Built for Leisure
The history of the Vida Mia began in 1929 when this motor yacht was built by Stephen‘s Brothers Marine in Stockton, California. The first owner, Williard V.B. Campbell of Pebble Beach California, kept the Vida Mia at the Saint Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco and used her to entertain friends for seven years.
The Vida Mia is one of about 300 commuter yachts built in the early 1900s. To date, only about 20 remain left in the world. Vida Mia is one of these 20 and she is the only one that lives in Hawaii.
Her first owner spared nothing in making this yacht an elegant and luxurious pleasure cruiser. The best wood - cedar, oak, and teak - were used in the construction and the interior decor was the finest. The porcelain bathtub, for example, must have been a splendid touch in those days and certainly added a unique feature to the yacht. One can almost picture the champagne in the tub during those prohibition days. The same bathtub is still a part of the yacht.
After seven years, Campbell sold the Vida Mia to E.H. Spiegel on June 22, 1936. Spiegel, who owned and operated a produce business in Salinas, California kept two full-time crewman - a captain and an engineer. Spiegel didn’t make any changes to the yacht during the years he found it, since Vida Mia was in good sound condition and only needed some basic upkeep. He did however install a more powerful engine, a Cummins diesel.
Called to Serve her Country
On March 30, 1943, the War Shipping Administration commandeered the Vida Mia for war duty. In keeping with military standards, the beautiful white hull was painted a dull grey and given an official Coast Guard number. This number was carved in the wood on the starboard side of the Wheel House doorway. A brass plaque now frames this historical marking. Equipped with the best radar system, the vessel was used to search for enemy submarines.
When the war was over and the Coast Guard no longer needed the Vida Mia, it was offered back to Spiegel. So, on March 15, 1946, a new owner was found - Henry Hess. Not much is known about this period of the Vida Mia. Hess owned the yacht for five years, but no records have been found to show what work, if any, was done to the vessel during this time.
The late 40s and 50s pretty much closed this era of commuter yachts. After the war, boat builders faced shortages of materials and capital. They also faced a lack of customers. Vida Mia survived.
Edgar W. Edwards bought the Vida Mia on April 25, 1951. It was Edward who brought the yacht to Hawaii in 1963. He made the crossing during the Transpac race as an unofficial committee escort boat. It is teasingly said, though, that the Transpac fleet served more as escort vessels to the Vida Mia than the other way around. In any case, she made the crossing safe and sound and Hawaii then became her permanent home.
Vida Mia Arrives in Hawaii
On November 29, 1963, Edward R. Rose became the first owner to purchase the Vida Mia in Hawaii. This was not a happy period for Vida Mia. Rose died suddenly and the beautiful yacht was left uncared for in a boat slip in Lahaina. Not until June 29, 1966, was the abandoned vessel purchased once again, this time by John R. Stewart.
The biggest changes came to the Vida Mia when Charles W. Clarke purchased the yacht on September 9, 1968. Clark, the owner of a commercial boat charter business, wanted the Vida Mia for chartering cruises off Waikiki as well as to the other islands. This new purchase was his pride and joy and he spent much money, time, and personal involvement on converting the yacht to accommodate large groups of tourists. He put in all-new framing, installed a Detroit diesel engine, and relayed the decking.
After doing some research, Clark discovered that the Vida Mia had a sister ship Danny Boy that was built the same year. It had the same basic hull design and was also built in California but not by the same shipbuilder. What made this discovery so special was that Danny Boy had the official Presidential Seal. It belonged to the Kennedy family and was kept at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. John F. Kennedy used Danny Boy during his administration as one of the official presidential yachts.
Among the upgrading work Clarke did was to make the Vida Mia look exactly like Danny Boy. This was done by simply adding a wood awning over the rear deck area. The Vida Mia logo was also designed to be very presidential looking and was painted on the newly added smoke stack. Clark owned the Vida Mia for 12 years, one of the longest ownerships the vessel had.
through good times and bad
Alan Beale, Tom Pagliuso, and Jim Romig bought the Vida Mia on March 11, 1981. They decided to completely renovate it to its original splendor and use the Vida Mia once again as a private yacht for pleasure cruises with their family and friends. These were happy times for the Vida Mia and her guests.
Steve Martin, Kevin Showe, and Rob Martin purchased the yacht in 1999 and began a charter business called Classic Yachts Hawaii. Martin relocated to Hawaii with his family on a sailboat at the young age of 6. The next door neighbor to the Martin family in the Berkeley Harbor, the Vida Mia showed up in the Honolulu Harbor some 10 years later and again moored herself next to the Martin family in their new home, the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor. We suppose she also liked the idea of living out the rest of her days in Hawaii.
3 years later, a large corporation purchased the vessel and sadly the boat fell into disrepair. It languished in Kewalo Boat Harbor, much to the dismay of her former owners and the many passengers who walked her decks in her heyday in Waikiki during the 80s and 90s. Clips of the Vida Mia can be found all over the news, broken, battered, and sinking. There are endless stories of joyous moments, celebrations, and gatherings from locals and visitors alike, which helped to keep her spirit alive during another troubling period in her history.
A few investors tried to step up to save her, but none were able to complete the restoration due to financial troubles and other constraints. She sat abandoned for years. Her wood rotten, her teak decks bleached by the sun. Former employees shared stories of them gathering as a group, many in tears as she sat in chains, counting the days before the state was left with no choice but to take her to the scrap yard and demolish her. Many thought this her bitter end. Her asking price was $1.00.
Her next angel came along in 2014 when the vessel was purchased by a local businessman Scott Bradley. Scott purchased the vessel and lovingly restored her once again. He also met a beautiful woman named Rachel Bradley (now his wife) on one of his first charters on the newly restored vessel. A love story indeed.
A Woman takes the Helm
Scott Bradley sold the Vida Mia to Brynn Rovito in 2020, at the height of the pandemic. She worked alongside Steve Martin, who by then had over 40 years of working knowledge with the vessel. Steve has spent countless hours passing on Vida Mia's history to her captains, crew and maritime staff. Ms. Rovito is the first woman to own the vessel.
The boat's name has not changed in all of her years at sea. The original name remains, the Vida Mia.