In 1933, radio broadcaster Phillips Lord purchased the schooner ‘Georgette,’ which he renamed as ‘Seth Parker’ after the character he played on his popular radio show, ‘Sunday Evening at Seth Parker’s.’ (The character ‘Seth Parker’ was a clergyman and backwoods philosopher based on his real-life grandfather.)
Lord first broadcast the program from his hometown of Jonesport, Maine, and then aboard the four-masted Seth Parker. With on-location reports from Lord each week, the program was billed as ‘The Cruise of the Seth Parker.’
Phillips Lord conceived an idea to sail his new ship to various exotic ports, with a team of celebrities, to broadcast his radio programs. The Seth Parker sailed from Portland Maine on December 5, (Woram) calling at various ports on the East Coast to broadcast the show. (Offshore Radio Guide)
The ship passed through the Panama Canal and sailed to the South Pacific. “For a while the plan worked. Then, mid-way between Samoa and Tahiti, the Seth Parker on Feb 8, 1935, ran into a storm. She radioed for help describing ‘mountainous’ waves breaking over the decks.”
“Next came a report from the schooner that the storm had subsided and ‘all’s well.’ (However,) On Feb 10 the Seth Parker was again in trouble, again calling for help.”
“The ‘Australia,’ 300 miles away by that time, returned to repeat her ‘rescue’ act. This time she took off the schooner’s nine crew members. Lord and four others remained aboard, and the vessel was towed by navy tug to Pago Pago.” (Advertiser, June 12, 1936)
The damage to the ship during the typhoons was so great that the radio crew ended any thoughts of further broadcasts aboard the wounded ship. (Offshore Radio Guide)
“About that time Hawaiian Tuna Packers, Ltd, decided to buy her as a bait boat and sent representatives to Samoa to inspect her. Upon hearing from scouts that the big schooner was in ‘good shape’ the company completed the purchase”. (Advertiser, June 12, 1936)
In April 1935, Hawaiian Tuna Packers took an option on the schooner. Chris Holmes had tanks fitted in the ship, with the idea of filling them with sardines to use as bait for tuna.
The ship was sold to Chris Holmes’ company for $10,000, a tenth of what it cost Phillips Lord to buy and outfit the Seth Parker for his exotic radio junkets. The vessel sailed for Honolulu on July 3. (Offshore Radio Guide)
“En route, the Seth Parker began to leak badly. Her new skipper radioed for help, and the coast guard cutter Tiger was dispatched to her assistance. The trip from Pago Pago to Honolulu took the schooner 64 days.”
“Reconciled to its bad bargain, Tuna Packers abandoned hope of putting the schooner to any use. It was then that Christian R Holmes, company president, decided to take the ship to Coconut Island.”
“And there she has been … bedded in concrete almost up to her waterline. At a glance, however, the ship seemed to be moored in a specially-constructed berth and ready at any time to take off again to the open seas.”
“For a long while she was immaculately groomed. Her hull was kept spotless white, her decks polished, her four masts ready for sails, but it was just a front.”
“Her whole interior was fitted with a bar, a theater and other entertainment, features for amusement of Mr Holmes’ guests on his fabulous island retreat.” (Advertiser, June 12, 1936)
Holmes bought the island from Bishop Estate to use as a tuna-packing factory. As he wasn’t satisfied with the size of the island, he decided to enlarge it to 28 acres, more than double its original size, using material taken from a sandbar in Kaneohe Bay.
Holmes had a vision of creating a private paradise, so while working on increasing the size of the island he also enhanced it by building a saltwater swimming pool and fishponds (which later became useful for HIMB) and adding numerous exotic plants and trees.
He also built a bowling alley, brought a shooting gallery from an amusement park in San Francisco, and built bars at several spots on the island. The boat was used in the movie ‘Wake of the Red Witch,’ starring John Wayne. (Parkvall)
The stately silhouette of the Seth Parker remained intact until Holmes’ death in 1944. The masts were removed around 1945. Some attempt was made to maintain the hull during the next few years, but the ship slowly rotted away.
A fire in the 1960s accelerated the ship’s demise. As the paint on the hull wore off, the original name Georgette and home port of San Francisco became visible. (Offshore Radio Guide)
“If you’ve ever seen a bleached and crumbling skeleton of some large animal on the sands of a mainland desert, you’ll have an idea what the Seth Parker looks like today.”
“Her masts are gone, her bow sprit has long since rotted away, her hull is drab and peeling, part of her deck rail has disintegrated and hunks have rotted out of her decks. Even the bar and theater and baubles that gave her her final claim to glory have been stripped away.” (Advertiser, June 12, 1936)
Today all that is left is a mound of green vegetation where the Seth Parker once was berthed. For many years the wheel of the ship was on display in the main house on Coconut Island, but the wheel was later donated to the Hawai‘i Maritime Center at Honolulu Harbor. (Offshore Radio Guide)