John Wayne’s Former Legendary Yacht Sinks in Washington’s San Juan Islands

by Josh Lanier

John Wayne’s famed yacht the Norwester, a renovated U.S. Navy Patrol boat, sank near Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island in Washington. The owners say it is unsalvagable.

Coast Guard officials said the yacht hit some submerged rocks that ripped a large hole in the hull.

“It would later be determined that there was in a fact a one-foot-by-four-foot hole in the hull,” Petty Officer Michael Clark of the U.S. Coast Guard told a local news station. “Water pumps aboard the vessel were unable to keep up with the flooding.”

Subsequently, the Coast Guard had to rescue all eight people on board.

“They hit hard,” one rescuer reported. “Everybody who was standing ended up sitting after the collision. We’re really glad nobody was hurt.” 

The owners originally had hoped to raise the sunk ship and repair it. They ever started a GoFundMe page to cover the costs. But after learning of the extensive damage they decided to return the money and remove the partially submerged boat. Though they said they’re fighting with their insurance companies to pay for the operation.

“We feel so blessed we got to share 3 1/2 years with her and made some of the best memories of our lives that we wouldn’t trade for anything,” Rick Rutherford wrote in the retracted GoFundMe page.

The Coast Guard also said there was no immediate danger to the environment. Divers pumped out the 500 gallons of diesel aboard to keep it from leaking into the ocean.

The King 5 news station toured the boat once owned by Wayne in 2017. When the former owners put the boat up for sale in 2016, they made a video tour of the vessel that featured photos of John Wayne and his family.

John Wayne’s Norwester Has a Storied History

John Wayne has owned a number of yachts in his lifetime. He loved to sail, but the Norwester was his first. He loved to take his family on the water to fish and enjoy the open ocean, his son has said.

“We had a lot of fun on Norwester,” Wayne’s son, Patrick Wayne, also an actor, said at one point, “but it wasn’t big enough with our huge extended family, so he eventually decided to buy the Wild Goose.” 

The Wild Goose was originally a World War II minesweeper that John Wayne bought and renovated in 1962. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Similar to the Wild Goose, the Norwester was a converted U.S. Navy vessel that was used as a patrol boat during WWII.

It was used as a floating John Wayne museum that featured some of his movie props before it was sold.