Written by Constance Dunn
To know a man, really, is to know his hobbies and most avid pursuits—the activities that put him in his element and at his best. For John Wayne, this would be the many delightful hours he spent at sea with friends and family aboard his yacht Wild Goose.
A Navy minesweeper with a hull made of Douglas fir, the 136-foot boat was put into service during WWII, then retired and sold twice before Wayne purchased it in 1962. Renovated into a luxurious wooden yacht, Wild Goose was docked in Newport Harbor and used liberally by Wayne until his passing in 1979.
In the mid-90s, Hornblower Cruises & Events acquired the Wild Goose, adding it to their Los Angeles and Orange County fleet for private events. “We believed then, and believe now, that the Wild Goose provides a truly one-of-a-kind venue for all types of celebrations, special occasions and events,” says Kevin Lorton, Hornblower’s vice president and general manager, Southern California. Beginning in 2015, the boat was enlisted for a series of cruises, open to the public, honoring Duke. “We have always loved John Wayne and Wild Goose,” says Elizabeth King, Hornblower’s associate director of marketing. So inspired, says King, John Wayne Celebration Cruises was started in honor of his birthday. “He is such an icon in the Orange County community,” she adds.
Starting May 1 and continuing through mid-June, Wayne fans can climb aboard Wild Goose for informal tours and to sip “The Duke’s Old Fashioned” cocktails with bourbon and bitters while cruising Newport Harbor at sunset. Watch the harbor lights twinkle while dining on short ribs and Panko-crusted salmon or select from a brunch buffet while drinking champagne and being regaled with stories of Duke at sea from his captain. A two-hour sunset cocktail cruise, a dinner cruise and a champagne brunch cruise are part of the series. New this year is the “Celebrate All Things Wild Goose” cruise, setting sail for only three evenings. “It has everything a John Wayne fan could dream of,” says King. Passengers will be treated to a viewing of True Grit (the 1969 film turns 50 this year), along with a Duke’s Bourbon tasting and a guest appearance by Bert Minshall, former captain of the Wild Goose.
In a move that would have surely pleased Duke, a portion of the proceeds from all John Wayne Celebration Cruises goes to John Wayne Cancer Foundation in support of his final and most ardent wish. For more information, visit hornblower.com.