The USS Sachem and USS Phenakite was a converted yacht that was used by the United States Navy from 1917 to 1919 and again from 1942 to 1945. It was later used as a tour boat before becoming abandoned on a small creek just yards from the Ohio River in northern Kentucky.


The USS Phenakite was constructed in 1902 as the private yacht Celt by Pusey and Jones in Wilmington, Delaware for J. Rogers Maxwell, a railroad executive.1 4 Rogers was an avid yachtsman who captured the King’s Cup with another yacht, the Queen, in 1907.4 The Celt measured 169’6″(oa)×143’3″(bp)×23’6″×8′, had a top speed of up to 13 knots and could hold up to 217 tons GRT.2 It was launched on April 12.2 After some use, it was sold to Manton B. Metcalf of New York and renamed the Sachem.1 4

The Sachem was acquired by the United States Navy on July 3, 1917 shortly after the nation entered World War I.1 2 It was placed into service as the USS Sachem (SP 192) on August 19 and used as a coastal patrol yacht. During its service under the Navy, the boat was loaned to Thomas Edison who conducted government funded anti-submarine warfare 3 and ocean communication experiments on it in the Caribbean.4

After World War I concluded, the USS Sachem was returned to Metcalf on February 10, 1919.1 2 It was then sold to Roland L. Taylor, a Philadelphia banker, who rechristened it Merchant Sachem.2

During the height of the Great Depression in 1932, the Sachem was sold to Captain Jacob “Jake” Martin who converted it into a fishing boat.4 Families would pool their money and pay a fee of about $2 to send a family member on the Sachem to catch large fish for food. The only major improvement to the boat was the replacement of the original coal boiler with a diesel engine.

During World War II, the boat was reacquired by the United States Navy on February 17, 1942 2 for $65,000 4 and converted into wartime service by Robert Jacobs Inc. of City Island in New York City.1 It was commissioned as USS Phenakite (PYc-25) on July 1 at Thompkinsville, New York and patrolled the waters off of the Florida Keys. It underwent modifications and placed back into service on November 17, 1944 where it was used to test various sonar systems before being put out of service on October 2, 1945 at Thompkinsville. It was then transferred to the Maritime Commission for disposal on November 5.

The boat was then returned to Martin and renamed Sachem on December 29, 1945.1 It was officially struck from the Naval Register on February 7, 1946. It was then resold to the Circle Line of New York City and renamed Sightseer and then CircleLine Sightseer and Circle Line V. With a capacity of 500, it was Circle Line’s flagship vessel and was used as a tour boat until 1983.

The boat was purchased by Robert Miller of Finneytown, Ohio in 1986 who saw the boat in the Hudson River in West New York, New Jersey.4 Miller offered the owner $7,500 for the dilapidated vessel. It took ten days to pull the boat from the muck it was trapped within and to complete repairs. For several months, Miller moved the boat around the region to avoid expensive docking fees.

During the moves, a music executive spotted the vessel and approached Miller, desiring to use the boat for background in Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach music video.4

Shortly before it left New York, Miller filled the Sachem with guests and docked at the Statue of Liberty during its rededication on July 4, 1986.4 Afterwards, the boat was relocated to a plot of land Miller owned along Taylor Creek in Boone County, Kentucky via the Erie Canal, great lakes, Mississippi River and the Ohio River. Today, Miller has no controlling interest over the abandoned boat and despite a fundraising effort towards the Sachem’s restoration, no work has been completed.

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