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17 iconic photos of life at sea

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Elvis Presley

Getty Images

From the yachting clique of Hollywood's golden era to modern sailing icons, click through to see the stories behind some of the most iconic and glamorous images ever taken of life at sea...

Elvis Presley

It was Valentine’s Day 1964, and Elvis Presley, the King of Rock n’ Roll, showed his love by donating a yacht to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The yacht was the USS Potomac, a 50.3 metre coast guard cutter used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for official business from 1936 until his death in 1945. In 1964, her then-owners decided to auction the boat. Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, got wind of the sale and thought it would be great publicity for the singer to purchase and donate her to charity.   

Presley paid $55,000 for Potomac and offered her to the March of Dimes. Realising that the cost to maintain the yacht was well above its means, the organisation turned down the offer. The star then presented the boat to the Miami Seventh Coast Guard Auxiliary, which also said no. Proving third time’s a charm, he found a taker: Comedian Danny Thomas accepted the gift on behalf of the children’s hospital he’d established in Memphis. Perhaps it was fate: The hospital was located on the same street where Presley lived as a boy. The yacht was to be resold and the proceeds were to be used to fund research of children’s diseases. 

The change of ownership took place at Berth 73 of Long Beach Harbour in California on February 14, 1964, but not without a snafu. According to an article in the Long Beach Press Telegram the next day, while staff was preparing the dock for the presentation, “property owner Llewellyn Bixby showed up and informed the group he hadn’t given permission for use of the dock…[and] was worried about public liability.” The Colonel, in turn, “promised to pay for a special $500,000 liability insurance policy and to keep the public off the dock” and the ceremony went forward.

It is reported on usspotomac.org that St. Jude Hospital sold the boat for $65,000. Today, she is docked in Oakland, California, and available for tours. 

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