Steam Yachts

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Elegant and Expensive

This book is a collection of photos and details of the very expensive toys of the ultra rich.

"The Steam Yachts" by Erik Hoffman is a wonderful look at how "the other half", actually the "other 0.1%", played in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

 My copy is missing its dust jacket but is otherwise in excellent shape.

In all there are 120 yachts, from the sidewheeler  Northstar  built for Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1853 to the Christina built for Aristotle Onassis in 1954. Each has a photo, details of size, power, rig, crew, and details of the often very short history of these very expensive status symbols.

In the days before the mass production of the fiberglass "gin palaces", that clutter up every posh harbour in the Mediteranean, these vessels embodied both the extreme engineering of the ocean going greyhounds and the elegance and beauty of the most expensive great houses.

These are vessels who were not designed for the work of their commercial and military sisters but were designed simply to show off the wealth of their owners. They spent most of their lives at anchor in conspicuous harbours along the East coast of North America and the ports of England.

Perusing the photos of these magnificent examples of ship building, one can easily trace the technological changes that were occurring in the commercial shipbuilding world as well. They look very much like the fast military vessels, torpedo boats and destroyers, that were being developed at the same time in the 1890s and 1900s. In some cases they were converted and used as such during the great war.

Speed was always one of the key requirements and most of space in their their hulls is taken up with boilers and engines. But they had to look the part of belonging to these great and powerful men as well, so there were vast areas of polished teak, varnished brightwork, polished brass and stained glass maintained by crack crews and professional staffs, masters, stewards and chefs.

 The Ultra Rich still have yachts, but there is a monotony to their modern plastic forms and none of the power and elegance that these steel status symbols displayed.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

The Steam Yachts

An Era of Elegance

Erik Hoffman

John de Graffe, inc.




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