USS Phenakite

USS Phenakite (PYc-25) was a converted yacht that was used by the United States Navy during World War I and World War II. The vessel was also known as Celt, Sachem (SP-192), Sightseer and Circle Line V.

Yacht Celt, USS Sachem, USS Phenakite.jpg
Steam yacht Celt prior to World War I
United States
OwnerJ. Rogers Maxwell
BuilderPusey and Jones, Wilmington, Delaware
LaunchedApril 12, 1902
Fatetransferred to USN July 3, 1917
United States
NameUSS Sachem
AcquiredJuly 3, 1917
CommissionedAugust 19, 1917
Fatetransferred back to owner February 10, 1919
United States
OwnerManton B. Metcalf
AcquiredFebruary 10, 1919
Fatesold to Jacob "Jake" Martin and converted to a fishing boat 1932
United States
OwnerJacob "Jake" Martin
Fatereacquired by the Navy February 17, 1942 for $65,000 and converted for Naval service at Robert Jacobs Inc., City Island, New York
United States
NameUSS Phenakite
AcquiredFebruary 17, 1942
CommissionedJuly 1, 1942 at Tompkinsville, New York
DecommissionedNovember 17, 1944
Fatetransferred to the Maritime Commission for disposal November 5, 1945
United States
NameUSS Phenakite
OwnerMaritime Commission
AcquiredNovember 5, 1945
Fatereturned to her original owner, Mr. J. Martin of Brooklyn, New York, and renamed Sachem on December 29, 1945
United States
OwnerJ. Martin
AcquiredDecember 29, 1945
Fatesubsequently resold to the Circle Line of New York City and renamed Sightseer
United States
OwnerCircle Line of New York City
  • Renamed Circle Line V
  • Reportedly scrapped in 1984
  • Found abandoned outside of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River
  • Presently under the custody of the D'Andrea LaRosa Art Foundation.
General characteristics [1][2]
  • 317 long tons (322 t)
  • 360 long tons (370 t) (1942)
  • 186 ft 3 in (56.77 m)
  • 183 ft (56 m) (1942)
Beam22 ft 6 in (6.86 m)
  • 8 ft (2.4 m)
  • 9 ft 7 in (2.92 m) (1942)
Installed power
  • 1,200 shp (890 kW)
  • 805 shp (600 kW) (1936)
  • vertical triple-expansion steam engine, one shaft
  • 7-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse 37D 14 diesel engine (1936)
  • 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)
  • 13.5 kn (15.5 mph; 25.0 km/h) (1942)


USS Phenakite (PYc-25) was built 1902 as the yacht Celt by Pusey and Jones, Wilmington, Delaware, for J. Rogers Maxwell, a railroad executive.[2][3] It was launched on April 12, 1902.

Shortly after the United States' entry into the First World War, it was acquired by the US Navy on July 3, 1917.[2][3] The ship was placed in service as USS Sachem (SP 192) on August 19 and used as a Coastal Patrol Yacht. During its Navy service, it was loaned to inventor Thomas Edison who conducted government-funded experiments with it to develop countermeasures to U-boats.

After the end of World War I, Sachem was returned to her owner, Manton B. Metcalf of New York, on February 10, 1919.[2][3] It was later sold to Philadelphia banker Roland L. Taylor and then to Jacob "Jake" Martin of Brooklyn, New York in 1932 who converted it to a fishing excursion boat.

The yacht was reacquired by the Navy on February 17, 1942 for $65,000 and converted for naval service at Robert Jacobs Inc., City Island, New York.[2][3] It was commissioned as USS Phenakite (PYc-25) on July 1 at Tompkinsville, New York and patrolled the waters off of the Florida Keys during World War II. It was decommissioned to undergo modifications and placed back in service on November 17, 1944. It was used for testing sonar systems before being placed out of service on October 2, 1945 at Tompkinsville, and transferred to the Maritime Commission for disposal on November 5.

The vessel was then returned to her previous owner, Martin, and renamed Sachem on December 29.[2][3] It was struck from the Naval Register February 7, 1946. It was subsequently resold to the Circle Line of New York City and renamed Sightseer, but was later renamed Circle Line V. It served as a tour boat until 1983.

In 1986, a Cincinnati local named Robert Miller purchased the ship for the low price of $7,500 and spent 10 days restoring the yacht so it could make the journey to the Midwest.[3] After using the boat to take friends out on New York Harbor for the ceremonial relighting of the Statue of Liberty during the July 4 weekend, Miller took the boat back home via the Hudson River, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, and the Ohio River before settling at the mouth of Taylor Creek near its confluence with the Ohio River on Miller's property in Boone County, Kentucky.

Unable to afford expensive repairs needed to save it, Miller left the boat to rust away on Taylor Creek where it remains to this day.[4] The decayed and abandoned boat is a popular destination for kayak enthusiasts in the Cincinnati area and is commonly referred to as "The Ghost Ship."[5][6][7]

Robert Miller died in 2016.[4]

Pop cultureEdit

Before leaving New York Harbor, the boat was used in Madonna's 'Papa Don't Preach' music video in 1986.[3] While the boat was being worked on one day, a limousine pulled up to the dock and a representative for Madonna asked if they could use the ship in an upcoming music video. Miller agreed and the boat can briefly be seen in the video.


For her service in the U.S. Navy, Sachem / Phenakite earned the following awards:


  1. ^ Lenton 1974, pp. 3–4[full citation needed]
  2. ^ a b c d e f Priolo, Gary P. "Phenakite (PYc-25), ex-Sachem (SP 192)". NavSource Naval History. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Cahal, Sherman (June 7, 2018). "USS Sachem and USS Phenakite". Abandoned. Retrieved December 14, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b "The Ghost Ship". Kentucky Living. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  5. ^ Ohio Kayak. "Ohio Kayak Blog-- Rivers, Music, Friends and More..." Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  6. ^ Henry E. Dorfman. "Ship lends ghostly history to Paddlefest". WCPO. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  7. ^ Life Ghost ship

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 39°04′52.40″N 84°50′55.16″W / 39.0812222°N 84.8486556°W / 39.0812222; -84.8486556