|Grand Old Girl|
Herculean efforts turn a heroic WWII Warrior-class tug into a spectacular yacht.
By Capt. Bill Pike — May 2002
As soon as Dennis Washington heard the St. Eval was for sale he dispatched his port captain Fred Larsson straight to Merry Olde England. What a find--a 105-foot brute of a tugboat built and launched near Glasgow, Scotland, in 1929, with a past as rip-roaring and romantic as a whole shelf of Conrad. Washington was a total tugboat guy, of course. A lover of vintage vessels, he also headed up a vast seafaring empire of more contemporary ones, with a commercial fleet of harbor, coastal, and oceangoing tugs plying Pacific Northwest waters.
Larsson bought the St. Eval and during the crossing to America, he promptly fell as deeply in love with the gutsy old beauty as Washington had. Standing next to the engine-order telegraph in the wheelhouse watching the massive bow shoulder aside one ocean swell after another with perfunctory assurance, he could almost feel the wild and wonderful life she'd led. Shackling up to the last of the big, grain-trade square-riggers during the 30s and towing them into the open ocean or to busy wharves to discharge cargo. Repeatedly coming to the rescue of torpedoed warships and freighters in the English Channel during the depths of the Second World War. Escorting to sea some of the most famous ships of the post-war twentieth century, among them the Britannia and Queen Mary. And finally, during the more recent 80s, standing refurbished and ready as a tender for English yachtsman Peter De Savary's gallant but failed assault on the America's Cup.
Washington's plans for the St. Eval were ambitious. Instead of doing a mere tug-to-yacht conversion, he wanted to create one of the most stately, tastefully decorated tugs afloat, with a brand new yacht-grade interior to perfectly match the era of her birth. A good measure of the man's commitment to the task was an announcement that the St. Eval would henceforward remain in the Washington family in perpetuity. Washington would not sell the boat during his lifetime, he said, and his lawyers would prevent a sale by any family member afterwards.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.