with organized labor, maritime corporations and dedicated volunteers to complete a $5 million restoration. Opened to the public in 1995, the Association for the Preservation of the Presidential Yacht Potomac now operates this National Historic Landmark as an active memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the momentous times through which he led our Nation. The USS Potomac a National Historic Landmark, is located at 540 Water St. near Jack London Square in Oakland. For further information visit the USS Potomac's  website . Discover more history and culture by visiting the World War II in San Francisco Bay Area travel itinerary.

You Might Also Like

  • world war ii
  • world war 2
  • world war ii in the san francisco bay area
  • san francisco
  • san francisco bay area
  • san francisco bay
  • california history
  • discover our shared heritage travel itineraries
  • national historic landmark

Last updated: September 7, 2020

History Hero Potomac

The USS Potomac’s Origins

The uss potomac was built in 1934 as the coast guard cutter electra. the 165-foot vessel, displacing 416 gross tons with cruising speeds of 10 to 13 knots, was commissioned as a us navy vessel in 1936, renamed the uss potomac, and served as franklin delano roosevelt’s presidential yacht until his death in 1945..

As former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR had a deep love for the sea and Navy tradition. He hated flying and preferred to travel by train or ship throughout his presidency.

During the sultry summer days in Washington, DC, he enjoyed cruising on the USS Potomac rather than staying in the White House. The USS Potomac gave the 32nd president much-needed respite from the cares of governing the United States throughout the Great Depression and World War II. He loved holding informal strategy sessions with close advisors and congressional leaders in the privacy and seclusion of the yacht. Recreation aboard the vessel included fishing, poker games, and family gatherings, and he spent endless hours onboard with his beloved stamp collection. In addition, at least one of FDR’s famed radio broadcasts originated from the USS Potomac on March 19, 1941.

History Image 1

A Special Vessel With Special Passengers

A paraplegic since he was stricken with polio at the age of 39 in 1921, FDR’s greatest fear was being caught in a fire and being unable to escape. He therefore preferred the USS Potomac, an all steel vessel, to the wooden Sequoia. A hand-operated elevator was installed inside a false stack on the ship and the President—who had developed an extremely strong upper body—was able to use ropes and pulleys to move the elevator up and down between the saloon and upper boat deck.

There are few records of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt coming aboard her husband’s Floating White House. In 1941, she celebrated her 57th birthday with family members aboard the USS Potomac. She also came aboard during the June 9, 1939, visit by the United Kingdom’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, when the two couples cruised to George Washington’s home in Mt. Vernon (click this link for a description of the Royal visit including a copy of the ship’s log) . Other royalty to board the Presidential Yacht included Crown Princess Martha of Norway, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and Crown Prince Gustav of Sweden. 

World War II Changes Use of the USS Potomac

On Monday, August 4, 1941, four months before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR boarded the USS Potomac ostensibly for a fishing trip and a visit to Martha’s Vineyard. The President, however, was secretly transferred to the heavy cruiser USS Augusta on the morning of August 5 to travel to Newfoundland where he would meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill—their first meeting as heads of state. During this top-secret rendezvous, the two world leaders forged the principles of the Atlantic Charter, forming the Allied partnership during World War II, and what Roosevelt called the "United Nations," to plan the post-war peace. With the United States’ direct involvement in the war at the end of 1941, the President’s recreational use of the USS Potomac came to an end.

History After FDR

From fdr to elvis “the king”.

After FDR’s death in April 1945, the USS Potomac began a long and ignominious decline from her former role in world affairs. After many adventures and many owners—including Elvis Presley at one point—she was seized in 1980 in San Francisco as a front for drug smugglers and impounded at Treasure Island, where she sank. The ship was raised and unceremoniously dumped on the East Bay Estuary, where she sat abandoned and rotting. A week away from being sold as scrap, the ship was rescued by the Port of Oakland, and the process of restoration was begun.

History Image 3

Restoration

The uss potomac resurfaces—back to her old glory.

Re-floated by the Navy two weeks after sinking at Treasure Island, she was sold to the Port of Oakland for just $15,000. The Port of Oakland spearheaded a cooperative effort with organized labor, maritime corporations, and dedicated volunteers to complete a $5 million restoration.

Opened to the public in 1995, the Association for the Preservation of the Presidential Yacht USS Potomac now operates this National Historic Landmark as an active memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the momentous times through which he led our nation.

USS Potomac and served as Franklin Delano Roosevelt

USS Potomac Mission Statement

To preserve and protect the Presidential Yacht USS Potomac for use as a classroom and museum dedicated to imparting to present and future generations the continuing impact of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt era.

Today’s USS Potomac

Today, the USS Potomac, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Floating White House, is a National Historic Landmark and a vibrant part of the East Bay Waterfront. Over a 12-year period, $5 million was spent to restore the 165-foot-long vessel as a memorial to the president who authored the New Deal and led the United States during the Great Depression and the World War II years. The USS Potomac, the centerpiece of the museum exhibit, opened to the public in 1995 and is open for dockside tours on specified dates from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Public 2 HR and 3 HR cruises on the San Francisco Bay take place from late April through early November on specified dates.

The Visitor Center business hours are 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Monday–Friday, where there is a wealth of information about the USS Potomac, including a fascinating video on her history, hard times, and resurrection. Storyboards that chronicle the yacht's history line the walls, and there is a library of books and videos available for viewing at the Visitor's Center.

The USS Potomac Association is involved in educational programs about the ship for area schools, history and educational cruises, special events cruises, and selected private charters.

The USS Potomac Association is an organization run by volunteers and a very small staff. Volunteers include the policy-making Board of Governors, history docents, office and administrative workers, the ship's maintenance crew, and program and membership volunteers. Although not a requirement, many of these individuals served in the armed forces, Merchant Marine, maritime unions, or have worked at ports throughout the country.

Experience, Support, and Preserve History

We are always looking for volunteers interested in preserving and perpetuating the history of the USS Potomac and the FDR era. Learn more about volunteer opportunities, ways to donate, or book a cruise or event aboard Franklin Roosevelt’s Floating White House.

Please enter at least 3 characters

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

The USS Potomac served as FDR’s floating White House during World War II.

This article appears in: September 2017

By Eric Niderost

Washington, D.C., is not known for its mild climate, but the summer of 1941 seemed particularly enervating. The city was enveloped in a fierce humid heat that tended to suck the air out of one’s lungs even as it drenched one’s body in perspiration. The political climate matched the torrid temperatures. Most of the world was at war, and the United States had

so far managed to stay out of the spreading conflict. Many Americans were isolationists, ardently wishing to avoid war and taking comfort in the fact that the nation was seemingly protected by the vastness of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. A formal isolationist movement known as the America First Committee was created in the autumn of 1940 and eventually boasted more than 800,000 members nationwide.

Still, the news from abroad was troubling. Nazi Germany controlled most of the European continent and in June had launched a massive offensive against Soviet Russia. It was a titanic struggle, and in the late summer of 1941 the Germans were making such progress it seemed only a matter of time before the Russians would succumb to Adolf Hitler’s war machine. In the Far East the news was just as grim. Japan was still attempting to subdue China and was already casting covetous eyes on the weakly held European colonies of Southeast Asia.

In March 1941 U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt persuaded Congress to pass the Lend-Lease Act, pledging material support, short of going to war, to any country considered vital to the defense of the United States. The chief beneficiary was Great Britain, which was under the dynamic and charismatic leadership of Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill. But Roosevelt repeatedly assured the American public that the United States was not going to war and that measures like Lend-Lease were purely defensive in nature.

While Washington still suffered under the blistering heat, Roosevelt’s Press Secretary, Stephen Early, announced that the president would soon go on a cruise aboard the Potomac. This was not unexpected because Roosevelt had been a virtual White House recluse in recent months. Apart from a brief weekend at his country estate at Hyde Park in early June, and a Potomac cruise in March, the president stayed close to his desk at the White House.

Just the mere thought of a cruise seemed to invigorate the president, and when he held a cabinet meeting on August 2 he was in his usual ebullient mood. “Franklin Roosevelt patted his perspiring forehead and glanced at his cluttered desk,” wrote a Time magazine reporter. “There was … the old optimistic cast in his eye.” The reporter’s observation was not hyperbole. Roosevelt loved the sea and was an avid sailor from his youth.

