Sunday, July 15, 2012

Middle History of Empress

After Richard Yantis's professional crew brought San-Su-Cher III from Florida to the Pacific through the Panama Canal, we believe that he used the yacht in Mexican waters in the Cabo San Lucas area.  David Richardson of Richardson Boats remembers a photo of San-Su-Cher III hanging in their yard office for many years.  David is trying to locate the photo so that we can add a copy to this blog post.

In the mid to late 1970s, we believe that Richard Yantis sold the yacht to Jules Meyers of Beverly Hills in the Los Angeles area of California.  We believe that the new owner was Jules (Jay) Meyers, whose obituary states that he was a car dealer to Hollywood stars and that he enjoyed boating.

In the early 1980s, we believe that Jules Meyers sold the yacht to Peter Althouse.  According to documentation records, Althouse registered the yacht in Oregon, with a home port of Portland.  We believe that Peter and Diane Althouse cruised the yacht north from Portland to the San Juan Islands in the US and Vancouver Island off the coast of Canada.  We believe that the Althouses changed the name of the yacht to Empress, after tying up in front of the Empress Hotel in Victoria on Vancouver Island.  A painting of young Queen Victoria, who also was Empress of India, hangs prominently in the Empress Hotel, and the Penhunes have hung a copy in the salon of Empress.  The Penhunes also have enjoyed the San Juans, Vancouver Island, the Empress Hotel, and Butchart Gardens in a previous boat, Allons-y!, a 45-foot Sea Ranger trawler.

Chris Fonteneau of Fonteneau Yacht Repair remembers working on Empress in San Diego in the 1980s, probably for the Althouses.  Chris reinforced the boat deck to take the load of a tender, installed the interior stairs to the boat deck, built the fly bridge storage and pilot station on the boat deck, built additional cabinetry in the salon surrounding the stairs to the engine room and aft queen, and made other repairs and improvements to Empress.  Willem Racke was the Althouses's captain for much of the time they owned Empress.  He remembers more than five years of happy cruising with them in California and Mexican waters.

In May of 1989, after Diane Althouse had passed away, Peter Althouse sold Empress to Edwin Stivers in San Diego.  Stivers was the owner and operator of the Neptune Society that specialized in the scattering of ashes at sea.  We believe that Stivers tried to use Empress for that purpose, but was stopped by the Jones Act, because the yacht was not built in the US.  John Penhune has obtained a Jones Act waiver from the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) allowing Empress to be used commercially from ports in California, Oregon, and Washington.  However, the Penhunes have no plans to use Empress commercially.

In 1994, Dennis and Elaine Miller found Empress docked and for sale at the Shelter Island Yacht Club in San Diego and they bought her from Edwin Stivers in April 1994.  Dennis Miller called Hargrave Yacht Design and spoke with Jack Hargrave about the yacht.  Hargrave told Miller that the design was intended to be a new line of yachts, but that the poor economy and the price of fuel in the early 1970s stopped the project.  The first major change  the Millers made to Empress was to remodel the aft master suit.  They had the twin beds replaced with a queen and the tub replaced with a shower.  They also had the galley remodelled.  At this point, the Millers moved the yacht to the Cabrillo Marina in San Pedro, California, at the north end of Los Angeles - Long Beach harbor just below Palos Verdes.  The next major repair the Millers had made to Empress was having blisters removed from the hull and two additional layers of fiberglass in epoxy resin added before fairing and repainting the hull.  They also had the boat deck refinished with new glass mat and cloth in epoxy resin and painted with a non-skid surface.  The Millers lived aboard Empress from time to time and used her for cruising in the area from San Diego to the Channel Islands.  Dennis Miller is the owner of the Miller Gasket Company in San Fernando, California.

In June of 2007, the Millers sold Empress to John and Marcellite Penhune, beginning the current history of Empress, which will be the subject of a separate blog post.

Many people provided information used in reconstructing the Middle History of Empress including: David Richardson of Richardson Boats, Michael Joyce and Barbara Bishop of Hargrave Yachts, Chris Fonteneau of Fonteneau Yacht Repair, Dennis Miller, Ron Arnold of SAIC, Captain Willem Racke, and Bernadine Trusso of Dona Jenkins Maritime Document Service.  Many thanks to them all.  Any errors in this historical reconstruction are the responsibility of the blogger, John Penhune, who will be grateful for any corrections and additions readers can provide.  Please send comments to

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Early History of Empress

The yacht was Jack Hargrave Design No. 6404 for Richard (Dick) Yantis, an executive of Avco Financial living in Canada.  He named the yacht San-Su-Cher III after his daughters Sandy, Susan, and Cherie.  Hargrave's summary plan for the yacht is shown below.

Jack Hargrave Design No. 6404 for Richard Yantis
Courtesy of Barbara Bishop of Hargrave Yachts

According to Marilyn Mower in her book American Classic: The Yachts and Ships of Jack Hargrave, p. 152:
The basis for this fast cruiser was Hargrave's standard Halmatic 64 molded hull which was shipped to Canada and given a wood deck.  She was created for luxurious living and entertainment: to wit, the main salon and enclosed aft deck lounge were not separated by partitions.  Everything about the decor was light and modern.  The owner's apartment is full beam and more than 16 feet in length.  The stateroom included a walk-in wardrobe and dressing room and a large bathroom with full-size tub.  Two ensuite twin-bedded guest cabins and crew quarters for two round out the accommodations.  Hargrave utilized every inch of space to incorporate a powder room and a utility room with washer, dryer and deep freeze.  Hargrave considered her the "ultimate yacht" in her size for her combination of uncrowded accommodations and large power and fuel capacity.

The hull and part of the structure were fabricated in 1971 in the Halmatic yard in the Northam area of Southampton, England.  In addition to large yachts, Halmatic built military patrol boats and small commercial ships.  The location of the Halmatic yard is shown in the map below.

Anchor Symbol Marks Location of Halmatic Yard

The hull, loaded with lumber for further construction, was shipped on a freighter to Montreal, Canada - a distance of about 3,100 nautical miles.  In Montreal, the hull was loaded on a barge and towed by a tug through the Great Lakes and connecting canals to the Richardson Boats yard in Meaford, Ontario, Canada on the shore of Georgian Bay - a distance of about 900 nautical miles.  The location of the Richardson yard is shown in the map below.

Anchor Symbol Marks Location of Richardson Yard

The twin 625 HP Detroit V-12 engines, two Northern Lights 15 kW generators with Lugger engines, and other equipment were installed and the construction of the yacht was completed by a team led by Alan Richardson, now retired.  Alan's nephew, David Richardson, worked on the yacht when he was a teenager.  In a very informative telephone conversation, David provided much of the information contained in this narrative.

Jack Hargrave personally attended the sea trials of the yacht in Georgian Bay.  David Richardson took Jack Hargrave around in a runabout and remembers him as a tall, energetic man.

The yacht spent one winter at the Richardson yard and then was moved by a professional crew out through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean and then to the East Coast of Florida, where she spent a second winter.  From Florida, the crew took the yacht through the Panama Canal to the Los Angeles area of California.  From the Richardson yard to the LA area, the yacht traveled about 8,000 nautical miles on her own bottom.

I would like to thank David Richardson of Richardson Boats and Michael Joyce and Barbara Bishop of Hargrave Yachts for providing most of the information contained in this early history of the yacht now called Empress.