The Careers

Auxiliary schooner Vema, U.S. Training Vessel, Long Island Sound, August 18, 1941 Negative # 1984.187.102417F

The stately three-masted schooner, Hussar was built in 1923 by Burmeister & Wain at Copenhagen from Cox & Stevens design #263 (MS accession # SP.1975.1.34.167) for E.F. Hutton and his wife Marjorie Merriweather Post. Hussar was luxuriously appointed with Oriental carpets, stained-glass windows and gold-fauceted bathrooms. She was later sold to Georg Ungar Vetlesen when E.F. Hutton commissioned the four-masted bark Hussar V (later know as Sea Cloud) for Marjorie. George Vetlesen renamed the schooner Vema.

Under the ownership of Vetlesen, Vema made a record passage of the Atlantic for a sailing vessel — 10 days and 21 hours — breaking the previous record held by the four-masted schooner Atlantic (1903) during her 1905 race for the Kaiser Cup of 12 days, 4 hours. (Vema covered about 2,750 nautical miles – 170 miles less than Atlantic).

In 1941, after a long career of pleasure yachting, Vetlesen turned Vema over to the U.S. Maritime Commission for $1 to assist in the wartime efforts. After being put to use patrolling coastal waters for the U.S. Coast Guard, the luxury cabins (for 12 passengers) were ripped out and replaced with 93 bunks for trainees, and served the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

Pictured here is Vema (ex-Hussar) as a new training vessel for the U.S. Maritime Service, which was part of the U.S. Maritime Commission and under the immediate supervision of the Commandant of the Coast Guard. The image was made in the summer of 1941 somewhere on Long Island Sound with cadets posed from stem to stern, along the bowsprit, and on the ratlines.

In 1953, Lamont Geological Observatory, Columbia University acquired and refitted her as a floating laboratory. Her career as a research vessel would be remarkable. R/V Vema started circling the globe collecting sediment cores from the ocean floors, while also sampling seawater, detecting currents, photographing the bottom, and measuring seafloor heat flow. Only about 100 deep-sea cores existed in 1948. Thanks to R/V Vema, the researchers had collected 1,900 by 1956. (Lamont’s core lab holds 19,000 today). She sailed 320 days a year, becoming the first research vessel to sail 1 million nautical miles. The data collected on her missions confirmed the theory of the continental drift.

In 1982, she was acquired by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises and was restored to her former status as a luxury yacht. She began her fourth career in the cruise industry under the name Mandalay. Although WBC went out of business in 2007, S/V Mandalay still carries passengers throughout the Caribbean under new ownership – Sail Windjammer.

–Carol Mowrey