The wind-dimpled Atlantic waters were like a tonic and the sea air, which was so unlike the stifling, humid hothouse atmosphere of the nation’s capital, helped soothe both his chronic sinus problems and his frame of mind. Once aboard the Potomac, Roosevelt could relax, fish, and even devote a few hours to his beloved stamp collection.

Late Sunday morning, August 3, Roosevelt left the White House and was driven to Union Station to board a special train to New London, Connecticut, where the Potomac was waiting. He had a small entourage with him, a party that included his personal physician U.S. Admiral Ross T. McIntire and his aides.

The Potomac, designed as a recreational vessel for the nation’s hard-working chief executive, was entering a new phase of its maritime career. The ship would play a major role in an elaborate deception designed to throw a veil of secrecy around a first-time summit meeting between Roosevelt and Churchill. With German submarines, which Roosevelt’s described as “those rattlesnakes of the Atlantic,” ever on the prowl, this cloak-and-dagger approach was necessary.

The USS Potomac carried U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt on the first leg of a voyage in which he rendezvoused at sea for a secret meeting with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

When Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933 the presidential yacht was the Sequoia, a 104-foot vessel built in 1925. Sequoia’s biggest drawback was that it was made of wood. Roosevelt had been a paraplegic since 1921, and he feared being trapped in a fire. An all-steel ship seemed safer to him, so in 1936 the Coast Guard cutter Electra was commissioned a U.S. Navy vessel and renamed Potomac. Extensively renovated, it was ready for service by 1936.

Potomac was much larger than its predecessor. The vessel was 165 feet long and displaced 416 gross tons. It could also reach cruising speeds of 10 to 13 knots and had a crew of 54 men. It required no fewer than a dozen stewards to cater to the needs of the president and his guests.

The ship’s first real foray into the world of diplomacy occurred when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to Washington in June 1939. It was the first time reigning British monarchs had ever visited the United States, and one of the highlights of the tour was a short trip aboard the Potomac to George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon.

Roosevelt grew to love the Potomac and the freedom it gave him to escape the cares of Washington. Not that it was all fun and games; he loved informal talks with congressional leaders and brainstorming strategy sessions with close advisers. Yet when all was said and done Roosevelt usually kept his own counsel. His charm and vibrant wit, while genuine, also were a smokescreen that hid his somewhat enigmatic personality from others.

Churchill was grateful for American aid but wanted more. He also hoped that eventually the United States would join the Allied cause, but he realized this was more than Roosevelt could deliver, at least at that time. For his part, Roosevelt had no desire for war, but he knew he had to slowly but surely prepare the American people for the trials they would almost certainly face in the near future. Roosevelt might have lost the use of his legs, but he was a skilled tightrope walker in the political arena.

Certainly there was a growing need for Anglo-American cooperation in the face of fascist aggression. Roosevelt also mulled the future of Europe once the Nazi scourge had been eliminated from the world. Plans slowly developed for Roosevelt and Churchill to meet to discuss these issues. Each man would bring along military and governmental officials to draw up plans for further Anglo-American cooperation.

The two leaders planned to meet at Argentia on Newfoundland Island in Canada. While Roosevelt and Churchill got to know each other and discussed world affairs, their respective senior diplomatic and military personnel would huddle and draw up plans, laying the groundwork for vital Anglo-American cooperation on air, land, and sea.

The presidential party reached New London at 8:15 pm, the train backing up to within about 100 yards of the waiting Potomac. But before Roosevelt could board all the necessary honors had to be observed. There was a brief 10-minute ceremony with Connecticut Governor Robert A. Hurley and the New London submarine base commander. Once all the formalities were out of the way, the president boarded the ship as a bosun’s pipe squealed a welcoming acknowledgement of his presence.

The president’s staff informed the press corps that reporters would not be allowed on the cruise. A few might be permitted to tag along in the early stages, but once the voyage got underway journalists would be excluded. Potomac would have an escort vessel, the Coast Guard cutter Calypso, but unfortunately there was not enough room to accommodate the press.

“From the time the president boards the Potomac until the time he returns to shore the movement of the ship will be a confidential naval operation under a tight veil of secrecy,” said Hurley. Few if any reporters were suspicious; after all, even though America was still neutral one never knew what Hitler had up his sleeve. U-boats prowling along the Atlantic seaboard posed a real threat to U.S. national security.

The presidential yacht was used for key diplomatic events, such as the visit of Queen Elizabeth and King George in 1939.

The first 24 hours of the cruise were routine and roused no suspicion among the press corps. After a leisurely journey up the coast, Potomac dropped anchor for the night at Harbor of Refuge in Point Judith, Rhode Island. The next morning the ship continued on to South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, where Roosevelt was scheduled to entertain some special guests. Ever the gallant type, the president personally drove a Chris-Craft speedboat to pick them up.

The guests were Crown Princess Martha of Norway, her brother Prince Karl of Sweden, and Martha’s two young children, Ragnhild and Astrid. By all accounts the brown-eyed, 40-year-old princess was tall, elegant, and strikingly handsome. She was, in the words of a breathless admirer, “exactly as a princess should look.”

Roosevelt loved to flirt with the ladies, and nothing put him in a better mood than to have feminine companionship, especially with an old friend like Martha. The president insisted that he personally take the royals on a tour of Potomac. Although he genuinely enjoyed playing host, there was a method to this seemingly frivolous madness. Roosevelt knew, and subsequent events bore this out, that the newspapers would take the bait and prominently feature the royal visitors in their latest editions. It made colorful copy, and it also obscured the real purpose of the cruise.

The Potomac was roughly divided amidships. The forward half included the radio room, galley, guest bedrooms, ship’s bridge, and quarters for the officers and crew. The aft section was truly the “White House” section of the vessel, for it included a saloon, the president’s cabin, and the fantail.

The saloon was essentially the dining room, although to landlubbers the name conjures images of a bar in the Old West. But in ship parlance saloon means a large public area. Tastefully decorated but not ostentatious, the room featured green curtains and framed nautical prints, the latter revealing Roosevelt’s deep love of the sea.

Roosevelt’s guided tour probably did not include his personal cabin. The cabin, faithfully restored when Potomac became a museum ship, is surprisingly small for such an important figure. A modest bed, small dresser, and mirror hover over a miniscule sink. But rank does have its privileges, even in such a tiny cabin. A small side door opens to reveal a flush toilet and a steel sitz tub.

Mobility was always a problem, especially if Roosevelt wanted to go to the ship’s upper deck to do a little fishing off the fantail. The issue was solved when the aft smoke stack, which apparently was not essential for the ship’s operation, was converted into a hidden elevator. Its interior space is about three feet by four, which was just about enough space for his wheelchair. The elevator was raised and lowered by means of a manual rope and pulley system, which again posed no problem for a man of Roosevelt’s muscular build.

The fantail, located on the lower deck of the ship’s stern, was probably Roosevelt’s favorite part of the presidential yacht. It was a place designed for both business and pleasure. The president could receive reports, discuss plans, or simply enjoy a cocktail with friends. The fantail’s most notable feature is a semicircular settee. Roosevelt liked to sit in the center of the settee and hold court, so to speak.

Security was always a factor, especially as the nation approached war. The fantail was covered in bulletproof glass, and after 1940 at least one machine gun was mounted when the president was aboard.

The covert phase of the voyage began after Potomac left South Dartmouth. Potomac quietly and secretly made a rendezvous with the heavy cruiser Augusta, flagship of the Atlantic Fleet, just off Martha’s Vineyard. Augusta was accompanied by the heavy cruiser Tuscaloosa and five destroyers of Destroyer Division 17, Madison, Moffett, Sampson, Winslow, and McDougal.

When not entertaining visiting dignitaries aboard his "floating White House," Roosevelt used it to host brainstorming sessions with advisers and congressional leaders.

It was a formidable array of naval power, but the Potomac, which was Lilliputian compared to the other great vessels, still had a vital role to play. After Roosevelt was transferred to the Augusta, Potomac continued to sail the coast as if he were aboard and the fishing trip was in full swing.

Everything possible was done to lull people’s suspicions; not one detail was overlooked. The presidential ensign still flew proudly on the Potomac’s flagstaff, a flag that only was raised when Roosevelt was aboard. When the Potomac entered the 17-mile Cape Cod Canal, the subterfuge went into full swing. Because the canal allowed people to see the ship more closely, an actor of roughly the same facial features and build played Roosevelt to the unsuspecting crowds.

