Part fishing yacht, part piece of American history, the Ida May, located in Northern California, has come on the market and with that, her magnificent background has surfaced once more. The 46-foot, 20-ton Ida May was built by Hugh Angleman in 1926, a designer later known for his world-cruising ketch-rigged sailboats. She was built for an unfathomable cost for the times, $120,000, for industrialist and John Deere co-founder Willard Van Brunt. With a triple-planked mahogany hull, she could reach speeds of 35 knots and hosted the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Zane Grey and even President Herbert Hoover on her regular fishing trips off Catalina Island in Southern California.
When Van Brunt died unexpectedly of an injury, the yacht was bought by Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame. Laurel renamed her Ruth-L after his wife, and a parade of Hollywood celebrities commenced to gracing her decks. Laurel’s guests included Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, Orson Wells, Joseph Kennedy, Cecil B. DeMille, W.C. Fields, Bing Crosby, Gloria Swanson, Babe Ruth, Liberace, and Oliver Hardy, among others.
Laurel was a member of Catalina’s exclusive Tuna Club and he loved game fishing. When he wasn’t golfing with Hardy, Laurel could be found fishing for everything from salmon in Northern California to marlin in the waters off Los Angeles. Laurel sold the yacht to Jonah Jones, Howard Hughes’ attorney and founder of the Long Beach Yacht Club. A different list of celebrities came aboard including Donald Douglas of Douglas Aircraft, heavyweight fighter Jack Dempsey and of course, Howard Hughes himself. At some point, it is rumored that even the Prince of Kuwait found his way aboard.
Ida May was restored about a decade ago and the ship still shows well—although more work needs to be done to maintain a vessel of this age. Her varnished teak interior shines in light that comes in from beveled glass windows. She still features the original tackle boxes, bait well, and the brass supports for the fighting chairs (since replaced). Laurel only removed the ship’s clock that he kept on his desk, never again purchasing another boat. Ida May was renamed to her original moniker by her latest owner, although she has also been known as Nada III. She carries 500 gallons of fuel in three tanks and can accommodate six for overnight passages or up to 20 on day trips.
Ida May has been listed in the National Park Service Department of the Interior as a Historic Ship and appears on the National Registry of Historic Places. With her posting for sale, many classic yacht collectors have taken note and her history has been detailed online again. You don’t have to be a fisherman to appreciate her classic lines and rich personal story which is a part of Americana—and fishing from her deck may be just the closest you’ll ever come to mingling with Hollywood royalty of yesteryear.
Visit the listing for Ida Mae.