In January, VeloceToday correspondent Jonathan Sharp left the comforts of home in Great Britain to enjoy the warm temperatures and blue skies of Palm Beach. He reports about what he found at and on the way to Cavallino. His notebook begins with Wednesday through Friday below, and continues with Saturday and Sunday in a further article. Please note the lack of owner’s names in all three articles; this intentional and by their request.
Story and photos by Jonathan Sharp
Wednesday 23rd January, Palm Beach
Hi Peter, well we made it – amazing, given the recent snow fall at home in England. We seem to have grabbed the only snow-free day to fly out. I am told that nothing is moving in my home town today and it is impossible to get to the end of my road due to the snow, but then England does not do snow very well. The weather here in Palm Beach is amazing, temperature in the mid-70s, sun and blue sky. My brain is struggling to cope with the fact that it’s January. The atmosphere is building in the town with plenty of Ferraris to be seen.
My wife and I took a walk to the Henry Flagler Museum today. On the way we stopped off at one of the local marinas, where we found moored in amongst all the vast plastic gin palaces wintering in Palm Beach, a beautiful wooden cruiser named Aphrodite 3. The custodian was on the boat at the time and was more than happy to pass on the boat’s history. It was built by the Purdy Boat Company of Port Washington at the request of businessman John Hay (Jock) Whitney in 1937. She is a 74 foot long commuter boat. The keel is built of white oak with Philippine mahogany transom and hull planking. She was originally powered by two massive Packard V12s rated at 1500 Hp. At her top speed of 38 knots she would use 300 gallons an hour.
Whitney already had a 72 foot boat which he used to commute from his Manhasset, New York home to his office in Wall Street in a journey time of about an hour; during the journey he would shave and dress, having boarded the boat in his pajamas. All was well until his brother-in-law Charles Payson turned up in his new, more powerful boat named Saga, which proceeded to beat Whitney’s boat on the commute to Wall street. That would not do, hence the construction of Aphrodite 3. It was on this boat that Shirley Temple held her ninth birthday party and it was also on this boat that David O. Selznick was persuaded to produce Gone with the Wind with Whitney (who was also one of the founding partners of Technicolor). Other famous people to set foot on her include Fred Astaire, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Sir Lawrence Olivier.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 Whitney donated the boat to the US Navy, who proceeded to paint her grey and mount a gun on the prow. She was later used as the bench-mark for the US Navy’s PT boat designs. Each new PT boat had to be able to run with Aphrodite 3 around the local islands. The PT boats had three V12s, Aphrodite 3 only had two! She was also used to ferry Roosevelt to and from his home Hyde Park on the Hudson River.
The boat was rescued by Chuck and Deborah Royce who embarked on a mammoth reconstruction, using the services of the Brooklyn Boat Yard in Maine. I understood took approximately 45000 hours. She is resplendent today, all varnished teak and gleaming chrome, a fine tribute to a bygone age.
The first event of the Cavallino Classic for me is tomorrow evening, the Jet Hop at the Jet Aviation Center. I will let you know what I find.
Just back from the Jet Hop. It was a very nice line up of cars, especially when viewed from an elevated viewing platform 40 foot above the tarmac. It’s the first time I have ever had to wear a full harness to take a photograph! I was a bit disappointed not to see Stallion 51 Corporation’s P51 Mustang which was there last year, but I certainly enjoyed sitting in the right hand co-pilots seat of the Flagship Detroit Foundation’s beautiful DC3. What a great bunch of guys; they deserve our support in keeping their aircraft flying.
So what of the Ferraris, I expect you are saying? The People’s Choice winner was a lovely 250 California Spider, but my favorite was the barn-find 330GT which made it to the show under her own steam. Eventually real steam was to be seen wafting out of the engine bay even with the bonnet half open on its arrival because the queue to get in was long and slow moving.
Andreas Mohringer’s 375 MM PF Spider 0382AM took center stage, being displayed on a round red carpeted area amongst all the beautiful people and their executive jets. I was also taken by a very fine silver Daytona and a fly-yellow 275 GTB. I think it is also safe to say that Ferrari have a success on their hands with the FF, based on the amount that I saw tonight; as to the 458, you are literally falling over them. All in all a great evening and I got back in time to eat at the Leopard Lounge in the sublime Chesterfield hotel.
Yacht Hop today. I am going to talk about boats again. Another wooden-hulled wonder, POSH was a 54ft commuter boat (I love that turn of phrase) built in 1937 at the Huskins Boat Works of Bay City, Michigan. She was one of three John Hacker-designed Huskins-built boats. Originally known as Wee Joe II, she was the second boat built. The first boat had been built for the band leader and boat racer Guy Lombardo. Lombardo’s boat was 44 foot in length and was given the same name as his race boat, Tempo. The third built is probably the most famous, Thunderbird, built in 1939 for Mr. George Whittell. She was completed with a stainless steel roof which is said to mimic his personal DC2 aircraft. All three boats still exist and I would love to see all three in one place, preferable at Lake Tahoe. POSH, as you would expect, won the People’s Award for best yacht. It is also my understanding that should you want a replica of POSH, Bill Prince Yacht Design are about to build a modern version constructed using old fashioned methods, but suitable updated for the 21st century.
So what of the Ferraris, I expect you are saying (again)? A nice line up of classic Ferraris from the 250 and 275 series, together with the aforementioned 375MM added to the glamour. The atmosphere is now really beginning to build as throughout the day I have been seeing many covered car transporters arriving from various points across the USA. I cannot wait for tomorrow and the big one.