The substitute wore much the same clothes, waving to enthusiastic onlookers while smoking a cigarette in a holder that jutted from his mouth at a 45-degree angle. Everyone was taken in. Many people must have been delighted to have seen the president, not knowing he was completely counterfeit.

The deception was not only visual. Dispatches from Potomac painted an idyllic picture of a president at play, free from cares. “After a night of restful sleep the President is continuing his cruise,” read one note. “He is … enjoying the sea air from the fantail.”

But no secret is really safe in Washington, and rumors began circulating that Roosevelt just might be meeting Churchill. The rumors were substantial enough that the New York Times made note of them. The newspaper printed the speculation under the banner headline: “Meeting of Churchill and Roosevelt on President’s Cruise Reported.”

Rumors might fly, but Potomac’s deceptive cruise continued without interruption. While the presidential yacht continued playing charades, Roosevelt met Churchill and engaged in three days of substantial talks from August 9 to 12. By August 14, the conference over, and the participants, one of whom was Churchill, safe, it was decided to inform the press of the diplomatic progress.

The New York Times banner headline said it all: “Roosevelt, Churchill Draft Peace Aims. Pledging Destruction of Nazi Tyranny; Joint Steps Believed Chartered at Parlay.” Eventually Roosevelt transferred back to the Potomac and on August 16 held a press conference in the yacht’s saloon. Roosevelt affably fended off questions that asked too many details but did not mind giving his impressions of Churchill. Potomac’s smokescreen mission was successfully concluded.

Potomac’s role as a kind of floating cover story was not yet over. On Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1943, Roosevelt visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. He was accompanied by the secretary of war and the U.S. Navy secretary, but no other dignitaries. Perhaps more unusual was the fact that Roosevelt, who usually could be counted on to give a memorable word or two, gave no speech and did not speak to the press. It was to be his last public appearance in Washington for several weeks.

Roosevelt left the White House that very evening, accompanied by a small entourage that included adviser Harry Hopkins and perhaps a couple of other guests. The presidential party motored to Quantico, Virginia, where Potomac was waiting. On the morning of November 12, Potomac rendezvoused with the battleship Iowa, and the president was transferred to the larger ship. A special ramp connected Potomac and Iowa, allowing Roosevelt to remain in his wheelchair when he came aboard.

Roosevelt was beginning a 7,000-mile odyssey that would eventually take him to Teheran, Iran. The Teheran Conference reunited him with Churchill and brought in a third player, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. The so-called Big Three discussed many issues, including the opening of a second front against Germany.

Once again, Potomac played its role to perfection. Its radio room also posted routine, almost laconic trivialities about good fishing and the like. Once again, no one suspected anything was wrong. Potomac’s second foray into diplomatic subterfuge was also a success.

When Franklin Roosevelt died in April 1945, Potomac’s life as a presidential yacht was at an end. After suffering many ordeals and coming close to being scrapped, Potomac was reborn as a museum ship dedicated to the 32nd U.S. president. It can be visited at Jack London Square in Oakland, California.

Back to the issue this appears in

Join The Conversation

Leave a reply cancel reply.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Share This Article

  • via= " class="share-btn twitter">

Related Articles

American OSS officers accompanied by Chetnik guerrillas on the move from the original evacuation airstrip in Pranjani, Serbia in anticipation of Soviet Red Army advances, September 10, 1944. The OSS officers were part of OSS operations Halyard and Ranger.

Hazardous Balkan Air Rescue

Taking shelter alongside an M4 Sherman medium tank, U.S. soldiers of the 60th Infantry Regiment advance into a Belgian town.

Matt Urban: Infantry Legend

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Joseph Stalin’s Kliment Yefremovich Voroshilov: A Soviet Survivor

In this painting by Michael Gnatek of U.S. 32nd Infantry Division troops in action at Buna, New Guinea, GIs scan the jungle for the movement of Japanese troops and clean out bunkers previously occupied by enemy soldiers.

Battling For Buna

From around the network.

Colonial militiamen, firing from behind makeshift barriers , drive off French and Indian troops at the Battle of Lake George in September 1755.

Military History

Fort William Henry, 1757: a Massacre of Misunderstanding

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Latest Posts

Spain’s Invincible Admiral

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

War Takes Wing

In this painting by John Hamilton, the devastation wrought in Narvik harbor by a marauding British naval squadron is readily apparent.

The Battles of Narvik & The Norwegian Campaign

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

What To Know Of Visiting The Presidential Yacht USS Potomac (FDR's Floating White House)

The USS Potomac is a unique museum ship in the USA open to the public in the San Fransico Bay Area.

Quick Links

What to know of the coast guard cutter-turned presidential yacht the uss potomac, presidential & subsequent history of the uss potomac, what to know about visiting the uss potomac today.

Before the jet age, the heads of state would need to sail around the world, and countries had royal and presidential yachts to ferry their leaders around the world. The USS Potomac was Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidential yacht from 1936 to when he died in 1945, and today, it is preserved as a museum open to the public.

It is now only one of two American presidential yachts still existing (the other is the USS Sequoia ). The USS Potomac is one of many excellent Naval museum ships to explore around the country from tug boats to aircraft carriers . While the many battleship museums in the country are fascinating, there are plenty of more vessels (such as the USS Potomac ) to explore.

The USS Potomac was built in 1934 for the Coast Guard as the USCGC Electra . She was a cutter for the Coast Guard but only had a short career until she was commissioned into the Navy as the presidential yacht.

  • Built: 1934
  • Original Name: USCGC Electra (US Coast Guard)
  • Length: 165 feet

She was built by the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. She was meant to be a submarine chaser and was used for anti-bootlegging operations.

She was selected to be the new presidential yacht after the wooden USS Sequoia was deemed a fire hazard.

Related: HMS Belfast: What To Know Of The Warship Museum In The Heart Of London

FDR was a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and he held a deep love of the sea and America's naval tradition. He would cruise on the USS Potomac on sultry summer days rather than stay in the White House. He would often hold meetings with his advisors on board the yacht.

  • Served: 1936 to 1945 (as Presidential Yacht)

After the entry of the United States into World War Two, recreational presidential use of the USS Potomac ended, and she was mostly used as a naval sonar research vessel (special sonar equipment was installed on her). She wasn't suited for presidential use in wartime conditions (FDR sailed on a heavy cruiser, the USS Augusta , to hold a meeting with his British counterpart, Winston Churchill).

After FDR died in 1945, Truman acquired a new Presidential yacht. Unlike FDR, Truman was not a sailor and did not share his predecessor's love of sailing.

The USS Potomac was returned to the US Coast Guard but then began a long ignominious decline. She had an interesting series of adventures - even being purchased by none other than Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll. In 1980, she was seized by the U.S. Customs for her role as part of a front for drug smugglers. Later, she sank at Treasure Island but was refloated by the Navy a couple of weeks later.

She was then sold to the Port of Oakland for only $15,000 and then extensively restored and opened to the public in 1995.

Related: The HMS Warrior Was Once The Largest, Fastest, & Most Powerful Royal Navy Ship (& Today She Is A Museum)

Today, the USS Potomac is preserved as an active memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt in Oakland, California. She is the only presidential yacht open to the public and is a National Historic Landmark.

  • Location: 540 Water Street, Oakland
  • Opening Hours: 9.00 am to 12.00 pm (Monday to Friday)

The USS Potomac Association office and the visitor center are open during weekdays in the morning. Take the time to watch the 15-minute informative video at the Visitor Center before boarding the Potomac.

The USS Potomac also offers cruises in the San Francisco Bay. On these cruises, visitors can not only learn about San Francisco Bay but also the history of the USS Potomac and FDR and his impact on the development of the Bay.

The public cruises on the USS Potomac are offered from April to Veterans Day in November. There are many cruise tours available ( see their website for the full selection of cruises).

Three-Hour Cruise With Lunch:

  • Cost: $95 (Adults)
  • Duration: Three Hours
  • Includes: Box Lunch & Tea and Coffee

As the USS Potomac is a historically preserved vessel, it is not fully accessible - it has only some limited access for the mobility impaired (the main deck).

There are so many excellent naval ship museums to explore around the country in Pennsylvania; see the USS Olympia - the oldest remaining steel ship afloat that played a central role in winning the Philippines for the United States. The oldest museum ship in the country is the venerable USS Constitution - aka Old Ironsides .

