Honey Fritz by Ran Daffer
Honey Fitz photo by Ran Daffer ©

History of
Bay County Michigan
Boat Building

One of the earliest industries of Bay County was boat building. The numerous ship yards turned out all manner of craft from large to small. Bay City shipyards launched the first 600 foot Great Lakes steel freighters as well as smaller commercial vessels, sailing ships and pleasure craft. Before and during World War II the yards turned out U.S. Destroyers, even several missile vessels for the Australian Navy.

In recent years, the area has been home for both sail and power boat champions. The Gougeon Brothers firm is a recognized innovator in the area of laminated epoxy craft and are well known for their championship iceboats and sailboats. The Staudacher firm, in the small suburb of Kawkawlin, has probably turned out more Gold Cup hydroplanes than any other single builder. (Staudacher is also the creator of the world champion aerobatic airplane the "Staudacher S300")

Among the many famous ships and luxury yachts built in Bay City was the Kennedy era Presidential Yacht named "Honey Fitz". Some references say that this boat was at one point named the Sequoia. In fact, the Sequoia was another boat entirely. According to Mr. John Harris, who served as chief engineer of the Honey Fitz for almost every trip that JFK made aboard her: "The Sequoia was assigned to the Chief of Naval Operations. The reason for the confusion is that the Sequoia had much more covered area suitable to the 'stand up, drink in your hand' type of party than did the Honey Fitz, and was occasionally used by JFK."

The Honey Fitz did go by other names. President Eisenhower named her "Barbara Anne" and at one point she was called the "Patricia". President Kennedy renamed the boat "Honey Fitz" after his Grandfather John Francis 'Honey Fitz' Fitzgerald. The elder Kennedy, born in 1863 in Boston, was a member of the Massachusetts state senate, mayor of Boston, U.S. Representative from Massachusetts and candidate for Govoner of Massachusetts. He died in 1950.

The photo is courtesy of Ran Daffer who has an excellent collection of collectible photos on his Collectible Photo Store web site.

Thanks to John Harris for his insights on the history of both the Honey Fitz and the Sequoia.
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Updated 4/15/2000