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Hornblower welcomes guests on John Wayne’s legendary yacht

May 1, 2009

Sailing and silver screen history come alive on Wild Goose tour


NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – When Oscar-winning Western star John Wayne sailed to Alaska on his 136-foot yacht, Wild Goose, he returned with chunks of glacial ice. Later, he shaved that ice and used it to chill cocktails.


The tale is one of many told on the Historic Wild Goose Tour offered by Hornblower Cruises & Events. Guests board the Wild Goose in Newport Beach for a narrated, one-hour dockside visit spotlighting the boat’s storied past. Cost for the excursion, available by arrangement Monday through Friday, is $25 per person for groups of 10-30. Groups also can customize their experience by reserving the boat’s special event space for up to 150, or by arranging to cruise from Newport, Marina del Rey, Long Beach or San Diego.


“John Wayne remains one of America’s most beloved big-screen stars, and many of his famous films were set on the water,” says Hornblower Cruises & Events CEO Terry MacRae. “This tour gives fans an opportunity to view rare memorabilia and artwork, and it allows us to honor ‘The Duke’ in a unique way.”


Early History

The Wild Goose first sailed from Seattle in 1942, as the United States Navy Minesweeper YMS 328. Of the 481 minesweepers manufactured, only 4 – including the Wild Goose – remain today. After World War II, Canadian owners purchased the vessel and dubbed her La Beverie (The Beautiful Dream); Seattle lumber tycoon Max Wyman later acquired the boat and renamed her The Wild Goose II.


When John Wayne bought the minesweeper a decade later, he dropped the “II” from the title and set about creating a private retreat for family and friends. Though he chose to maintain the vessel’s military legacy, preserving parts such as the ship’s wheel and original magnetic compass, the Duke did make some renovations. The overheads were raised to accommodate his 6-foot-4-inch frame, and he commissioned a mural for the yacht’s Fireplace Room. New furniture included a leather chair that Wayne received from the set of “In Harm’s Way.”


A Seagoing Sanctuary

John Wayne sailed the Wild Goose north to Alaska and Canada, south to the tip of Mexico’s Baja California and, closer to home, between Newport Harbor and Santa Catalina Island. He once lived on the yacht for two months while recovering from surgery, and he employed a full-time crew that also lived on board at various times. In addition to boarding with his third wife and their children, Wayne welcomed celebrity guests Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. for poker parties and dinners.


The Duke took his final trip on Wild Goose, an excursion to Santa Catalina Island, in April 1979. He died from cancer complications in June of that year. Intent on protecting his family from the financial burden of the yacht, Wayne sold the Wild Goose to a Los Angeles-area attorney two weeks before he passed away.


Today's Tour Experience

John Wayne's legacy lives on in Orange County, where the airport nears his name and the longtime Newport Beach resident is buried in an unmarked Pacific View Memorial Park Grave. The Wild Goose still occupies a slip in the local harbor.

"John Wayne was a big part of this community. Our tour aims to highlight that, as we provide perspective on his life and legacy," says MacRae.

For information and Historic Wild Goose Tour reservations, call 949-646-015 or visit




Hornblower Cruises & Events has been the leading charter yacht and public dining cruise company in California for more than 29 years. The company operates 32 vessels, including the 3 largest dining yachts on the West Coast, in San Francisco, Berkeley, Long Beach, Newport Beach, Marina del Rey and San Diego. Alcatraz Cruises, a business unit of Hornblower Cruises & Events, is the official National Park Service concessioner of the water transportation services to Alcatraz Island.