Another great ship to explore in California is the Queen Mary - one of the few ocean liners still afloat .

All the President's Yachts: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of FDR's Floating White House

By Ben Marks — February 15th, 2017

BoatSide

It has come to our attention that our president lacks a yacht. That’s right: Donald J. Trump, who is so rich that our eyeballs would burn right out of their sockets if we so much as glimpsed his tax returns, is without a suitably luxurious means of floating on our nation’s great inland waterways or along its rocky shores. Our commander-in-chief reportedly owns a Boeing 757, a Cessna Citation X, a trio of helicopters, a pair of Rolls Royces, a Lamborghini Diablo, and a custom-made, gold-trimmed motorcycle from Orange County Choppers. But when it comes to watercraft, President Trump is up that proverbial creek without so much as a paddle.

“Roosevelt was a martini guy. A good cocktail was very important to him.”

Once upon a time, we the people supplied our presidents with a floating getaway. Leaders as politically dissimilar as Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter cruised aboard the 104-foot USS Sequoia , as did presidents Kennedy through Ford, while Truman and Eisenhower enjoyed the Williamsburg .

But the most famous and storied presidential yacht is the USS Potomac , which was a favorite escape for President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1936 until his death in 1945. Since 1981, the Potomac has been berthed in Oakland, California. In 1995, it opened to the public for tours and excursions on San Francisco Bay.

Top: In 1939, President Roosevelt (at center, holding the arm of a naval officer for support) entertained King George VI of England (to FDR's right) aboard the Potomac. Also present were Queen Elizabeth and Eleanor Roosevelt (both to the King's right). The Potomac at its berth in Oakland, California.

Top: In 1939, President Roosevelt (at center, holding the arm of a naval officer for support) entertained King George VI of England (to FDR’s right) aboard the Potomac . Also present were Queen Elizabeth and Eleanor Roosevelt (both to the King’s right). (Image by Harris & Ewing, via Wikimedia Commons ) Above: The Potomac at its berth in Oakland, California. (Image by Christopher J. Wood via Wikimedia Commons )

Few know as much about the Potomac ’s history as Les Dropkin, a retired actuary who has been an active volunteer with the nonprofit Potomac Association for more than 20 years. “The ship and I are contemporaries,” Dropkin says. “Growing up, FDR was the only president I knew.”

For people of Dropkin’s generation, the Potomac is a tangible link to Roosevelt, widely considered the greatest U.S. president of the modern era. For many more, the Potomac is a symbol of a time when America was united at home and abroad, weathering the Great Depression and winning World War II , albeit at the expense of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during the conflict.

Recently, Dropkin explained the history of the Potomac during a guided tour of the vessel, which goes into dry dock later this year for $350,000-worth of Coast Guard-mandated inspections and repairs . “The Potomac started its life as the Electra ,” Dropkin begins, “one of 18 cutters built for the Coast Guard between 1931 and 1934.” When the first of these cutters were launched, Dropkin says, Prohibition was still the law of the land, so the 165-foot-long vessels were used as patrol boats designed to intercept bootleggers, primarily close to shore and on rivers such as the Hudson and Potomac. “By 1934, when the Electra was built,” he continues, “Prohibition had ended, but there was still a lot of smuggling by those who wanted to avoid the taxes on liquor.”

President Franklin Roosevelt aboard the USS Potomac, 1936.

President Franklin Roosevelt aboard the USS Potomac , 1936. (Image via Yachts International )

Ships like the Electra earned their keep by foiling such tax cheats, but the Electra did this virtuous work for only a few months before it was selected, in 1935, to be President Roosevelt’s official yacht. “During the first years of his administration,” Dropkin says, “Roosevelt used a Department of Commerce vessel called the Sequoia as his presidential yacht.” President Hoover had sailed on the Sequoia , too, but only after Roosevelt’s election, during the final months of 1932. Upon taking office, Roosevelt, who enjoyed being on the water more than his predecessor, took to the Sequoia whenever his busy schedule would allow.

Hoover and Roosevelt were not the first presidents to enjoy such treatment. According to Dropkin, the idea of a presidential yacht took shape in the latter part of the 19th century. “As commander-in-chief,” Dropkin says, “a president can board any naval vessel he chooses. But in the 19th century, the idea evolved of perhaps having a naval vessel available for use by high government officials. Gradually, that narrowed to a vessel specifically for the president.”

The Sequoia , though, was not a perfect yacht for a head of state. “The Sequoia was only 104 feet long,” Dropkin explains. That meant the president’s Secret Service detail had to follow behind in a separate ship. At 165 feet in length, the Electra , when converted, would have room for two cabins for the Secret Service.

Roosevelt's chief of staff, Missy LeHand, conferring with the president aboard the Potomac in 1939.

Roosevelt’s chief of staff, Missy LeHand, conferring with the president aboard the Potomac in 1939. (Image via the National Register of Historic Places )

Fire was another concern. “The Sequoia was a wood-hulled vessel—those in charge of Roosevelt’s safety wanted a ship made out of steel. So the president tasked his naval aide with the mission of finding a replacement vessel. Working with the Navy Department, the aide and his staff found four ships in the government’s fleet that might serve Roosevelt’s purposes. A list was presented to FDR and he selected the Electra , renaming it the Potomac .”

Using an existing Coast Guard cutter made economic sense—the Depression was no time for extravagance, even for a new president. But there was another reason why Roosevelt got the Potomac with its steel hull and room for onboard Secret Service officers. A polio victim since 1921, the 53-year-old president required a wheelchair to get around, so if a fire broke out on the short-staffed Sequoia, Roosevelt’s life would almost certainly be in danger.

Once the ship was selected, work began almost immediately to make the Potomac fit for a president. Some of these changes would have served any commander-in-chief, disabled or not. “From about the midships passageway forward,” Dropkin tells me as we stand on the dock in Oakland’s Jack London Square, “she looks very much as she did when she was a Coast Guard cutter. But from the midships passageway on back, that’s where the real changes occurred, the things that made her into the presidential yacht.”

The Potomac's rear smokestack was converted into an elevator so the wheelchair-bound president could move freely between the ship's two main decks.

The Potomac ‘s rear smokestack was converted into an elevator so the wheelchair-bound president could move freely between the ship’s two main decks.

The biggest change was to install a spacious, shaded aft deck, where Roosevelt could work or entertain while enjoying river or ocean breezes. “When the ship was a Coast Guard cutter, this deck did not exist,” Dropkin says, as we walk across its teak surface, “but it was a favorite area of the president.” That’s probably because the seating on the deck was designed with the wheelchair-bound Roosevelt in mind. Dropkin points to an upholstered settee that follows the curve of the ship’s stern. “It’s about 4 feet deep in the middle,” he says, “to support the president’s legs, something for him to stretch out on. You can almost imagine him sitting there, drink in hand.

“Roosevelt was a martini guy,” Dropkin continues. “A good cocktail was very important to him. He had started having cocktail hour when he was governor of New York, and brought the practice with him to the White House. His wife, Eleanor, wasn’t crazy about that, but they were different people.”

Other changes to the Electra that were more particular to Roosevelt included the removal of the floor coamings designed to contain water that might be sloshing on deck. For example, the low barrier was removed between the main dining room and the presidential bedroom, so that Roosevelt could get himself between the two spaces in his wheelchair. Even more dramatic was the conversion of one of the ship’s two smokestacks into an elevator, allowing the president to move freely between to ship’s two main decks. “An elevator was built into what had been the rear smokestack,” Dropkin says. “It’s an electric elevator now, but when the president used it, it was literally just a platform roped to a pulley. He would pull himself up, or let himself down, arm over arm. Roosevelt was very strong, and always wanted to do things for himself.”

In 1964, Elvis Presley, seen here with entertainer Danny Thomas, purchased the Potomac and donated it to Saint Jude's Hospital, which promptly sold it.

In 1964, Elvis Presley, seen here with entertainer Danny Thomas, purchased the Potomac and donated it to Saint Jude’s Hospital, which promptly sold it. (Image via the Potomac Association )

Often the Potomac was treated as a sort of floating White House. In August 1941, it even ferried the president part of the way to a secret meeting with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill prior to the U.S. involvement in World War II. However, Dropkin says the most typical use of the ship by FDR was for weekend fishing cruises. “They’d board at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard on, say, Saturday morning and sail down the Potomac River into Chesapeake Bay. Then, they’d find a nice cove, anchor, and spend the weekend fishing.”

