Wild Goose roosts on historic registry

John Wayne's yacht, which was a World War II-era minesweeper, recognized for its role in his life and on the silver screen.

August 10, 2011|By Lauren Williams,
  • The Wild Goose, a former World War II minesweeper converted into a luxury yacht by Hollywood legend John Wayne, still sports brass plates on its bow from its days of hunting mines. It is part of the Lido Yacht Expo at Lido Marina Village.
The Wild Goose, a former World War II minesweeper converted… (KENT TREPTOW, Daily…)

NEWPORT BEACH — John Wayne's beloved yacht, the Wild Goose, is now among some 200 boats listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"The Duke" would have been proud.

"While our focus has, and perhaps always will be, predominantly on buildings, the programs include a broad spectrum of property types, from archaeological sites to bridges, locomotives, lighthouses, historic districts and ships," Paul S. Lusignan, an historian with the National Register of Places, said in an email.

The Hollywood icon and Newport Beach resident owned the 136-foot, wooden-hulled World War II-era minesweeper from 1962 until shortly before his death in 1979.

In May, the State Historical Resources Commission certified the boat's nomination for a National Register listing by the U.S. Department of the Interior, noting that the Wild Goose had been "cited in Wayne's biographies as his sanctuary and proudest possession."

Two of Wayne's children, Aissa and Ethan, used to sleep in bunk beds aboard the ship. The bunks are intact, and the siblings' initials remain engraved in them.


"There's just a real special connection he had. He just treasured that boat," Aissa Wayne said.

The Wild Goose continues to ply local waters as a working vessel operated by Hornblower Cruises & Events. The boat is anchored in Newport Harbor.

The vessel was originally launched in the 1940s under the name YMS-328, and is one of four remaining minesweepers of the 481 of its class.

"He was a big buff of the Navy — not just how the movies portrayed him," said Chandler Bell, Hornblower's director of marine operations. "The boat meant a whole lot to him … He had it up [until] to two months before his death. It was a huge part of his life and his family."

The Wild Goose was eligible for a listing because it met the criteria of being historically significant through its association with the life of an important person, official documents show. Wayne was deemed important because of his status as an icon of cinema history.

Wayne's fame raised the Wild Goose's profile when he bought it for $116,000 in 1962, but its own role and prominence in his life wasn't lost on National Register officials who evaluated the nomination file.

"The Wild Goose stands as one of the most significant extant properties directly associated with the actor during his productive life," their review read.

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