A History of The Ida May, 1926
previous Ruth L. & Nada III
A Historic Classic Wooden 46' Motoryacht, and One-of-a-kind
Willard Van Brunt (1847-1935) the first owner of the Ida May was born in Williamstown, Wisconsin. He was an illustrious inventor of pioneering agriculture equipment (seeding plow, fertilizer drills, line sowers, field cultivators, and fertilizer and grass seed attachments), which revolutionized farming in America. In the early 1900s Van Brunt controlled the largest agriculture implement company in the world, employing over 700 men. Much could be written about one of the men who changed the face of American farming forever and his untiring efforts in the industry.
1911 John Deere & Co purchases Van Brunt Manufacturing Co. (June 23, 1911) with Willard Van Brunt becoming President of the merged company, John Deere Van Brunt Manufacturing Co. The John Deere Van Brunt Manufacturing Co. name remained until 1954. In 1911, Van Brunt already one of the wealthiest men in the United States, acquires $1,517,600 in Deere preferred stock, an additional $1,246,746 in common stock, and a cash payment of just under $500,000. Click here to see Van Brunt's farming patents.
Van Brunt an eccentric inventor and philanthropist retires and moves to the warm climate of Los Angeles, CA. He lives in a mansion on 631 Harvard Blvd with his half-sister Ida M. Campbell (a former music teacher). Van Brunt was considered one of the most influential and affluent men in America and was close friends with two past U.S. Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover. Van Brunts favorite pastime was fishing and he spent his retirement enjoying fishing off his sportfisher. He loved his sister dearly and named his yacht after her, the Ida May.
Well after his retirement, Van Brunt continues to have an inventive mind and creates two devices for fishing: the Van Brunt Brace and the Van Brunt Harness both of which are utilized as aids for big-game fishing rods and reels. Versions of these inventions are still used today. Click here to see other patents. 1926 Van Brunt commissions Hugh Angelman, and a prestigious boatyard, Wilmington Boat Works in Wilmington, CA to build the finest and fastest sportfisher yacht in America and spared no cost in materials and craftsmanship. This yacht was one-of-a-kind. The yacht was triple planked, which was unheard of at that time; this has helped keep her alive over the years. The Ida May is one of the oldest sportfishers in existence today. The motoryacht was built for $120,000 and is known to be the most expensive built sportfisher of its time. A comparable boat of her size in 1926 was built for under $14,000. Van Brunt was a member of the Catalina Tuna Club and Vice-President of the club in 1926. The Tuna Club is known to be the birthplace of sport fishing and big-game fishing. The Tuna club promotes conservation, by designing regulations, which gives fish a sporting chance. The spirit of these rules was subsequently adopted by angling clubs the world over, and continues to endure to this day. This is testimony of the Tuna Club's profound influence in sport fishing. The Ida May The Ida May was named after Van Brunt’s half-sister, Ida Mary Campbell, a former music teacher. Van Brunt had the bow of the boat flared out three times in order to make the boat faster and allow the water to flair off the boat and away from the stern. The boat was clocked at 35 knots without even being placed at full throttle. Van Brunt was infatuated with the speed of the boat and aspired to build the fastest boat ever. A faster boat entailed bringing in the first catch before anyone else. The more than friendly competition waged by the affluent Tuna Club members to catch a trophy marlin, tuna, or swordfish fueled this desire. Furthermore, a boat had to be swift in order to pull in the largest of fish. In fact the blue, white, red, and the coveted gold buttons below were given to individual Tuna Club members for catching the largest of fish.
Van Brunt becomes President of the exclusive Tuna Club on Catalina Island. The Tuna club, a members only club of the affluent and elite was by invitation only. Originally, only 100 members where accepted. Many celebrities, dignitaries, and past U.S. Presidents have been members (Stan Laurel, Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, Bing Crosby, Winston Churchill, General George S. Patton, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover). Indeed, Herbert Hoover enjoyed fishing on the Ida May. Herbert Hoover enjoys a fishing trip out on the Ida May with his friend Willard Van Brunt.
Ernest Hemingway fights a swordfish aboard the yacht to almost even match. Rumor has it he was inspired to write the Old Man and The Sea aboard the Ida May, which was later to be published.
