I love movie westerns—even more so now that I'm living in "The West" where a lot of them were filmed—but I don't think I've ever seen any starring John Wayne. I still have a lot of catching up to do on old movies.
But that didn't keep me away from the yacht that was The Duke's home-away-from-home from 1962 to 1979.
As soon as I first heard of "The Wild Goose," as it's still called, I knew I had to get on that boat.
So on the occasion of John Wayne's birthday—even though he passed away 37 years ago—I took a cruise on The Wild Goose, which is now registered as a historic landmark.
The history of The Wild Goose predates John Wayne's ownership of it by nearly 20 years, as it was built in 1942 for the U.S. Navy as a World War II Minesweeper, the USS YMS 328.
She was only in active duty in Alaska for about three years and got "mothballed" in 1946. Starting in 1948, she changed hands—and names—a couple of times before John Wayne bought her for $110,000.
It's currently owned and operated by Hornblower Cruises—who can also take you whale-watching—and it's in pristine condition.
Thankfully, its previous owners (a lawyer, a banker, and the City of LA) wanted to keep it mostly as John Wayne had left it.
And that's when it began to look as it does today, with some dramatic customizations—including raising ceilings to accommodate his tall 6'4" stature.
Now, much of the "public" areas are in tribute to The Duke, the walls filled with paintings and archival photographs of him.
One of the staterooms on the Middle Deck has been converted into a library...
...which houses a poker table that actually did belong to The Duke, but wasn't originally located on this boat.
The books and cabinets show their age—with just enough wear and tear (and the smell of old books) to give them character.
The Middle Deck also contains the original Kids' Stateroom, outfitted with two bunk beds and its own private bathroom...
...though, reportedly, John Wayne used to lock their bedroom door from the outside, forcing them to walk through their bathroom that connected with his so he could keep track of their comings and goings.
His Master Stateroom is much as he left it, with original furnishings—including the bed he actually slept in with his third and final wife, Pilar.
Their master bathroom (the one that connects to the kids' head) is unmistakably both western rustic...
...and Hollywood glamour.
The Wild Goose gives a pretty luxurious ride, too. I barely felt anything as we were gliding through the Newport Bay, thanks to its two G.M.C. Cleveland 8-268-A straight eight cylinder diesel engines with a total of 1,000 shaft horsepower.
The Wild Goose's wheelhouse is largely original as well—including the wheel itself...
...and a couple other pieces of vintage nautical equipment.
I know I probably should've been enjoying the view as we cruised along...
...but I was far more interested in the boat itself...
...than in the scenery we were passing.
Although I had access to a great many rooms (including the Red Witch and Poseidon restrooms) and levels on The Wild Goose...
...from the Main Deck to the Upper Deck...
...there were some areas where entry was forbidden, either because they were for crew operations...
...or, as in the case of the Lower Deck where the guest staterooms are, there just aren't the amenities that are needed to give the public access (like emergency exits).
There was, however, plenty to keep me entertained and moving about the entire 136-foot boat...
...circling each deck a few times to make sure I didn't miss anything.
We actually passed the house on the bay that John Wayne once called home...
...which also happens to be next door to the house that Nicolas Cage once called home.
The cruise was festive, the Upper Deck having been converted into a sit-down dining room with a bar installed and a goose painted on the funnel.
But I wasn't really there for the food.
I was just happy to be sitting right above the Master Stateroom, in the very same spot where John Wayne, his family, and his crew used to jump off from into whichever waters they happened to be in.
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The View By Boat