The Yankee Traveler
“USS PC-619 (Aka “Old Rust Bucket”/ “The Blue Angel”)
“The keel of the USS PC-619 was laid down on the 29th of April, 1942 in Neponset, Massachusetts, at the shipyard of George Lawley & Sons. The 173 ft. 350 ton vessel was launched on the 15th of August, 1942. Her sponsor was Miss Ester Whiting, daughter of Lawley shipyard’s general manager Edward D. Whiting …”
Ed was a genius when it came to marine and naval architecture, and he was a dear friend. Even though Lawley’s was shut down at war’s end – like so many other small but critical shipyards throughout the country – Ed Whiting retained his status as the Navy’s leading minesweeper authority on the East Coast, and eventually he set up shop at the Quincy Adams Yacht Yard.
Thankfully, he and other shipbuilding specialists were never again called upon to address a national emergency, so Ed spent his remaining days building and designing yachts of every size and description. And he was good at it.
In one of his buildings, Ed was building a prototype 53′ cabin cruiser which would be known as the “Yankee Traveler”. It was a hush-hush project that we were sure would revolutionize the boat-building industry, and we were privileged to be allowed to watch the progressive stages of construction. We were also privileged to be selected by Ed to market those remarkable cruisers.
“Remarkable” is an apt description of Ed’s designing feat because he was reducing the time and the cost of construction of these 53-footers by approximately one-half. The selling price of the “Yankee Traveler” would be proportionally reduced, as a result, and a number of prospective buyers were salivating.
When we left Ed’s office on a Friday afternoon, we scheduled an afternoon meeting for the following Monday, and it was probably the only time Ed ever stood anyone up. He passed away over that weekend, and he took the “Yankee Traveler” with him.
Shipbuilding lost a giant that day and we miss his genius and his kind disposition. That was in the late 50s. A few weeks later, while attempts were being made to piece together the engineering innovations that Ed had devised, the entire building that housed his fledgling creation collapsed with a thunderous roar. Amid the rubble was the remains of what might have been … It was as though Ed had acted from afar and declared that the “Yankee Traveler” was his baby, and no one else’s.
If Ed were alive today, he’d be in Washington, DC, reminding everyone that it was Lawley’s, and Fore River, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Cramp, and Sparrow’s Point, and Kaiser, and Kearney, and a host of now-shuttered facilities that pulled our chestnuts out of the fire in the 30s and 40s.
Ed would get things back on track. He was good at it.