Along for the ride was what Dropkin characterizes as “a very, very large crew. There were 42 enlisted men, 12 stewards, and three officers,” he says. “If you count up the number of available bunks and divide, you’ll see it doesn’t add up. So they had what are called hot bunks, to put it in naval terms. When one sailor was on duty, another would sleep. Basically, they’d take turns.”

If the Potomac was initially known for its famous, presidential passenger, after FDR’s death, in 1945, it would eventually become infamous. From 1946 until 1960, the ship was used by the Maryland Tidewater Fisheries Commission, and occasionally by that state’s governor. After that, though, it would begin a slow decline. In 1960, the Potomac was sold and pressed into service as a ferry in the Caribbean, until a different entrepreneur got the bright idea of sailing the ship through the Panama Canal to show her off at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. The aging vessel got as far as Southern California, where it languished until 1964, when it was purchased by Elvis Presley at an auction. Apparently, The King shelled out the $55,000 hammer price because he didn’t like the idea of seeing FDR’s yacht chopped into pieces for scrap, but never really want to own the Potomac , so he promptly donated the ship to the Saint Jude Hospital of Memphis, which just as promptly sold it to the first in a series of dreamers and schemers.

In 1981, the Potomac sunk in 35 feet of water while docked at the Treasure Island Naval Base in San Francisco Bay.

In 1981, the Potomac sank in 35 feet of water while docked at the Treasure Island Naval Base in San Francisco Bay. (Image by U.S. Customs, via the Potomac Association )

By August of 1980, the Potomac would be towed for repairs to Pier 26 in San Francisco, where, the following month, it was seized by U.S. Customs and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Although drugs were never found aboard the Potomac , a ship owned by the same owner and anchored alongside the Potomac was loaded with contraband. According to Dropkin’s history of this dark moment in the Potomac ’s past, a Southern California drug ring had been using the Potomac ’s good name, and a fake charity called “The Crippled Children’s Society,” as a front. That October, the Potomac was towed again, this time to the nearby Treasure Island Naval Base in San Francisco Bay where, the following March, its hull was punctured by broken pilings, causing it to sink in 35 feet of water.

The story might have ended there, but once the ship was raised and the hole in its hull was patched, the Potomac was purchased in April of 1981 at yet another auction. This time, the new owner was the Port of Oakland, whose winning bid of $15,000 was also the only bid. But the port’s then-executive director, Walter Abernathy, saw the Potomac as an opportunity for the community and historians alike. Shortly after taking possession of the ship, the port authorized “$400,000 in seed money to restore the ship to its appearance during the Roosevelt era and operate it as a historical and educational resource.” By 1983, the Potomac Association had incorporated to manage the ship’s upkeep and programs, and elected FDR’s oldest son, James, as its chairman. Finally, in 1985, a sitting president, Ronald Reagan, got involved, personally recommending a $2.5 million grant for the ship’s restoration. The grant was approved and matched, and in 1990, the Potomac was designated a National Historical Landmark .

For more than two decades, Les Dropkin has been a tireless volunteer for the Potomac Association.

For more than two decades, Les Dropkin has been a tireless volunteer for the Potomac Association .

As we walk through the Potomac , Dropkin explains the limits of a restoration project for a vessel that had seen decades of neglect before sinking. “There’s very little that’s original from the FDR era on the ship today,” he says. “Essentially, everything you see is a re-creation.”

In an effort to get the details right, the restorers carefully studied photographs of the ship during its FDR days, from the furniture to the draperies. And because there were records of the ship’s original construction and subsequent retrofit for the president, the Potomac Association was able to replicate its construction techniques. “When the Electra was built as a Coast Guard cutter, it was a riveted ship,” Dropkin says. “But when it was converted to become the presidential yacht, they had started to use welding. In the restoration, we maintained the ratios—what was welded was re-welded, where there had been rivets we used rivets. A very major concern in the restoration was to make it historically accurate to the fullest extent we could.”

Today, such attention to detail, as well as the $350,000 needed to pay for the Potomac ’s upcoming drydocking, might seem like a luxury the country can’t afford in the face of multi-trillion-dollar deficits. But is $350,000 really all that much to honor the memory of one of our nation’s greatest presidents? After all, we are spending about half that amount every single day to protect our current president’s latest wife, who has chosen not to live in the White House with her husband, at least until their 10-year-old son finishes the school year. Naturally, most parents will be sympathetic with that decision, if not the expense. By comparison, $350,000 to help us remember the man who told a fearful nation that the only thing it had to fear was fear itself, and then proceeded to lead the fight against Adolf Hitler, seems like a rather good deal.

( If you would like to help keep FDR’s yacht shipshape, visit the Potomac Association )

More Articles

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

3 comments so far

At the very end of an otherwise entertaining article, Ben just couldn’t resist taking a cheap shot at the very charming and elegant Mrs. Trump.

As Mr. Marks illustrates, Trump Derangement Syndrome is a horrible disease.

Mr. Marks’ comment about federal expenditures is very timely and appropriate. At a time when we are spending about a million dollars a day to cover the new president’s own travel and family security expenses (including three golfing vacations during his first month in office), 8 hours’ worth of that security and travel to help restore the Potomac, a National Historic Landmark, seems well justified. A very nice article.

Mr Dodsworth, the charming and elegant Mrs Trump is costing the city of New York somewhat around $1,ooo,ooo a DAY for police coverage for each day she chooses to reside not in the White House but at Trump Tower. That is over and above the expense for Secret Service coverage for EIGHTEEN Trump family members. Mr Mark’s innocuous comment was hardly a cheap shot, but perhaps you would enjoy some dip for the chip on your shoulder.

Leave a Comment or Ask a Question

If you want to identify an item , try posting it in our Show & Tell gallery .

Your name (required)

Your email (will not be published) (required)

Your comment

Related Articles

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Related Categories

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Top Articles on CW

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

  • Watch the latest ABC7 newscast here Full Story
  • ABC7 Bay Area 24/7 live stream Watch Now

History lovers can cruise San Francisco Bay in Franklin D. Roosevelt's USS Potomac

Localish logo

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt's USS Potomac is a must-see landmark for all history lovers who want to cruise the San Francisco Bay in presidential fashion.

The Potomac Association is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to preserving Roosevelt's history and love for his presidential yacht.

This attraction is for tourists and locals who want to experience the breathtaking views and landmarks the San Francisco Bay has to offer.

The cruise operates by offering dockside tours or by offering a two to three-hour-long educational cruise that highlights the bay's lighthouses, islands, bridges and stellar views.

The USS Potomac has quite the colorful history. Formerly known as the Electra, it was built in 1934 and was originally used as a U.S. Navy Vessel for the United States Coast Guard.

"It was designed to run up and down the East Coast of the United States and intercept rum runners," said Steven Teel, docent of the Potomac Association. "In 1935, it was taken and remodeled for the use of the president of the United States.This was the presidential yacht the Franklin Delano Roosevelt and it was so important to him that he wanted to be on board on this ship as much as he possibly could."

The vessel was reconstructed to fit the needs of President Roosevelt, who was confined to a wheelchair after being diagnosed with polio. The ship added a boat deck level with teak decking and re-channeled the exhaust from the ship's generators to convert a forward smoke stack into a block and pulley elevator, so the president could enjoy all levels of the ship.

Sailing on the USS Potomac was used as a vessel to get away and decompress from the 15-hour work days and duties of being the president of the United States. On the ship, the president enjoyed collecting postage stamps, playing poker and watching movies.

"Typically, late on a Friday, he would board the Potomac and would sail down the Potomac River into the Chesapeake Bay and find a fishing spot," said Teel. They would anchor and spend Friday night, Saturday night, and be back by late Sunday. He would board the ship and do his deep sea fishing on those occasions in Florida waters or in the Gulf in New Orleans."

The Potomac would cruise along the Atlantic Coast from Maine to the Caribbean, waiting for the president to board. The president established great relationships and alliances with prestigious guests such as King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and many more.

"The work continued. The work never stopped but it gave him a chance to unwind," said Teel. "The sea planes would land and one of the Christ Crafts will pick mail pouches and they would sort through the mail trying to keep his work down to two hours. He would always be conducting business at a time where crucial decisions where being made regarding the Depression and the war."

