The Summer Commute

Navette underway, 1919. Negative # 1984.187.2180F

What better way to commute from your home on Matinicock Point on Long Island Sound to your offices in New York City than by steam commuter Navette? French for shuttle, Navette was launched on March 24, 1917 from the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co., from the design of Captain Nathaniel Herreshoff. She was 114’ overall, 106’ on the water-line, a beam of 14’ and a draft of 3’. Built for J.P. Morgan Jr., banker and financier, her home port was Glen Cove.

Commuter steam yachts gradually gained numbers at the turn of the 20th century. In 1875 there were 13 listed by the New York Yacht Club. By 1885, the New York Yacht Club was given exclusive use to the pier at 26th Street as designated by the City of New York because of an increase in commuters from the New Jersey coast, Hudson River, and Long Island Sound. By 1900 the NYYC listed 189 ocean-going and commuter steam yachts.

Navette was equipped with a roomy aft cockpit, a galley for providing breakfast and afternoon tea while commuting, a bath to change clothes, a lounge, but no owner sleeping accommodation. It did have sleeping quarters for the crew, however. Steam yachts required licensed operators and large crews. She reached a speed of up to 18 knots with two identical 350-horsepower triple expansion steam engines. Mystic Seaport has one of the original engines (accession # 1958.3070) with the other located at the Herreshoff Marine Museum.

Navette was sold to L.P. Falk in 1934, who sold it in 1936 to S.H. Stern, founder of New York Department Stores. A Brooklyn yacht broker acquired her soon after Mr. Stern’s death. Edward C. Warren, marine engineer and inventor, was Navette’s next owner, where she lay in Florida hosting him (until his death) and his family until the end of her days in the 2000’s.

Pictured here is Navette underway in 1919.

–Carol Mowrey