Sunday, April 27, 2014

Steam-Sail Yachts, a bygone era, "Sultana"


"Sultana" by Antonio Jacobsen

My cousins and I have been going over some old family photo's.  Some have been over 100 years old.  And typical of many, there is nothing written on them, to define them.  We have been trying to piece different bits of information to try to fill in the full story.  My Grandfather, Osmund (Oscar) Osmundsen is one of the most interesting subjects in that he sailed out of Stavanger, Norway as a 'Carpenters Apprentice', later settling in Bay ridge, Brooklyn, he became an expert rigger and yacht captain.
  I  know his first captains license was issued around 1911, the year my father was born.  In those days, photo's were rather scarce and mostly formally posed.  On the backs they are frequently printed up as 'post cards' (a penny stamp will do).  So it was unusual to find an old card with 'Pop' (as we all called him) as a hard working crew member on board 'Sultana'.  I had heard that name on the lips of both my father and grandfather and this picture-card must have predated 1911.  Also, the name Harriman, had been mentioned in various conversations I had overheard as a boy.

                                              Oscar Osmundsen, second row from top, first left from rail

The 'Sultana' was built in 1889 by Henderson & Robbins at Erie Basin (Brooklyn) NY for Trenor Park who was a 'silk merchant' and Harvard graduate.  Sultana's launching was witnessed by 500 guests and 1000 spectators.
The New York Times covered the launching of the 187 foot, 3 mast, topsail schooner which cost an estimated $150,000. Mr. & Mrs. Park plans were to sail it around the world  with a group of friends. (The New York Times, pub. Dec. 19, 1889).  Mrs. Park who later sold the boat on her husbands death in 1907, was quoted to have spent her honeymoon aboard the yacht and stated they crossed the Atlantic around 75 times.
In 1907 Mrs. E.H. Harriman of  NYC, became owner.  She was the widow of railroad baron, E.H. Harriman. The life preserver in the picture above was hand labeled with an old style fountain pen 'Sultana' 'N.Y.Y.C. which signified  New York Yacht Club.

 The 'Times' stated the 'Sultana' was launched under the white-starred burgee of the Corinthian Yacht Club of NY, a club founded in 1871.   Park was also member of the NYYC and Commadore of the American Yacht Club. Mrs.Harriman was elected into the NYYC in 1910;-  in any event there are pictures and references sighting the 'Sultana' flew the NYYC burgee.

"Sultana" anchored 1892 

In 1917 the 390 ton yacht was lent under free lease, by Mrs. Harriman to the U S Navy during WWI and outfitted with four 3" guns and two machine guns.  As the USS Sultana (Sp-134) she sailed in a task force to France, arriving on July 4th, 1917,   where she rescued 45 survivors of the merchant ship Orleans which had been torpedoed the day before. USS Sultana landed the survivors in Brest, France where she remained on duty till December 5, 1918.  She was decommissioned and returned to Mrs. Harriman on February 17, 1919.
USS Sultana (Sp-134) during her service in WWI 

Interesting where an old post card photograph can lead. Drop me a line if you know any of the other men on board 'Sultana', pictured above or have any pics of the ship.  We understand the yacht transfered hands 9 times after Harriman sold it.  

Best wishes, Bill