USS POTOMAC – A Pleasure Cruise on a Presidential Yacht

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The USS Potomac, affectionately known as the “Floating White House”, is the most unusual and pleasurable cruise on the San Francisco Bay. It has that classic look and familiarity of a vintage Hollywood film. At a recent twilight reception, when the impressive yacht was docked at Gate E near the Ferry Building – with thunder and lightning looming in the forecast – I noticed the amber lights around the sturdy craft seemed to raise the barometer on charm and nostalgia. The USS Potomac once served as the Presidential Yacht of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It’s the place to be come the annual “Opening Day on the Bay”, Sunday, April 25th. From what I hear – this particular cruise will find some of the Bay Area’s most notable/most notorious characters on board to entertain. But tonight’s reception – organized by David Perry to celebrate the creation of a PSA video for the Potomac – included the very distinguished President. Former history professor, Kurt Lauridsen, is the embodiment of all things FDR. So, I got him to reveal his secret for the perfect martini. “I like a lot of gin in mine!” exclaimed the Chief Commander.

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Kurt Lauridsen / FDR – On the USS Potomac.

This US Coast Guard Cutter – originally commissioned in 1934 and known as the Electra – was re-purposed in 1936 for the President and re-named USS Potomac. It floated FDR’s weekend party penchants until his death in 1945. It is now an Historical National Landmark and docked in Oakland’s Jack London Square. Exploring the vessel is a trip in itself. Along the route I met Tom Howard who shared some anecdotes about the ship’s reputation, including the fact that Elvis Presley was one of its previous owners.

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THE RADIO ROOM.
Photo, Seán Martinfield

Meet Tom Brown:

ABOUT THE POTOMAC
After FDR’s death in April 1945, the 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 – impounded at Treasure Island, 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.

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“Here’s looking at you.”
Stacks and exhaust vents. Photo, Seán Martinfield

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The Engine Room is Off-Limits! Photo, Seán Martinfield

Since it opened to the public in the summer of 1995, more than a quarter of a million people have visited and sailed aboard former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s beloved “Floating White House,” the USS Potomac. $5 million was spent over a 12-year period 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.

FDR on the USS Potomac, 3 March 2010

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The Captain’s Quarters.Photo, Seán Martinfield

EVENTS & CRUISES
The Potomac offers cruise opportunities to visit Angel Island, The Bay Model, The Bridges of the Bay and the Islands of the Bay. You can cruise and learn about the history of San Francisco Bay and FDR’s role in its development. You may also want to plan ahead and choose one of the fabulous Special Event Cruises for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, July 4th, Fleet Week and others. Perhaps a private event with 70-100 of your nearest and dearest friends is more to your liking.
Check out the website calendar to book a cruise: USS POTOMAC

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Entrance to the Wheel House. Photo, Seán Martinfield

VITAL STATISTICS:
Type: United States Coast Guard Cutter
Displacement: 370 long tons (376 t) light / 416 long tons (423 t) full
Length: 165 ft (50 m)
Beam: 23 ft 9 in (7.24 m)
Draft: 8 ft 1 in (2.46 m)
Propulsion: 2 × Winton Model 6-158 diesel engines, 1,340 shp (999 kW)
2 × three-blade propellers
Speed: 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph)
Complement: 45
Armament: 1 × 3″/23 caliber gun

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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