SV Fantome, former fixture on Seattle's Portage Bay, sinks in Caribbean hurricane on October 27, 1998.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 1/30/2003
  • Essay 4140
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On October 27, 1998, the luxury sailing vessel Fantome was caught off the coast of Honduras by Hurricane Mitch and perished with her crew of 31, having previously disembarked her passengers. Originally a British yacht, the Fantome was stranded in Seattle by the outbreak of World War II in 1939, and spent the next 14 years at anchor in Lake Union and Portage Bay.

From War Orphan to Windjammer

The SV Fantome was a steel-hulled sailing yacht built for Great Britain’s Duke of Westminster in 1927, and later acquired by beer baron Ernest Guinness. She sailed into Seattle in 1939 and became stranded by the outbreak of World War II. After the war, King County blocked her departure in an effort to recover property taxes from Guiness. The vessel ended up resting at anchor in Portage Bay for a total of nearly 14 years.

Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis finally bought her and offered her as a wedding present to Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956, but the royal couple declined the gift. Briefly renamed Flying Cloud, the Fantome was ultimately acquired by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises in 1969 and converted into a luxury sailing vessel for up to 128 adventurous tourists.


Paul Dorpat, “Way Enough,” Seattle Now & Then, The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine, December 17, 2000; Cynthia Corzo, Curtis Morgan, and John Barry Herald, “A Cornered Ship, 31 Men and a Date With Doom,” Miami Herald, November 8, 1998.

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