|Isn’t She Lovely?|
Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren is in love, and not just with her husband.
By Eileen Mansfield - November 2003
I saw her as I pulled into the marina in Annapolis, Maryland. A picture of old-world class. Living history of a boating world long gone.
She was lovely in the way only a wooden boat can be.
“Wow, look at that boat,” I said to the captain of the power cat that, until I got distracted, I had been checking out. My brain immediately began churning with possible story ideas and schemes that would allow me to board her. “Oh, the S.S. Sophie?” he replied, as if seeing an 80-foot Trumpy was an everyday occurrence. “She belongs to Greta Van Susteren.”
My disappointment was obvious as I imagined how difficult it would be to get in touch with the host of Fox News’ primetime show On the Record.
But to my surprise, Van Susteren responded less than ten minutes after I sent her an e-mail. “I love all Trumpy boats and am very intrigued by the thought of promoting them in any magazine,” she wrote. “They are rare beauties. So few left.”
So few indeed.
After operating for more than a half-century, the Trumpy boatyard closed in 1973. In their heyday Trumpys were considered status symbols, and the client list read like a Who’s Who of America’s elite families: DuPont, Chrysler, Firestone, Guggenheim, Dodge. The New York Times called them the “Rolls-Royce of American motor yachts.” But of the more than 400 built—including Sequoia, the 104-footer that would become the presidential yacht for FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, Johnson, and Nixon (see “Saving Sequoia,” this story)—only about 100 still exist.
Sophie is one of them. She was built in 1947, the same year the company moved to Eastport, Maryland, from Gloucester, New Jersey, and is one of two boats that were started in one yard and then finished in the other. It was Van Susteren’s husband, John Coale, a D.C. litigator and partner at Coale Cooley Lietz, who first saw her in 1997. “We looked at Trumpys for years,” Coale recalls. “But we were only looking,” Van Susteren clarifies, although the look on Coale’s face clearly says otherwise.
It was Sequoia that piqued their interest in Trumpys. “We used to have a little Boston Whaler, and we’d putt around the Potomac,” Coale explains. “And almost every time we’d take the little boat out, we’d end up by the Sequoia.”
Coale first noticed S.S. Sophie (originally named Sea Play, later called Beau Rivage) in a marine magazine. A doctor had owned her for 18 years and decided to sell her after his children moved away and he spent less and less time on her. Fortunately she was well cared for, and when Van Susteren and Coale purchased her, little restoration was needed.
However, the saloon’s purple couch and rug had to go, and over time the couple made other small changes. It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago, however, that they made some adaptations to Sophie to better fit their lifestyles. Staterooms were redesigned to be offices that included sleeping arrangements. More specifically, the starboard-side stateroom was outfitted with something similar to a futon, and a Murphy bed was added to the port-side stateroom. Only the aft stateroom was left dedicated solely for sleeping. Topside, decks, rails, and stanchions were restored—as was the observation room (which Coale believes no other Trumpy has) on the forward deck—and a new anchor system was put in. “John and Aimee supervised the restoration,” Coale says, referring to Capt. John Russell and his wife and first mate, Aimee. “We wrote checks,” adds Van Susteren.
Before marrying Coale, Van Susteren wasn’t a boater. She started life in landlocked Appleton, Wisconsin. But Coale had grown up in Baltimore and done quite a bit of sailing, both in the States and overseas. He’d even had a sailboat sink on him during a storm back in the ‘70’s off the coast of Spain. “I try as I get older not to exaggerate,” he says knowingly. Van Susteren chimes in with, “As time goes by, that storm gets rougher. When [the story] first started, it was a sunny day.” The storm must have been a decent one, though, because it dismasted Coale’s boat and he had to be rescued by Portuguese fishermen.
Next page > Part 2: Sophie has become something of a home away from home for the couple. > Page 1, 2, 3, 4
This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.