Expedition Sailing Ship, History of The Legendary Sea Cloud

History of the Sailing Ship Sea Cloud

It might sound audacious to those who haven’t seen her, but anyone who has ever sailed aboard the legendary Sea Cloud cruise ship on our Caribbean Adventure Cruise will tell you that she is arguably the most beautiful ship on the water. She was built to be exactly that, with four masts, thirty sails, more teak than any other sailing ship of the day, and mahogany cabins specifically designed to impress. But Sea Cloud was also built to be a great sailing ship, cruising the waters of the world under full sail for the pure joy and exhilaration of sailing. Sea Cloud today is not only a legendary and historical ship, but she remains an impressive and active adventure cruise sailing ship providing an experience unequaled in the 21st century. And yes, she sails.

One of the most prominent couples of the “Roaring 20’s” was millionaire heiress Marjorie Meriwether Post, the formidable heiress to her father’s Postum and General Foods Corporations, and the debonair financier and yachtsman E. F. (“Ned”) Hutton. Hutton already had his fourth yacht, the Hussar IV, when he married Marjorie in 1920, but the couple soon drew up the plans for the greatest sailing yacht the world has seen, and in 1931 the Hussar V — later to be the great sailing ship Sea Cloud — was launched in Kiel, Germany. As an accomplished sailor, Hutton had considerable input in the technical design of the ship, while Marjorie put herself in charge of the interior design, supposedly never asking the price of a single item.

All ships have distinct personalities, and numerous lives, but only ships that are sailed hard, cared for, used, and loved develop a soul. Ned and Marjorie sailed the ship hard for the four years they had her together, and in that time Hussar V became well known as one of the world’s great sailing ships. But the marriage was not to last, and when the couple split in 1935, Marjorie quickly remarried and renamed the ship Sea Cloud, painting it white and branding it with the elegance and style that it maintains today. Her new husband Joseph Davies was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt as ambassador to Russia in 1936, and Sea Cloud became a diplomatic vessel, with Marjorie and Joseph Davies hosting and entertaining heads of state and diplomats throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. The whole world knew of Sea Cloud and eagerly sought an honored invitation. 

It is hard to believe that a gorgeous ship like Sea Cloud could have been demasted and used for naval service in WWII, or sold to the dictator of the Dominican Republic to be used as a floating brothel by his son, or end up as a rusting hull leaning on the tidal flats of Colon, Panama. But because of those first ten years of hard sailing and international entertaining, the Sea Cloud cruise ship had a soul, and there was always someone that recognized it and knew that it had to be revived.

In 1978, two years after New York’s bicentennial “OpSail” had rekindled worldwide interest in tall ships, German captain and maritime historian Hartmudt Paschburg, convinced a group of Hamburg cargo shipping magnates to refloat Sea Cloud to cross the Atlantic, and restore her as a historic vessel. The consortium decided to add to the original 10 cabins by tactfully placing additional cabins on top of the original dining room and lounge, and on the open deck space behind the mizzen mast. The sailing ship Sea Cloud was launched as a yacht for charter, and in 1983 Sven Olof Lindblad went aboard on the coast of Turkey and like many others, fell in love with the ship. Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic began chartering Sea Cloud in 1985, and the authenticity of a true tall ship experience has remained with us to this day. The complete refurbishing of Sea Cloud in 2009 gave the ship a new lease on life, and anyone who sails on her today will tell you that Sea Cloud remains a ship with true soul.

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