After lengthy court battle, 94-year-old ‘Floating White House’ begins stern-to-bow restoration

Presidential yacht ‘Sequoia’ arrives in Belfast today for restoration

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 10:00am

BELFAST – The presidential yacht Sequoia, a treasured piece of American history that many call “the floating White House,” arrives in Belfast Monday, Oct. 21 for a stern-to-bow restoration. After a six-year legal battle – including a dark period when a family of raccoons occupied the stately 104-foot yacht – the USS Sequoia will be fully restored.

“A National Historic Landmark constructed in 1925 of long-leaf yellow pine, mahogany and teak, the mighty ship will be faithfully restored to its previous glory,” said a news release. 

“Just over a week ago, we began carefully transporting Sequoia by barge from Cambridge, Maryland to Belfast, where a team of talented boatbuilders and craftsmen will restore it plank by plank,” said Michael Cantor, managing partner of Equator Capital Group, which owns the vessel, in the release. “In four years, and hopefully sooner, Sequoia will be seaworthy and ready for Americans to once again enjoy the former presidential yacht’s storied past.” 

The Sequoia served every U.S. president from Herbert Hoover through Gerald Ford. President John Kennedy celebrated his 46th and final birthday aboard the Sequoia, accompanied by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, friends and two orchestras. President Roosevelt hosted the British Prime Minister on the Sequoia to discuss the Depression and ways to avoid war with Hitler’s Germany. A melancholy President Nixon played “God Bless America” on the Sequoia’s piano after deciding to resign over Watergate. And, while aboard Sequoia, President Lyndon Johnson pressured members of Congress to pass landmark civil rights legislation and plotted his next moves in Vietnam, according to the release. 

“Sequoia is arguably the most important piece of American history in private hands,” the release said. “Sadly, for the past four years, she was trapped in legal limbo at a small boatyard in Deltaville, Virginia. After purchasing the yacht from the former owner during late 2016, in March, Equator Capital won a $700,000 settlement against the boatyard and Sequoia was freed.” 

In September, Sequoia was barged from Virginia to Cambridge, Maryland – a return visit. In October 1935, President Roosevelt had sailed Sequoia into Cambridge to dedicate the Choptank River Bridge, an early WPA project. From Sequoia’s foredeck, the President addressed a crowd of thousands, as local photographer George LeVarn snapped away. 

The Sequoia departed Cambridge, Sunday, October 13, drawing attention to herself in Manhattan (circling the Statue of Liberty, cruising under the Brooklyn Bridge and posing for television news choppers). Then, due to rough sea conditions, Sequoia sought refuge in New London, Connecticut.

In New London, 85 years earlier, President Franklin Roosevelt signed dozens of bills from the rear deck of Sequoia, including important railroad and banking legislation. The President had received an Honorary Degree from Yale the previous day and was escorted to the Thames by a fleet of submarines as he approached New London on Sequoia on June 21, 1934, to attend the Harvard-Yale regatta. 

On Monday October 21, Sequoia is expected to reach her ultimate destination, Belfast, where she will be restored by master boatbuilders French & Webb of Belfast.

“Once Sequoia is back on the water, our intention is to base her back in Washington, DC. She will cruise locally and along the East Coast, as a floating venue to teach American presidential history and to promote conservation and ocean conservation causes,” Cantor said. 

Project Manager Todd French said: “We are thrilled that French & Webb has been chosen to rebuild this American treasure. The great depth of Maine’s talent in the maritime trades, combined with the City of Belfast’s commitment to its working waterfront, make Belfast the ideal setting for Sequoia’s historic restoration.” 

Thomas Kittredge, Belfast’s Economic Development Director, added: “The City of Belfast is beyond enthusiastic that the Sequoia’s owners will restore this esteemed vessel right here at Belfast’s traditional working waterfront. We know that the USS Sequoia will be a tremendous draw for new visitors to Belfast during the next several years.”


Equator Collection

The Equator Collection provides funding to preserve and maintain maritime assets that are significant to the history of the United States. In addition to Sequoia, Equator also owns Tenovus, a 31-foot “Seven Seas” yawl built for Joseph P. Kennedy in 1931. Mr. Kennedy purchased Tenovus for his older two sons, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., and John F. Kennedy, and named the boat for his then 10-person family.



The public is invited to welcome the USS Sequoia to Belfast on Monday October 21, 2019. Barring any unforeseen weather, the schedule is:


Monday October 21 Schedule:

12:00 pm                          Sequoia arrives in Belfast harbor

1:30 to 3:30 pm               Sequoia is off-loaded from the barge

3:30 pm                            Official public welcome to City of Belfast

3:45 pm                            Sequoia rolls off barge and onto restoration site

4:15 pm                            Media availability with Project Manager Todd French