“Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim.” Who would have thought, the man famous for riding in on horseback, also loved to ride in… on the water? Really and truly, who doesn’t love cruising on a yacht? Marion Robert Morrison, more famously known as John Wayne, is one of the biggest actors of yesteryear. The star of classic blockbusters such as The Searchers, True Grit, El Dorado, and The Longest Day, loved to spend his free time on the water.

The Duke’s (a nickname given to him when he was young, and couldn’t be spotted anywhere without the family dog, “Duke”) passion for the water began early on in his life. Born in Iowa in 1907, John’s family moved to Glendale, California in 1914. He later attended the University of Southern California on a football scholarship, and very likely could have pursued that as a career, until suffering a bodysurfing accident that forced him to stop playing, and pursue a new career. So technically, if it wasn’t for his love of the water, we may not have ever known Marion as “John Wayne”. With his successful movie career, John’s passion for the water never left, inspiring him to purchase his beloved yacht, Wild Goose.

Wild Goose deck

The History of Wild Goose

Before she became John Wayne’s yacht, Wild Goose was a warship. Built in 1942, the ship was originally a U.S. Navy Yard Mine Sweeper known as USS YMS-328. The 136-foot ship sailed in World War II and served the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and the surrounding areas. After WWII, USS YMS-328 was decommissioned in 1946 and later sold. After going through a couple of different owners, she was eventually purchased for $116,000 by John Wayne in 1962 and then underwent a serious and expensive renovation.

Cool Features of the Wild Goose

Wooden Bar within Wild GooseJohn viewed Wild Goose as the perfect way to spend time with his family and wanted to make the boat a home away from home. Therefore, he carefully crafted a plan of how he wanted Wild Goose to look and thus added some one-of-a-kind features. Through the modifications, Wayne added five staterooms, designed the interior to have a more spacious feel, and raised ceilings to suit his tall stature. One of the main renovation highlights of the yacht is the saloon which can accommodate up to 127 people and features a fireplace, a poker table, and a wet bar. The vessel is also known for having luxurious wood detailing, murals, a dancing area, and a bridal suite.

Life Onboard

From friendly fishing trips to Cataline cruises, this yacht perfectly symbolized Wayne’s social life. The Duke loved to play host to a variety of movie stars, musicians, professional athletes, and politicians such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Henry Fonda, Sammy Davis Jr., Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon. Some of his celebrity pals would even charter the boat themselves, including Tom Jones, the band America, and Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys. Much like her owner, Wild Goose also became a movie star, appearing in The President’s Analyst in 1967 and Skidoo in 1968.

John Wayne murals inside Wild GooseWhile he is known for being a Hollywood socialite and loved to have fun onboard, the purpose of Wild Goose was to relax and spend time with his family. He used the yacht to stay clear of the public’s prying eye, and according to longtime Wild Goose Captain Bert Minshall, “The boat was a real getaway for him, away from the hassle of Hollywood.” As Wayne had children later in life, he knew he wouldn’t be there for them eventually, thus inspiring him to soak in as much time as possible when he could and attempt to make as many memories as possible. According to Wayne’s son, Ethan, Wayne considers time spent onboard Wild Goose as “the happiest times of his life”.

The Legacy of the Wild Goose

Even though he often said he would never sell Wild Goose, shortly before his death in 1979, Wayne sold the yacht to help get his affairs in order. After exchanging a few hands of ownership again, the vessel found a new home with Hornblower in 1996.

Wild Goose sign

Since Wayne’s ownership, more changes and renovations have been made to Wild Goose, however with an attempt to keep it as original as possible. “Remnants of Wayne’s presence exist both through efforts to preserve the boat as he had it and modern touches that remind visitors whose yacht they are on.”, mentions The Orange County Register. “The balance is apparent in the Fireplace Room. A naval battle mural Wayne commissioned faces the wood-burning fireplace, while framed movie posters of his films line the worn, white walls on either side.” And with all of the stories those walls could tell, it’s a no-brainer to see why Wild Goose was honored with an addition to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.

Wild Goose yacht hosting a weddingWhat a magical vessel, and an interesting piece of Hollywood history. The best part is you can set sail too! Today, guests can have a chance to step into history, discover what makes Wild Goose such a legendary vessel, and walk the same decks once enjoyed by legends of the silver screen and the stage alike. Choose between having brunch on the Newport Beach John Wayne Celebration Premier Brunch Cruise, dinner on the Newport Beach John Wayne Celebration Premier Dinner Cruise, or better yet, both! Enjoy cocktails curated by Duke’s Bourbon Whiskey as you cruise by John Wayne’s former 10-bedroom, 7-bathroom, 9,000+ square foot waterfront mansion where John, his family, and the yacht used to call home. There will also be informal tours offered by the crew during the cruise, where you can see his family staterooms, library, famous card room, and a salon containing movie posters and priceless paintings. Due to all of the customizations, this yacht is also a perfect setting for private group events as well. It should be mentioned that a portion of ticket sales will benefit the John Wayne Cancer Foundation in support of John Wayne’s final wish – to find a cure for cancer.

Original Post Date: May 31, 2023