John Wayne’s first great nautical love is now halfway below the sea. The Duke’s former yacht recently hit a reef and started to sink.
The incident occurred on April 17 near Stuart Island. The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Marine Patrol responded to an emergency out on the water. Responding deputies had to rescue eight passengers after their yacht started slipping below the water. That yacht was the 76-foot Norwester, the first yacht that Wayne ever bought.
Wayne’s former yacht struck a nearby reef and was taking on water in Prevost Harbor. Deputies helped the passengers and one dog onto their patrol boat. No one was injured in the incident.
“Several private boaters who had been in the area were also actively involved in the rescue effort. Their willingness to respond to such a tragedy is highly appreciated and a testament to the bond between fellow boaters,” Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Scott Huso said in the release.
John Wayne Bought His First Yacht
John Wayne first bought the Norwester from his manager in 1955. The Duke really didn’t have a choice in the matter. He took the vessel out on the open water and accidentally damaged the yacht in the process. While he may not have been the greatest captain, Wayne loved the sea.
He traveled on the yacht with his family and famous friends like Gary Cooper and Cary Grant. Later, Wayne sold the yacht and purchased a new seafaring vessel. In the years since Wayne’s death, the yacht became a floating museum in La Conner, Washington.
Before Wayne purchased the yacht, it reportedly served as a patrol boat in World War II. Due to the collision, Wayne’s former yacht now has a 1-foot gash in its lower hull. The sea vessel sits in the Prevost Harbor, half-submerged. An anchor stops the vessel from floating away.
For years, the yacht became a bit of a local attraction for the community. It was a way for fans of Wayne to examine another aspect of the great actor’s life. The current owner of the yacht is Rich Rutherford. He plans to fix the yacht if he can get the necessary funds. To help accomplish the goal, Rutherford started a Gofundme account. As of Saturday, April 24th, the account raised $14,233. But Rutherford is asking for $1.5 million in funds to fix Wayne’s former yacht.
“Despite the challenges of rescuing the boat, the Norwester’s owners and crew are not ready to give up on this piece of history or their dream to use the boat to fund cancer research,” the Gofundme page reads.