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The Pilot Boat New York

The Pilot Boat New York, (New York Times, 16 November 1951)

The story of the Nakhoda cum Zircon cum New York has fascinated me. Primarily, I suppose, because of my dad’s lack of conversation about his relationship with the vessel. As I’ve said, the one or two times I might have asked him about his time in the Navy, he said that he worked on a minesweeper, the USS YMS-75, despite that his most consequential actions as a sailor came while on the Zircon.

You see, I would have expected that the story of having served in the Navy on a yacht might have been an interesting one to tell, because of its un-usualness. I mean, who goes into the Navy expecting to be assigned to a former luxury yacht?

Of course, by the time the Navy renovated it for military service, it wasn’t the same ship upon which Frederick J. Fisher cruised the Great Lakes, or sailed to Miami, Florida, or partied with the other millionaires and politicians of his day. But I’ve been told that there were remnants of its former luxury despite the conversion to a war vessel.

Transforming the USS Zircon (PY-16) to the New York (Photo dated: 25 June 1951, Staten Island Advance )

It is thanks to NavSource that I first learned of the ship’s history from its construction until the time it disappeared from registries.

I contacted the Sandy Hook Pilots Association, hoping that there would be photos of the ship in the association’s archives, but after receiving a response to my initial email, I’ve not heard squat from the group, despite following up with several emails.

I also contacted the grandson of the millionaire, John Mecom, who purchased the New York when the pilots association built and commissioned a brand new ship in 1972. He told me that he accompanied his grandfather to New York to get the New York and sail it to the Houston area. According to NavSource, the New York‘s fate was unknown after 1973, but I found a forum online somewhere (I haven’t been able to find it again since) in which someone had heard that it had run aground in Key West in 1973. Mecom’s grandson confirmed that something had happened to the ship, and that his grandfather made an attempt to rehabilitate it, but he couldn’t recall any specifics.

After emailing a fellow at the Port of Galveston, he found documentation that it had indeed run aground, but not in Key West in 1973… in Corpus Christi in 1985.

I realize that it’s probably not likely, but I hope that the ship is still afloat somewhere as a houseboat.

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