The USS Sachem and USS Phenakite is an abandoned 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 feet 6 inches (oa) × 143 feet 3 inches (bp) × 23 feet 6 inches × 8 feet, had a top speed of up to 13 knots and could hold up to 217 tons GRT. 2 It was launched on April 12. After some use, it was sold to Manton B. Metcalf of New York and renamed the Sachem. 1 4
The United States Navy acquired the Sachem 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, it was loaned to Thomas Edison who conducted government-funded anti-submarine warfare 3 and ocean communication experiments on it in the Caribbean. 4
The USS Sachem returned to Metcalf on February 10, 1919, after World War I concluded. 1 2 It 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 significant 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 the Florida Keys. It underwent modifications and was 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 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 ship in the Hudson River in West New York, New Jersey. 4 Miller offered the owner $7,500 for the old 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 ship 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.
- USS Phenakite and USS Sachem at NavSource Naval History
- Priolo, Gary P. “Phenakite (PYc-25), ex-Sachem (SP 192).” NavSource Naval History. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. Article.
- Silverstone, Paul. “Patrol Vessels.” The New Navy, 1883-1922. N.p.: Routledge, 2013. 90. Print.
- Yentsch, A.E. “The War Years: 1915-1918.” Historical and Archaeological Perspectives on Gender Transformations. Ed. Suzanne M. Spencer-Wood. New York: Springer, 2013. 248. Print.
- Hansel, Mark. “Storied ‘Sachem’ wasting away in Petersburg.” Kentucky Enquirer [Cincinnati] 10 Dec. 2011: n. pag. Print.