Thursday, September 15, 2022

A general's dream: 'When and If' sails smoothly into immortality


When and If is a beautiful sailing vessel combining the best characteristics of a racing boat
with the comforts of a sturdy yacht built for pleasure and big enough for a family's comfort.
Below, with wind in their hair, Christene "Cookie" Meyers" and Bruce Keller enjoy a sail.




WHEN WORLD War II was in its full brutal fury, a much decorated general dreamed about a peaceful time when he could sail the world's waters.

Hoisting the sails for a gorgeous sunset ride.

Then Colonel George S. Patton shared his idea for a sleek yet comfortable yacht with famous boat builder John Alden. His clever and artistic friend, known for his beautiful designs, was up to the challenge. Thus the yacht When and If was commissioned by the internationally known American war hero.
His luxurious private yacht was built that same year -- 1939 -- by boatbuilder F.F. Pendleton in Wiscasset,
Maine. Its name comes from Patton's hope to sail the world "when" the war ended and "if" he survived.
Sitting comfortably under When and If's sails, a couple from Portugal
enjoys a leisurely sail and a beautiful sunset off Key West.
WE RECENTLY set sail on her, relaxing on comfy seat cushions on the vessel's handsome and sturdy, double planked mahogany. Black locust frames and an oak keel enhance the comfort on this smooth-sailing vessel enjoyed for its thoughtful detail by lucky passengers, including my lifelong sailing partner, Bruce Keller.
His enthusiastic take: "When and If is unique -- a thoughtfully adventuresome notion." Photographer Keller knows his way around a sail boat and has sailed many of the world's seas, as Patton hoped to. "The general had a dream and knew the best builder to help make it come true. Now it lives on long after him."
True enough.  Patton, who died in 1945, sailed the east coast of the United States in his treasured boat, but never did take his beloved When And If on the world cruise he imagined.  But he and his wife did sail her up and down the East Coast and on Chesapeake Bay.
The general had high praise for designer Alden. When and If is his  show piece in a long list of creations made by this renowned builder of elite racing schooners. Patton said Alden's crafts "retained both beauty and style while winning premier ocean races of the time."

George and Beatrice Patton
aboard When and If on
Chesapeake Bay.
AT THE TIME of its conception, in 1939, When and If  was remarkable for its racing capabilities and for its comfortable and safe features.  Our captain said she sometimes hosts nearly three dozen people for gatherings of friends and family. One such event happened the day after our sunset cruise (more on that later.)
Although our voyage was just hours long, When and If  is equipped for the long voyage which Patton hoped to take.

PATTON DIED in a military hospital in Germany, of a blood clot following a horrific auto accident which left him partially paralyzed.  But despite the general's untimely death in 1945, the boat he imagined took on a new life. His dream boat attained the immortality that escaped him.
While Patton is considered one of the most brilliant military strategists of all time, his When and If is considered a brilliantly constructed vessel.

 When and If 's galley is more spacious than most sailing
vessels, with a large sink, stoves, storage and prep space.
It boasts six comfy cabins for up to six adult guests.

As a military leader, Patton produced more results in less time, with fewer casualties than any other general during his WWII Army years. Similarly, When and If has won accolades from sailors and celebrities, including longtime CBS anchor and famed broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite, a devoted sailor who praised its combination of sleekness and comfort.

TODAY, THE POPULAR yacht is used for parties and celebrations. During our visit it was booked for a memorial service and burial at sea for a much loved resident of Key West.
The word yacht comes from the Dutch, and originally meant
light and smooth sailing. Here is When and If at sunset.
The yacht has a colorful "post Patton" history.  She remained in the family until 1972 when the general’s nephew, Neal Ayer, made a gift of the vessel to the Landmark School in Prides Crossing, Massachusetts. She was the center piece of a sail training program for dyslexic children until November of 1990 when a storm broke her mooring line broke and drove her onto the rocks.
When and If is kept in immaculate condition in Key West,
and can be booked for a sail or celebration.
Although the damage was extensive, the structural integrity of the ship was unaffected. Soon, she attracted a sailing buff who purchased her.  She remained in private ownership, and over the next three years was painstakingly  restored. She was was re-launched to great fanfare in 1994 when keynote speaker for the celebration was sailor-journalist Cronkite. He praised both her strength as well as the superior work of Shipwrights Gannon and Benjamin in Vineyard Haven, Mass., the yard that brought her back to life.
Fast forward. In 2013,When and If was purchased and restored anew by Doug Hazlitt, who eyed the boat for her “strength and elegance.”
A sleek, modern catamaran is ideal for enjoying
San Francisco with its wonderful sights.
  Here, we pass under the Golden Gate bridge.
She was then purchased by Captain Seth Salzmann in 2015, and was part of Tall Ships Festivals in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The colorful travel that eluded Patton included When and If's journeys with Sail Training International. She made it to Bermuda, Boston and on to all corners of the Canadian Maritimes. 
Perhaps Patton is smiling down from his crow's nest in the sky.

To book or inquire about Key West or this unique yacht: 

 UP NEXT:  While we're in a sailing mood, come aboard Adventure Cat, and see San Francisco as you never have before. She's a sleek, modern catamaran ideal for a bird's eye view of San Francisco Bay. Remember to explore, learn and live and   catch us weekly for a fresh spin on sailing, travel, family, nature, art and more:



  1. Always fun to read your posts, especially when you are on the water.

  2. Too bad the general's dream didn't materialize. What a beautiful ship.