After the death of Roosevelt in 1945, the USS Potomac was purchased by several owners.

"Over the years, it hadn't been taken care of very well. They sold the ship to the state of Maryland and had it up until almost 1960," said Teel. "Eventually, a company called Hydro-Capital bought it in order to take it to the West Coast and put it on display at Seattle's World Fair to publicize their company and it barely made it through the Panama Canal and it was clear that it wasn't going to make it to Seattle."

Hydro-Capital was willing to sell the Potomac for scraps until the mother of a famous rock-n-roll legend refused to let that happen.

"Elvis Presley's mother found out and she hit the ceiling. Anyone of the generation knew how important this ship was to Franklin Roosevelt," said Teel. "Her son (Elvis) bought the ship and eventually he gave it to Danny Thomas to auction off and raise money for St. Jude's Hospital."

In 1981, the USS Potomac was used as a drug cover up and the Federal Reserve System towed the ship to Clipper Cove on Treasure Island. The ship was in such poor condition that it started to sink into the bay.

"Eventually it was towed to the Port of Oakland and was auctioned off," said Teel. "The port made the first bid and no one else bid on it, so the port ended it up stuck with it."

Then Roosevelt's son, James, looked for the ship. He organized and formed a nonprofit organization in his father's honor. At the time, President Ronald Regan negotiated with Congress to match the nonprofit organization in restoring the USS Potomac.

"By 1995, the restoration was complete and we have been sailing ever since," said Teel. "We are very grateful for anyone who will enjoy the bay the way that can only be done on here with such historic value."

All cruises and tours are given by volunteers. The USS Potomac relies on donations and visitors to keep the ship and F.D.R.'s legacy alive. To donate, volunteer or plan a trip on the USS Potomac, visit their website .

Related Topics

  • COMMUNITY JOURNALIST
  • ABC7 ORIGINALS
  • VOLUNTEERISM
  • CRUISE SHIP
  • BAY AREA EVENTS

Top Stories

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Firefighters battling 300-acre brush fire in Sonoma Co., CAL FIRE says

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Suspect reportedly armed with knife shot by Fremont police officer

  • 32 minutes ago

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Evacuation orders issued due to explosive wildfire on the Grapevine

  • 10 minutes ago

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters walk out of Stanford graduation

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

SF's 'Vacant to Vibrant' program to offer 3 months of free rent

  • 3 hours ago

Felipe Fire in San Jose 100% contained at 19 acres: CAL FIRE

Ceres woman arrested for San Mateo shooting that injured 1

Thousands Commemorate Juneteenth Freedom Celebration in SF

8 Surprising Facts About the Presidential Yacht

By jake rossen | aug 30, 2017.

Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images

If you consider a boat to be a suboptimal way of ferrying the President of the United States, you’re not alone. No sitting president has used one for official travel purposes since 1977, when the USS Sequoia was decommissioned. But for a good chunk of the 20th century, the POTUS was able to jump on a yacht and set sail for both recreational and government business, getting a change of scenery without having to hop on a plane. Take a look at a few things you might not have known about this unique—and extinct—political retreat.

1. THE SEQUOIA WASN’T THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL YACHT.

The idea of toting presidents in a floating White House for social engagements dates back to 1893, when the USS Dolphin flew the presidential flag for Grover Cleveland and William McKinley. In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt anointed the USS Mayflower , a luxury steam yacht, that was occupied by three successive presidents until it was decommissioned in 1929. Two other ships were in service before the Sequoia was selected in 1933.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY A DECOY SHIP DURING PROHIBITION.

The Sequoia wasn’t custom-built for presidential purposes. Constructed in 1925, the 104-foot-long vessel was originally owned by a Texas oilman and purchased by the U.S. government in 1931. It was used as a decoy ship to intercede rum runners during Prohibition before being rehomed with the U.S. Navy. Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt enjoyed fishing off the ship—in Hoover’s case, so much so that he put a picture of it on the White House’s official 1932 Christmas card. Hoover soon declared it the official presidential yacht in 1933.

3. EACH PRESIDENT CUSTOMIZED IT.

The Sequoia underwent several minor facelifts as each new sitting president decided they wanted a custom yacht experience. Lyndon B. Johnson was so tall that he had to have the shower on board extended so he could bathe comfortably; John F. Kennedy had a king-sized bed installed. An elevator was added to make it wheelchair-accessible for Franklin Roosevelt; Johnson later ripped out the lift and used the space for a wet bar.

4. NIXON LOVED THE BOAT.

Of all the presidents to board the Sequoia , Richard Nixon did so with the greatest frequency and zeal. He reportedly stepped on the ship at least 88 times, sailing to Mount Vernon and insisting staff salute Washington’s tomb. Later, when Watergate began to consume most of his final days in office, he insisted an anti-bug electronic shield be installed in case the ship was being tapped for sound. Nixon also made the decision to resign while on board, mournfully playing “God Bless America” on the piano that Truman had installed.

5. JFK HAD HIS LAST BIRTHDAY PARTY THERE.

On what turned out to be his last birthday, John F. Kennedy devoted the night of May 29, 1963 to a celebration on the Sequoia . Just 24 guests were invited , and only three Secret Service members were on board—the rest populated security boats trailing behind.

6. ELVIS BOUGHT ONE.

For Franklin D. Roosevelt, the USS Potomac was his ship of choice: The 165-foot-long ship was big enough to accommodate more Secret Service staff and was in use from 1936 to 1945. After passing through other hands, Elvis Presley decided he wanted to make sure the ship was preserved and bought it at auction in 1964 for $55,000. The King immediately donated it to Saint Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, where it continued to change hands until being designated a National Historical Landmark in 1987.

7. JIMMY CARTER SOLD IT OFF.

By 1977, the Sequoia had been in service for over four decades, and the cost to maintain it was significant: $800,000 a year. Because Jimmy Carter had made campaign promises to cut extraneous expenses, he had little choice but to trim the fat by decommissioning the yacht. The Sequoia was sold off for $236,000. In 1999, a collector of presidential memorabilia bought it for nearly $2 million and began renting it out to visitors for $10,000.

8. IT BECAME FULL OF RACCOON POOP.

Once the Sequoia entered the private sector, its seaworthiness became a very costly pursuit. In 2016, a judge ruled that FE Partners, which restores historic ships, could have the vessel free of charge after it was declared to be rotting and infested with raccoons while idling in a Virginia shipyard: The animals reportedly pooped on presidential carpets. The group hopes to restore the Sequoia and have it back on the water sometime in the next few years.

History lovers can cruise San Francisco Bay in Franklin D. Roosevelt's USS Potomac

Localish logo

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt's USS Potomac is a must-see landmark for all history lovers who want to cruise the San Francisco Bay in presidential fashion.

The Potomac Association is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to preserving Roosevelt's history and love for his presidential yacht.

This attraction is for tourists and locals who want to experience the breathtaking views and landmarks the San Francisco Bay has to offer.

The cruise operates by offering dockside tours or by offering a two to three-hour-long educational cruise that highlights the bay's lighthouses, islands, bridges and stellar views.

The USS Potomac has quite the colorful history. Formerly known as the Electra, it was built in 1934 and was originally used as a U.S. Navy Vessel for the United States Coast Guard.

"It was designed to run up and down the East Coast of the United States and intercept rum runners," said Steven Teel, docent of the Potomac Association. "In 1935, it was taken and remodeled for the use of the president of the United States.This was the presidential yacht the Franklin Delano Roosevelt and it was so important to him that he wanted to be on board on this ship as much as he possibly could."

The vessel was reconstructed to fit the needs of President Roosevelt, who was confined to a wheelchair after being diagnosed with polio. The ship added a boat deck level with teak decking and re-channeled the exhaust from the ship's generators to convert a forward smoke stack into a block and pulley elevator, so the president could enjoy all levels of the ship.

Sailing on the USS Potomac was used as a vessel to get away and decompress from the 15-hour work days and duties of being the president of the United States. On the ship, the president enjoyed collecting postage stamps, playing poker and watching movies.

"Typically, late on a Friday, he would board the Potomac and would sail down the Potomac River into the Chesapeake Bay and find a fishing spot," said Teel. They would anchor and spend Friday night, Saturday night, and be back by late Sunday. He would board the ship and do his deep sea fishing on those occasions in Florida waters or in the Gulf in New Orleans."

