Home Broker's Best 53′ 1939 Elco Motoryacht

53′ 1939 Elco Motoryacht

by Randy Woods
53' 1939 Elco Motoryacht

Captain an Art Deco classic with a fascinating past with this elegant 1939 Elco available from Chuck Hovey Yachts.

Lovers of classic yachting lore, have we got a treat for you this month. Not only is this handsome Elco 53 more than 80 years old and showing no signs of slowing down, it also has one of the most colorful resumes of any luxury yacht, including Hollywood glamour, famous owners, World War II service, Mafia connections, and Las Vegas glitz.

Built in 1939 by Elco Motor Yacht, the elegant craft was christened DO-HO as the flagship of the Elco fleet. First owned by restaurant chain creator Howard Johnson, the vessel was re-named the Alchade and then Southwind by other business-mogul owners over the next decade, while it cruised on the Great Lakes and the Eastern seaboard. During the second world war, the Southwind briefly served with the U.S. Coast Guard on close-shore security duty. In 1950, it was purchased by infamous Las Vegas mobster Morris “Mo” Dalitz, who brought the Southwind to Lake Mead in Nevada to serve as a hospitality boat for his Desert Inn Resort. By 1954, the yacht was relocated to Southern California, where it sailed for many years until 1983, when owner Vlad Worotko leased Southwind for use in the TV series “Riptide,” which ran for 56 episodes.

By 1997, the aging Southwind was renamed Riptide in homage to its TV stardom, and its owners began a painstaking, 25-year restoration process to bring it to its current glory in Port Orchard, Washington. Originally powered by twin Hall-Scott 250hp engines, the Riptide has since been refitted with two Gray Marine/Detroit Diesel engines, which produce a combined 470hp, giving the Riptide a cruising speed of 11 knots, topping out at 16 knots.

Amidships is the spacious main salon, where sliding doors open out to the port and starboard decks, and a built-in, L-shaped settee with customized cushions provides ample room for entertaining. The restored mahogany tongue-and-groove bulkhead surfaces feature original Elco lighting, Art Deco sconces, and large windows that allow for plenty of natural light. Heat in the salon is provided by either a Dickinson propane bulkhead heater or an electric fireplace. 

The 83-year-old Riptide now has a thoroughly modern suite of navigation electronics, paired with its many Art Deco interior touches. New equipment in the fully enclosed wheelhouse includes a Garmin 740S Radar, GPS, Polaris VHF radio with RAM Mic, and Standard Horizon VHF with AIS. The helm, however, still retains echoes of its past, with original lever controls, a wooden ship’s wheel, and a 1940s-era helm chair.The galley has also been updated to include a Dickinson Mediterranean three-burner propane stove with oven, a GE microwave, and an Alder Barbour refrigerator. The original icebox remains intact.

Moving aft and down into the companionway, two single-berth guest cabins can be accessed along with a port-side head with original sink and cabinetry. Farther aft is the main stateroom, with a full-sized berth, a private head, an eight-drawer dresser, and a TV. Stairs lead to the aft deck, where plenty of seating can be found on custom embroidered teak deck chairs.The foredeck also has two custom mahogany box seats for additional lounging opportunities.

Restoration work on the Riptide continues today. In 2021, it was fitted with 29 new ribs, 14 new planks, new splash rails, a renewed steering system. All deck and cabin surfaces have been covered with Dynel cloth, set in epoxy, and painted with LP paint. The doors have also been rebuilt and fitted with Art Deco etched glass in keeping with the vessel’s 1930s charm.

Specs & Info

LOA 53’0” · Beam 13’9” · Draft 3’0”

Tankage (Fuel/Fresh/Black)

435 gal. / 330 gal. / 33 gal.


Two 470hp Gray Marine/Detroit Diesels


Chuck Hovey Yachts

Seattle, WA
Todd Powell

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