The “Roaring ’20s” and early 1930s were a time in U.S. history when some of the country’s wealthiest citizens reveled in the beauty and majesty of elaborate architecture and design of homes, office buildings, resorts and yachts.
One such individual was Arthur E. Wheeler, a prominent Wall Street banker, who commissioned the exquisite yacht Acania to be built in 1930. Designed by naval architect John H. Wells, the 136-foot yacht was one of a handful of large diesel-driven cruisers that boasted elaborate accommodations.
As originally designed, Acania’s accommodations include four staterooms, a lovely sitting room, sun decks, a formal dining room with supporting galleys, a hideaway bar (an obvious necessity for the prohibition era) and quarters for a full crew.
After nearly 80 years of ownership transfers (including the likelihood of Al Capone once being the owner), and even a stint of military use, Acania fell into disrepair. Thanks to Dave Olson, who purchased the vessel in 2008 and rechristened it Acania after many name changes, the elaborate yacht has been brought back to its former glory.
Jeff Viehmeyer, owner of Alameda Canvas & Coverings at Grand Marina in Alameda, Calif., worked with his team and the yacht’s owner to restore this beautiful vessel.
“The owner’s intention was to bring her back to that glorious era of simple, yet refined motor yachting of the ’20s and ’30s,” Viehmeyer says. “Her restoration was accomplished with a great team of craftsman who were passionate not only for the job at hand, but for the enthusiasm of restoring Acania as a piece of nautical history.”
Fortunately, Acania has been altered only slightly since her launch in 1930. Aside from new systems and power, the only major reconstruction required was to the galley and the serving pantry, which were completely gutted. In the engine room, while the power plants are new, the original telegraphs and some of her incredible original electrical panels were kept for display purposes.
As Viehmeyer explains, Acania’s steel hull has had major structural repairs, the decks have been replaced and most of the interior woodwork has been restored.
The aft deck salon has been enclosed with magnificent teak windows, some of which were custom formed to fit the compound curves of her canoe stern,” Viehmeyer says. “All of the staterooms and bathrooms were restored with period pieces, including custom light fixtures and chandeliers, and two new 600-horsepower Caterpillar engines were installed. The owner actually bought a small historic Alameda shipyard so the work could be performed in a facility totally dedicated to the restoration.”
The combination of discreetly installed modern systems and archival-quality interior restoration keep with classic tradition, while making Acania a premier super yacht for today.
After six years of restoration, owner Dave Olson now uses Acania for passages along the West Coast and enjoyed the America’s Cup event in San Francisco Bay. Future plans include regular sailing in U.S and European waters by the owner, his family and guests.
Maura Keller is a freelance writer from Plymouth, Minn.