Masterpieces sail home Elegance: Luxury yachts built by John Trumpy return to Annapolis to participate in Whitbread and other festivities.


It's no surprise that the Trumpy is called the Rolls Royce of powerboats.

No two were built alike. They are as distinctive as their modern counterparts, the nine Whitbread Round the World sailing boats, are sleek and Spartan.

From the towering smokestacks to the gilded, decorative T embossed on the bow, Trumpys are the elegant wood masterpieces created by John Trumpy and Sons, designer and builder of luxury yachts for the rich, famous and presidential in Annapolis until a quarter-century ago.

In a rare moment of old meets new, organizers of the Whitbread's visit to sailing-crazed Annapolis coaxed the Trumpys back home.

Thousands visited Annapolis yesterday to glimpse the Trumpys and other historic boats visiting during Whitbread weekend in Maryland's capital. The weekend culminates today with the restart of the round-the-world race, the spring boat show, a waterfront festival and the Bay Bridge walk.

The Trumpys will escort the Whitbread fleet to just north of the Bay Bridge today, where the eighth leg of the race to La Rochelle, France, will begin.

"They are absolutely gorgeous," Susan Jones, a self-proclaimed Trumpy aficionado from Annapolis, said yesterday. "It's a shame they aren't built here anymore. But it's so special to have them here in Annapolis for this occasion."

The colorful history of John Trumpy begins in Norway, where he was the fourth generation of boat builders in his family. He came to America in 1908 and worked at a boatyard in New Jersey until he moved with his two sons, John Jr. and Donald, to Annapolis in 1947.

They purchased the Annapolis Yacht Yard in Eastport -- now the site of the Chart House Restaurant, Backyard Boats and other maritime businesses -- with the sole purpose of building luxury boats.

Hundreds of custom-made Trumpys were built with one criterion: that when the craftsmen were done, the boat was perfect.

Perhaps 90 of them survive.

Of the nine grand old ladies in town, the 61-foot houseboat called the Seaholm was the first built in Annapolis, in 1947. The last was the Sirius, a 60-foot houseboat built in 1973 shortly before the yard closed.

The boats ranged from a 58-foot cruiser to an 85-foot houseboat built when Trumpy was still in New Jersey. The best-known of his New Jersey works of art is also in town, the 1925 wood-hulled pleasure yacht the USS Sequoia, which served eight U.S. presidents for more than 44 years.

"These boats have a beautiful feel to it," said Luke L. Phipps, owner of the 60-foot-4-inch houseboat, the White Star, built in 1967 and now used for charter in the Kent Narrows. "The wood has soul to it. You can feel it.

"They are floating dreams," he said.

To see them is to understand why people like Henry and Monica Lovell of Alexandria, Va., can't help but gawk "at those big, expensive toys."

A stark contrast to the light-weight engineering marvels of the Whitbread 60s -- eight of which were designed by Annapolis-based naval architect Bruce Farr & Associates -- the boxy shape of the Trumpys are completely on the other end of the spectrum.

On the 68-foot cruiser Liberty, glass windows enclose the teak aft deck and its wraparound couch. Black-walnut-paneled walls grace the inside of a main salon filled with ornate couches and plush carpeting. Teak railings lead down a winding staircase to the stateroom, which sleeps six.

Mahogany screened doors open to the pilot room with its original compass.

Next to it, an elegant dining salon leads below to a stainless-steel galley with refrigerator, stove and microwave. On the third floor, three bunks in the crew's quarters and more closet space are found.

Two 280-horsepowered engines, three air-conditioning units and an electric power generator keep Rick and Suggie Cary of Meadowbrook, Pa., in virtual bliss. As an added bonus, they are hosting Trumpy's granddaughters, Sigrid and Trudy, for the parade of sails today for the Whitbread departure.

"I'm not interested in winning trans-Atlantic races," said Rick Cary, an electronic engineer who grew up on his father's 40-foot motor sailer. "I wanted something that was comfortable. These were not designed for the open ocean.

"A 40-foot wave out there would go right through these windows and spoil the whole afternoon, maybe even ruin the furniture," he joked.

Naturally, such elegance comes at a high cost. Many of the Trumpys cost $400,000 or more to build. It would take at least $2 million to build a Trumpy now.

That is why people like Peter and Susanne Max of Wye River spent four years trying to track down a classic Trumpy through brokerages, boating magazines and maritime organizations.

The couple spent as much money to fix it up as they did to buy it, Peter Max said. "People who own Trumpys, it doesn't happen by mistake. They dream about them. They admire them from afar and then they go find one," he said.

"And to be here at Whitbread means a lot because it's a recognition of the role of Trumpy in this area's maritime heritage, which is what this event in Annapolis has been all about," said jTC Peter Max, an economic consultant.

The Maxes' membership in the Trumpy clan began two years ago when they bought the Sirius from Bill and Suzanne Steitz of Pittsburgh, who were visiting Annapolis this week for Whitbread when nostalgia beckoned.

"There was nothing better than to sit on the front of this boat on the Intracoastal Highway with the sun shining in your face and the porpoises swimming along the side," Bill Steitz said after a peep through his old boat. "I fell in love with her."

The reason he gave it up?

"I have too many boats," he said with a sigh.

Pub Date: 5/03/98

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