The Honey Fitz History








Sewel Avery, a financier and Montgomery Ward Chairman, was a great lover of the sea and boating was one of his favorite hobbies. He commissioned the original building of the yacht by Defoe Shipyard in Bay City, Michigan. The designer was Thomas D. Bowes and she was christened in 1931 as the Lenore, naming the yacht after his daughter. He cruised the Lenore on Lake Michigan in the waters near his private estate in the les Chaneaux Islands.
Credited with pulling Montgomery Ward out of an enormous depression years’ slump, Avery began clashing with the United States government as early as 1935, over Roosevelt’s new deal and wage and price provisions. Serious disagreements continued for years, including seizures of Wards plants. Avery’s biggest outrage came when the government expropriated his beloved Lenore, ostensibly for use as a wartime vessel. Many people believed, including Avery, that the seizure was retaliation for Avery’s very public anti-new deal rhetoric.
The yacht was purchased on August 15, 1942 from Mr. Avery. Given the name cg-92004 she was reconditioned at the coast guard yard in Curtis Bay, Maryland, and declared ready for duty January 9, 1943. She was assigned to coastal picket duty at Rockaway Point and Fire Island that year, to patrol picket duty at Rockaway Point that December, and was used the last half of 1944 as a training ship for submarine crews in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, until resuming her patrol picket duty at Rockaway Point in May, 1945.
On June 23, 1945, she was assigned to the navy yard in Washington, D.C., where she became a tender for the vessel Franklin Roosevelt used as Presidential Yacht, the USS Potomac. Her permanent transfer to the navy became effective on November 28, 1945.

Harry S. Truman

Retaining the yacht’s original name, Truman renamed the tender the yacht Lenore II and mainly used her as a tender for the Williamsburg, the lavish 244’ Presidential Yacht he preferred to use for entertaining visiting statesmen such as Winston Churchill, and for Truman’s trips to Florida and the Caribbean. The Lenore II frequently carried the secret servicemen who accompanied the president on these cruises.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

After one cruise on the Williamsburg, Ike decided the yacht was “to rich for my blood,” and retired the vessel as a symbol of needless luxury.
Eisenhower chose instead the Lenore II, which he renamed the Barbara Anne after one of his granddaughters. Refurbishing and overhauling the yacht at a cost of approximately $200,000.00 she was used sparingly by the first family in Washington. However, after the president’s last bout with his heart while in office, doctors urged him to give up his yearly vacations at the air force academy in Colorado because of the altitude. so vacations were transferred to Newport RI aboard the Barbara Anne in the summers of 1957, 1958, and 1960. Ike used the yacht to transport himself across Narragansett bay for his daily round of golf at the Newport Golf Club.
The first family last used the yacht on the Potomac river on labor day weekend, 1960. Eisenhower expressed his regret that he had not had the time to use her more frequently.

John F. Kennedy

The wooden yacht acquired a more public profile in the 1060’s during John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s presidency. JFK renamed her Honey Fitz, the nickname used by his maternal grandfather. A lifelong lover of the sea, Kennedy would slip away from the white house for a few quiet hours on the yacht in the Potomac river. He spent Easter and Christmas holidays on her in palm Beach, Florida, as well as taking days off in September and October aboard her at Hammersmith Farm in Newport Rhode island. Commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Walter C. Syle of the naval administration since the Eisenhower administration, the Honey Fitz was redecorated by Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy herself, who installed a color television for the first time aboard the vessel, primarily for the enjoyment of her young children.
The vessel was primarily used for the family and close friends, and JFK spent some of his happiest moments aboard the yacht, most often alone with his children. the yacht was also used to transfer guests down the Potomac river to Mount Vernon for a particularly impressive state dinner one evening during the JFK administration.
From president Kennedy’s birthday (May 29) until approximately mid-September the yacht was kept at cape cod and used every weekend. One particularly happy occasion was the surprise birthday party Jackie threw for her husband in 1963, with most of the family on board. Kennedy loved to spend time alone with his children on the yacht.
A favorite story of Dave Powers, author of Johnny, we hardly knew ye, and long-standing friend of John F. Kennedy: in their early campaigning days (powers was with Kennedy from 1946 on) they used to take the ferry from Boston to Nantucket, and Kennedy even loved those ferry rides. but one winter’s day in palm beach as they cruised along in the Honey Fitz, lounging on the aft deck, Kennedy turned to powers and said, “this sure beats the ferry ride to Nantucket, doesn’t it?”

Lyndon B. Johnson

When Johnson entered the white house, one of the first things he looked towards was the yacht. “Although it was my prerogative to do so, I would no more have considered changing the name of the Honey Fitz – the name Jack Kennedy had given one of the presidential yachts – than I would have thought of changing the name of the Washington Monument.” Johnson wrote in his memoir. Johnson continued to use the yacht during his administration, mainly for dinner and cocktail parties.

Richard M. Nixon

By the time Nixon came to office, the honey Fitz was a well – known yacht. Although Nixon renamed the yacht the Patricia after his wife, the press and indeed everyone, continued to think of the yacht as the Honey Fitz. It came as no surprise when Nixon decided to put the Patricia up for sale in April of 1970. At first the bidding was closed, but restrictions for buying were so stringent (she could never be used for commercial purposes, she could not be sold to a foreign country, etc.) that no one even ventured forth with an offer. Later that year, she was placed on sale without restrictions for open bidding. Before her sale, she was used by the administration for cabinet officer’s use, cruises for hospitalized Vietnam veterans, and in conjunction with Mrs. Nixon’s sponsorship of “children in the parks” program.