Since Theodore Roosevelt's administration, presidents have used a succession of pleasure yachts to cruise the Potomac River with family and friends. While attention recently focused on the efforts of a private group to make the former presidential yacht Sequoia available to ex-presidents, another less-noticed yacht also once used by presidents is available for charter by anyone who can pay a $2,500-a-day fee.
The yacht is The Presidents, though four out of five presidents who used it (from Harry Truman to Richard Nixon) gave the vessel different names. The 93- foot boat was perhaps best known as the Honey-Fitz, Jack Kennedy's choice of names in memory of his grandfather. Richard Nixon (who named it after his daughter, Patricia), eventually retired the boat and joined a long line of chief executives who garnered favorable press by claiming that presidential yachts provided by the Navy cost the taxpayers too dearly.
Today the boat is offered for charter by a Greenwich, Conn., hotel and restaurant owner, Joseph Keating, who bought the boat for $52,500 at a government auction 12 years ago and is slightly miffed at the publicity garnered by the Sequoia--whose private owners hope to convince 50 corporations to donate $25,000-a-year to preserve it. "If the Sequoia was really a presidential yacht," says Keating, "why didn't the presidents give it presidential names?"
The daily rental charge of about $2,500 includes crew but not food and drink. Keating says that royalty from Denmark, sheiks from Saudi Arabia and celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor Warner, Beverly Sills and David Frost have sailed aboard The Presidents since it went private.