Ex presidential yacht Honey Fitz undergoing refit

June 22, 2010

Written by Chelsea Smith

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Built in 1931 by the Defoe Shipbuilding Company in Bay City, Michigan, motor yacht Honey Fitz is now undergoing a refit at Moores Marine in Florida as craftsmen return it to its former glory. John F. Kennedy named the Presidential yacht as “Honey Fitz Yacht”, after being elected as President of the United States of America in honour of his grandfather.

Yacht Honeyfitz - Photo Credit Richard Graves

John F. Kennedy’s Grandfather John f. Honey Fitz and his wife Mary Josephine Hannon were a well-known figure in Boston. Honey Fitz was the first Irish migrant to be named Mayor of Boston from 1906 to 1907 and then again in 1910 to 1914. Motor yacht Honey Fitz served five U.S. presidents, however it was William Kallop, who now owns the classic yacht, that commissioned Moores to repair a section of the hull, but the project has since expanded into a large-scale restoration.

“This boat has been cut up so much over the years it’s like, What was this boat like?” “It’s a beautiful boat though.” Moores commented to The Palm Beach Post.

More than 30 supports are holding the yacht in place while James Moores and crew try to realign the hull by twisting it about 15 degrees and replace much of the underside of the 93 ft yacht. Much of the aft side of the yacht remains exposed, revealing the metal pipes and wires.

Workers are trying to strike a balance between restoring the classic yacht Honey Fitz to its specifications when it was a presidential vessel and ensuring its long-term durability. “These boats are disappearing at such a rapid rate, and once they’re gone they’re not going to come back,”  “We’re losing our maritime history.” Moores said, who has worked on over 100 restoration projects, and called this project “the pinnacle point” in his career.

Yacht Honey Fitz transom Photo Credit Mark Randall Sun Sentinel

Moores notes that “The crew is using strategies, such as laminating the wood panels so they fit tightly together, that had not been developed at the time of the yacht’s construction, but the modern technology won’t be noticeable to the naked eye.”

In a June 1932 article in Yachting magazine which was written before the boat became a presidential vessel or was renamed Honey Fitz called the yacht, then named Lenore II a “characteristically American” vehicle, because of its ability to travel for extended distances and reach 24 mph.

The yacht Lenore II was commissioned by Sewell Avery, a wealthy businessman. She was commandeered by the United States when World War II broke out and the ship was and equipped with larger engines, gun turrets and rocket launchers. After the war, President Harry Truman and subsequent presidents used the ship as a transport vessel until Richard Nixon put it up for sale in April 1970.

It was John F. Kennedy who made the classic motor yacht Honey Fitz famous, renaming it after his grandfather, John F. Fitzgerald, known to many as “Honey Fitz.” Kennedy and his family would spend time basking on the boat’s deck, enjoying their time atop the yacht which was considered too small to hold members of the Secret Service, according to documents from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

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