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(Photo Caption: USS Sachem (SP-192) following her commissioning)
This is a suggestion for a unique coastal patrol ship with quite a bit of history. The ship more specifically; is the former steam yacht Celt which was commissioned into the US Navy as USS Sachem (SP-192) during World War I. The ship would also later serve under a different name during the Second World War. This suggestion, however, will cover only USS Sachem (SP-192) during her First World War service. This ship would be an interesting little addition to the US Coastal Tree, owing to not just her unique history but also because she represents a unique type of warship that is not often very well represented or even remembered, especially in games.
During wartime, it is often common practice for belligerent nations as part of their war efforts to requisition civilian vessels from their owners for use as everything from troop transports, patrol ships, rescue ships, and even command ships. One such ship was the Steam yacht Celt which would enter service in 1917 for the US Navy as USS Sachem (SP-192). The former yacht would also later serve as USS Phenakite during the Second World War. Celt started life out as a private Steam yacht for a wealthy railroad executive and served many roles in her life; from being a racing yacht and a normal pleasure yacht to patrolling the coastal waters during the First and second world wars, and even doing stints as a fishing vessel, a sightseeing boat, and most famously a floating laboratory for Thomas Edison to develop new Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) technologies.
(Photo Caption: Steam Yacht Celt under construction at Pusey & Jones shipyard in Wilmington, Delaware, 1902)
The ship that would become USS Sachem began her life as a Steam Yacht under the name of Celt. She was initially constructed for a wealthy railroad executive by the name of John Rogers Maxwell Sr who paid a grand total of $250,000 for her. The Yacht Celt would take only five months to build and was christened on 12 April 1902. The Celt as originally built was designed by the famed Yacht designer Henry C. Wintringham and featured two deckhouses made of carved mahogany as well as two masts made of Oregon pine. For the interior, she featured nine furnished staterooms all also made of mahogany with adjoining bathrooms with mosaic and tiled floors. The Celt was also equipped with modern plumbing and unlike many ships at the time featured running electricity throughout the entire ship. All the staterooms meanwhile were equipped with electric fans, an icebox, a large berth, as well as a full chest of drawers, a large wardrobe, and a dressing table. All these features were very well received by those that stayed aboard her.
(Photo Caption: The Steam Yacht Celt in service to Maxwell Sr. Seen sailing around the Long Island Sound in 1903)
Maxwell Sr. who was an experienced yachtsman and owner of several other notable racing yachts (a grand total of 27) immediately fell in love with the Celt and he considered the yacht to be the flagship of his flotilla, as well as a perfect tender for his other Yachts. For Maxwell Sr., Celt to him functioned as a summer home and a racing yacht jointly. In her seven-year service to Maxwell Sr., she achieved great local fame in these roles and was a staple of the New York Yachting scene. The ship was seen as a symbol of this golden age of yachting along with other yachts such as Cornelius Vanderbilts’ North Star and Alva, J.P. Morgan’s Corsair III, John Jacob Astor’s Normal, and Theodore Roosevelt’s Mayflower. However, by the end of the early 1900s, Yachting was beginning to fall out of favor with the wealthy and the elites.
With Maxwell Sr’s death in 1910, the golden era for Celt finally came to an end. Following Maxwell SR’s death, she was sold to another wealthy gentleman by the name of Manton Bradley Metcalf Sr who like Maxwell was an excellent yachtsman and would continue to use Celt as a pleasure yacht as well, although he would rename the ship Sachem. The now rechristened Sachem would end up spending the next seven years serving as a Yacht on the East Coast although her exact history during this era has not been well recorded. it was, however, recorded that she did receive a refit in 1914 that helped breathe new life into the then 12-year-old yacht.
(Photo Caption: USS Sachem (SP-192) just prior to her commissioning into US Navy Service)
However, Sachem’s career as a yacht would temporarily come to a halt on 3 April 1917 when she would be formally requisitioned for service by the US Navy as a patrol ship following the US entry into World War I. The ship was then immediately assigned the designation SP-192 (SP standing for Sector Patrol) in preparation for her commissioning. The now USS Sachem was brought to New York for significant refit to convert the former luxury yacht into a ship of war. This refit was taken on by the Gas Engine & Power Co. and Charles L. Seabury & Co., Consolidated, of Morris Heights, New York. During this refit her masts were removed, the ornate brass sealed, and various structural modifications were made to increase her seaworthiness. Also, much of her old and antiquated navigational equipment was removed and replaced. During this refit, the ship was also outfitted with depth charge racks and a defensive armament consisting of a 6-pounder (57mm) deck gun, a pair of 3-pounder (37mm) guns, as well as two light machine guns. This refit was completed on 19 August 1917, and she was subsequently formally commissioned under the Third Maritime District and assigned to harbor patrol.
(Photo Caption: Thomas Edison and the crew of USS Sachem in 1917)
However, Sachem would not be assigned to the Third Maritime District for long, and would not even be deployed. The reason for this was that the US Navy had made an agreement in the Spring of 1917 with the Inventor Thomas Alva Edison. This agreement was made due to Edison’s near obsession with finding ways to combat the U-Boat threat, due to this he made a formal agreement with the US Navy to test some of his ideas and experimental weapons. With the agreement in place, all Edison required was a floating laboratory to conduct tests. Not wanting to take an active warship out of the war effort, the US Navy instead offered up the then USS Sachem (SP-192) which Edison gratefully accepted. Sachems’ life as a test ship would begin in earnest and from August to October 1917 she partook in heavy testing of various anti-U-boat and U-Boat attack survival equipment including “collision mats” and “kite rudders”. However, none of this equipment would be placed into production due to a lack of interest or belief in the very real U-Boat threat by the US Navy. Due to this testing, the Sachem would as such see little to no action at all. And by 1918 with the end of the war and with Edison pulling his funding for research, the US Navy would decommission Sachem and had her returned to Metcalf who used her as a Yacht again until 1919 when he decided to sell the ship to the banker, Roland Leslie Taylor for further use as a yacht.
(Photo Caption: S/Y Sachem in 1919 following her return to civilian service)
Specifications for USS Sachem (SP-192) 1917
Displacement: 317 long tons (322 t)
Length: 186 ft 3 in (56.77 m)
Beam: 22 ft 6 in (6.86 m)
Draft: 8 ft (2.4 m)
Propulsion: vertical triple-expansion steam engine, one shaft producing 1,200 Shp (890 kW)
Speed: 15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Complement 49 crew
1 x 1 QF 6-pounder Hotchkiss
2 x 1 QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss
2 x 1 Light Machine Guns (Type not specified in sources)
(Photo Caption: The Steam Yacht Celt in 1911, just before being sold to Metcalf Sr.)
(Photo Caption: USS Sachem (SP-192) drydocked at Key West Naval Yard in 1917)
1917-1919 | USS Sachem 1902 (uss-sachem.org)
History | USS Sachem 1902 (uss-sachem.org)
Phenakite (PYc-25) (navsource.org)
Sachem III (S. P. 192) (navy.mil)
Thomas Edison in World War I - Thomas Edison National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)