While reporting a story on President Donald Trump’s supporters on the water, we compiled more presidential boating history than could fit. Here’s a quick sail through an incomplete maritime history of our nation’s leaders.
First presidential boat? First president. George Washington crossed the Delaware.
Abraham Lincoln was a boat guy. He was also the only president to hold a patent — a patent for a way to get flat boats over rapids and difficult spots on the river.
Ulysses S. Grant took a world tour by boat after becoming president.
In the summer of 1893, President Grover Cleveland had surgery to remove a tumor aboard a yacht. He wanted to hide his cancer from the public to avoid a financial panic.
Warren Harding was president elect when he attempted to land a boat on Florida’s Pelican Island. The bird warden, sworn to protect the wildlife from hunters, stuck a rifle in his face, according to historian Douglas Brinkley’s book, The Wilderness Warrior.
Herbert Hoover was the first president to use the Sequoia, a presidential yacht that was like Air Force One on the water. Richard Nixon reportedly loved sailing it on the Potomac, but Jimmy Carter thought the boat was too expensive to maintain at $800,000 annually and had it sold at auction.
Franklin Roosevelt made his first major appearance after the Democratic convention at the helm of a boat, partly to hide his polio. And he loved to fish.
John F. Kennedy grew up sailing around Hyannis Port, commanded PT boats in the Pacific in World War II and spent his final birthday with Hollywood stars aboard another presidential yacht, the Honey Fitz.
George H.W. Bush ran his motorboat, Fidelity, aground on a Maine beach in 2010.
Trump, no doubt, had the hugest boat of any president.
Despite reportedly not caring for boats or the sun, he bought a 280-foot yacht originally commissioned for a Saudi arms dealer for $30 million in 1987. Calling it the “ultimate toy,” he named her Trump Princess. It had a helipad and a pool surrounded by bulletproof glass.
Facing financial difficulties with his casinos in 1991, he sold the Trump Princess for a loss, but later commissioned plans for what would have been the world’s largest superyacht. It was not completed.
In campaigns, boats have been a bad omen for Democratic presidential contenders. John Kerry had the “swift boat” controversy over his military service. Gary Hart’s infamous cruise aboard the Monkey Business with Donna Rice scuttled his career. Al Gore took a four-day campaign tour down the Mississippi on a riverboat in 2000, cranking the Rolling Stones' Brown Sugar.
But the only flotilla to sail for a candidate before the massive Trump boat parades this year appears to be the Nixon boat parade featuring John Wayne off the California coast in 1972. Nixon won.