John Wayne Once Sailed Seas with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and More: Story Behind the Star-Studded Voyages

by Matthew Wilson
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All aboard the S.S. John Wayne. Or the Wild Goose to be more exact. When he wasn’t busy being a cowboy, the actor loved being out at sea. So much so that he fashioned a 136-foot Navy minesweeper into a home out on the ocean.

The Wild Goose was Wayne’s escape from fame and the prying eye of the public. The floating home gave the actor to cut loose and be himself. He could be Marion Morrison instead of John Wayne, the character he carefully crafted for the silver screen. Ironically, Wayne had some pretty famous shipmates as well. He took close friends like Henry Fonda and director John Ford out to tropical locations.

“Where he really lived his life was on boats, or on the beach. When he got on the boat, he could let all that go,” Wayne’s son Ethan Wayne told Vanity Fair.

Famous Friends

He also had a variety of famous celebrities out on his star-studded voyages. For instance, Dean Martin joined the Duke on one of his voyages. Martin was of course known for being the King of Cool and for his singing talents. Not to be outdone, Sammy Davis Jr., Tom Jones, and Frank Sinatra also joined Wayne out on the open ocean. Apparently, Sinatra had forgiven Wayne for punching out his bodyguard. Wayne was a hit with famous musicians.

“Frank Sinatra would come around,” Ethan Wayne said. “Sammy Davis Jr. would charter the boat. Tom Jones would charter the boat, America the band, or Dennis Wilson [of the Beach Boys]—he was around everyone. He was a huge, huge star.”

Besides musicians, Wayne also invited sports legends like Duke Kahanamoku, who popularized surfing. The Duke had a bodysurfing accident early in life to thank for his future career. But Wayne and Kahanamoku would party on the beach as his young son marveled.

John Wayne Loved to Spend Time with Family

But Wayne also used his boat as a chance to spend time with his family and children. The Waynes would head for beaches in Mexico or British Columbia. They would also fish for lunch whenever the opportunity struck. The actor had several children late in his life including Ethan.

Wayne realized at the time that he wouldn’t be there for his children late in their lives so he wanted to make the moments count.

“He took me with him because he knew once I became a teenager, I’d kind of leave him for a while,” Ethan Wayne. “He said, ‘Boys leave when they’re teenagers. They don’t come back until they’re in their 30s. And I won’t be there for Ethan when he comes back, so I’m gonna take him with me now.’”

The boat became a part of history, registered on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s anchored in Newport Beach.

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