A gathering of well-wishers, boat lovers, and former passengers waved goodbye to the M/V Olympus as it motored out of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and into the heavy Puget Sound mist, heading back to her New York birthplace after 75 years in the Pacific Northwest. Stories of the graceful 97-foot yacht will keep her memory alive long after she bid farewell to the Salish Sea.
With long lines and a polished wooden hull, M/V Olympus was a star whether she was shining at a classic boat show, leading the Seattle boat season’s Opening Day parade, or cruising local waters from Lake Washington to Desolation Sound. The yacht and her owners, Diane Lander and her late husband John VanDerbeek, were fixtures in the local boating scene, frequently offering the boat for charitable and environmental causes. Upon VanDerbeek’s sudden death in 2009, Lander started contemplating the sale of Olympus. It sold earlier this year for an undisclosed price to an East Coast businessman and sailed away from the Locks Feb. 26. Owning the historic craft “was a great adventure,” Lander said.
With the return to New York, Olympus has come full circle. The stunning vessel was commissioned in 1929 by George Heck, a Wall Street financier, and was the largest yacht the New York, Launch and Engine Co. shipyard ever built. Originally christened Junaluska, the boat traversed East Coast waters until 1938 when it was sold to George Converse, Newport Beach Yacht Club Commodore. World War II brought an abrupt end to the ship’s leisure days and it was conscripted to patrol the waters between Prince Rupert, B.C. and Ketchikan, Alaska. After the war, Washington Governor Monrad Wallgren purchased the yacht with public funds, changed the name to Olympus, and used it for his personal pleasure. The misuse of public funds sunk Wallgren’s career as governor and put the boat back in private hands. Since then, it has passed through many notable Pacific Northwest owners before the VanDerbeeks bought it in 1994.
Upon purchase, the couple set upon the task of completely restoring the yacht to its original glory with the help of Port Townsend’s Haven Boatworks. They also built a significant boathouse (120’ x 40’) on South Lake Union to house the beauty.
Now the yacht is on a transport ship bound for Fort Lauderdale, Florida via the Panama Canal. She is expected to return to New York sometime in May. Heading to her new owner, an anonymous 42-year-old man who has a penchant for beautiful, historic icons, the Olympus is bound to have even more adventures to add to her storied past.
“The new owner is a good guy. He is passionate about history, just like my husband. He’s never owned a boat, but neither had we!” Lander said. The new owner wants Lander on board when Olympus enters New York Harbor and she intends to be there. We at Northwest Yachting wish the M/V Olympus fair seas on her journey home!