Launching in 1921

The story began in April 1921 at River Rouge (near Detroit), Michigan, USA, where the Great Lakes Engineering Works had the honour of launching DELPHINE belonging to the Dodge family.  At that time, the Dodge Brothers’ Company was one of the largest American automobile-manufacturers. 

For seven years the Brothers had been producing their own Dodge automobile, which was a great commercial success with cars to a value of  $35 000 000 being sold in the first year!     

Horace Dodge, the youngest of the Brothers and the ‘mechanic’ of the two, loved yachting.  In 1904 he ordered a 40-foot launch and by 1910 he owned two other larger vessels, both named HORNET.  As Horace had always liked to develop his own sources of power, he created the Dodge Marine Division in addition to the car business.   

These launches had always one problem: insufficient sleeping accommodation.  So in 1913 he ordered the 180-foot NOKOMIS I and four years later, its 243-foot long successor was built.  His next yacht, the 258-foot DELPHINE, named after his only daughter, was built in 1920. 

That year tragedy hit the family when both brothers died.  The splendid yacht DELPHINE was finally launched on April 2, 1921.  At that time she was the largest yacht in tonnage ever built in the USA.  The facilities onboard were superb: besides the large owner’s stateroom with en-suite bathroom, there were also nine guest staterooms.  The guests could enjoy the luxury of three lounges, a music room, a card room, and above the dining room there was a smoking room.  To serve the 20 guests onboard, there was a crew of 55 who all had their accommodation in the bow.  DELPHINE could reach a speed of 15 knots with her quadruple steam expansion engine designed by Horace Dodge.  This powerplant gave approximately 150 revolutions a minute, while the required pressure of 250 p.s.i. was produced by three American Babcock and Wilcox boilers.  Even today DELPHINE’s engine is unique, as most of the steam engines ever built were of the triple expansion type!  

Her voyages were mainly in the Great Lakes area but the trips to the Atlantic Ocean would always be very tricky.  As a matter of fact, the 258-foot yacht with her 15-foot draught was the largest yacht to pass through the locks on the Welland canal and the Saint Lawrence River, in the 1920’s!  

Although, this palatial yacht was used mainly for cocktail parties, she was also used for watching speedboat races in which Horace Junior Dodge, son of Horace Dodge, was a frequent participant.

Delphine at Nipigon, 1932

Captain Knight, 1940

On one such occasion, in New York in 1926, DELPHINE disastrously caught fire and sank. 

Luckily for maritime history enthusiasts, Anna Dodge, Horace Dodge’s wife, ordered the recovery and restoration of DELPHINE.  In 1940, after again having been docked for five years, she re-captured the attention of the media by steaming onto a rock in the Great Lakes.  At that time, and even today, she was mistakenly thought by both the public and the media to have sunk again, but she did in fact suffer only minor damage.

In January 1942 the U.S. Navy acquired the yacht and converted her into U.S.S.  DAUNTLESS PG61.  She was to be the flagship of Admiral Ernest King, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations. 

Delphine as USS Dauntless, 1943

Shortly after the war, it is reported that several world leaders, including President Roosevelt, went onboard to discuss war strategies with Admiral King.   

When the war ended, Anna Dodge had to buy her lovely yacht back, and after a refit only the nine hash-marks and the navy siren remained as a reminder of DELPHINE’s wartime period.  

From 1955 DELPHINE was to be permanently docked at her private pier with only 3 of the 55 crewmembers onboard.  She was finally donated to ‘the People to People Health Foundation’ in 1967.  One year later DELPHINE was re-born as part of the Lundeberg Maryland Seamanship School, who renamed her DAUNTLESS.  For nearly 20 years she was to serve as a training ship for merchant seamen.

After this period she was sold in 1986 to the company Travel Dynamics of New York City.  They wanted to restore her but finally, they abandoned their plans, and in 1989 Sea Sun Cruises, a French-Singapore company, bought her with the idea of restoring her in Singapore.  Under their ownership, DELPHINE made her first and only Atlantic crossing!  When arriving in Malta, in the Mediterranean, the Singapore owner decided to abandon the idea.  In 1993 she steamed to Marseilles, in France.  After four years DELPHINE had still not been restored which is why a European businessmen was able to buy her in 1997.  That same year she was towed to Bruges, Belgium, where she underwent a full restoration.

From february 1998 onwards untill july 2003 SS DELPHINE had a full restoration. The engineer Antoine Wille was in charge to implement all SOLAS, MARPOL and other rules onboard the vessel, while the owner looked for the finishing of the decorations and interior.

Restoration of the music room, 1999

Placing of a new boiler, 2000

During the restoration which took place in Brugge, she went 3 times into dry dock (Ostend and Gent in Belgium and Hansweert in the Netherlands).
After a lot of ups and downs, the owner had the result what he wanted : a classic old yacht with modern comfort ready for charter. In august 2003 she finally steamed from the North of Europe by Brest, Lisbon, Palma de Mallorca and Marseille to her new homeport Monaco. On September 9, 2003 she officially arrived there and the next day Princess Stéphanie of Monaco baptised her into her new life.

In the winter of 2003-2004 the yacht was inside the harbour of Monaco to prepare the next summer season. During that season Delphine went to Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the islands of Hyeres. The next winter she was moored in Monaco.

Since then she had successful charter seasons and is still for charter starting from Monaco.