Industrialist and inventor Willard Van Brunt (original owner and designer of the Ida M.), June 5, 1935 passes away at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. Death was due to complications resulting from a fall one-week prior on a fishing trip. He stumbled and fractured his hip while aboard his yacht, the Ida May, off San Pedro harbor. He was 88 years old. He died after an injury whilst doing what he loved most: fishing on his yacht the Ida M. (L.A. Times, 1935).
Van Brunt gave away $282,000 dollars to ninety-four ($3,000) former employees and widows of employees 1 month before he passed away. He donated hundreds of thousands of dollars, property, and land to the Mason retirement home, school, and community in Horicon, Wisconsin. He was a loved man in the state of Wisconsin his home state. Time Magazine (July 1935 issue) recognizes this great man's passing in the milestones section.
Stan Laurel (Laurel and Hardy comedy fame) also a member of the Tuna Club had his attorney purchase the Ida M. in an estate sale, August 1, 1935. Laurel among others desired to purchase the yacht from Van Brunt while Van Brunt was alive in his 80’s. The Ida May was considered the fastest yacht on the west coast and was elegantly appointed. Laurel purchased the yacht from the Van Brunt family before anyone else could acquire the boat at a cost far more than its worth. This was at a time where America was still recovering from the Great Depression.
Laurel’s first cruise was on August 3, 1935, two days after he purchased the boat. His father Arthur Jefferson (Stan Laurel’s original name was Arthur Stanley Jefferson born in Ulverston, England June 16, 1890) and his wife Ven were the first names in his logbook. The next day, they boarded the yacht at 8:30 am and left for Catalina, with Captain Mills in charge. They arrived at the Catalina Tuna Club at 9:30 am greeted by the club secretary, Mr. West. Stan's father wrote passages about the Catalina trip in his personal journal. They fished around the island and had “NO LUCK.” On August 15, 1935 “Stan's luck is in!!!! - he caught a huge Tuna, weight 171 lbs! Took him 45 minutes to land it. We went to Pier watched its weighing, etc (Snap of photos) Great Rejoicing! Stan secured the coveted Tuna Club button, the ambition of all fishers
The Ruth L. (former Ida May)
On August 24, 1935, Stan had the boat painted on the transom with her new name, Ruth L.
Laurel changes the name of the yacht from Ida May to Ruth L. after his second wife, Ruth Laurel. Stan Laurel, an avid fisherman loved the yacht. Many notable celebrities and dignitaries have been onboard the Ruth L.: Oliver Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Joe Kennedy, Gloria Swanson, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee (famous crooner), Hal Roach (famous director of Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang and the Little Rascals), Charley Chase (comedian, actor, and The Three Stooges Director and Producer), James Parrot, Mae West, Zazu Pitts, Fred Quimby (Tom & Jerry cartoon creator), Orson Wells, W.C. Fields, Babe Ruth, William and P.K. Wrigley (Wrigley Spearmint Gum and former Chicago Cubs owner), the Prince of Kuwait, Jack Dempsey and Zane Grey (famous western novelist and fishing legend) to name a few.
Lois Laurel describes, “My father loved his boat and I spent many of my summer vacations on the Ruth L. in Catalina.” Stan Laurel’s favorite pastime was fishing, especially Salmon fishing in Northern California. Lois said, “My father loved it when the fish would put up a bit of a fight with him.” Laurels favorite past time was fishing and he coaxed Hardy out on fishing trips to Catalina aboard the Ruth L. Hardys favorite past time was golf and he likewise coaxed Laurel out on golfing trips. When Lois was asked, "Did your father enjoy golf?" she responded, "He hated it, he played for Babe (Hardy)."
Laurel and Hardy spent significant quality time on the Ruth L. with their wives, family (Lois Laurel – Stan’s daughter) and friends. Stan used to endearingly tell Lois (daughter) that she was the same age as their boat. In actuality the yacht was one year older. Lois was born on December 10, 1927 and the Ida May (Ruth L.) was launched on April 1926. Photos below are of little Lois with her family.
Laurel and Hardy made an amazing 106 films together and were the best of friends. When Hardy died Laurel lost his passion in making movies. Lois tells us off screen, "They were closer than brothers."
