December 4th 2013. By Zuzana Prochazka.

Acania: Steel Fantail Yacht with a Colorful Past

This fantail yacht, built in 1929 and now available for purchase, offers the chance to own a piece of history.

The Pusey and Jones Corporation was a major shipbuilder and industrial-equipment manufacturer from 1848 to 1959 and its history is a tale of both tremendous success and ultimate failure. The company began with a partnership between Joshua Pusey and John Jones who formed a machine shop in a space rented from a whaling company in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1853, the company turned its attention to building ships, which over the years included paddlewheelers, war sloops, cargo ships, tugs, ferries and yachts including Volunteer, the winner of the 1887 America’s Cup.On the long roster of their creations was hull number 403, a 126-foot steel fantail yacht built in 1929 for a Wall Street banker named Arthur Wheeler to be his personal yacht.

schooner acania

Although over the years this yacht was also known as Murdona and Nellwood II, she eventually returned to her original moniker Acania.

Acania was designed by naval architect John H. Wells and was a superyacht of her time. She displaces nearly 250 tons, can carry 16 guests and six crew, is powered by twin 280 hp diesel engines and carries over 12,000 gallons of fuel. The ship was acquired by a French film director and gifted to the silent film actress Constance Bennett, who entertained aboard until the government appropriated the vessel for service in World War II.

Acania was then operated by the United States government for the next 40 years, and served numerous agencies. She was pressed into service for intelligence work and oceanographic research. When she returned to private hands in the mid-1980s, much of the vessel’s interior was rejuvenated or replaced, and her mechanical and electrical systems were modernized.

During World War I, Pusey and Jones grew to more than 2,000 employees. As World War II approached, military orders increased and the company employed more than 3,600 workers who built gunboats, minesweepers and even a Liberty-class cargo ship named Adabelle Lykes. After the war military orders dried up, and Pusey and Jones converted the shipyard to a papermaking facility until the company closed in 1959. It’s hard to believe a company of that magnitude could succumb to mismanagement or a post-war reduction in demand, but theirs is a tale of success as well. They may have started as a machine shop and ended as a papermaker, but in between, Pusey and Jones built over 500 ships—many of which are still afloat today. Acania is a fine example of their efforts and one worth saving. She is for sale in Seattle.

View the Acania listing here.

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 and, and also blogs regularly on her boat review site,