There can be no doubt the century-old Cangarda steam yacht1 has had as many lives as owners but one chapter in the vintage vessel's odyssey from the Golden Age to the bottom of the Boston Harbor to a remarkable restoration is often overlooked.
That chapter belongs to a man named Frederick Burtis Smith who quietly lived aboard the famous Victorian steam yacht for three decades in Rochester N.Y.
This oversight was recently pointed out by Louis Richards of Rochester in response to last month's story in Thousand Islands Life magazine about the restoration of the Cangarda by California venture capitalist Bob McNeil.
Smith, the son of a wealthy attorney in Minneapolis Minnesota, was an architect in New York City who socialized with the Rockefellers during the roaring 1920's. The life-long bachelor lived aboard boats for 60 years, racing his 104-foot motor-yacht off Miami's shores against noted yachtsman John Barrymore from Flagler Street to Havana Harbor.
The veteran yachtsman made the Cangarda home, mooring the 138-foot boat at a railroad dock in Rochester between 1953 and 1983, said Smith's friend, Richards.
"It is a chapter in the story of the steam yacht that is frequently missing," said Richards, a concert pianist whose family befriended Smith when Richards was a child. "He was its faithful guardian. He kept all the pieces together."
Smith and the Cangarda's story started the same time in April 1901. "They were both launched in the same month of the same year," noted Richards.
The antique vessel - one of only several steam yachts in the world - has undergone a $12 million restoration by Rutherford Boat Shop in Richmond California - and is voyaging again. The boat will be kept at its owner's summer home and on display at a maritime museum in Mystic Connecticut during the winters.
Describing Smith as a "retiring, very proper Edwardian gentleman," Richards said the yachtsman always wore a tie and suit jacket, liked to listen to classical music and read the New York Times aboard the vessel, occasionally throwing dinner parties in Cangarda's lavish living quarters he decorated with antique furniture.
He lived aboard the Cangarda until he was in his 80's, moving to Rochester's University Club for the last few years of his life. He died in 1987 at the age of 86. "One day another member invited Burt to go for a ride in his new car," recalled Richards. "When they were seated inside, a friend asked, 'Have you ever ridden in a Rolls-Royce before'? "Well, never in the front seat" Burt replied ."
He said Smith moved to Rochester from Miami "simply because it was a place to dock the boat, adding: "He realized the importance of this yacht when no one else did."
"His greatest vision was the boat would go to Clayton's Antique Boat Museum," he said.
Smith's plan was to sensitively restore the yacht to her original condition but financial reverses made that impossible.
The Cangarda has survived a sex scandal, war service, sinking in the Boston Harbor, and a near capsizing on its first voyage after its elaborate restoration before righting itself in the waters off San Francisco. She has also hosted lavish parties, weddings and dignitaries including royalty and Canadian and British prime ministers.
The vessel was first launched in 1901 in the Delaware River, christened the Cangarda by her first owner, Michigan lumberman Charles Canfield and his wife Belle. It had a rocky first voyage - not due to the steam yacht - but to Charles Canfield. He engaged in an 'indiscretion' with a young female guest onboard in his first and last cruise, resulting in a most expensive divorce and the sale of the Cangarda to colourful Canadian Senator George T. Fulford in 1904.
The Fulfords rechristened it the Magedoma, derived from the names of George's wife and children, Mary, George, Dorothy and Martha. Like the first owner, the Brockville millionaire who made his fortune on 'Pink Pills for Pale People' enjoyed the yacht but briefly. He was killed in a 1905 motor vehicle accident, perhaps one of the first in North America.
Mary Fulford is credited with keeping the Magedoma, moored outside the family's stately Edwardian estate in the St. Lawrence River, for decades until the steam yacht was conscripted by the Canadian navy during World War II.
Richards said it is likely Smith purchased the steam yacht from J. Gordon Edington of Toronto and London England after the war. He changed the name back to the Cangarda. Richard Reedy of Gloucester, Mass. acquired the vessel in 1983, towing her to Boston and disassembling the boat, spending $850,000 restoring the yacht in the 1980s.
Reedy was unable to complete the project and the gutted hull sank in the Boston Harbor. It was about to be scrapped when Elizabeth Meyers, "the saviour of classic yachts" came to the rescue buying the vessel, selling the Cangarda to McNeil in 2002.
Her faithful guardian and longest-serving resident aboard would more than approve of the makeover, said Richards.
"He'd be happy as Hell," he said of his friend Smith. "It was the most important thing to him the yacht be restored and preserved...I'm sure Burt is smiling now."
By Kim Lunman
In May, 2010 Kim Lunman wrote Fulford's Steam Yacht Afloat Again and soon after received additional information that led to this sequel. Kim has been writing about the Thousand Islands since her return to her hometown of Brockville in 2008. In fact, we have published 30 articles in TI Life. At the beginning of May 2010, Kim's new company, Thousand Islands Ink, distributed 25,000 copies of Island Life, as an insert in eastern Ontario with distribution through the EMC papers and in New York though the Thousand Islands Sun.
Comment to TI life by: Scott Baldwin ( San Diego ), Left at: 9:48 PM Thursday, June 03, 2010: “For those that might be in the area, the “Cangarda” is currently visiting the San Diego Maritime Museum, and is open to the public. It will be at the Museum until at least June 10th, and probably longer, as it is awaiting transport by ship to the east coast. It is tied up alongside the Museum's own restored Edwardian steam yacht, the Medea. These are two of the three remaining Edwardian steam yachts left in the world. On May 15th the two participated in a race on San Diego Bay, with the Medea beating the Cangarda by a nose. So if you are visiting San Diego stop by the Maritime museum and have a look.”
See Fulford's Steam Yacht Afloat Again, written by Kim Lunman, Thousand Islands life Magazine, May 2010.