In October 10, 1936, two of the worlds funniest and most beloved performers chanced to meet in the waters of the Pacific off Catalina. Laurel knew Chaplin, as he was an understudy to him in theatre (Fred Karno’s Company of Clowns, 1910). In fact they traveled to the U.S. from England on the same boat and shared a room in a boarding house. Cooking was not allowed in the boarding house where Laurel and Chaplin stayed, so Chaplin would play the violin to cover up the sound of Laurel frying up food on a hot plate. Many years passed before the two met again. It had been well over a decade since they had last met. It was the rarest of occasions since Stan did not move in the same circles as Chaplin. That particular Saturday afternoon they chatted, spent time on each others yachts as Paulette (Chaplin’s third wife) and Ruth became delighted audience for a couple of hours as the men competed with each other in dredging up the hoariest of music-hall ballads and old familiar stories. Chaplin roared with laughter as Stan sang what he described as being a song for Mother’s Day:
"Don’t go in the poorhouse" "Until I come home" "And we’ll all go in together."
Chaplin accepted a gift of freshly caught bluefish that Stan and Ruth caught earlier in the day and they parted, vowing to keep in better touch. Indeed, they met again as Lois Laurel (Stan’s daughter) recounts a time when her father took the Ruth L. to the San Diego area to spend time with Charlie Chaplin and his two boys (Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr. – 13 y/o and Sydney Earl Chaplin – 11 y/o). Lois (11 y/o) remembers the time she was on the Ruth L. with Charles and Sydney, “We were staying at the Hotel Del Coronado and we called up for room service and we ran up a tab…..we were playing on the boat when my father and Mr. Chaplin found out and my father was furious to say the least.”
Stan Laurel divorces Ruth Laurel and sells the Ruth L. to friend, attorney Jonah Jones, Jr. On Jan 1, 1938 Stan marries Vera Illiana Shuvalova. Laurel was married 5 times and twice to Ruth (1935, 1941). Lois Laurel (Stan’s daughter) said that her stepmother Ruth was a wonderful lady and they were close for many years. Lois recollects, "Ruth was a girl in heart and liked the finer things in life." Lois helped Ruth the last year of her life as she never remarried and had children of her own. When Ruth died she willed her apartment complex and possessions to Lois. Lois said that Ruth mentioned to her before her death, “I would not have been where I am today without you and your father.”
The Nada III (former Ruth L. and Ida May)
For the third time the yacht's name was changed for Jonah Jones Jr. the third owner. He named her Nada III after his daughter and only child, Nada. Nada was named from the Russian word for "White Lilly." Tom Young, Jonah’s grandson and Nada’s son, told us a great story before he passed in the fall of 2006. He described why his grandfather only had one child. Tom mentioned that his grandfather told him that during his grandmother’s (Helen) labor, he saw his wife in so much pain while in delivery with Nada. Therefore, Jonah told his wife that he would never ever cause her this much pain again. They never had another child. Tom also shared with us the story of Ernest Hemingway fishing off the yacht, Jonah was very proud of this fact and cherished the yacht. The Nada III was indeed the flag ship for many years at the Long Beach Yacht Club of which Jonah help found.
Jones owned the yacht for 40 years and took impeccable care of the boat. Jonah’s granddaughter, Gale Lingle said, “you could eat anywhere off the boat it was so clean.” Gale also said that her grandfather let her spend as many days on the yacht with him equal to the amount of years old she was, "If I was eight years old I spent eight days with my grandparents over the summer in Catalina. If I was twelve, than twelve days. I did this from ages three to twenty-seven!"
Jonah Jones was a multi-millionaire, founder of the Long Beach Yacht Club and President of the Tuna Club in 1947. Jones owned substantial oil fields at Signal Hill in southern California. He was also Howard Hughes’ attorney and help facilitate the placement of the Spruce Goose to Long Beach, CA. Jonah was a prominent attorney and helped write many of the oil laws (Signal Hill) for Southern California (Oil and Gas Laws of California). Howard Hughes fished off the Nada III and had a yacht built for him with hopes that she would be faster than the Nada III; story is it was not as fast.