The Potomac would cruise along the Atlantic Coast from Maine to the Caribbean, waiting for the president to board. The president established great relationships and alliances with prestigious guests such as King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and many more.

"The work continued. The work never stopped but it gave him a chance to unwind," said Teel. "The sea planes would land and one of the Christ Crafts will pick mail pouches and they would sort through the mail trying to keep his work down to two hours. He would always be conducting business at a time where crucial decisions where being made regarding the Depression and the war."

After the death of Roosevelt in 1945, the USS Potomac was purchased by several owners.

"Over the years, it hadn't been taken care of very well. They sold the ship to the state of Maryland and had it up until almost 1960," said Teel. "Eventually, a company called Hydro-Capital bought it in order to take it to the West Coast and put it on display at Seattle's World Fair to publicize their company and it barely made it through the Panama Canal and it was clear that it wasn't going to make it to Seattle."

Hydro-Capital was willing to sell the Potomac for scraps until the mother of a famous rock-n-roll legend refused to let that happen.

"Elvis Presley's mother found out and she hit the ceiling. Anyone of the generation knew how important this ship was to Franklin Roosevelt," said Teel. "Her son (Elvis) bought the ship and eventually he gave it to Danny Thomas to auction off and raise money for St. Jude's Hospital."

In 1981, the USS Potomac was used as a drug cover up and the Federal Reserve System towed the ship to Clipper Cove on Treasure Island. The ship was in such poor condition that it started to sink into the bay.

"Eventually it was towed to the Port of Oakland and was auctioned off," said Teel. "The port made the first bid and no one else bid on it, so the port ended it up stuck with it."

Then Roosevelt's son, James, looked for the ship. He organized and formed a nonprofit organization in his father's honor. At the time, President Ronald Regan negotiated with Congress to match the nonprofit organization in restoring the USS Potomac.

"By 1995, the restoration was complete and we have been sailing ever since," said Teel. "We are very grateful for anyone who will enjoy the bay the way that can only be done on here with such historic value."

All cruises and tours are given by volunteers. The USS Potomac relies on donations and visitors to keep the ship and F.D.R.'s legacy alive. To donate, volunteer or plan a trip on the USS Potomac, visit their website .

Related Topics

  • COMMUNITY JOURNALIST
  • ABC7 ORIGINALS
  • VOLUNTEERISM
  • CRUISE SHIP
  • BAY AREA EVENTS

Top Stories

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Charlotte native to compete in 2024 Paralympic Games

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Youth mentorship program recognizes graduates on Father's Day

  • 6 minutes ago

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Man found dead on side of the road in Durham

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

2 people killed in Chatham County plane crash identified

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Potential tropical development near Bahamas could impact southeast

Man drowns during fishing outing at Jordan Lake: deputies

NC Fatherhood Conference aims to empower dads ahead of Father's Day

Out! Raleigh Pride 2024: What to know about the family friendly event

What can we help you find?

While we certainly appreciate historical preservation, it looks like your browser is a bit too historic to properly view whitehousehistory.org. — a browser upgrade should do the trick.

Main Content

USS Potomac: Franklin Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht - Photo 2

USS Potomac: Franklin Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht - Photo 2

The USS Potomac with President Roosevelt and the King and Queen of Great Britain onboard as the ship travels from Washington to Mount Vernon and back on June 9, 1939.

You Might Also Like

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

History Happy Hour: White House by the Sea: A Century of the Kennedys at Hyannis Port

Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, is synonymous with the Kennedy family. For nearly a hundred years, it is where one of America’s most storied political families has come to celebrate, bond, play, and grieve. As the home of the Summer White House, it is also the setting of many memorable events, like John F. Kennedy giving his presidential acceptance speech and Ja

NEW Episode: The White House 1600 Sessions Podcast “Presidential Leadership Lessons”

The White House Historical Association released a new episode of The White House 1600 Sessions podcast today featuring a conversation on the unique qualities, personality traits, and circumstances that made certain presidents great leaders. Stewart McLaurin, president of the Association, met with Talmage Boston, attorney, historian and author of the new book, “How the Best Did It: Leadership Lessons from Our To

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

Presidential Leadership Lessons

Featuring Talmage Boston

Rubenstein Center Fellows Selected to Conduct New Research on White House History

The White House Historical Association has selected three research fellows for the 2024 – 2025 David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History Fellowship Program. The fellows will conduct new research related to the White House, its occupants, workers, staff, and/or fine and decorative arts collections. Fellowships will take place beginning this summer and conclude in spring 2025. “We are thrilled to anno

Secret City

Author James Kirchick joins the program to discuss his New York Times Bestseller, Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington. Utilizing thousands of pages of declassified documents, interviews with over one hundred people, and material unearthed from presidential libraries and archives, Kirchick illuminates how homosexuality shaped each successive presidential administration through the end of the twentieth century against the

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

2024 Holiday Book Festival

Save the date for the 2024 Holiday Book Festival hosted by the White House Historical Association!

Director of The People’s House Operations

The Association is seeking a Director of the People’s House Operations for “The People’s House: A White House Experience.” The job description serves as a guideline and may not encompass all duties. Tasks may fluctuate based on the role's requirements.

Director of Visitor Services & Experience, The People’s House

The Association is seeking a Director of Visitor Services & Experience for “The People’s House: A White House Experience.”

Marketing Manager, The People’s House

The Association is seeking a Marketing Manager for “The People’s House: A White House Experience.” The job description serves as a guideline and may not encompass all duties. Tasks may fluctuate based on the role's requirements.

Managing Director, The People’s House

The Managing Director of the People’s House is an inaugural key role that will be crucial in ensuring “The People’s House” opens and operates at a high standard. The Managing Director will have the opportunity to shape the operations and strategic goals of this new educational, museum, and visitor experience. This position will report directly to the President of the W

History Happy Hour: How Abraham Lincoln Institutionalized Science and Modernized America

Abraham Lincoln had a lifelong fascination with science and technology and was the only president with a patent. He advocated for technological advancement as a legislator in Illinois and Washington D.C. and became the “go-to” Western lawyer on technology and patent cases during his legal career. During the Civil War, Lincoln drew upon his commitment to science and personally enco

Three Branches Partner Resource Video 2024

Join today to preserve and protect history.

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

  • Business and Money
  • Weird and Bizarre
  • Random Facts

The Strange Life of FDR’s Presidential Yacht

by   Daniel Ganninger

September 4, 2021

The Potomac, the presidential yacht once used by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s special presidential yacht, the Potomac , had an interesting life. It was used by a US president, had various private owners that included the “King of Rock and Roll,” and it was involved in some unscrupulous activities before sinking and then eventually rising again.

The Potomac started as the Electra, which was part of a class of US Coast Guard Cutters. It was a 165-foot vessel weighing 376 gross tons, and it cruised at speeds of 10 to 13 knots. The ship was built in 1934 and was designed for coastal patrols.

The presidential yacht at that time was the Sequoia, a 100-foot vessel that had a cabin with a wood finish. Because the Sequoia was considered fancy by President Roosevelt, especially during the Great Depression, and because he had to be carried from deck to deck due to his medical condition, a new boat was requested. The Navy took charge of finding a replacement and chose the Electra . They converted it to the Potomac in 1936. The new ship had a concealed elevator installed near the rear funnel to accommodate Roosevelt when he moved from deck to deck.

President Roosevelt used it throughout his presidency and preferred to be on the ship instead of in Washington DC during the hot summer months. It traveled up and down the eastern seaboard and was used to entertain foreign dignitaries. It also was used for one of the fireside chats Roosevelt was famous for. During World War II, the ship was used primarily as a naval sonar research vessel.

After the death of President Roosevelt in 1945, President Truman transferred the yacht to the State of Maryland, where it was used as a research vessel studying the fisheries and as an enforcement vessel. In 1960, the ship was sold to a private owner and was moved to the Caribbean, where it became a ferry between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The Potomac was sold again in 1962 and transported to Long Beach, California, where two businessmen made it into a tourist attraction. But the attraction only lasted a year. Because of winter storms and large waves threatening the harbor where it was moored, the Potomac had to be anchored outside the harbor. The ship was deemed a navigational hazard in the new spot, and the owner’s insurance company would no longer insure it. The owners were forced to close the attraction and put the boat up for sale.

