"Savarona", historic yacht, Istanbul, Turkey, 15 October 2008
(C) Photograph copyright 2009 Ivan Safyan Abrams. All rights reserved.
The Savarona was built for Mrs. Emily Roebling Cadwallader, granddaughter of John Roebling, the engineer who built the Brooklyn Bridge. Mrs. Cadwallader spent part of her considerable fortune building three successively larger yachts, each named Savarona after a long-necked black-feathered African swan.
This Savarona, the third, cost $4 million to build at the Blohm&Voss shipyards in Hamburg in 1931.
The Savarona sailed Atlantic, Mediterranean and South African waters, but Mrs. Cadwallader could not take her to the United States of America because of potentially confiscatory import duties. She decided to sell the yacht, and in 1938, the Savarona was bought for $1 million by the Turkish Government.
In 1936, King Edward VII of England visited Istanbul and was the guest of Mustafa Kernal Atatürk on the then-state yacht, the Ertugrul. Soot from the funnel so dirtied His Majesty's white flannels that Atatürk sent Ertugrul to be scrapped and ordered a search for a new presidential yacht. The Turkish flag was hoisted on the Savarona in Southampton in March 1938.
The yacht arrived in Istanbul two months later, after some brief refurbishment, but sadly, Atatürk was terminally ill. During the six weeks that he spent on the Savarona, cabinet meetings were held on board. Atatürk at last was taken by stretcher from the yacht to Dolmabahçe Palace, where he died on November 10, 1938.
The Savarona did not sail again until after World War II, when the Turkish Navy started to use her as a training ship. In 1979, a raging fire destroyed the once beautiful vessel, and she remained unused until 1989, when it was decided to scrap her. A business man however, obtained a last minute stay of execution, leased the yacht for 49 years, and began the arduous task of refurbishing the Savarona to more than her former glory.
425 men worked for almost three years to refit the yacht, whose interior design was done by Donald Starkey. Today, the Savarona once again is sailing the waters of the world, as a cruise ship.