The Nada III was commandeered by the U.S. military (Coast Guard), from July 7, 1942 – February 8, 1946 to patrol the waters of Southern California for enemy submarines during World War II and to deliver top-secret documents. The windows were boarded up during the war with portholes installed. Donald Douglas (Douglas Aircraft) and James K. Kimberly (Kleenix tycoon) both spent military time aboard the Nada III during World War II. Jonah Jones was a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard during the war. The Nada III was known to be the fastest boat on the West Coast.
"Winston Churchill comes to Catalina Tuna Club and catches a Marlin and takes a marlin on his first time out. There are few who emulate Churchill and take a fish on the first time out. The gentlemen efficiently occupying the President’s chair, Jonah Jones Jr., is no exception." (This passage taken from a book about the history of the Tuna Club.) It is no surprise that the third owner of the Ida May, Jones is compared to Churchill. Jonah was a prolific and avid fishermen and caught hundreds of big-game fish off the Nada III.
While aboard the Nada III, Jonah Jones’ long range camera exploded the myth of a “sea monster” in the Catalina Channel. His photographic evidence proved the “monster” with a penchant for popping up in unlikely places and scaring the dickens out of boatsmen was really an albino elephant seal later named, “Clemente Clem.”
Martin Decker Corporation uses the Nada III in an advertisement for Martin-Decker Vacumatic Marine Engine Performance Indicators. The Nada III was the first boat to have these high tech gauges which were used to gauge fuel efficiency. Original cost of gauge: $63, today’s value $600.
Stan Laurel passes away, February 23, 1965 after making 190 movies. Stan never owned another boat. He removed the ship's clock from the yacht which was a constant reminder of the days he went cruising and fishing on his yacht. He is known as one of the greatest entertainers/comedians of all time and won the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1961. Before his death he said, “If anyone at my funeral has a long face. I’ll never speak to them again.”
Jonah Jones, Jr. passes away in Long Beach, CA, July 22, 1976 and was buried at sea with over thirty boats following in precession.
Dick Van Dyke (Stan Laurel’s eulogy was given by Van Dyke) and Liberace were interested in owning the yacht. Ted Easterling purchases yacht in 1977. In 1979, John Sanders a broker for yachts, purchases the yacht and sells her to George Richardson.
George and his wife, Sharon Richardson live-aboard the boat in San Diego for a few years.
Gloria Sams buys the Nada III from George Richardson, then re-sells her to Max and Lynn Dietz and later re-purchases the Nada III from the bank in 1988 in extremely dire condition.
The Ida May
Gloria Sams sells Nada III to Paul Arnold in June 1988. Paul had been restoring the boat for 14 years with intense passion and hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses and thousands of hours of research. Arnold renamed the boat Ida May back to its' original name. Many articles in newspapers and newsletters regarding the restoration process for the Ida May were published. Arnold was a model and actor. Once, a Macy’s model he acted in “Black Widow” with Debra Winger and “A Year in the Life of Richard Riley.”
We know Paul loved this boat and we credit him for saving the yacht.
Listed as a Large Historic Preserved Vessel, Department of Interior, National Park Service, Washington, D.C. www.nps.gov
Sea Magazine, September 1993 issue, pg. 37: The Ida May listed as one of the 25 Top Classics (Boats You’ll Never Forget).
August 1, 2005, Bob and Steve longtime highschool friends purchase the Ida May and start a historic and monumental restoration project.
August 27, 2005, a visit with Lois Laurel Hawes (Stan Laurel’s daughter) at her home in Northridge, CA. We learned significant history about the boat and her father. During this visit Lois provides many pictures and stories. Lois is a vivacious and beautiful 78 y/o with an amazing memory. One pleasant memory from this visit was a comment about Oliver Hardy, “Babe (Hardy) was like a second father to me. He didn't have any children of his own.” She expressed that Hardy would sit her affectionately on his lap, bouncing her on his lap, and sing "Harvest Moon" to her. Click here to hear and watch Oliver Hardy sing "Harvest Moon." Bob and Steve communicate with Lois on a weekly basis and consider her a dear friend. This website is dedicated to her and the joy she brings us every chance we talk with her. September 13, 2005, The Ida May is pulled out of San Rafael Yacht Harbor and the restoration begins.
