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‘Floating White House’ being barged from Belfast to Maryland

The former presidential yacht Sequoia, covered in shrink wrap, is seen being barged out of the harbor in Belfast on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. After arriving in Belfast in October 2019 to be fully restored, the vessel is being moved to Maryland, where Belfast-based French & Webb is expected to perform the work. Credit: Courtesy of Murray Carpenter

Posted on October 30, 2023

The former presidential yacht USS Sequoia, which has been kept under wraps in Belfast for the past four years, is being moved to Maryland.

The 104-foot motor cruising yacht, originally built in 1925, was barged out of Belfast’s harbor Wednesday morning.

An employee at French & Webb, the local boatyard that has been hired to restore the vessel, said the Sequoia is being moved to Cambridge, Maryland, where French & Webb will perform the work. The yacht’s owner, Michael Cantor, lives in Washington D.C. and wants the restoration to be done closer to where he lives, the employee said.

The employee did not have approval to speak to the media and asked not to be identified.

The boat, which served as an official presidential yacht under eight presidents, also was known as the “Floating White House” before the federal government sold it at auction 46 years ago.

Work on the vessel, which was used by presidents ranging from Franklin Roosevelt to Richard Nixon, never got under way in Belfast, the employee said. After arriving in Belfast in October of 2019, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the project and, after that, Cantor held off on greenlighting the work while considering whether to have the work done somewhere else.

In July, Cantor said he was looking for a more sheltered  place in Maine to keep the boat while it was being restored. The boat had been stored on blocks next to the city’s harbor walk, with shrink wrap covering everything but the hull, since it arrived.

“The nor’easter last November, it blew all the shrink wrap off, and [the waves] came up kind of close,” Cantor told the BDN in July, referring to a storm last fall.

The Sequoia was first launched in October 1925 and was purchased five years later by the administration of President Herbert Hoover. It was eventually sold at auction to private owners by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

Cambridge, Maryland is a city with a population of roughly 13,000 residents on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, less than a two-hour drive from Washington D.C.


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