Iconic Bath Iron Works vessel ties up in Galveston looking for work
The 20-foot Secret with its wooden frame and resemblance to Venetian gondolas immediately stands out against a sea of more modern boats plying Offatts Bayou.
But its unusual lines might obscure an even more interesting fact. The boat has been around for most of the 20th century’s major historical events. It was commissioned just before the Great Depression, unused until the dawn of war, has crossed oceans and seen legions.
Now, the vintage boat from 1929 sits at Sea Star Base Galveston.
“The opportunity to have this boat outweighs the purpose,” said Mike Janota, director of the Galveston Community Sailing Center. “We will create a purpose for this boat.”
The base came to own the historical icon almost by accident, through the donation of a generous couple, Janota said.
Janota has big plans for the boat, he said. He envisions it as the perfect date spot, somewhere people might get married, or the perfect way to take someone on a fancy dinner date.
The veteran sailor’s eyes almost light up when he imagines the possibility of a couple drinking Champagne and eating hors d’oeuvres on the Secret before pulling up at one of Galveston’s finest restaurants.
The Secret was first commissioned as the starboard launch off the Aletes, a 190-foot clipper bow built by Bath Iron Works in 1929. Bath Iron Works, a fabled Maine-based shipyard, has built vessels for the likes of J.P. Morgan, at least one U.S. president, and scores of warships for the U.S. Navy.
A brokerage firm ordered just five of the 190-foot boats as a speculative venture, and it went unsold for years because of the onset of the Great Depression.
But eventually the Aletes was sold to the U.S. Navy in 1941, which transferred it to the British during World War II.
After the war, the Aletes returned to the United States and the Secret was separated and sold to a private owner who used it on his Maine estate.
The Secret’s second owner took the boat to Michigan, where it was used until 1971, then put in a barn.
Eventually, the boat found its way down to Galveston County, where Richard and Terri Cook won it at the Keels and Wheels auction, initially intending it for use at an event center they owned in Dickinson, Janota said.
But the Secret needed more upkeep than expected, and eventually the Cooks decided it would be a better fit at the Sea Star Base, Janota said. So, they donated it about seven months ago.
Uniquely, aside from her engine, the Secret is original and never restored. She is believed to be the only surviving example of a Bath Iron Works owner’s launch.