September 27, 2006, The ships clock has been found!!! Captain Carl Fismer returns the Ship's clock back to the Ida May! It had been nearly 70 years! Click here to learn about this absolutely amazing story. A great random act of kindness by Captain Carl. Every major yachting/boating magazine expresses interest in writing a story. Yachting Magazine is chosen to tell the story.
November 17, 2006
Bob and Steve fly to southern California for a second research trip. Many important discoveries are made regarding the history of the Ida May and its previous owners.
January 20, 2007
Captain Fismer visits the Ida May in California. Captain Fismer, Bob and Steve hear the clock chime again on the yacht 68 years after it was removed. Later in the week on January 26, 2007, a visit to Lois Laurel Hawes at her southern California home is made to personally return her father's memorabilia. Captain Carl's kindness and generosity to return these items is unmatched.
February 4, 2007
Catch Records for the Ida May compiled
A confirmed 197 fish were caught by the first three owners (Van Brunt, Laurel, Jones) of the Ida May totalling 6,804.5 lbs. This was meticulously compiled looking at the private catch records of the Catalina Tuna Club, published newspaper articles from the Los Angeles Times and Long Beach Telegram, and the personal Log Book of Jonah Jones Jr. (3rd owner of the Ida May). In fact many hundred more fish and many many thousands of more pounds of fish were caught off the Ida May but only the significant catches were listed or published. Note these confirmed counts are actual published reports of fish caught off the Ida May. This may be the only sportfisher from the early 1900s that has an extensive list of confirmed reports of fish caught. Indeed the Ida May is an example of one of the oldest sportfishers in existence today.
April 20, 2007
An amazing and fulfilling meeting with Paul Arnold. We exchanged and shared stories about the Ida May. Paul owned the Ida May from 1988 - 2005. We continue to communicate with Paul as his advice, insight and friendship has been rewarding.
September 5, 2007
Classic Yacht magazine features the Restoration of Stan Laurel's Yacht in their May/June 2008 issue. You can read the feature article (pages 32-41) by clicking here.
The Ida May is hauled out for topside and bottom paint.
April 3, 2010 The Yacht Ida May has a new home!
What a glorious day with the help of Bill Doll, Allan Almquist, Jim x 2, Wendy, Sunny, and friends the Ida May enjoys a new covered marina. A special thanks goes to Bill for directing a safe tug! Bill Doll is the Curator of Small Crafts for the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park (NPS) and we are blessed to have his expertise, continued support and valued friendship.
History provided has been documented from conversations with family members of the previous owners of the Ida May (Lois Laurel – Stan Laurel’s daughter, Gale Lingle and Tom Young – Jonah Jones Jr. grandchildren and Paul Arnold) and hundreds of publications in newspapers – Newspaperarchives.com, Los Angeles Times archives, Ancestry.com, from Mr. Arnold, previous owner from 1988-2005, Tuna Club publications, conversations and letters from Eleanor Vallee (Rudy Vallee’s wife), communication with Jeff Christianson (Commodore of Catalina Island Yacht Club), Bruce Siebert (manager of the Tuna Club), research at the Catalina Museum in Avalon, Jeanine Pedersen (Curator at the Catalina Museum). To name a few articles: Sea Magazine, September 1993, articles from the Los Angeles Times, Aug 11, 1926, May 31, 1935, June 6, 1935, June 8, 1935, Sept. 28, 1935, articles from the Horicon Reporter (Jan 21, 1932, No. 51, July 28, 1916, May 19, 1977, May 23, 1935, May 17, 1935, June 6, 1935, Nov 3,1916, June 13, 1935, Aug 7, 1958) and Milwaukee Journal (newspapers) in Wisconsin, Agriculture Hall of Fame, Bonner Springs, Kansas, A History of Deere & Co. and Its Times – copyright 1984 by Wayne G. Brocht, Jr, The History of John Deere Horicon Works 1861-1986, written by Faith Meyer, National Park Service-Department of Interior-National Maritime Initiative; Large preserved historic vessels (www.nps.gov), Islander (paper) March 24 1926, Long Beach Morning Sun, Sept 19, 1926, Outdoor Life Magazine, Denver, CO 1926, The Waukesha Freeman, July 17, 1935, Sea Yacht Register 1938, 1940, 1941, 1945. Needless to say hundreds and hundreds of hours of research has been conducted.