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Introduction: The Majestic 1939 Elco Motor Yacht Riptide

Step back in time and prepare to be captivated by the incredible story of the 1939 Elco motor yacht Riptide. With a history that spans over eight decades, this majestic vessel has seen it all – from its early years as the flagship of the Elco fleet to its stint in the movie industry and its current state of graceful aging.

Riptide 1939 Elco Motor Yacht exterior view
Courtesy of Chuck Hovey Yachts

Origins and Early Years: Flagship of the Elco Fleet

Originally named DO-HO, Riptide made its debut at the prestigious New York Boat Show in 1939, where it caught the eye of none other than Howard Johnson, the renowned restaurateur. This 53-foot beauty boasted a spacious owner’s stateroom at the stern, complete with a private head and shower, followed by two guest staterooms and a guest head. The midships featured a large saloon, while the galley and crew quarters were located at the bow. Powered by twin Hall-Scott engines generating 250 horsepower, Riptide could reach an impressive top speed of 26 miles per hour.

Howard Johnson's Restaurant, the entrepreneur owned Riptide in its early days
Courtesy of Boston Public Library

After a brief period under Howard Johnson’s ownership, Riptide embarked on a decade-long journey, changing hands three times and acquiring different names along the way, briefly known as Alchade and then Southwind. During this time, the yacht cruised the Eastern seaboard and the Great Lakes, even serving coastal security duty with the US Coast Guard during World War II.

Mobster’s Paradise: Riptide as the Official Hospitality Boat

In 1950, Riptide found itself in the possession of the infamous mobster “Mo” Dalitz, who had played a significant role in the construction of Las Vegas. Mo transported the Southwind (as it was known then) to Lake Mead and designated it as the official hospitality boat for his Desert Inn Resort. However, the yacht’s glamorous journey didn’t end there. In 1954, it relocated to San Diego, marking the beginning of a remarkable 56-year stretch as a Southern California boat under a series of owners.

Portrait of "Mo" Dalitz, previous owner of Riptide
Courtesy of The Mob Museum

Hollywood Stardom: Riptide’s Television Debut

But it was in 1983 that Riptide truly became a star. Under the ownership of Vlad Worotko, the yacht was leased to Stephen J Canal Productions and made its television debut as the title character in the private eye show “Riptide.” The vessel’s transom displayed the iconic name for the first time, forever linking the yacht to its on-screen persona.

As the star of the show, Riptide charmed audiences with its timeless elegance and undeniable presence. The vessel’s transom proudly displayed the iconic name “Riptide,” forever linking it to the beloved television series. Week after week, viewers tuned in to witness the thrilling adventures of the show’s protagonists and the undeniable allure of the yacht itself.

Riptide TV Show Intro, showing snippets of the 1939 Elco Ripetide Motor Yacht

However, the demanding lifestyle of the movie industry took its toll on Riptide. The late nights and bustling parties began to show, and by 1997, it was evident that the yacht needed a fresh start. New owners stepped in and officially renamed the vessel Riptide, paying homage to its television stardom and embracing its newfound identity.

With unwavering determination, the new owners embarked on an impressive 25-year restoration and improvement program. Their dedication and passion ensured that Riptide would not only shine in the memories of its fans but also in its physical form. The yacht underwent meticulous refurbishment, preserving its historic charm while incorporating modern upgrades to enhance its functionality and comfort.

Timeless Elegance and Modern Upgrades: Aboard the Riptide

Riptide’s enduring beauty is a testament to the craftsmanship of its time. Originally equipped with twin Hall-Scott engines, the yacht has since undergone refitting, now powered by two Gray Marine/Detroit Diesel engines producing a combined 470 horsepower. This modification enables Riptide to achieve a comfortable cruising speed of 11 knots, with a top speed of 16 knots.

Riptide 1939 Elco Motor Yacht
Courtesy of Chuck Hovey Yachts

As you step aboard Riptide, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of timeless elegance. The spacious main salon, located amidships, offers sliding doors that open onto the port and starboard decks. A custom-built, L-shaped settee with plush cushions provides ample room for entertaining guests. The mahogany tongue-and-groove bulkhead surfaces have been meticulously restored, showcasing original Elco lighting, Art Deco sconces, and large windows that flood the room with natural light. To keep you cozy during your journey, the salon features either a Dickinson propane bulkhead heater or an electric fireplace.

Riptide 1939 elco Motor Yacht saloon interior view
Courtesy of Chuck Hovey Yachts

Navigating the Modern Era: State-of-the-Art Electronics

Riptide’s navigational capabilities have been brought into the modern era with a suite of state-of-the-art electronics. The fully enclosed wheelhouse now boasts a Garmin 740S Radar, GPS, Polaris VHF radio with RAM Mic, and Standard Horizon VHF with AIS. However, remnants of its past remain, with original lever controls, a wooden ship’s wheel, and a 1940s-era helm chair, serving as a reminder of the vessel’s rich history.

Riptide 1939 Elco Motor Yacht electronics and helm view
Courtesy of Chuck Hovey Yachts

Culinary Delights: Catering to Contemporary Gastronomy

When it comes to culinary delights, Riptide has been updated to cater to the demands of contemporary gastronomy. The galley features a Dickinson Mediterranean three-burner propane stove with an oven, a GE microwave, and an Alder Barbour refrigerator. Interestingly, the original icebox remains intact, offering a charming nod to the yacht’s bygone era.

Courtesy of Chuck Hovey Yachts

Luxurious Accommodations: Guest Cabins and Staterooms

Venturing further into the vessel, you’ll discover two single-berth guest cabins and a port-side head with the original sink and cabinetry. At the stern, the main stateroom awaits, featuring a full-sized berth, a private head, an eight-drawer dresser, and a TV for moments of relaxation. Stairs lead to the aft deck, where custom-embroidered teak deck chairs provide a perfect spot to unwind. Additionally, the foredeck boasts two custom mahogany box seats, offering more opportunities for leisurely lounging.

Riptide 1939 Elco Motor Yacht Stateroom view
Courtesy of Chuck Hovey Yachts

Relishing the Golden Age: A Journey through Time on Riptide

The restoration of Riptide is an ongoing labor of love. In 2021, it underwent an extensive overhaul, with 29 new ribs, 14 new planks, and new splash rails installed. The steering system was renewed, and all deck and cabin surfaces were covered with Dynel cloth, set in epoxy, and painted with LP paint. The doors were meticulously rebuilt and fitted with Art Deco etched glass, in perfect harmony with the yacht’s 1930s charm.

As Riptide continues its voyage through time, its story is a testament to the enduring allure of classic yachting lore. From its beginnings as the flagship of the Elco fleet to its colorful adventures in the movie industry, this elegant motor yacht has weathered storms and celebrated triumphs. Today, nestled in its boathouse in Port Orchard, Riptide stands as a living testament to the dedication and passion of its caretakers. Stepping aboard this remarkable vessel is an invitation to relish the golden age of yachting, where timeless beauty and historic charm intertwine, promising a journey like no other.

Riptide 1939 Elco Motor Yacht Deck View
Courtesy of Chuck Hovey Yachts

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