In 1964, it was bought at an auction for $55,000 by Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, on behalf of Presley, who never saw the ship in person. The plan was for Elvis to immediately donate the ship to the March of Dimes as a publicity event, but the charity denied the gift. A few weeks after Elvis bought the ship, he approached Danny Thomas and denoted it to St. Jude’s Hospital. The charity later sold the yacht for $62,500.

The Potomac then began another colorful portion of its history. The ship transferred from one owner to another in the late 1960s and 1970s. Then in 1980, it was seized by US Customs in San Francisco, along with another ship, as part of a marijuana smuggling ring. It was towed and moored at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay and accidentally sunk after a piling pierced the hull. The ship was already in disrepair because of years of poor maintenance and a slow leaking hull.

The Navy Reserve raised the Potomac two weeks after it sunk and put it up for auction in 1981. The ship was bought by the Port of Oakland for $15,000. The Port of Oakland and other organizations then completed a $5 million restoration of the Potomac, and it opened to the public in 1995. The ship is now owned by the Potomac Association and is an FDR museum. It can be visited near Jack London Square in Oakland, California, and is a National Historic Landmark.

The Potomac at the harbor in Oakland, California, where it is now a museum.

Sources: Daily Breeze , National Park Service , White House History , Desert Sun

The Secret Chamber Behind Mount Rushmore

Why mcdonald’s got rid of its coffee spoons, the crazy st. maarten landing you won’t see anymore, the man who was struck by lightning seven times, who are john doe and jane doe, why do we call it kindergarten.

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger  -   The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites. I hope you learn many new things here that add to your knowledge.

Follow the Stew

franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

IMAGES

  1. Floating history / USS Potomac History Cruises / FDR's yacht offers the

    franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

  2. USS Potomac: Franklin Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht

    franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

  3. USS Potomac

    franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

  4. FDR's Presidential Yacht "Potomac"

    franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

  5. The long, tumultuous voyage of the USS Potomac, FDR’s presidential

    franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

  6. Explore the Presidential Yacht the USS Potomac

    franklin roosevelt's presidential yacht potomac

VIDEO

  1. FDR's Cruise on the Amberjack II , June 1933

  2. Trips aboard yacht Sequoia, 1933 and 1934

  3. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library And Museum renovations

COMMENTS

  1. USS Potomac (AG-25)

    USS Potomac (AG-25), formerly USCGC Electra, was Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidential yacht from 1936 until his death in 1945. On August 3, 1941, she played a decoy role while Roosevelt held a secret conference to develop the Atlantic Charter .

  2. USS Potomac: Franklin Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht

    The Potomac, now a National Historic Landmark, is maintained by the Association for the Preservation of the Presidential Yacht Potomac. It resides today in Oakland, California and has been open to the public since 1995. 14. President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with the King and Queen of Great Britain aboard the Potomac ...

  3. USS Potomac

    The USS Potomac serves as a memorial to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and is open for cruises, dockside tours, private charters, school field trips, ... In 1936, it was renamed the USS Potomac and served as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht until his death in 1945.

  4. The Floating White House: A Brief History of the Presidential Yacht

    Franklin D. Roosevelt began his tenure with Sequoia, but later switched to USS Potomac, a 165-foot former Coast Guard cutter that included a special elevator to help the wheelchair-bound president ...

  5. The Floating White House

    The presidential yacht, USS Sequoia, in a 2009 image taken by the U.S. Navy. National Register of Historic Places. Show Me More. ... Franklin Roosevelt deployed Potomac in a nautical shell game to cloak a secret rendezvous at sea with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

  6. USS Potomac

    It was renamed the USS Potomac and served as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential yacht until his death in 1945. As former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR had a deep love of the sea and the Navy tradition. During the sultry summer days in Washington, D.C., he preferred to cruise on the USS Potomac rather than stay in the White House. ...

  7. History

    The USS Potomac was built in 1934 as the Coast Guard Cutter Electra. The 165-foot vessel, displacing 416 gross tons with cruising speeds of 10 to 13 knots, was commissioned as a US Navy vessel in 1936, renamed the USS Potomac, and served as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht until his death in 1945.

  8. The long, tumultuous voyage of the USS Potomac, FDR's presidential yacht

    The USS Sequoia was the official presidential yacht in service at the time Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office as president in 1933.. Herbert Hoover had the Sequoia commissioned in 1931, and used it for fishing trips as well as official business. FDR continued to use the mahogany-hulled boat for the first couple of years of his presidency before deciding to switch a metal-hulled boat for ...

  9. The USS Potomac served as FDR's floating White House during World War

    The USS Potomac carried U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt on the first leg of a voyage in which he rendezvoused at sea for a secret meeting with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. When Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933 the presidential yacht was the Sequoia, a 104-foot vessel built in 1925.

  10. U.S.S. Potomac

    USS Potomac (AG-25), was Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential yacht from 1936 until his death in 1945. It is one of only three still existing presidential yachts. On 3 August 1941, she played a decoy role while Roosevelt held a secret conference to develop the Atlantic Charter.

  11. What To Know Of Visiting The Presidential Yacht USS Potomac (FDR's

    Before the jet age, the heads of state would need to sail around the world, and countries had royal and presidential yachts to ferry their leaders around the world. The USS Potomac was Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidential yacht from 1936 to when he died in 1945, and today, it is preserved as a museum open to the public.

  12. All the President's Yachts: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of FDR's

    But the most famous and storied presidential yacht is the USS Potomac, which was a favorite escape for President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1936 until his death in 1945. Since 1981, ... to be President Roosevelt's official yacht. "During the first years of his administration," Dropkin says, ...

  13. History lovers can cruise San Francisco Bay in Franklin D. Roosevelt's

    OAKLAND, Calif. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt's USS Potomac is a must-see landmark for all history lovers who want to cruise the San Francisco Bay in presidential fashion. The Potomac Association is a ...

  14. Floating history / USS Potomac History Cruises / FDR's yacht ...

    From 1936 to 1945, this former U.S. Coast Guard cutter served as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential yacht, after being renamed the USS Potomac and being recommissioned as a Navy ...

  15. FDR Yacht Resurrected as Floating Museum in Oakland / Ship ...

    After 14 years and $8.2 million in public and private spending, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's floating White House, ... The Potomac was the presidential yacht for six years, and after that it ...

  16. 8 Surprising Facts About the Presidential Yacht

    For Franklin D. Roosevelt, the USS Potomac was his ship of choice: The 165-foot-long ship was big enough to accommodate more Secret Service staff and was in use from 1936 to 1945.

  17. PRESIDENTIAL YACHT POTOMAC

    48 reviews and 119 photos of PRESIDENTIAL YACHT POTOMAC "Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 'Floating White House,' which he used to escape the humid Washington, D.C. summers, has been lovingly restored as a museum to the former President, the New Deal, and World War II, and will have significant appeal to students of American history. (That Elvis was a later owner will attract a totally different ...

  18. USS Sequoia (presidential yacht)

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the yacht more frequently, with over fifty recorded outings between 1933 and 1935. ... 1935, Sequoia was officially reassigned to the Secretary of the Navy and the steel-hulled USS Potomac was designated as the presidential yacht.

  19. PDF Presidential Yacht USS Potomac

    Presidential Yacht USS Potomac Brief History Her years as FDR's "Floating White House" The ship was originally launched in 1934 as the 165-foot long U.S. Coast Guard cutter Electra. She cruised the Atlantic coast a little more than a year before she was acquired by the U.S. Navy as the presidential yacht for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ...

  20. History lovers can cruise San Francisco Bay in Franklin D. Roosevelt's

    OAKLAND, Calif. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt's USS Potomac is a must-see landmark for all history lovers who want to cruise the San Francisco Bay in presidential fashion. The Potomac Association is a ...

  21. USS Potomac: Franklin Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht

    The USS Potomac with President Roosevelt and the King and Queen of Great Britain onboard as the ship travels from Washington to Mount Vernon and back on June 9, 1939.

  22. The Strange Life of FDR's Presidential Yacht

    Franklin D. Roosevelt's special presidential yacht, the Potomac, had an interesting life. It was used by a US president, had various private owners that included the "King of Rock and Roll," and it was involved in some unscrupulous activities before sinking and then eventually rising again.