Boat for sail

John F. Kerry — yes, that John Kerry — is selling his historic Herreshoff boat 'Fancy' with a classified ad.

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Every week, unique and sometimes quirky items are submitted for sale to The Times classifieds section. This week, however, a possession of special significance to a certain former presidential candidate, U.S. secretary of state, and senator came to our attention. 

John F. Kerry spoke to The Times about his boat Fancy, and why, after 12 years of ownership, he was ready to sell the 120-year-old sailboat. The ad does not include a price for the historic boat.

According to the official Herreshoff registry, the 15-foot vessel was first commissioned for construction in 1905 by a Samuel D. Warren of Marion, a lawyer and author of the noted Harvard Law review article “The Right to Privacy.” Warren originally christened the boat Seeps upon buying it from the famous designer Nathanael G. Herreshoff for $950. 

The boat sailed many seas over the years, and was passed through many a captain’s hands, eventually ending up tied to the Forbes family dock on Naushon Island. Kerry’s “distant cousin” Elliot Forbes — whom Kerry fondly remembered as “head of the Harvard Glee Club” — renamed her Fancy in 1950. Since then, Kerry said, the boat has “been in my family for a long period of time.” 

In 2007 John Kerry acquired Fancy and had her restored to “first-rate condition.” Kerry said he sailed the “lovely” boat over at the “other Island” (referring to Nantucket) for many years.

Kerry wrote in his 2018 memoir, “Every Day Is Extra,” that learning to sail from a young age was “the beginning of a special, unbreakable bond with the ocean.” 

“Indeed, from college on, there were often large gaps between my time on the water — time spent on one campaign trail or another, or traveling as secretary of state. Despite the intervals between times under sail, I always yearned for the freedom and tranquility of being at sea. It pulled at me. Even the brief moments when I could get out on the water were peaceful and restorative. Just the memories would feel good.”

While Kerry is sad to part with Fancy, he said, “I think it makes better sense for her to be in the water and be sailed.” 

Kerry spent many summers of his childhood visiting his mother’s family home on Naushon Island. In fact, the first boat that young Kerry sailed was also a Herreshoff sailboat. “My father and cousins taught me to sail at Naushon in a Herreshoff 12-footer,” Kerry said. “We’d sail in Buzzards Bay and in the harbor.”

His fascination and passion for the ocean is one of the reasons he chaired the Senate subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife. He counts the marine biologists “next door” at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and activist Rachel Carson among some of his strongest influences in learning about environmental degradation. 

In collaboration with U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Kerry recounted his work to ban drift-net fishing, and communicating with fishing councils around the country to keep track of stocks of fish. 

To this day, Kerry continues to use his influential platform to fundraise for climate advocacy organizations and speak at conferences, including the one he started while serving as secretary of state — the Our Oceans conference: “As an ecosystem, [the oceans] are under assault. It’s a combination of acidification and pollution and overfishing.” Kerry plans to head to Norway in October to attend this year’s event.

Since putting Fancy up for sale this spring, there haven’t been any interested buyers. Ross Gannon of Gannon & Benjamin said Kerry might have a hard time selling Fancy because, even though it is a historic boat, “it’s not what people expect in a sailboat these days. It takes an aficionado to sail a boat like that.” 

Kerry has been a client of Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway for years. The wooden boat builders are currently fixing up his principal sailboat, Lark, which also belonged to Kerry’s Naushon relatives. 

These days, Kerry said that his time on the water has been “not enough!” He seemed excited to get back to the mariner life, and planned to set sail during Saturday’s 2019 Vineyard Cup regatta in the Vineyard Sound. 

2 COMMENTS

  1. At first I thought that was the boat that he was seeking to avoid paying about $437,000 in sales tax and an annual excise tax of around $70,000 that would be levied if he berthed the vessel in Massachusetts back in 2010 but that was his 76-foot yacht “Isabel” that had two cabins, a pilot house fitted with a wet bar and cold wine storage…