For those of you my age, you probably have memories of watching “The Duke” on TV and in the movies. He seemed to be the ultimate homegrown hero who apparently was also an avid boater.
LA TIMES – Beginning its life in 1943 as a World War II minesweeper before being purchased and converted into a long-range cruising pleasure boat by actor John Wayne in 1962, Wild Goose went through many changes over the years.
Wayne used the boat to cruise to distant destinations, and entertain family and friends in Newport Harbor until his death in 1979. Subsequent owners made extensive renovations to the ship, including building an upper deck and adding a stateroom in the aft section of the main deck.
Hornblower Cruises purchased the yacht in 1997, turning Wild Goose into an integral member of its charter fleet. The vessel has hosted weddings, dinner parties and tours of Newport Harbor on its decks for more than a decade.
“It’s my favorite, because it drives like a real boat,” said Newport Beach Hornblower’s director of marine operations Chandler Bell. “Compared to the newer boats, older boats just go through the water differently.”
Last year, Hornblower put the boat in the running for a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, to help bring further recognition to the boat, its famous owner and its history in Newport Beach.
The honorary designation has been approved at the state level and passed the national review process July 19, meaning the boat is now officially listed.
Historian Paul Lusignan with the National Park Service worked on the final review, and he said the boat’s long association with Wayne made it an interesting nomination.
“The nomination is directed at the association of the boat with the actor John Wayne, rather than for its maritime or naval engineering aspects,” Lusignan said. “That association, being less than 50 years, requires the documentation to show exceptional significance in order to justify listing.”
Lusignan added that about 90 percent of nominations that make it through the state level are eventually listed on the National Register.
While Wild Goose has gone through many changes over the years, Hornblower has worked to preserve much of the boat as it was when Wayne owned it.
“This boat is a significant part of the history of Newport Beach and of John Wayne, and we felt it was necessary to keep her in the harbor,” Bell said. “I don’t think the boat would be around today if Hornblower didn’t purchase it. Very few people would have the wherewithal to maintain it and keep it in its present condition.”
Original art pieces Wayne had on the boat still hang on the bulkhead, around the fireplace in one cabin that remains largely unchanged, and the boat’s pilothouse and engine compartment — complete with the original 1942-built engines — are preserved as Wayne had them.
“The way it’s maintained, the woodwork, the condition of the engines and the systems are all original — with some added electronic controls — but the old controls and the telegraph system are still in place,” Bell said. “When you go aboard her, it’s like walking back in time when you go into the pilothouse or into the engine room.”
Lusignan noted that the honorary recognition might not have a dramatic effect on Wild Goose, but a listing on the National Register often makes it possible to secure private funding for preservation of a historic property.
“Hopefully, the broader recognition that the National Register listing brings will spur on future protection of the fragile resource,” Lusignan said.
Enjoy the tribute to “The Duke” and Wild Goose from YouTube below: