Acania

Acania

Member Type: 

Non Member

Boat Name: 

Acania

prev-names: 

Dixonia, Southern Seas, Liberty, Americana, Wild Catter, Star Fjord

Year: 

1930

Length: 

136'

Builder: 

Consolidated Shipbuilding Corporation

Designer: 

John H. Wells

Fleet: 

  • Northern California

Principal dimensions:

  • LOA  136ft 2 ½ inches
  • LWL 134ft 1 ½ inches
  • Beam 23ft 1 ¼ inches
  • Draft 8ft 9 ½ inches
  • Displacement 300 Tons

Previous Names & Owners:

  • Acania 27th August 1930 to 10th August 1935 - Owner Arthur Wheeler
  • Dixonia 10th August 1935 to 11th Feb 1947 - Owned by Walgreen family
  • Southern Seas 11th Feb 1947 to April 23 rd 1957 - Registered in Canada, owned by Clifford Mooers
  • Liberty - Missing information
  • Americana - Owned by American Can Corporation
  • Wild Catter Missing information
  • Star Fjord April 23rd 1995 to July 20th 2008 - Owner Miles Davis
  • Returned to Acania 20th July 2008 --- Owner David Olson
  • 2016 -- sold to East Coast US owner

History of The Motor Yacht Acania:

The Diesel yacht Acania designed by John H. Wells for Mr. Arthur E. Wheeler of New York. She was launched August 27, 1930 at the famous New York ship builders, Consolidated Shipbuilding Corporation.

Al Capone fishingArthur E Wheeler was a prominent Wall Street banker, who despite the Wall Street crash of 1929, had two Acanias built. He was a known associate of the gangster Al Capone, and it is rumored that Capone's money was used to purchase the yachts. In fact the speculation is that the "AC" in Acania stands for Al Capone. (The first Acania was delivered in 1929 by Pusey & Jones in Wilmington, Delaware.  It was 122-feet and a completely different design, although there were some similarities in the two yacht's arrangements.  The first Acania is still afloat, in Seattle, WA, but in poor condition due to years of hard use as a research vessel.)

Capone (seen at right, fishing from some other yacht) never registered any property in his own name. By the late twenties he was becoming increasingly security-minded and desiring to quietly get away from his Chicago operations. Following the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929, which is believed to have been ordered by Capone, he was fearful of retaliation by rival gangs as well as being watched by the Feds. Acania was moored in Miami and was thought to be one of Capone's getaway locations. Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison in November of 1931, and Wheeler sold the yacht in 1934.

From 1934 until 1947, Acania was owned by Charles R. Walgreen of the Walgreen pharmacy family, renamed "Dixonia" for their hometown of Dixon, Ill. During the Walgreen ownership, Dixonia was commissioned by the USA Army for WW II and used as a experimental submarine echo finder. (Article attached below relates details of Dixonia's last cruise on Lake Michigan before going into military service, August 1941.)  She was also reportedly used on several occasions by President Roosevelt for war meetings.

In 1942, Dixonia helped the Army and Navy with tests of a concept called "Sonic Deception". Sound recording, playback, and amplification was still in it's infancy, and a great deal of research was done to try and create a sound system that could be deployed on a ship and used to deceive the enemy, for example by broadcasting fake sounds of a landing invasion -- anchor chanis rattling, engines and machinery and troop noises -- all hidden by smoke screens.  The enemy could be deceived into preparing for an invasion at the wrong location, while the real invasion would take place somewhere else. Such a system was successfully tested at Sandy Hook, NJ, October 27,1942, in which Dixonia participated. [Ghosts of the ETO] The actor Douglass Fairbanks Jr., was aboard as an observor for the Navy.

In 1947, under the new owner Clifford Mooers, Acania was renamed "Southern Seas" and left the USA bound for British Columbia, Canada, where she stayed until her return to the USA in 1957. She was not re-registered by the USCG until 1987. Little is known of her ownership between these dates. From 1988 until 1991, she was used by various charter companies on the east coast.

In 1995, Mr. Miles Davis [not the Jazz musician] purchased Acania in Miami from a scrap yard. Needless to say, without Mr. Davis, Acania might have been gone forever--a lost piece of maritime history. Star Fjord, as she was named during Mr. Davis’ ownership, spent her previous 13 years in the Bay Area in San Francisco, the Delta, Oakland and Richmond.

It was through a chance meeting with Miles Davis that Acania’s current owner was able to purchase her for a long awaited restoration. Her restoration was aided by the fact that Acania is 90% original from the 1930 build date. This is a very rare find since most vessels her age have had several refits and layout changes. The 10% of her that was changed consists of the day galley and the main galley, both of which were torn out in the 1970s. Thank goodness this was all that was changed.

Mystic Seaport museum was fantastic in providing some 20 original black and white photos of Acania’s maiden voyage which can be viewed on the owner's web site.  They have also researched and found a small selection of her construction drawings.

During the restoration, Acania was re-powered with new Caterpillar diesels and generators, and had all new systems installed that meet today’s standards. Her original telegraphs have been retained and converted to operate the new electronic controls. Additionally, she was fitted with a bow thruster, active fin stabilizers, and a hot tub - all equipment that did not exist in 1930!
 


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Wartime Use: 

In 1942, as "Dixonia", Acania helped the Army and Navy with tests of a concept called "Sonic Deception". Sound recording, playback, and amplification was still in it's infancy, and a great deal of research was done to try and create a sound system that could be deployed on a ship and used to deceive the enemy, for example by broadcasting fake sounds of a landing invasion -- anchor chains rattling, engines and machinery and troop noises -- all hidden by smoke screens. The enemy could be deceived into preparing for an invasion at the wrong location, while the real invasion would take place somewhere else. Such a system was successfully tested at Sandy Hook, NJ, October 27,1942, in which Dixonia participated. [Ghosts of the ETO] The actor Douglass Fairbanks Jr., was aboard as an observer for the Navy.