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Iconic Yachts: SS Delphine, the 100 year old classic yacht that's still running on steam

29 April 2022• Written by Risa Merl

The iconic yacht SS Delphine has reached a major milestone, celebrating her 100th birthday in April, 2021. But there are many more accolades besides ringing in her centennial year that make 78 metre SS Delphine so noteworthy. From hosting heads of states while they brokered peace treaties to still running on her original steam engines to this day, this yacht is a true icon.

Delivered in 1921 SS Delphine was built for Horace Dodge

“She is the only superyacht in the world still operating today with her quadruple expansion steam engines,” says Emmanuel R Buetss, SS Delphine’s Manager. The classic yacht was originally equipped with triple Babcock & Wilcoz boilers, supplying power for her two 1,500-horsepower steam engines. The engine room received an update during a 2003 refit, and she was outfitted with two modern water-tube boilers, which now power the original engines.

The classic yacht SS Delphine was built for Horace Dodge, co-founder of the Dodge Brothers automotive manufacturer in America. She was launched in 1921 at Great Lakes Engineering Works. At the time of her launch, she had the largest gross tonnage of any yacht in America. A short time later in 1926 she was nearly destroyed after catching fire and sinking in New York. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes, she was salvaged and restored to live another day.

The yacht was christened USS Dauntless by the American Navy

In 1942, SS Delphine was requisitioned by the US Navy and christened the USS Dauntless, serving as the flagship for naval commander Admiral Ernest King during WWII. In her time as an admiralty ship she hosted US president Franklin D Roosevelt, vice president Harry S Truman, UK prime minister Winston Churchill and Russian diplomat Vyacheslav Molotov in preparation of the Yalta Conference, which determined the postwar reorganisation of Europe.

The yacht's 1921 Tiffany décor has been maintained where possible

“The privileged status of having been Admiral Ernest King's ship certainly helped her avoid the unfortunate fate of other steamships that did not survive the war, allowing her to delight us today with her original splendor,” says Buetss.

After WWII, she was returned to the Dodge family. Over the next five decades she changed hands many times. By 1997, she was in poor condition and her next owner paid a pittance for the iconic yacht but invested a princely sum of €45 million to restore her to her former glory during a five-year restoration project. The refit restored her original layout and design.

SS Delphine underwent a €45 million restoration to bring her back to her former glory

“That is indeed why sailing on board the SS Delphine is not only a maritime journey, but above all a journey through time that takes us back to the Belle Époque of the 1920s in the decorations, carvings, wall patterns and carpets that are exact replicas of the 1921 plans,” says Buetss.

In September 2003, SS Delphine was re-christened by HSH Princess Stephanie de Monaco. The current owners bought the vessel in 2015, and she is now offered for exclusive events and charters in the Mediterranean. She can welcome up to 26 guests for overnight stay and 150 guests for day events.

The yacht can welcome 150 guests for day events

The iconic yacht SS Delphine is now equipped with all the modern comforts one would expect on a charter yacht, including a sauna, hammam, Jacuzzi, gym, swimming pool and even a hairdressing room. But despite these updates, she still has an beautifully old soul. SS Delphine has retained her 1921 Tiffany décor whenever possible, and in particular in her dining room, lounges and suites.

“Sailing on SS Delphine is not only a visual pleasure but also the opportunity to enjoy a steam engine which, beyond its timeless aesthetics, also offers a unique noiseless and vibration-free comfort forgotten by the hectic modern machines,” says Buetss.

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