May 14th 2014. By Zuzana Prochazka.

Weatherbird: French Schooner of Intrigue

This classic sailing yacht still evokes the Lost Generation.

All old boats have history, but some old boats have mystery. Weatherbird, a French two-masted schooner that still offers luxury accommodations in the Med, is one such vessel with plenty of intriguing backstory to make her, and her new owner, the talk of the dock.

schooner

Weatherbird is more than merely an old schooner; this sailing yacht carried luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Weatherbird was built for Sara and Gerald Murphy, a jet-setting American couple born of high society. Gerald’s family fortune was made by his father, a leather goods purveyor who started the Mark Cross Company. Sara’s family was well-known in East Hampton, where they had a 30-room mansion famously named the “Dunes.” The couple were contemporaries of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker and Pablo Picasso, and were deeply entrenched in the artist community of 1930s Paris. They settled on the French Riviera and commissioned a new yacht that served as a muse to them as well as to many onboard artist guests. Fernand Léger created a series of watercolor paintings of the schooner and it is rumored that Fitzgerald portrayed the Murphy couple as the main characters in his novel, Tender is the Night. If only Weatherbird could talk about the comings and goings of her notorious guests, what tales would she tell of the Lost Generation.

The Murphys were generous and became the heart of the “Transatlantiques,” as expatriated Americans at leisure were called. Gerald became a cubist artist in his own right and they enjoyed la dolce vita until their return to the States in the mid 1930s.

Weatherbird’s design was the work of Russian aristocrat Victor Orloff and Frenchman Henri Rambaud, and the yacht was built in Chantiers Navals De Normandie in 1931. Her oak hull carries a teak deck and house. At 100 feet long, 20 feet on the beam, and a 12-foot draft, Weatherbird was a remarkable superyacht of her time. A complete refit in 1998 was done in Italy at the Cantieri Dell’ Argentario shipyard, and Weatherbird now sails under the Maltese flag.

Today, Weatherbird can carry up to eight guests and a crew of five. Her single 200 hp Mercedes engine provides an impressive nine-knot cruising speed and she carries enough fuel to have a range of 1,000 miles. Her history-imbued elegance pairs with modern creature comforts including updated navigational electronics, new stainless-steel tanks, a 17kW genset, inverters, a 1000 amp-hour battery bank, bow thruster, watermaker, refrigeration including ice maker, and a washing machine. There is simply no roughing it while pretending to chat with Hemingway about his latest short story.

Weatherbird is for sale in Italy for $2.5 million. Perhaps the next group of Transatlantiques she carries will be as famous and notorious as the first of the Lost Generation.



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.