When and If, the 63-foot John G. Alden schooner built in 1939 for the late Gen. George S. Patton that has been a familiar presence in waters from the Vineyard to Maine and beyond, is for sale.
The historic schooner was recently appraised at $680,000.
Owner Candace Ruitenberg confirmed that the boat has been placed on the market due to an impending divorce.
Mrs. Ruitenberg said she hopes someone else will now step in to give as much love and attention as she and others have already given the When and If.
“She is a fine boat,” said Nat Benjamin, co-owner of the Gannon and Benjamin boatyard in Vineyard Haven. “She was built to sail around the world and she is still capable of doing it.”
Mr. Benjamin would know. He and his business partner Ross Gannon restored the When and If after she was severely damaged in a 1990 November gale in Marblehead. In that storm the vessel broke loose from her mooring and was driven onto the rocks. An insurance adjuster declared the schooner, built of teak, mahogany and oak with a double-planked hull, a complete loss.
She was brought to Gannon and Benjamin in pieces by barge over the span of two and a half years, where she was fully restored.
In June of 1994 the late Walter Cronkite, who had known the late General Patton, presided over the launch of the When and If at the Tisbury Marine Railway, before a crowd of 300.
“I had the privilege of knowing General Patton as a correspondent during World War Two. Everything had to be perfection with Patton. That is what made him the great general that he is,” Mr. Cronkite said at the time.
Following the restoration project Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Gannon shared ownership of the schooner with Jim Mairs and his wife Gina Webster. The schooner sailed up and down the coast, mostly between the Vineyard and Maine.
The When and If has seen its share of calamities at sea and also heroics. In October of 1996 the schooner broke from its mooring in Vineyard Haven harbor in a northeast storm, but was saved from severe damage thanks to a midnight rescue by Ralph Packer and a Packer Marine tugboat.
The schooner was built in 1939 in Wiscasset, Me., for Mr. Patton, who at the time was a colonel in the U.S. Army. The story of how she got her name was recounted by Ross Gannon in 1994 at the launch ceremony: “She was launched . . . during the buildup of World War II. He [the general] said he expected to use it when and if he returned from war.”
The schooner was bought by Candace and Paul Ruitenberg three years ago for $650,000. The Ruitenbergs mostly sailed around the Vineyard in the summer and in the Caribbean in the winter. They also allowed the vessel to be used to raise money for nonprofit causes on the Island, and the When and If became a popular auction item for groups like Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, Sail Martha’s Vineyard and Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard.
And they especially loved to take Island children out for sails.
“The nice thing about this boat is that wheelchairs can fit aboard,” Mrs. Ruitenberg said. The couple had a two-person crew manage the vessel year-round. “They maintained her impeccably,” Mrs. Ruitenberg said. She continued:
“We purchased her for $650,000 and probably put another $300,000 into her. She has brand new sails. Myles Thurlow put up new rigging. She has a brand new Lugger diesel engine.”
After each summer, the family sailed the vessel down the coast. Mrs. Ruitenberg recalled several times sailing past the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. Last October, they brought the vessel over to Chestertown, Md., where daughter Kaitlyn was attending Washington College.
Mrs. Ruitenberg recalled spending two winters in the British Virgin Islands. More than once the vessel was a guest at the National Sailing Hall of Fame pier in Annapolis. “They loved having us there,” Mrs. Ruitenberg said.
She said she treasured meeting the many people who knew the vessel and the general, including a Patton grandson who came aboard, toured the vessel and shared stories of his time on the schooner as a child. “People love this boat,” she said.
Her captain of three years, Emyl M. Hattingh, married his first mate Seychelle Roberts, last Sept. 18, on the dock at Gannon and Benjamin, with the schooner nearby.
“Their’s is a love story on the boat,” Mrs. Ruitenberg said.
Mrs. Ruitenberg, whose sailing history on the Island dates back to the 1970s when she was a counselor in the original Girl Scout sailing camp park in Oak Bluffs, would love to see the schooner stay in Vineyard waters, perhaps continuing to support local sailing programs for children. “That would be a perfect dream,” she said.
When the money ran out last May, Mrs. Ruitenberg had to let the full-time captain and mate go. The last captain’s log entry on the schooner’s Web site was May 18. It reads: “I have not blogged in a while due to the fact that When and If has been put up for sale and I wasn’t quite sure what to say. But I’ve decided to say just that.”
The When and If is currently moored in Vineyard Haven harbor, where it will stay for the winter. Mrs. Ruitenberg said the people at Gannon and Benjamin will keep an eye on her. Mr. Hattingh will do the same.
“It is not easy to walk away from this boat,” he said.