Monaco Yacht Show 2005 Live Coverage - SS Delphine She's a Lady
Originally launched by the Dodge family in 1921, SS Delphine is now grander and more sophisticated than ever
Sep. 21, 2005 03:45 AM
Vacations & Charters Magazine - News Coverage
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Jamie Edmiston Arrives to Monte Carlo With His Helicopter and Parks on Th e Roof of Hotel Port Palace
Originally launched by the Dodge family in 1921, SS Delphine is now grander and more sophisticated than ever, having incorporated every amenity today’s charter guests desire.
Most captains display a certain affection for their vessels, but Norwegian Captain Morton Hansen speaks of the 258ft SS Delphine as if she were a paragon, describing her as though she were an elegant, refined woman of whom he’s enamoured, and one for whom he shows the utmost respect. “She’s a lady,” Hansen says emphatically. “Treat her right, and she will give back.” And indeed she has. The opulently appointed steam yacht has responded well to a lengthy restoration process that has both brought her up to today’s standards and revived the beauty and glamour of her past.
When the current owners came upon SS Delphine in Marseilles in the mid-’90s, abandoned and disheveled, she still retained her fine bones and air of good breeding. “It was love at first sight for my father,” says the owner’s daughter, Ineke Bruynooghe, “and he bought her immediately.” Bruynooghe, a trained art historian, envisioned the possibilities for her father’s purchase, and began a restoration project that took almost six years. The vessel’s basic design remained intact, but she had been poorly refurbished in the 1960s. Bruynooghe’s goal was to restore Delphine to her original 1920s splendor, so she immersed herself in an historical research project that lasted for nearly two years before the actual work began. Bruynooghe located many original drawings and photos as a guide to historical accuracy, and was able to trace some suppliers of the yacht’s original furnishings. “The original arrangements were still there and we kept them as accurate as possible,” she says, though the yacht was in such a poor state, they had to pay special attention to where they were standing or “we [would wind up] one deck below.” Once the original style and décor were established, Bruynooghe, who was personally involved in every aspect of the restoration, faced the challenge of figuring out how new features could be integrated into the old style. For example, air conditioning ducts and electrical cables were placed inside the ceiling beams. Bruynooghe documented her extensive research in an elaborate book that took nearly a year to write.
SS Delphine’s History
The story of SS Delphine began prior to 1921 when she became the dream of American automobile mogul Horace Dodge. Dodge, who was as much a fan of boating as he was of cars, had always enjoyed spending time on the Great Lakes in Michigan, and started his own boat-building business. He was always trading up for bigger and better vessels, and although he used his yachts mostly for cocktail parties and as a base for watching yacht races, he sought something with additional overnight guest space. Thus, the idea for a steam yacht that could accommodate up to 20 guests was born.
Unfortunately, Dodge’s untimely death prevented him from realizing his dreams, but his wife Anna executed his plans for the yacht. SS Delphine was launched in 1921 in Michigan. Thanks to a quadruple steam expansion engine designed by Dodge prior to his death, she could travel at a rate of 15 knots. Only the finest materials and furnishings, including many by Tiffany, had been used in her design. There was even an electrical lighting fixture – a rarity at the time and a sign of great wealth – suspended in the cupola over the huge dining table. Dodge’s family enjoyed Delphine for several years until she caught fire and sank. Anna Dodge recovered her, and the beautiful vessel once again steamed through the Great Lakes region. The onset of World War II, however, set SS Delphine on a much different course. No longer was she used as a pleasure yacht. She was acquired for use by the U.S. Navy, and toward the end of the war, she became a venue for historical strategy sessions run by world leaders such as U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Although Anna Dodge bought Delphine back at the end of the war, she was later commissioned, under a variety of names, for work with charitable organizations and as a training ship for merchant seamen. Then came several purchases by companies with intentions to restore her, but none of their plans were ever carried out. Finally, a company from Singapore, with connections in France, arranged for SS Delphine’s transatlantic journey. She arrived in Marseilles, but once again, their plans to restore her were never undertaken. She sat abandoned for several years until 1997 when the Bruynooghes came into the picture and had her towed to Belgium for restoration. The family had been in the yacht business for over a decade and, ironically perhaps, the father was an avid collector of vintage automobiles. Delphine was to be their first yacht restoration project; their goal was to introduce a unique, historically based experience into the charter market.