April 19th 2013. By Zuzana Prochazka.

Cape James, Known as FP-47 in WWII, Available as Comfortable Liveaboard

The signal ship of General MacArthur, now converted to a liveaboard, is for sale and ready to cruise the tropics.

If owning a piece of history is your thing, why not consider a renowned ship that served as a floating broadcast facility in World War II? Better yet, what if that stately ship has since been converted to a liveaboard retirement home with all the comforts of a second home? Sounding better, isn’t it?

Check out Cape James, known originally as FP-47, which was launched in 1944 from the Martinloch Shipyard in Richmond on San Francisco Bay. She was dispatched to Sydney, Australia where she was outfitted with the latest radio equipment including 500-watt Morse Code transmitters and various voice radios. From there she sailed to the Hollandia base in Papua New Guinea to be used as a signal ship for General Douglas MacArthur.

Cape James at the dock

Cape James was a signalling ship in World War II and has since been restored as a liveaboard.

FP-47 often accompanied a much larger and older communications ship called the Apache. At 185 feet, the Apache had been saved from the scrap heap and given a new life in the South Pacific. The history is murky as to which ship primarily served Navy operations versus which one served more for news and publicity broadcasts. As they sailed together, FP-47 was known as the “Little Ship,” but she sent between 7,000 and 11,000 code groups a day. She sailed to the Philippines and Borneo and the rumor is that two Japanese planes were shot down from her decks. The official radio code for the FP-47 was “Bedpan.”

After the war, it seems she spent time tending to Indian affairs up the coast to Alaska as the Mount Edgecumbe (a dormant Alaskan volcano) before making her way to Newfoundland, where she worked in the fishing industry. She was eventually rescued from a fishing trawler graveyard and restored by a couple who used her as a retirement home in the tropics.

Cape James saloon

The dining table seats eight, and the galley has many modern comforts.

Cape James needs some TLC in terms of her systems and wooden structure, but when it comes to her creature comforts, there’s not much missing. The galley has a giant Wolf range, a Miele dishwasher, Miele washer and dryer, a Frigidaire side-by-side refrigerator and stylish black granite countertops. She has a board room dining table that seats eight and five cabins with showers and a tub in the captain’s quarters.

At 115 feet LOA, Cape James is not small, even if she was referred to as the “Little Ship” in her glory days. There’s plenty of power from two gensets, two 3 kW inverters and a large 24V battery bank. Range and comfort are certainly not a concern since she carries 9,000 gallons of fuel in four tanks and 6,000 gallons of fresh water, also in four tanks. The twin Cummins diesels turn two 3-blade 68-inch bronze propellers and with a draft of just nine feet, Cape James can go just about everywhere except into the skinniest waters. Oh, and no worries about sticking yourself to the ground safely; there are also two 350-pound Danforth anchors.

All five cabins have private showers.

Cape James is for sale in St. Petersburg, Florida for $925,000. What price would you put on a piece of real history?

For more info, visit the Cape James listing,



Zuzana Prochazka
Zuzana Prochazka is a writer and photographer who freelances for a dozen boating magazines and websites. A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana has cruised, chartered and skippered flotillas in many parts of the world and serves as a presenter on charter destinations and topics. She is the Chair of the New Product Awards committee, judging innovative boats and gear at NMMA and NMEA shows, and currently serves as immediate past president of Boating Writers International. She contributes to Boats.com and YachtWorld.com, and also blogs regularly on her boat review site, TalkoftheDock.com.